The 'ribbon gun' inventor answers our top questions - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

So, we wrote about that “four-barrel” rifle last week and posed a few questions to the inventor, Martin Grier, in an email. He got back to us that day with our initial query and has now responded to some more of the questions we posited in the original article. His answers make us even more excited about the weapon’s promise, assuming that everything holds true through testing in Army labs and the field.


The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

First, a bit of terminology. The weapon is a rifle. Most people have described it as having four barrels, but it’s really a barrel with four bores (the original prototype had five). The inventor prefers to call it a “ribbon gun,” which we’ll go ahead and use from here on out.

Just be aware that “ribbon gun” means a firearm with multiple bores that can fire multiple multiple rounds per trigger squeeze or one round at a time. The bullets are spinning as they exit the weapon, stabilizing them in flight like shots from a conventional rifle.

If you haven’t read our original article on the weapon, that might help you get caught up. It’s available at this link.

So, some of our major questions about the rifle were how the design, if adopted, would affect an infantryman’s combat load, their effective rate of fire, and how the rounds affect each other in flight when fired in bursts. We’re going to take on those topics one at a time, below.

Weight

How much weight would an infantryman be carrying if equipped with the new weapon? Grier says it should be very similar, as the charge blocks which hold the ammunition are actually very light

“In practice, Charge Block ammo, shot-for-shot, is roughly equivalent to conventional cartridge ammo,” he said, “depending on which caliber it’s compared to. It’s lighter than 7.62 and slightly heavier than 5.56. It outperforms both.”

Since the weapon fires 6mm rounds, that means the per-shot weight is right where you would expect with conventional rounds. The prototype weapon weighs 6.5 pounds. That’s less than an M16 and right on for the base M4.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

The L4m ammo blocks feature four firing chambers and their rounds, stacked vertically. The blocks can clip together in stacks and be loaded quickly. Excess blocks able to be snapped off and returned to the shooter’s pouch easily.

(Copyright FD Munitions, reprinted with permission)

And those blocks of ammo provide a lot of benefits since they can withstand 80,000 PSI. That lets designers opt for higher muzzle velocities if they wish, extending range and increasing lethality. For comparison, the M4 and M16 put out about 52,000 PSI of chamber pressure.

Even better, the blocks snap together and can be loaded as a partial stack. So, if you fire six blocks and want to reload, there’s no need to empty the rifle. Just pull the load knob and shove in your spare stack. The weapon will accept six blocks, and you can snap off the spares and put them back into your pouch.

Rate of fire

But what about effective rates of fire?

Well, the biggest hindrance on a rifle’s effective rate of fire is the heat buildup. Grier says that’s been taken care of, thanks to the materials used in the barrel as well as the fact that each chamber is only used once per block.

“In the L4, … the chamber is integral with the Charge Block,” he said. “Every four shots, the Block is ejected, along with its heat, and a new, cold one takes its place. The barrel is constructed with a thin, hard-alloy core, and a light-alloy outer casing that acts as a finned heat sink. In continuous operation, the barrel will reach an elevated temperature, then stabilize (like a piston engine). Each bore in the L4 carries only a 25 percent duty cycle, spreading the heat load and quadrupling barrel life.”

FD Munitions expects that the military version of the L4 would have a stabilized temperature during sustained fire somewhere around 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit, but they took pains to clarify that it’s a projected data point. They have not yet tested any version of the weapon at those fire rates.

But, if it holds up, that beats the M16 during 1975 Army tests by hundreds of degrees. The M16 barrels reached temperatures of over 600 degrees while firing 10 rounds per minute. At 60-120 rounds per minute, the barrels reached temperatures of over 1,000 degrees. That’s a big part of why the military tells troops to hold their fire to 15 rounds per minute or less, except in emergencies.

All of this combines to allow an effective rate of fire somewhere between 60 and 100 shots per minute. That’s about five times more rounds per minute than a M4 or M16 can sustain. And that’s important; paratroopers in a 2008 battle died as their weapons malfunctioned. One soldier had three M4s fail while he was firing at an average rate of 14 rounds per minute.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

The guts of the weapon feature very few moving parts, a trait that should reduce the likelihood of failures in the field.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

Do rounds affect one another mid-flight?

Sweet, so the combat load won’t be too heavy, and the weapon can spit rounds fast AF. But, if rounds are fired in volleys or bursts, will they affect each other in flight, widening the shot group?

Grier says the rounds fly close together, but have very little effect on each other in flight, remaining accurate even if you’re firing all four rounds at once.

And, four rounds at once has a special bonus when shot against ceramic armor, designed for a maximum of three hits.

“The projectiles do not affect each other in flight,” he said. “Even when fired simultaneously, tiny variations in timing because of chemical reaction rates, striker spring resonances, field decay rates, electric conductor lengths etc., ensure that the projectiles will be spaced out slightly in time along the line of sight. The side effect is that the impacts will be likewise consecutive, defeating even the best ceramic body armor.”

Meanwhile, for single shot mode, each bore can be independently zeroed when combined with an active-reticle scope. With standard mechanical sights, Grier recommends zeroing to one of the inside bores, ensuring rounds from any bore will land close to your zeroed point of impact.

Some other concerns that have arisen are things like battery life, which Grier thinks will be a non-issue in the military version. It’s expected to pack a gas-operated Faraday generator that not only can power the rifle indefinitely, but can provide juice for attachments like night vision scopes or range finders.

