Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, an aircraft that uses a modified helicopter design to achieve great speed and fuel-efficiency as well as maneuverability, took its first flight on March 21, 2019, exciting military aviation fans who hope that it’s selected for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Program.
Sikorsky-Boeing #SB1 Defiant Completes First Flight
The SB-1 Defiant is one of two top contenders for the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army’s effort to replace its aging helicopter fleet. The Army will select a new utility helicopter, likely either the SB-1 Defiant or the V-280 Valor from Bell, that will ferry troops and lighter loads, carry out the wounded in MEDEVAC missions, and fill the rest of the roles currently carried out by the UH-60 Black Hawk.
The current aviation debate is interesting for military aviation aficionados for a few reasons. One is that this sort of contest only occurs every few decades. Another is that neither of the top contenders for the program is a conventional helicopter. The SB-1 Defiant is an evolution of Sikorsky’s X-2 demonstrator. It has two rotor blades similar to a conventional helicopter, but it’s pushed forward by a rear propeller and has no conventional rear rotor.
This makes it much more efficient and faster than a conventional helicopter while retaining all the versatility and maneuverability.
The Sikorsky SB-1 Defiant takes its first flight. It’s a strong contender for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program.
Its primary contender, meanwhile, is of a tiltrotor design. It can fly fast and far, even farther than the Defiant, but is not as maneuverable or able to fit in as small of places and landing zones. It’s also a direct successor to the controversial V-22 Osprey, a plane that had a horrible safety record during testing. The V-22 did do well with the Marine Corps in the field for a few years, but has run into trouble again recently, suffering four catastrophic crashes from 2015 to 2017.
So, yeah, soldiers care who wins because it decides what will carry them into battle in the 2030s, 2040s, and beyond. And whatever aircraft the Army chooses will instantly have thousands of orders, allowing it to be produced at scale, meaning the manufacturer can offer additional copies to the other services for cheap.
So, the Army’s choice will impact what aircraft the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps can afford to buy for their own services, heavily pushing them to use the same aircraft in at least some roles. (The U.S. Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all bought UH-60 variants after the Army did, though the Marine Corps bought very few and placed them only in specialty roles.)
With all this competition and the long-term impact of the decision, it was a mark in the V-280 Valor’s favor that its aircraft had been flying since December 2017 while the SB-1 Defiant was still limited to ground tests until the March 21 test. Now that both aircraft have flown without shaking themselves apart, the manufacturers will have to prove whether each aircraft can live up to the hype.
And then the Army will begin to make its choice, setting the tone of military aviation for the next few decades.
Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.
There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:
Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.
Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.
“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.
The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.
Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.
Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.
Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.
The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.
Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.
For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.
In 1862, the Merrimack and the Monitor fought the famous naval battle at Hampton Roads where ships with iron armor fought each other for the first time. That clash is often cited as one of the moments where warfare changed overnight. Suddenly, it was clear that most cannons couldn’t penetrate iron hulls, and so every navy rushed to armor their hulls.
Just four years later, two fleets of wooden and iron-hulled boats clashed in the waters near Venice, and this first clash of iron fleets got weird, fast.
The Battle of Lissa was fought near an island of the same name in the Adriatic Sea, sometimes known as Vis, its Croatian name. A large Italian fleet of about 26 ships, including 13 ironclads, faced off against about 26 Austrian ships, but only seven Austrian ships were ironclads.
But the ironclad numbers weren’t the end of the Italian advantage. The ships that took part were powered by a mix of sail and steam. Like, each ship used both. Some ships were predominantly steam-powered but had sails to make them more efficient on long voyages, and some were sail-powered with small steam engines and paddles to help them quickly turn in combat. The ships predominantly powered by steam were generally more effective in combat, and Italy had a higher mix of those. And the Italian ships were generally larger, as well.
But most importantly, the Italian ships had larger guns and more rifled pieces. At the time, rifle-fired rounds and exploding rounds were about the only thing that could pierce iron armor. And by larger guns, we mean the largest Austrian guns were 48-pounders, and every piece of Italian naval artillery was larger.
So, the Italian ships were larger, better armed and armored, and technologically advanced. Guess the Italians won. Cool. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
The Austrian wooden battleship Kaiser rams an Italian ironclad in the Battle. The ship left its figurehead behind after the clash.
Except, nope, just wait. Italy sent ships to capture the island of Lissa from an Austrian garrison on July 16, 1866. This assault was repelled, and the Italian ships returned on the night of July 19 to try again. The next morning, July 20, 1866, was rainy and the waters were covered in mist.
But the Italian fleet used the weather as a cover for their coming bombardment and landings right up until a dispatch vessel ran back to elements of the fleet with news that Austrian ships had reached the island. The Italian fleet had been split up to bombard multiple targets and land troops. They were not properly massed for a naval battle.
The Italians were unimpressed, though, and continued to focus on landing troops. With the technological and numerical advantage, it must have seemed that they could bat away any attempts at disturbing the landings.
Ships are designed with long bodies to minimize resistance and to give stability, but artillery works best when it’s deployed side-by-side with all the guns firing in support of one another. So, when one group of ships charges on another, the group firing broadsides can typically fire many more cannons than the group that is charging. So, seemingly, this would work to the Italians’ advantage.
But then the Italian admiral did something completely baffling. He changed flagships as the Austrians bore down on him. He would later claim that he did this so he would be on a faster ship that could more efficiently relay orders, but the Italian ship crews didn’t know about the change and so would look to the wrong ship for direction for most of the battle.
And then the Austrians got a second break. Their headlong charge was obscured as the naval guns opened fire and began to emit those huge clouds of smoke. The Austrian commander, Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, charged through the smoke with most of his ships and suddenly realized that he had unwittingly passed through the Italian line of battle.
So the Italian fleet was receiving no clear orders from what the captains thought was the flagship, was obscured by smoke, and suddenly had an enemy literally sailing through their lines. The battle quickly descended into a tight mass of ships circling and firing on one another with little real coordination. As the smoke filled the air and everyone lost sight of nearly everything, it became tough for combatants to tell who they were supposed to fight.
An illustration shows Rear Adm. Wilhelm von Tegetthoff during the Battle of Lissa.
Von Tegetthoff, though, had issued an order that worked perfectly in this insanity. Remember, Austria’s largest guns in the battle were nearly useless for firing at armor plating. The 48-pound shells that were his most powerful projectile would still need a lucky shot to seriously damage an Italian ironclad. So, von Tegetthoff had ordered his ships to ram Italian vessels whenever the opportunity arose.
And so the spinning, chaotic, smoke-filled brawl that morning was perfect for them. It softened the impact of the Italian artillery advantage, and Austrian crews began ramming everything that looked vaguely Italian.
Yeah, the first clash of iron fleets descended into a battle of naval ramming, a tactic that had lost favor in the decades prior because rammings were hard to pull off as the ships required a lot of time and space to build up speed, but easy to avoid as the targeted vessel could pull out of the way or turn so that an otherwise lethal blow would be a glancing hit instead.
In the melee of Lissa, ships of both sides rammed each other, and gun crews fired on ships that they were locked into combat with. An Austrian battleship rammed an Italian vessel and left its figurehead, a statue of the emperor, in the enemy’s iron armor. The Austrian ship even caught fire when one of its masts broke, landed on its own smokestack, and then became overheated by the exhaust.
The Italian ship Re d’Italia sinks at the end of the Battle of Lissa.
(Carl Frederik Sørensen)
When the ships were exchanging shells, the Italians generally got the better of the exchanges as they could lob 300-pound shells from some guns. But the Austrian proficiency at ramming claimed a greater toll.
The heavy Italian ship rolled away, rolled back, and then sank in less than two minutes as sailors and marines struggled to escape the suction of the quickly sinking iron.