There’s also the question of malfunctions, which can happen in any weapon. Failure to fire will be of little consequence since you’re going to eject that chamber quickly anyway. If a barrel becomes inoperable due to some sort of fault, the fire control can simply skip that barrel, allowing the shooter to still fire 75, 50, or 25 percent of their rounds, depending on how many barrels are affected.

So, if everything goes well, this weapon could shift the balance of power when the U.S. goes squad vs. squad against other militaries. Here’s hoping the final product lives up to the hype and makes it into the hands of service members.

MIGHTY SPORTS

7 great stretches for lower back pain

There’s nothing more debilitating than lower back pain. The grimaces, groans, and feeble feelings one gets from back pain happen because the area is full of nerve endings that react violently to any injury inflicted on them (like a twist while carrying a particularly squirmy kid). If you’ve strained a muscle, there is no real shortcut to healing: You have to rest, ice, and wait it out as your body repairs the microtears. But often, back pain is caused not by tears but by tightness or spasms, and these issues can be addressed through stretching.

These 7 moves are designed to target your lower back. In each case, the stretch should be no deeper than a position you can comfortably hold for at least 30 seconds, and should never be so intense as to cause pain. Slowly ease into each position, and when you reach a point of manageable intensity, focus on breathing in and out deeply for 30 seconds to one minute.


(Photo by Katee Lue)

1. Child’s pose

Funny, isn’t it, that a likely source of your back pain is also the name of the exercise to ease it? To perform this yoga-inspired move, start on all fours. Slowly sink your hips back toward your feet, until your butt touches your heels and your chest is pressed against your quads. Extend your arms in front of you and feel the gentle stretch along your back.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

2. Cradle pose

Turn over onto your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the floor. Raise your feet and bring your knees toward your chest. Wrap your arms over your shins as if you are giving them a big hug. Gently pull your knees in closer to your spine, raising your head so that your back is rounded.

3. Figure 4

Start facing a chair back, table, or sturdy towel rack. Cross your right foot over your left knee, bending your right knee out to the side so that your legs form the shape of the number “4.” Holding the support in front of you, bend your left knee, stick your butt out, and sink into the stretch, rounding your spine and pulling away from the support to deepen the stretch in your lower back. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Cat pose

Another yoga classic, start this move on all fours. Drop your head toward the floor and round your back, imagining the center of your spine being lift by a string toward the ceiling.

5. Floor twist

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Spread arms out to either side for support. Gently let your knees drop to the right side while you rotate your head and torso to the left. Return to center, repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

(Photo by Jakari Ward)

6. Chair stretch

Sitting in a chair, cross your right leg over your left. Place your left hand at the outside of your right knee. Gently press against your right knee as you twist your head and torso to the right, letting your legs turn slightly to the left. Return to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side.

7. Runner’s stretch

Sometimes, a tight lower back is exacerbated by even tighter hamstrings. For this stretch, start sitting on the floor, both legs straight in front of you. Turn your right leg out and bend your right knee, sliding your right foot up so it touches the instep of your left knee. Lean forward and grab your left toes with both hands (grasp your left calf if you don’t have the flexibility to reach that far) feeling the stretch down your back. Repeat on the opposite side.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

(Photo by Alexander Mils)

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what it takes to fly the U-2 spy plane

When an Air Force major called J.J. completed a solo flight in the U-2 in late August 2016 — 60 years after the high-flying aircraft was introduced — he became the 1,000th pilot to do so.

J.J., whose name was withheld by the US Air Force for security reasons, earned his solo patch a few days after pilots No. 998 and No. 999. Those three pilots are in distinguished company, two fellow pilots said.

“We have a pretty small, elite team of folks. We’re between about 60 and 70 active-duty pilots at any given time,” Maj. Matt “Top” Nauman said during an Air Force event at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.


“We’re about 1,050 [pilots] right now. So to put that in context, there are more people with Super Bowl rings than there are people with U-2 patches,” Nauman added. “It’s a pretty small group of people that we’ve hired over the last 60 to 65 years.”

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

Pilots at Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 during the 2018 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The U-2 pilot cadre has remained small in part because the Air Force has long sought applicants with extensive experience and flight time — six years and 1,200 rated hours — to fly a challenging, single-seat plane up to 13 miles above the Earth, all while snapping reconnaissance images. Pilots from all backgrounds, from fighter to trainer, can apply, as can transfers from the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.

The Air Force also recently introduced a program allowing student pilots to go directly to the U-2 training pipeline, though that program will only send a few fliers to the Dragon Lady.

The mission itself also keeps the ranks trim. “Part of the reason that we cut so many of the applicants is it’s a really difficult plane to fly,” said Nauman, who joined the U-2 program in 2012.

The first phase is an interview at Beale Air Force Base, California where the U-2s are based, meant to assess “self-confidence, professionalism and airmanship” on the ground and during flights in a TU-2, the U-2 training aircraft.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron airmen prepare a U-2 pilot for a mission at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, March 13, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)

On a 2012 fact sheet about the application process, the Air Force said pilots “selected for an interview generally possess a strong flight evaluation history, strong performance evaluations, and exceed the minimum flight experience requirements.”