The fleets disentangled themselves. The Austrian forces had lost no ships, had only one badly damaged, and had suffered almost 200 casualties including 38 killed. The Italians had lost a prized ironclad and hundreds killed. Worse, a fire was spreading on another ironclad, the Palestro. Despite heroic efforts by the crew to save the ship, including flooding its powder magazines, a separate store of shells and powder was ignited.
The ship blew up like a massive bomb, sending parts of its plating and hull high in the air. Hundreds more Italian sailors died, and the wreckage sank within minutes. Italy had lost a second ironclad, and its death toll for the battle rose to 620. Not to mention, the shores of Lissa were now safe from the threatened Italian amphibious assault.
The aftereffect of Lissa was even weirder than the battle, though. The success of rams led to new ship designs that emphasized the weapon for decades, so even in World War I modern-ish battleships and many smaller vessels still carried iron rams at the waterline. And, maybe even more surprising, the Austrian success at Lissa had become moot before it was even fought.
The Austrian Empire had been decisively defeated on land at the Battle of Königgrätz by Prussian forces on July 3. Prussian forces on the continent kept pressure on Austria for the rest of July, and the war came to an end with Prussian victory.
Germanic tribes, and their Italian allies, were allowed to consolidate their peoples into new nations separate from the Austrian Empire. That empire renamed itself the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and, 48 years later, one of its archdukes was killed while riding in a car in the town of Sarajevo, less than 130 miles northeast of Lissa.
(Today, the island is part of Croatia and is known by its name in the Croatian language, Vis.)
Donald Trump reportedly wants to redesign his official presidential planes, because the current ones don’t look American enough.
The president thinks the current light-blue-and-white color scheme on the jets do not sufficiently represent the US, Axios reported on July 12, 2018, quoting an unidentified source.
The US Air Force maintains two identical Boeing 747 planes, which take on the “Air Force One” call sign when the president is onboard. One of them is always ready to go at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
The White House and Boeing struck a .9 billion deal in February 2018 for two new Air Force One planes, and Trump has requested that they be ready by 2021.
Trump now wants a redesign that “looks more American,” Axios reported, adding that he wants to make it red, white, and blue.
The president’s two Air Force One jets are currently light blue — “luminous ultramarine blue”, technically — and white, with a light brown and white lining, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” emblazoned on it. It also has the official presidential seal near the stairs the president typically uses to disembark the plane.
Trump also wants to make his bed aboard the planes bigger and more comfortable, like the one on his personal plane, Axios reported. During the presidential campaign, Trump used his personal plane — a Boeing 757 airliner-turned-private-jet— to travel around the country. It reportedly cost 0 million.
Donald Trump’s personal plane.
(Photo by Tomás Del Coro)
The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
While Trump has the power to redesign the jet, the US Air Force might take issue with it. Some senior officers like the current look as it is “known around the world,” Axios said, quoting its source.
Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy designed Air Force One’s current color scheme. Before that, presidents traveled on a rather plain Boeing C-137 Stratoliner. Axios reported that Trump had wanted the new planes to move away from the “Jackie Kennedy color.”
Well, here it is, the ten funniest war movie characters of all time. Oddballs. Gallows humor. Hard asses. In exact order. Presented as fact. With absolutely no room for improvement. Don’t think so? Take it up with the complaint department below, because now that we think of it, everything is subjective and you probably have a very good idea that was missed by this perfect list.
Brad Pitt in “Inglorious Bastards”
Hearing an undercover soldier from the deep south try to say “Gorlami” in an Italian accent is absolute comedic bliss. Watching him scalp some Nazis is bliss of another kind. Brad Pitt anchors this list off with this classy badass in the instant classic from the mind of Tarantino.
Cuba Gooding Jr. in “The Way of War”
Okay, so this one isn’t technically a comedy. But in the same way that a tomato isn’t “technically” a vegetable. If you haven’t seen heard of this movie– you are not alone. In fact, you are very, very crowded. I don’t think JK Simmons has heard of this movie, and he is in it. Watch it if you want to see Cuba Gooding: kill a guy with a shower curtain, call himself “the wolf” for no discernible reason, and threaten to murder the entire family of an innocent shopkeeper who SAVED HIS LIFE. It has a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is generous.
Damon Wayans in “Major Payne”
The idea of getting a wounded Marine’s mind off a shoulder wound by breaking his pinky is something only Major Payne could make funny. That and comforting a child with a hell-torn Fallujah version of “The Little Engine that Could.” This movie is silly. This movie is stupid. But so are you if you don’t laugh at it.
Alan Alda in “M*A*S*H”
Uh oh, this one’s not even a movie–don’t care— there’s no way a list about the funniest war characters was going to leave out M*A*S*H. While there are probably 3-4 characters from M*A*S*H that could make the list (I’ll give you a hint, one wears a dress, and it’s not Margaret Houlihan). However, Alan Alda is so effortlessly sarcastic in this, that he left an impression on all dads in the US born between 1950-1969 with a TV.
Donald Sutherland in “Kelly’s Heroes”
I don’t think my father would continue to claim me as his own if I didn’t include Kelly’s Heroes on here. Donald Sutherland as “Oddball” is an offbeat performance which really captures the existentialism of conflict. Some men are fighting, some men are repairing a downed vehicle–Oddball is just “drinking wine and eating cheese and catching some rays, ya know?”
Sam Elliot in “We Were Soldiers”
“Good morning Sgt. Major.” … “How do you know what kind of God damn day it is?” Sam Elliot (a.k.a the voice in those “Coors Banquet Beer” commercials) keeps this entire movie on its feet by his rugged portrayal of the hilariously pissed off Sgt. Major Plumley. Plus his voice sounds like beef jerky tastes.
Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder”
“I know who I am. I’m a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude.” This line alone about sums up Robert Downey Jr.’s “Tropic Thunder” performance. One of only three other Oscar-nominated performances on this list (almost, Cuba), Robert Downey’s ballsy meta performance is as controversial as it is hilarious.
Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”
This one is just a requirement. Like it feels like if it wasn’t on here, there would (rightfully) be an uproar. Not to say that Robin Williams isn’t hysterical in this–he is. In fact, he’s so good that it’s an unexciting pick. It’s like, duh, Good Morning Vietnam is amazing, and Robin Williams is unbelievably funny. And he improvised a lot of it. It should be higher, but this list is subjective, and nothing matters.
Bill Murray in “Stripes”
This role spawned (or popularized, rather) an entire archetype in comedies–the slack off reluctantly leading a rebellion of misfits. Bill Murray’s portrayal of John Winger is played seemingly with a wink to the audience throughout the whole movie. The character was even adapted by Dan Harmon as the lead in the popular series “Community” and named “Jeff Winger.”
Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, and Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove”
Everything is up for debate except for this spot. Peter Sellers plays three completely unique and separate characters, and they all have made me spackle my laptop screen with Doritos bits with laughter. The scene where Peter Sellers plays “Dr.Strangelove” an obvious Nazi scientist who is eternally fighting against one arm that is permanently possessed with exaltation for the Third Reich. It is physical comedy at its purest form. Legend has it that this scene is the only thing that has ever made Stanley Kubrick laugh on set–and apparently to tears. Even in the final cut, you can see some background actors bite their lips to stop smiling, and hear stifled laughter.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned military spouse heading to their umpteenth ball, rest assured you can have an enjoyable, memorable event. Military balls are a time-honored tradition, and while they’re not in everyone’s immediate comfort zone, they can make for a fun experience you won’t soon forget.
In order to attend your best ball yet, take these tips to heart, and to your upcoming formal event.
Choose an outfit you love
First things first, it’s important to dress the part. Whether you’re decked out in a fancy gown, perfectly tailored tuxedo, or anything in between, find what suits you. Choose attire that makes you feel strong and confident. No one wants to be adjusting their undergarments every few minutes. Take some time to find an outfit that actually fits, and that flatters your personal tastes.