“When you do an interview, you actually go out to Beale for two weeks,” Nauman said. “You’ll sit down and talk with the different commanders, the directors of operations, [go] over your flight records, your performance reviews, and just kind of your overall goals. ‘So why do you want to fly the U-2? What is it that brought you here?'”

An applicant who makes it through the interviews in Week 1 moves on to Week 2, “where you actually get to fly the aircraft,” Nauman said.

“For some folks, they may have never seen a U-2 in person, and the first time they actually touch the jet is Day 1 of their interview,” Nauman added. “They’ve read about it. They’ve seen it. They’ve talked to some people they knew, but by Week 2 they actually put in you a two-seater with an instructor and you have to demonstrate the ability to land the aircraft.”

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

A U-2 pilot waits for maintainers and crew chiefs to finish final checks before the scheduled flight time at Beale Air Force Base, California, Oct. 26, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

While the U-2 excels at high-altitude reconnaissance missions — its ceiling is above 70,000 feet — taking off and landing are more challenging in the ungainly aircraft, which has a 105-foot wingspan and only two landing gear, under the nose and the tail.

Landing requires a kind of controlled crash in which the pilot descends and slows until the plane stalls, dropping onto the runway — all done with the guidance of fellow pilots racing alongside in cars.

“It’s extremely difficult to land,” Nauman said. “You could YouTube videos of bad U-2 landings all day and see interview sorties that look a little bit sketchy. Understand we have a very wide runway and very experienced acceptance flight instructors, so it is safe despite what you might see.”

Applicants do three acceptance flight sorties, during which they perform flight maneuvers, approaches and landings, and other scenarios, including driving the chase car that assists landing U-2s. After that, a decision is made about whether the applicant will be offered an assignment.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

If you do the flying portion of the interview but aren’t picked, “we will not interview you again,” the Air Force says. “Basically, you get one shot.”

U-2 flight training includes time in the T-38 trainer and time to get other qualifications pilots may need, before moving on to flying the actual U-2, on which trainees must complete two courses: basic and mission. Those take about three months each.

The whole training program can take nine months to a year. The 1st Reconnaissance Wing, which Maj. J.J. joined in August 2016, has eight classes of three new pilots each year.

The solo flight that made J.J. the 1,000 solo pilot was his seventh in the aircraft but his first without an instructor. That first solo was to be followed by a few more two-person outings, after which he would never again have to fly the U-2 with someone else.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

US Air Force Maj. Sean Gallagher greets his ground support crew before a U-2 mission somewhere in Southwest Asia, Nov. 24, 2010.

Trainees adjusting to the technical challenges of the U-2 also have to adapt to the physical strain of operating it.

Cruising at 70,000 feet puts the plane above the Armstrong Line — the point at which the boiling point for liquids, like blood, is equal to the normal human body temperature — and requires pilots to wear a space suit that weighs about 70 pounds. Pilots also have to breathe pure oxygen before flying to rid their system of nitrogen.

The suit can be a physical and psychological stumbling block. Interviewees must sit in it for at least 45 minutes to prove their mettle before moving on.

“So you get suited up. You go out to the aircraft. It’s pretty warm on the ground, so it could be an endurance test at times,” Maj. Travis “Lefty” Patterson, a U-2 pilot, said at the event.

“If you’re delayed in take off, your core temperature is heating up pretty rapidly as you’re sitting in, effectively, a plastic bag with a fishbowl” on your head, Patterson added.

The cabin is also pressurized, Patterson said. Previous generations of U-2 pilots flew at what felt like about 29,000 feet — roughly the height of Mt. Everest. (That altitude, along with the challenges of longer and more complex missions in the 2000s, took a toll on pilots’ health.)

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

A U-2 pilot prepares for takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, Dec. 12, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

In the last decade however, the Air Force has brought the U-2’s cockpit altitude down.

“We’re only sitting at about 15,000 feet — a little higher than you would on a normal airliner,” Patterson added. “We still wear that suit in the event that there’s a malfunction or we have to eject or something like that.”

The pilot is strapped into that suit and flying at that altitude for up to 10 hours or 12 hours. But with their focus on the task at hand, a pilot can forget they’re even wearing the suit, Patterson said.

Upon return, however, pilots still getting used to the Dragon Lady may feel the strain acutely.

“I think after my interview sortie, I came back and [said], ‘Wow, I feel like I just did three days of straight Crossfit,’ just because I didn’t know all the tricks of the trade,” Patterson added.

“A good U-2 pilot will land, and you won’t be able to tell from the outside, but inside it’s almost like you’re flailing around. You’re moving the yoke around. Your feet are moving the rudders. It’s kind of like a full-body workout sometimes.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Celebrate Air Force veteran Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday with these 20 unbeatable facts

Today is the mighty Chuck Norris’ 80th birthday! In honor of this landmark (uh, how is this not a national holiday?) day, we wanted to go back to the good old days of the internet. Before arguing over the color of a dress or if Jordan or Lebron is better (don’t start), we bonded over Chuck Norris facts. Those statements that if attributed to another person would be unbelievable but totally plausible when it referred to the great Norris.


So, we wanted to share our top Chuck Norris facts! Make sure to share any of your favorites too.

media.defense.gov

Before we do, we also want to shout out Chuck for his amazing life. He was born Carlos Norris in Oklahoma and his family eventually settled in California. After high school, he joined the Air Force and ended up being stationed in South Korea where he picked up both martial arts and the nickname Chuck.

Coming home, he opened his first martial arts studio and started participating in tournaments. After winning multiple karate world championships, he opened more studios and became a trainer for the stars. He taught Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley, the Osmonds and Bob Barker (that’s how he beat up Happy Gilmore so easily).

Norris then parlayed his connections into an acting career. He fought Bruce Lee in the Roman Colosseum, killed terrorists with rockets from his motorcycle (looking more badass than actual Delta Force badasses) and wore a cowboy hat better than anyone else on TV.

He also gave us the Total Gym and Chuck Norris jeans.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

And with that, our favorite Chuck Norris facts!

1. Chuck Norris threw a grenade and killed 50 people, then it exploded.
2. Chuck Norris’ leg was once bit by a cobra. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died.
3. Chuck Norris doesn’t try to survive a zombie apocalypse. The zombies do.
4. Chuck Norris can kill your imaginary friends.
5. Chuck can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.


6. Chuck Norris once went to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life.
7. Chuck Norris knows Victoria’s secret.
8. Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch. He decides what time it is.
9. Chuck Norris created giraffes when he uppercutted a horse.
10. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death. He wins fair and square.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

11. Chuck Norris puts the “laughter” in “manslaughter.”
12. Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one bird.
13. Chuck Norris has a diary. It’s called the Guinness Book of World Records.
14. Chuck Norris found the last digit of pi.
15. Chuck Norris can hit you so hard your blood will bleed.

16. Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about high gas prices. His vehicles run on fear.
17. Chuck Norris can delete the Recycling Bin.
18. Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.
19. Chuck Norris can squeeze orange juice out of a lemon.
20. Jack was nimble, Jack was quick, but Jack still couldn’t dodge Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran is building a massive battle tank fleet

Iran’s Deputy Defense Minister Reza Mozaffarinia says Tehran has plans to manufacture or upgrade 700 to 800 battle tanks.

In remarks quoted on July 18, 2018, by Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Mozaffarinia did not specify the type of tanks he was referring to or how many would be newly built compared to how many would be upgraded.


He also did not mention a timeline for the completion of the project.

“Annually, there are 50 to 60 tanks manufactured and a sufficient budget has been allocated because the army and Revolutionary Guards have a great need,” Mozaffarinia said.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

Iran’s “Karrar” tank

The United States and European powers have long sought to curb Iran’s ballistic-missile program.

But Iran’s conventional military forces are thought to be weaker than its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Iran’s military expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 2.69 percent in 2015, while Saudi Arabia’s was 9.86 percent in 2016.

In a December 2017 report, the International Institute for Strategic Studies predicted that Iran would modernize and rebalance its conventional forces “to reflect lessons learned in Syria.”

Iranian forces have been fighting in Syria since 2012 in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This astronaut says ‘The Right Stuff’ turned his life around

Scott Kelly didn’t always know that he was going to be an astronaut. In fact, he wasn’t even a particularly good student.

“As a student, it’s just really hard, especially at first, when you don’t have the habit-patterns to study and pay attention,” Kelly told Business Insider for the podcast “Success! How I Did It.” “But once I got over that, I was able to go from a kid at 18 years old that was always like a very average, underperforming student and then fast forward almost to the day 18 years later, I flew in space for the first time. It was a pretty remarkable comeback, I think.”


Kelly remained an average student until he went to college, where he stumbled across Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff.”

“I read this book, and I could relate to a lot of the characteristics these guys had, with regards to their personalities, their risk-taking, their leadership abilities, ability to work as a team. That made me think,” Kelly said.

“I related to a lot of those characteristics with one exception, and that is I wasn’t a good student, especially in science and math,” he continued. Kelly said he then thought, “Wow, you know, if I could fix just that thing, then I could maybe be like these guys.”

“At the time I was thinking you’ve got to be really smart to be an engineer or scientist. What I realized is really what it takes is just hard work, and it’s not any particular gift you might have.”

He continued: “It was the spark I needed to motivate me to do more with my life than I was currently doing.”

You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to the episode below:


“The Right Stuff” inspired Kelly, but it was a phone call from his brother that showed him what hard work really looks like.

According to Kelly, his twin brother Mark, who also became a NASA astronaut, was also a mediocre students — but Mark turned things around in high school, while Scott kept skating by. Mark pinpoints his turnaround to an event Scott doesn’t remember.

“I was this kid that could not pay attention. Was not a good student,” Kelly said. “Always wondering how in the ninth grade my brother went from being like me to getting straight A’s — I never knew how that happened.”

“But apparently, what [Mark] tells me, is that our dad sat us down in like the eighth grade, and said, ‘Hey, guys. You know, you’re not good students, not college material. We’re going to start thinking about a vocational education for you.'” Kelly said. “And my brother thought, ‘Whoa! I want to go to college and do something more.”I, on the other hand, had no recollection whatsoever of this conversation,” Kelly said. “Probably only because there was like a squirrel running outside the window and I was like, ‘Squirrel!’ Otherwise, I probably would have been a straight-A student, too.”

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions
Kelly, left, and his identical twin brother and fellow former astronaut Mark.
(Nasa photo)

In his memoir “Endurance,” Kelly wrote that his mind began to wander and he lost focus as a student at the State University of New York Maritime College.