You’ll be far more relaxed when feeling attractive, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first and find a getup you’re excited to show off!
No one wants to sit next to strangers … but it’s even worse when sitting next to a stranger who doesn’t talk or engage in any type of conversation. (Yes, this happens.) Talk to folks at your table and make nice! It will make the evening far more enjoyable, even if you don’t walk away friends. If you’re introverted, break the ice with small talk over decor, seating arrangements, the weather, parking, anything!
Whether or not you end up sitting next to folks you know, engage with them, and remain friendly throughout the night to make for a better time.
Each service branch and battalion will have its own traditions, so go ahead, jump on the bandwagon! We’re talking chants, specific handshakes, checking out displays, or voting for personalized awards. Jump into the fun!
Then again, be careful of TOO MUCH fun. Military balls are known for being heavy on the libations, and it’s a good idea to stay aware of how much you’re drinking, especially if sampling group punches.
Chances are, you won’t be associated with the unit for long, so you can make the most of each ball appearance by going all in and doing what it is they do best.
Don’t come starving
While it’s true you’re there to eat, that’s just part of the night. There are too many variables — maybe you won’t like the food, maybe someone took your fish and left you with steak (or vice versa, depending on your preferences). Or maybe you’re busy talking and don’t want to be shoving food in your face while doing so. In any case, eat a snack before you come and maybe plan a drive-thru trip on your way home. Whatever you can do to make sure you aren’t hangry!
Make a day of it
Relax. Take your time to get ready. Don’t rush it so you can enjoy the experience as a whole. This is a fun experience for all. Don’t consider the day just for your spouse or “mandatory fun,” but something you can celebrate together and with coworkers.
Show off your date!
As an extension of your military member, how you act, and what you do reflects on them. Remember to be on your best behavior (of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!). Be polite, make small talk, and find a way to have fun. You should also take their lead. Let them introduce you to coworkers, get appetizers, order drinks, etc. While yes, you’re going to have a good time, technically, this is their work event, and you should follow their moves.
Attending a military ball should be a fun, memorable experience, no matter how many of them you attend. Look to the above to more easily plan your night toward having a great time!
It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.
Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.
It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.
The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.
Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)
Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.
There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.
Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.
The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.
The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.
If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.
(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)
Operation Northern Delay
In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.
This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.
Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!
Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan
Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.
RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.
This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.
We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.
The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.
Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.
Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.
In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.
Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.
In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.
Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.
The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.
Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.
Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)
Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.
To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.
Remington Model 1100 Sporting 28 (Remington Arms Co.)
On July 28, 2020, the Remington Arms Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an Alabama federal court. Seeking to restructure amid legal and financial hardships, this is the second time since 2018 that Remington has filed for bankruptcy.
At 204 years old, Remington bills itself as America’s oldest gun maker and claims to be America’s oldest factory that still makes its original product. Remington has also developed and adopted more cartridges than any other firearm or ammunition manufacturer in the world.
During its long history, Remington has churned out classic sporting shotguns like the Model 31 slide-action, Model 1100 autoloading and the Model 3200 over/under. Remington rifles have also been the favorites of familiar names like George Armstrong Custer, Buffalo Bill and even Annie Oakley.
Remington has also had a long history of manufacturing military weapons under contract. In addition to the famous M1903 and Rolling Block rifles, Model 10 trench shotguns and 1911 pistols, Remington was contracted in WWI to make .303 British Pattern 14 rifles for England and Mosin-Nagant rifles for Russia. For the United States, Remington also made modified U.S. Model 1903 rifles with Pedersen devices.
A soldier takes aim with an M1903 Mark I fitted with a Pedersen device (U.S. Army Ordnance Department)
During WWII, Remington continued to manufacture the M1903 rifle, including the 1903A4 sniper rifle variant, the first mass-produced sniper rifle manufactured in the United States. The company also produced nearly 3 million rounds of .30 and .50 caliber ammunition.