His grades had risen above average and he was studying for his first calculus exam. Having decided to take a break, Kelly planned to attend a big party at Rutgers. When Mark found out about his brother’s attempt to forgo more studying for a party, he scolded Kelly over the phone.

“Are you out of your goddamn mind?” Kelly remembered Mark telling him. “You’re in school. You need to absolutely ace this exam, and everything else, if you want to get caught up.”

Scott Kelly buckled down, became a NASA astronaut, and has been to space four times.

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

Articles

Watch these chefs try to turn Army food into gourmet cuisine

The standard U.S. Armed Forces field ration is, above all other considerations, designed to make you emotional.


Sure, an MRE needs to be nutritious. Obviously, it also needs to be lightweight, packable, durable, quick, and easy to prepare. It’s got to have a long shelf life because who knows when it’ll be called up for active duty. And at the end of the day — and not just because it’s the end of the day — the damn thing ought to taste good.

After years of research and development, laboratory refinement, and testing in the field, the military has the MRE dialed to within an inch of its life. Private, does your dinner have “Vegetable Rotini” stamped on its olive drab shrink wrap? Yes? Then, by God, you can trust that when you just add water, the thing you find rehydrated on the end of your spork will resemble a rotini (Vegetable Class) to the highest degree achievable by military science.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions
Our host finds his feelings at the bottom of the feed bag. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl trusted in the prowess of the military’s culinary industrial complex. After all, he named his show after its signature offering.

When he visited the labs and testing facilities of the United States Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA, he was excited to spend some quality time covering familiar territory. What he didn’t count on was the depth of the emotional response that many of his interview subjects had to meals they’d eaten as soldiers in the field. And it turns out, that response is no accident.

We want it to be a quality meal that we provide to them. We don’t know if that’s going to be their last meal.

 –Stephen Moody, Director, Combat Feeding Directive

Watch host August Dannehl and fellow veteran Mike Williams, currently the Executive Chef of West Hollywood restaurant Norah, transform the military’s utilitarian ration MRE into a mouthwatering “Jambalaya Risotto with Duo of Duck.” 

Meals Ready to Eat can be seen on KCET in Southern California, on Link TV Nationwide (DirecTV 375 and DISH Network 9410), and online at KCET.org.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II battleship Wisconsin celebrates 76th birthday

In 1939, Congress authorized the construction of the USS Wisconsin. The build began at the Philadelphia Naval Yard in 1941. The United States was still doing everything she could to avoid being involved in the war in Europe, but preparing nonetheless. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor eleven months later would change everything.

The world was now at war for the second time and the USS Wisconsin would join the fight.
The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

In 1943 on the second anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Wisconsin launched. She was commissioned on April 16, 1944. She left Norfolk, VA, and began her work. A few months later, the USS Wisconsin earned her first star in battle by supporting carriers during Leyte Operation: Luzon Attacks. She would go on to prove her seaworthiness by surviving a typhoon that took out three ships.

In January of 1945 while heavily armed, she escorted fast carriers who completed air strikes against Formosa, Luzon. By supporting these strikes, she earned her second battle star. Shortly after that she was assigned to the 5th Fleet. She went on to assist in the strike against Tokyo, which was a cover for the eventual invasion of Iwo Jima.
The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

Under the cover of terrible weather, the USS Wisconsin supported landing operations for Iwo Jima, earning her third battle star. She would earn her fourth in an operation against Okinawa. Following that, she showed her might by keeping the enemy at bay with her powerful weapons and taking down three enemy planes. The USS Wisconsin earned a fifth star after operations against Japan. After putting in over 100,000 miles at sea since joining the fleet, she dropped her anchor in Tokyo Bay. She was vital to the support of the Pacific naval operations for World War II and earned her rest. She was inactivated in 1948 and decommissioned. It wouldn’t last long.

The USS Wisconsin rejoined the fleet in 1951 to assist in the Korean War operations. Following that war, she was placed out of commission yet again in 1958, and sat idle for 28 years until she was needed once more. She would go on to support operations in the Gulf War in 1991. Throughout her six months there, she played an absolute vital role in restoring Kuwait. She was decommissioned for the third and final time — she definitely earned her retirement.

The USS Wisconsin now sits in Norfolk, VA open to the public as a museum.

Life Flip

These are really nice f****** watches

Watches can be incredibly personal—after all, they’re worn every day throughout many of life’s ups and downs. Why shouldn’t you have one that serves as a reminder of all the hard work you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished? For veterans and first responders, NFW watch company allows them to do just that.


NFW was started by George Fox, who left a 10-year career at Timex to focus on making watches in his vision, without compromising quality or price point. He accomplishes this goal by spending money on what really matters — the watches — instead of high-priced marketing. For 13 years, his company has been growing steadily with a supportive fan base, especially among the military. He also believed that he could do good with his craft, which has been realized through NFW’s partnerships with charities that support veterans and first responders.

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions
NFW watches in the field Courtesy of NFW’s Facebook page.

The first partnership started in 2011, when George was approached by a Special Forces Unit to create a special watch for them, with their insignia engraved on the face. He met with unit representatives in Fort Bragg, N.C., and broached the idea of allowing the public to buy the watches as a way to show support and raise funds for the Special Forces Association. This idea was enthusiastically received and the watch was a success.

Also read: This is how Sam Adams will help launch your vet-owned business

This first collaboration between military and small business was the start of a series of charity watches that celebrate Operation Enduring Warrior, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Honor Flight, and first responders. Fifty dollars from each sale goes to the charities and nonprofits that support veterans. These watches do more than just advertise the organization. They also serve as a constant reminder to the wearer of the qualities that are endemic to the men and women who served and continue to serve under that symbol. Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, said, “It’s great that the watches raise money for CKFF. But the best thing these watches do is every time someone wears one, sees one, or comments on one, it helps keep Chris’ spirit alive.”

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NFW’s Special Forces Nous Watch benefitting the Green Beret Foundation.

To showcase these watches, NFW relies on the men and women who served in the honored units and wear their timepieces with pride. By not using the traditional watch marketing techniques, such as hiring celebrity endorsers, they are able to keep the watch costs down, allowing more people to wear this reminder of their service every day.

Recently, NFW was chosen to make watches for Medal of Honor recipients, further cementing the company’s relationship with our service men and women, and exemplifying the integrity that George Fox based his company on. He believes that his work with veterans had been more than repaid tenfold, as he has learned from their grit, ingenuity, and spirit. He also feels that it has helped him become a stronger father to his children, allowing him to model strength and integrity. In his spare time, George volunteers with the organizations, such as helping World War II veterans on Honor Flights and running with Operation Enduring Warrior in Spartan Races.

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George Fox doing the Spartan Race with Operation Enduring Warrior.

You can follow NFW on Facebook and Twitter, and see their products in action, from fan photos posted to their Instagram.

What does NFW stand for? Rumor says it’s “Nice F**king Watch,” which they are.

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This video is the Army men battle you wanted to fight as a kid

Remember those little green Army men your brother kept in a large bucket that you could only play with while he was at basketball practice? YouTube user Michael Akkerman remembers, and he created an epic battle with the little toys that tells the tale of a Green Army offensive against the Tan Army.


Army Men – Plastic Apocalypse

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The battle, embedded above, is mostly shot using stop motion, but makes extensive use of what appears to be CGI when weapons fire and larger rounds explode. This becomes gnarly when troops are hit by enemy fire and melted plastic splatters across the ground like thick blood.

The combat includes armored units, artillery, and combat engineers, but it focuses on the infantrymen making up the bulk of the advance against the Tan Army’s prepared defenses, which includes barbed wire, trenches, and bunkers. Oddly, these prepared defenses include a lot of snipers who, for some reason, fire almost exclusively from guard towers.

As a Green infantryman says at 9:15, “gosh, that is a bad sniper.”

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While the military details aren’t perfect (the artillery is always brought up into direct fire positions and never once fires an indirect shot), it’s still a lot of fun to see the combined arms invading force try to deal with the thick defensive lines of the Tan forces.

The director keeps the bulk of his shots close to the army men on the march, making it feel like you’re in the thick grass with the men. Occasional wide shots give an idea of the scope of the battle as dozens of men on both sides clash over whatever ideological difference the hordes of plastic soldiers may have.

Be prepared for some gut-wrenching moments. Green forces are no boy scouts, and they aren’t above committing a few atrocities to secure a Tan-free future. Playing with army men was the best, wasn’t it?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 things you might use everyday that were actually invented for the military

You might be surprised to learn that a lot of the products used in our day to day lives were actually invented for the military. Here’s a brief rundown of a few.


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(Intropin via WikiMedia Commons)

EpiPens

As a parent of a child with allergies, I am forever grateful for this one. The auto-injector apparatus was first invented for the military in the early 70’s, as a means to deliver a temporary reprieve from side effects of nerve gas exposure, during a time when the threat of chemical warfare seemed imminent.

At the request of the Pentagon, Sheldon Kaplan, a scientist with Survival Technology Inc., is credited with developing the Nerve Agent Antidote Kit, which works similarly to the EpiPen we use now, and was specifically designed to be easy to use with little training. Shortly after its effectiveness and importance in the military was discovered, Kaplan then went on to make it something that would aid the civilian world as well, by turning it into the lifesaving tools used by many with anaphylactic allergies today.

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GPS

Mainstream technology has grown by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. I remember going on family vacations and having to pull off to the side of the road so my dad could put out the map to make sure we were going the right way (and then take another 20 minutes to fold it back up again).

These days, you can get directions to virtually anywhere in the world in less than 30 seconds, all from your phone. GPS devices went from being an expensive luxury to being a built in facet of people’s lives.

While the military use of satellites and tracking goes back to the time of Sputnik, the more recognizable version of GPS was launched by the military in 1978, and was known as the Navigation System with Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) satellite. Taking a note from Navy scientists, this system proved to be the start of the type of navigation system the DoD was looking for in an effort to improve military intelligence.

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(USAF Photo)

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

(alangraham999 on Flickr)

Microwaves

The savior of 2 a.m. leftovers, microwaves were actually the product of accidental science. This one wasn’t necessarily invented FOR the military, but it was discovered thanks to already existing military technology.

In 1945, scientist Percy Spencer had been experimenting with and testing U.S. Army radar transmitters, when he discovered that due to the heat they produced, a candy bar in his pocket had melted. From there, the first patent on the microwave was filed within the year, and no one ever had to worry about accidentally microwaving their Hershey bars ever again.