In more recent years, Remington has continued to supply the U.S. military with firearms like the Model 870 shotgun, Model 700/M24 rifle, MSR, and even the first batch of M4A1 carbines.
A U.S. Navy SEAL with a Remington 870 during a training exercise in the early 1990s (U.S. Navy)
In March 2018, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, having accumulated over 0 million of debt. In May of that same year, Remington was able to exit bankruptcy thanks to a pre-approved restructuring plan that was supported by 97% of its creditors.
In 2019, the Supreme Court denied Remington’s bid to block a lawsuit filed by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. The families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington as the manufacturer and marketer of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting.
In June 2020, the FBI reported that it conducted 3.9 million firearms background checks, eclipsing the previous March record of 3.7 million. Despite a surge in firearms sales across the nation, Remington has found itself in financial hardship. According to its bankruptcy filing, the company owes its two largest creditors, St. Marks Powder and Eco-Bat Indiana, a combined total of .5 million. The filing also listed the states of Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, as well as the city of Huntsville, as creditors with undetermined claims since the company took development incentives in each jurisdiction.
As the company tries to find a buyer to keep it alive, its future remains uncertain. Whatever its fate, the Remington name will continue to stand as one of America’s most iconic and prolific manufacturers of firearms.
This fully customized Dodge Challenger was built by Galpin Auto Sports of Van N California, and is outfitted with special gullwing doors, a carbon fiber body kit, and a “stealth” exhaust system that, when activated, allows the Vapor to run almost silently. Its features include cutting edge technology used by the , such as a forward looking infrared system for night operation and a high-resolution 360-degree surveillance camera with 1/4 mile range.
In addition, the car’s blacked-out “command center” interior is equipped with aircraft style controls, a passenger side steering wheel, and a windshield head-up display with both night and thermal vision capability, and its advanced computer system allows remote operation from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.
The Vapor Supercar toured the for more than seven years with the Recruiting Service, educating the public on opportunities for officers and enlisted airmen by showcasing ingenuity, state-of the-art technology, and innovation.
According to National Museum of the Deputy Director and Senior Curator Krista Strider, having the Vapor Supercar on display at the museum will not only allow visitors to appreciate the advanced technology and unique aspects of the car, but could also lead to some extended mileage for its recruiting mission.
“The special features and innovative technology associated with the Vapor Supercar is really interesting for visitors to see,” said Strider. “A major part of the museum’s mission is to inspire our youth toward an or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career, and the Vapor Supercar is another asset that we can utilize to help accomplish that goal.”
In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.
The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.
It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.
The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.
With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.
After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.
“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.
The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.
Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.
At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.
While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.
“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.
After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.
“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”
Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.
Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.
In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.
“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”
The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.
Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.
“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”
And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.
Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.
“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”
Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.
In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.
Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.
“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.
While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.
In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.
(US Army photo)
“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”
The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.
The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.
“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”
Emir Abdelkader was born the son of a respected military leader who had helped harass French occupiers in Algeria. As might be expected, young Emir continued his father’s war against the French in a conflict that had religious overtones since, you know, the Algerians were mostly Muslim and the French predominantly Christian. But when he rode forth to save Christians from angry mobs in 1860, France conferred on him its top military honors, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Emir Abdelkader as a military leader in the late 1830s.
Further successes on the battlefield and in negotiations gave him control of more land and pushed most French forces back to a few ports. His success on the battlefield in service of Algerian independence led to him being dubbed the “George Washington of Algeria.”
But Abdelkader was unable to defeat the larger and better equipped French military forever. A renewed French campaign in 1840 slowly ground down Abdelkader and his supporters and, in 1847, he surrendered to a French general and the duc d’Aumale, the French king’s son.
But his story was not over. He was a prolific writer and was widely respected in the region and across the world. So, when political violence erupted into a summer civil war in 1860, Abdelkader’s calls for calm incited some popular support for peace.