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(Santeri Viinamäki via WikiMedia Commons)

Duct tape

Duct tape was born out of wartime need and a mother’s ingenuity. In 1943, Vesta Stoudt was the mother of 2 sons in the U.S. Navy, and was also employed by the Green River Ordinance Plant, where she was responsible for inspecting and packing ammunition and other tactical gear.

It was here that she noticed discrepancies and potentially dangerous issues with the ways that ammunition boxes were being packed and sealed. Originally, they were sealed with paper tape and then dipped in wax in order to ensure they were waterproof. The problem came from the tabs meant to open the boxes, which were made from the same paper tape used to seal the boxes.

In instances of trying to open these boxes while under fire, it became apparent that this not only wasted time (as the paper tabs ripped prior to opening the box) but it put service members at risk and in a vulnerable position. Stoudt came up with the idea of using waterproof cloth tape, instead of paper, making duct tape a solution that was literally invented for military purposes.

After receiving little to no feedback from those she was employed by, she decided to write to the President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Not only did the letter include her thoughts on the current problem, she also provided her outline for a solution and detailed diagrams. The idea was passed on to Johnson Johnson, who manufactured the first version of the tape we all know, love and use today.

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Wristwatches

There are a few different stories as to how and why wristwatches came to be so popular, but they all have roots within the military.

By most accounts, wristwatches, or at least the idea of them, predate the mainstream and military usage of them, but on a very small scale. It’s said that Elizabeth I was the first of her kind to keep a small clock strapped to her wrist, while men prior to WWI still relied on pocket watches to tell time. Unsurprisingly, pocket watches did not make for the most effective tools to use in a combat setting, and since timing is such an important aspect of military strategizing, service members needed an easier way to keep track of it.

The prevalence of more user friendly time pieces skyrocketed and became commonplace. The first version, called trench watches, combined the best of both the pocket watch and wristwatch worlds, and advancement of the look, features and versatility of them still serve military members to this day.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY HISTORY

4 unusual military units

From a faith-based U.S. Army unit to an entire “ghost” army, take a look at the four most unusual military units of all time.


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An inflatable tank, styled after the M4 Sherman (Wikimedia Commons)

The Ghost Army

Inspired by a trick that the British pulled in North Africa, the summer of 1944 found soldiers of the U.S. Army undertaking a very unusual task – building a phantom army. To achieve this goal, the Army gathered artists, designers and sound effects experts to encourage confusion behind enemy lines. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is better known as the Ghost Army because it used inflatable rubber tanks and jeeps, along with sound effects and subterfuge to deceive Germans during WWII.

The 23rd took part in more than 20 missions, many of which used illusion and artistry that rivals any Hollywood set. Painters and illustrators worked collaboratively to design uniforms and create dummy vehicles. Sound engineers helped by broadcasting phony radio traffic and mimicked the sounds of an army on the move. There were even actors hired to spread misinformation that would hopefully get picked up by Nazi spies.

The Germans fell for it, and the ruse worked. With the Ghost Army in place, Germany had no clear idea of the US forces’ actual size. The Ghost Army was so convincing that they were even plugged a hole in General Patton’s lines for several days without being discovered. It wasn’t until 1996 that the Ghost Army’s contribution became public knowledge, and by then, many of its members had gone on to illustrious careers in art and design.

The Monuments Men

This particular unit was tasked with attempting to preserve Europe’s cultural heritage during WWII. The Monuments, Fine Arts and Archies unit included handpicked art historians, museum curators and academics who skirted the front lines of combat to prevent historically essential buildings and art from being destroyed.

Members from the unit created special maps for the Allies to ensure that culturally significant structures weren’t inadvertently destroyed as the Allies pushed deeper into Europe. To do this, the unit drew plans that showed aircraft pilots where to avoid on bombing runs. While the war was in full swing, the Monuments Men even set about restoring landmarks that were already damaged.

As the war wound down, the unit shifted its focus from preservation to rescue. It tracked down and recovered sculptures and paintings looted by the Nazis. As the Nazi regime crumbled, Monuments Men found thousands of pieces of art stolen from Jewish families and museums. Most of these pieces of art were placed deep in salt mines and castles to avoid detection. The Monuments Men did their part in finding the pieces, and then after the war, the artwork was returned to its original owners.

The Mormon Battalion

Composed entirely of Latter Day Saints service members, the Mormon Battalion has the unique and unusual honor of being the only faith-based battalion in all of U.S. Army history. When negotiations between Brigham Young’s church leaders and the US military reached an impasse, it was suggested that a battalion be formed made up of all Mormons. The Mormons hoped their unit might pave the way for their planned exodus to the American West by providing training, equipment and pay. But President Polk saw it as a way to make allies of the Latter Day Saints.

The 500-person battalion never saw any combat, but it became one of the most well-traveled units in all of American history. The service members marked the start of their service by making a grueling might from Iowa through indigenous lands all the way to Santa Fe. From there, they marched on through the untamed lands of Arizona and then to southern California. Once in SoCal, the battalion performed garrison duty in both San Diego and Los Angeles.

Just two years after being formed, the battalion was retired in July 1847. Most of its members headed back north to the Utah Territory to join the rest of their religious pioneers.

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King Frederick William I (Wikimedia Commons)

The Potsdam Giants

Everyone always wants to have the biggest army, but for King Frederick William I of Prussia, the idea of having the strongest soldiers in the world was an obsession. At the start of the 18th Century, the monarch tried to gather the tallest troops he could find in all of Europe and create an elite regiment called the “Potsdam Giants.” Records indicate that several of the service members were over seven feet tall.

To entice this elite unit, King Willian spent a fortune hiring tall soldiers from other militaries in the world. He even instructed his own covert agents to conscript unusually tall civilians into the unit. At one point, William tried to encourage his tallest soldiers to marry tall women. The unit eventually disbanded, but not before William managed to spend a significant amount of money.

From a ghost army to a unit dedicated to preserving history, these four units prove that there’s a lot more to being part of a military than just standing in formation.


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10 reasons you won’t be a drug lord

Considering a new career? Good for you! As long as a mid-quarantine Breaking Bad binge didn’t give you any ideas. Besides being completely illegal, being a drug lord is harder than it looks. It’s nearly impossible, really. It’s obvious that you SHOULDN’T become a drug lord, but here’s a few reasons why you really can’t.

1. Real drug lords are generalists not specialists

Back in the days of Pablo Escobar if you were hitman, you were a hitman. A smuggler is dedicated to only smuggling. Modern Cartels need people who are good at a variety of things; brokering whole sale purchases for raw materials, cooking drugs, transporting, protecting the shipments, and murder. It’s very rare to find a kingpin who didn’t get an early start in the trade at an early age. Unless you’re 11 years old at the time of reading this article, you’re already too old to learn the trade and gain the connections necessary to thrive.

Pablo Escobar, a drug lord

In fact, farmers sell 200 grams of raw unprocessed opium for $20 in Mexico. One can buy a garbage bag full of weed for $100 in Tijuana (allegedly). The profits are not there at entry level positions. There is a reason why only the dirt poor with no other prospects shake hands with organized crime. It’s that or starvation. You can rideshare or something legal.

3. Legit drug lords aren’t hiding from the virus

Mexican crime groups reportedly distributed aid packages to the local populace, branded with cartel insignia, and enforced COVID-19-related lockdown measures. Such activities, amplified on social media, appear to be intended to win the hearts and minds of local communities to support their criminal enterprises and attract recruits.

Mexican Drug Trafficking and Cartel Operations amid COVID-19 (IN11535)

If you refuse to put on a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 then you will never be a drug lord.

4. They kill police and military sympathizers

Every 15 minutes there is a murder in Mexico. In 2020 alone, 464 police officers were killed.

5. Mexican politicians have perfected the game

Observers also are watching closely for further consequences resulting from the surprise U.S. arrest in October of former Mexican Secretary of Defense Salvador Cienfuegos on drug and money laundering charges. Responding to Mexican pressure, the United States agreed in November to drop the case and release Cienfuegos.

Mexican Drug Trafficking and Cartel Operations amid COVID-19 (IN11535)

So, not only is the world’s leading scumbags in villainy involved in every crime imaginable but they’re protected by the Mexican Government. This miscarriage of justice has been around for decades.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Kiki Camarena was tortured and murdered in Mexico with the direct complicity of high-level Mexican officials.

MexicoToday

Mexico is a cesspool from bottom up of corruption and filth. From the farmers to the politicians, there are many levels to the complacency in Mexico. Why anyone would want to be associated with cartel trash is ridiculous.

6. The super cartels are gone

Consequently, cartels operated like a drug trafficker union. They would set a standard price, divide operational costs, and split the profits. Now it’s just lawlessness and power struggles.

Cannabis flag. Cannabis is now legal in many states, so being a drug lord is harder than it once was. l
Cannabis flag drawing. Because it’s legal in many states, you’d have to be stupid to try and become a drug lord when you could legally sell it instead.

In certain states, yes. Marijuana is legal and the country is moving toward federal legalization of the plant. You can legally make money in a gray area while the country makes the transition. There isn’t a need to risk your life when all you have to do is wait it out.

8. You’re not a main character in Netflix’s Narcos

Even Diego Luna didn’t want to meet Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the antagonist he portrays in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico. Narco’s style of mixing English and Spanish, fact and fiction, to portray the good guys and the bad guys is pretty cool. However, it’s just entertainment, not real life. Real narcos are a**holes.

He’s alive but I don’t want any connection to this man. The writing and documentaries are enough.

Diego Luna

9. Drug lords are morons

In the clip, two cartel hitmen scope out a place as a recon element. Sometimes thieves pretend to be cartel members. This wannabe cartel member runs up to rob the pair of men but changes his mind at the last second. When he realizes he messed up and decides to retreat the real hitmen shoot at him. They wave their boss down that the coast is clear and then chase after the idiot.

10. Actual cartels traffic stolen oil

All that has changed over the past few years, as Mexico’s drug-trafficking cartels have moved to monopolize all forms of crime, including fuel theft, muscling out smaller operators with paramilitary tactics honed in the drug war. Black-market gasoline is now a billion-dollar economy, and free-standing gasoline mafias are gaining power in their own right, throwing a volatile accelerant onto the dirty mix of drugs and guns that has already killed some 200,000 Mexicans over the past decade.

Seth Harp, Rollingstone

Additionally, there are tons of documentaries on the diversification of the cartel portfolios. They treat their business like a corporation because the upper echelons are CEOs. It’s a monopoly and that’s why you’ll never be a drug lord.

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