A statue of Emir Abdelkader in Algeria.
(Mouh2jijel, CC BY-SA 3.0)
But the violence did continue and spilled into Damascus, now the capital of Syria. Abdelkader rode forth with his guard and supporters and personally rounded up Christians and took them back to his compound where he and his men guarded them. He put a bounty out for the safe delivery of any Christians to him and his men. And, he sent guards to escort local Christian leaders and officials back to safety.
His efforts were credited at the time with saving thousands, and he had hundreds of Christians at a time sheltered under his protection.
The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade deployed in March 2018 to Afghanistan to carry out the inaugural mission for the newly-created SFAB concept. The brigade returned in November 2018, and leaders say their experience there has proven successful what the Army hoped to accomplish with the new kind of training unit.
Army Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson, 1st SFAB commander, spoke May 8, 2019, at the Pentagon as part of an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour. He said the Army’s concept for the new unit — one earmarked exclusively for advise and assist missions — was spot on.
During their nine-month deployment to Afghanistan, Jackson said the 800-person brigade ran 58 advisory teams and partnered with more than 30 Afghan battalions, 15 brigades, multiple regional training centers, a corps headquarters and a capital division headquarters.
“That’s nearly half of the Afghan National Army,” he said. “I believe we could only accomplish our mission and reach these milestones and validate the effectiveness of an SFAB because the Army got it right — the Army issued us the right equipment, and provided us the right training to be successful. But most importantly, we selected the people for this mission . . . the key to our success is the talented, adaptable, and experienced volunteers who served in this brigade.”
Jackson outlined two key lessons learned from the unit’s time in Afghanistan. First, they learned their ability to affect change within those they advise and assist was greater than they thought.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, interacts with Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Abdul Rahman Rangakhil, left, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“As our Afghan partners began to understand the value of 1st SFAB advisors, they asked us for more,” Jackson said. “So our teams partnered with more and more Afghan units as the deployment progressed.”
Another lesson, he said, was that persistent presence with partners pays off.
“Units with persistent partners made more progress in planning and conducting offensive operations and in integrating organic Afghan enablers like field artillery and the Afghan air force than unpersistent partnered units,” Jackson said.
Those lessons and others were passed to the follow-on unit, the 2nd SFAB, as well as to the Security Force Assistance Command.
Another observation: the Afghan military is doing just fine. They’re in charge of their own operations. And while U.S. presence can provide guidance when needed — and it is asked for — the Afghans were proving successful at doing their own security missions without U.S. soldiers running alongside them. It turns out that just having an SFAB advise and assist presence has emboldened Afghan security to success.
“We saw enormous offensive maneuver generated, and not just at the brigade level,” said Army Lt. Col. Brain Ducote, commander of the 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. “They weren’t overdependent. They were able to execute offensive operations themselves. It was a huge confidence builder when we were sometimes just present. Even if we didn’t support them, just us being there gave them the confidence to execute on independent offensive operations.”
Confidence is contagious
Ducote said that the confidence moved from brigade level down to battalion, or “kandak” level. Commanders there also began running their own offensive operations, he said.
“They believe in themselves,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The Afghan army has tremendous freedom of maneuver and access to areas where they want to go. If they put their mind to it and they say we’re going to move to this area to clear it . . . they are good at it. And they can do it. Would they, given the choice, want advisors with them? Absolutely. Why not? But let there be no mistake: the Afghans are in the lead, and the Afghans can do this.”
Advisors with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron and their 3rd Infantry Division security element exit UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Ducote said Afghan success is evident by their expansion of the footprint they protect, such as in Kunar and Kapisa provinces, for instance.
“[There are] all sorts of provinces where they expanded their footprint and influence,” he said. “And the people absolutely support their security forces.”
Also a critical takeaway from Afghanistan and an indicator of the value of the SFAB mission there is the authenticity of relationships between SFAB advisors and Afghans.
Building real relationships
During their nine months in theater, the 1st SFAB lost two soldiers to insider threats. Army Capt. Gerard T. Spinney, team leader for 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB, said that what happened after the attacks revealed the strength and sincerity of the relationship between Afghan leadership and SFAB leadership.
Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel was working for Spinney in Tarin Kowt District, Afghanistan. He was killed there by an Afghan soldier in July 2018 — a “green on blue” threat.
“His sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Spinney said. “But we still had to continue advising afterward. That day, my partner, a kandak commander . . . wanted to come see me.”
Spinney said the Afghan soldier who had killed Maciel didn’t belong to this commander — but that commander still wanted to meet with him.
Afghan soldiers listen to a map reading class taught by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“He was very adamant coming to see me,” Spinney said. “He was angry. He was embarrassed. He was determined to rid [his own] unit of anything like this. And it was sincere. During the deployment he lost many soldiers. I had to sit with him and almost echo the same sympathies. I think the relationship got stronger.”
“You have to be there with them, good times and bad times, successes and failures,” the captain said. “That’s how you build trust, that’s how you show you care. He was there for us that day. Our relationship survived. And I’d say from that point on he wanted to make us feel safer. From that point on we saw differences in security . . . they took care of us because they wanted us there.”
Jackson said that insider threat might have derailed the 1st SFAB mission. In fact, he said, he suspects that was the intent of the enemy that carried out those threats. But it didn’t happen that way, he said.
“It didn’t derail the mission,” Jackson said. “Despite a brief pause maybe, as we reassessed what happened and what we needed to do both on the Afghan side and the American side, in the end our relationship was stronger.”
The SFAB concept was first proposed by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley. And since then, Jackson said, the Army has put a lot of effort into ensuring the success of the SFAB mission. That includes, among other things, training, people and gear.
Ducote said the equipment provided to 1st SFAB was critical to its success in Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Davis, an advisor with 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, teaches a map reading class to Afghan soldiers Sept. 18, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“These teams are operating at distance, in austere environments,” Ducote said. “In some cases without electricity. We need the right equipment to be able to extend the trust that we give to them, and the trust that we extend to them. We want that to be manifested through the right equipment — communications specifically.”
He said the gear that proved essential to SFAB success included medical, communications and vehicles — and all were adequately provided for by the Army.
“The Army got it right what they gave us,” Ducote said. “We were able to do that mission, at distance.”
Back home now for six months, Jackson said the brigade is back to repairing equipment, replacing teammates and conducting individual and small-unit training to prepare for its next mission. He said their goal is to provide the Army a unit ready for the next deployment, though orders for that next mission have not yet come down.
The advise and assist mission is one the Army has done for years, but it’s something the Army had previously done in an ad hoc fashion. Brigade combat teams, for instance, had in the past been tasked to send some of their own overseas as part of security transition teams or security force assistance teams to conduct training missions with foreign militaries. Sometimes, however, the manner in which these teams were created may not have consistently facilitated the highest quality of preparation.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Velez, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 3rd Squadron, flies in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on his way to Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, Sept. 19, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
The SFAB units, on the other hand, are exclusively designated to conduct advise and assist missions overseas. And they are extensively trained to conduct those missions before they go. Additionally, the new SFABs mean regular BCTs will no longer need to conduct advise and assist missions.
The Army plans to have one National Guard and five active-duty SFABs. The 1st SFAB stood up at Fort Benning, Georgia, in early 2018. The 2nd SFAB is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but is now deployed to Afghanistan. The 3rd SFAB, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is now gearing up for its own first deployment. The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, Colorado, is standing up, as is the 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit that will be spread across six states. The 5th SFAB, to be based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, is still being planned.
“As subsequent SFABs come online, it creates a huge capacity for the rest of the combatant commands in the world,” Jackson said. “I would be confident to say that there are assessments ongoing to see where else you could apply SFABs besides Afghanistan.”