Airman Alex Orquiza of the 71st Security Forces Squadron wears the next generation of ballistic helmet during a door breaching exercise at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma Sept. 15. The Air Force Security Forces Center is rolling out the new helmets to security forces units. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/Air Force)
The Air Force has been busy this summer. From providing the latest class of recruits to Space Force to issuing better fitting body armor to women airmen, it seems like the protectors of the sky are really looking to expand and develop on its commitment to its force. This comes after the push in 2018 for Air Force defenders to get updated weapons, along with revised training and fitness standards.
Now, security airmen are next in line to receive a uniform upgrade. Soon, they’ll be issued new special ops-like helmets. This next generation of ballistic helmet is just the latest initiative that the Air Force is taking to ensure its personnel remains safe.
This new helmet is going to replace the older and far less-adaptable Advanced Combat Helmet. The ACH is what security forces currently wear, and many airmen have complained about its bulk and weight. Adding to the challenges is that the ACH is designed for ground units, so airmen have struggled with it, and in some cases, have had to outfit and modify it with bulky additions to accomplish different mission sets.
Not only will the new helmet come with better padding, built-in railings to easily attach accessories, but they’ll also be lighter and cooler. The Air Force Security Forces Center is now sending out new ballistic helmets as it phases out the ACH.
The 71st Security Forces Squadron, located at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was the first squadron to receive the helmet. Soon airmen everywhere will receive the upgrade.
An Air Force press release said that the initial response to the new helmet has been positive. Master Sgt. Darryl Wright, 71st SFS logistics and readiness superintendent, said that the new version is the “most agile helmet” he’s worn in 19 years.
The helmets are part of the Air Force Security Forces Control initiative to modernize not just weapon systems but also individual protective gear. Included in this refresh is contingency support equipment and deployable communications systems, both of which will be paramount to successfully defeating the enemy in future conflicts. In the future, the Air Force plans to roll out a newly revised M18 modular handgun system, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle, M320A1 grenade launcher, and modular, scalable bests.
“We’re identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force,” said Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of Logistics. “This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively.”
These changes all come after the Air Force’s Year of the Defender 2019 exercises, where the service conducted a detailed and extensive review of all security forces. This review explored areas that could be improved upon, both in terms of equipment and gear to tactics, training, and general morale boosts. To date, the Air Force has successfully worked through over 900 specific items that needed to change and has spent almost 0 million to update their gear.
The Air Force currently field about 25,000 active-duty security forces airmen. There are an additional 13,000 in the Air National Guard and Reserve components. Of the forces 38,000 airmen, about 98 percent are enlisted. This aligns the entire branch of the Air Force with the Army’s lightest light infantry unit.
Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, career security forces officer, said that the Air Force has “expeditionary roots,” and that the branch is “a blend between light infantry and a military police company.”
Collectively, these big changes are helping the service gain air superiority over the peer adversary that could potentially pose a big threat to the military. As the Air Force continues to look toward the future and the likelihood of conflicts with either Russia or China, the Air Force needs to be able to pick up the slack safeguarding forward-deployed squadrons instead of relying on ground forces. This new helmet upgrade is yet another step to making sure that can happen.
On Jun. 17, 2018, Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire, WI hosted an airshow that included the display of the Air Combat Command’s F-16 Viper Demo Team.
Piloted by Maj. John “Rain” Waters, an operational F-16 pilot assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina and the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander, the F-16 performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate demonstrate the unique capabilities by one of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighters, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.
The F-16 Viper Demo always starts with a take-off followed by a low, high-g turn. The maneuver was filmed from a privileged position (the slow motion effect contributes to the stunning results):
Shortly after converting to Islam, then-Sgt. Khallid Shabazz struggled to find his way while his devout Lutheran family and fellow soldiers questioned his move.
And with a few Article 15s for insubordination on his record, Shabazz, a field artilleryman at the time, wanted out of the military.
Then, one day while training out in the field, an Army chaplain approached him and struck up a conversation.
“Honestly, it was like a revelation from God,” Shabazz said. “When it hit my ears, I knew that was what I was going to do in life. It was incredible.”
The Christian chaplain had told Shabazz, who was a teacher before he joined the Army, that he should consider being a Muslim chaplain. That way, the chaplain said, he could help other Muslim soldiers in need of guidance.
Shabazz later became a chaplain, and proudly wore his uniform with the Islamic crescent moon stitched onto it. The career change was a catalyst for him, as he went on to achieve several other goals.
Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service, which is held on Fridays, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Sept. 21, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)
Currently a lieutenant colonel, Shabazz holds two doctorate degrees on top of four master’s degrees. He has written three books and teaches online courses at four colleges. This fall, he plans to teach at a fifth one, the University of Hawaii.
He recently was chosen to study at the National War College, a rare feat for chaplains — only three of them are accepted each year.
And in 2017, Shabazz became the U.S. military’s first Muslim division-level chaplain, a position he held with the 7th Infantry Division.
Now the lead chaplain of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command here, he plans to surpass yet another milestone. That’s when he is slated to be promoted to colonel, which will be the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim chaplain.
“It’s phenomenal first, but it’s unbelievable second,” Shabazz said of his pending promotion.
Born as Michael Barnes, Shabazz grew up in a large Lutheran family in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Once a faithful Lutheran himself, Shabazz often attended church and even graduated from a Christian college.
His religious views changed in the Army when he decided to debate a Muslim soldier on the merits of both religions. He admits he was ill-prepared for the debate and had misinformation about what Muslim people actually believed in.
Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)
Afterward, he became curious about Islam and began to study the Quran.
“I didn’t want to convert; I was happy where I was,” he said. “I’m a very inquisitive person. If I don’t know something, I’m going to get to know it.”
While Shabazz found more peace and solace by switching faiths, which included the Islamic custom of changing his name, many people in his life stopped talking to him.
His commander at the time, Shabazz said, even asked why he sided with the enemy.
“I was so hurt by those statements,” he said.
He eventually came to realize it was a lack of understanding some people had with Islam, which he was also guilty of until he studied it.
Islam is sometimes distorted by extremist groups, he said, similar to how other religions can be twisted to incite violent acts.
“Whether it’s the Bible, Quran, or the Torah, I want people to understand that religion really has nothing to do with violence,” he said. “99.9 percent of the people in religion are good people.”
As a whole, he said, the Army has improved its inclusiveness of Islamic culture. Religious accommodations allow Muslim soldiers to worship on Fridays and now give female soldiers the option to wear a hijab and males to have a beard.
He also educates leaders and soldiers about Muslim holidays and other traditions.
For those struggling as he once did, he encourages them to pursue knowledge, too. Often, he receives calls from Muslims across the Army asking for help on issues or how to deal with blowback from others in their unit.
“What I ask you to do is, keep doing your job and keep working hard,” he said he tells them. “Go to school at night and stay focused on everything else besides the treatment.
“That’s coming from a person like me who went through that type of turmoil. I was an E-5 and I received some pretty tough treatment back then. I can tell them those stories and I think it helps.”
As a chaplain, he strives to inspire soldiers to be successful, no matter their religious preference. To date, he has helped at least 70 soldiers become officers and many other NCOs gain promotion points by taking college courses.
Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz speaks during his Change of Stole ceremony inside the Lewis Main Chapel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 23, 2017.
“I’m like a chaplain life coach,” he said, laughing. “I’m telling them don’t quit.”
While proud of his faith, he does not want to be known only as the Muslim chaplain — he is one of five currently in the Army. Unless a soldier wants to talk about religion, he will leave those types of discussions at the door.
“I meet soldiers where they’re at. I attack problems,” he said. “My job is not to be your spiritual advisor, your religious guru. I want to help soldiers with school, with their family, their marital problems, and be almost like an arbitrator or a mediator.”
Years before, he had to overcome many of his own issues.
In high school, he failed the 9th and 12th grades. He was not able to graduate with his class and had to go to summer school. His destructive behavior continued throughout his first stint of college, he said.
When he was later able to get a job as a teacher, he made just under ,000 per year.
So, he decided to join the Army as a 23-year-old private to take care of his wife and children.
He also sought discipline and stability, which the Army could provide. As he initially thought it was a good idea to sign up, he admits it was a difficult change.
“I found myself getting into a lot of trouble. Having a 19-year-old sergeant cussing at you and telling you what to do didn’t go over very well with me,” he said, laughing.
Then that chaplain decided to stop and take the time to chat with Shabazz, who had just turned Muslim but still wrestled with his identity.
“I was at my lowest level and the chaplain came by and gave me what I needed at that point,” he said. “I wanted to dedicate my life, and I have, to helping people who are in that position. Not by converting them, but by being a person who can put their arm around them and try to help them get to the other side.”
If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.
The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”
At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.
Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.
As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.
“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.
Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.
The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”
They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.
From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.
The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.
“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”
British Gen. Charles O’Hara was, by most reports, a dedicated and brave officer. He began his military career at the age of 12 as an ensign and then fought in the Seven Years War, attacked through a raging river while under fire in the Revolutionary War, and continued leading his men forward after being struck in both the chest and thigh during a battle with Nathaniel Greene.
British Gen. Charles O’Hara had a distinguished career punctuated by multiple surrenders and some time in jail.
Which made things sort of awkward when it came time for him to surrender British forces to groups of ragtag revolutionaries.
It’s titled ‘The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown,’ but then-Brig. Gen. Charles O’Hara actually conducted this surrender.
O’Hara initially tried to surrender to a French general who promptly pointed out that he wasn’t in command. O’Hara would have to give his sword to that guy over there, Gen. George Washington, a farmer and colonial who had been deemed too country for a British officer commission.
So, O’Hara presented Cornwallis’s sword to Washington. Accounts differ at this point as to exactly what happened.
In most accounts, Washington did not even let O’Hara reach him, directing the man instead to present the sword to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who had been forced to surrender in May, 1780, in Charleston.
Whatever the case, O’Hara got out of it alright. He was promoted to major general as he began his trip back to Britain, so it appeared that he wasn’t blamed for the failure in the colonies and his reputation as a rising star remained intact. As a major general, he was later named military governor of Gibraltar.
But then he got promoted to lieutenant general and was appointed military governor of Toulon — and that was a huge problem.
The British and Spanish arrival at Toulon was nearly unopposed, but still a little chaotic.
See, Toulon was an important French city, housing nearly half of the French fleet, but the French Republic wasn’t super popular there. Many of the (rich) people who lived there wanted a return to royal rule, and so they allowed an Anglo-Spanish fleet to take the city nearly unopposed and everyone’s old friend, O’Hara, was soon named the governor.
The French Republic, unsurprisingly, wanted neither a return of the monarchy nor to give up such an most important city and port.
O’Hara still could have come out of this well. He was a brave warrior with plenty of troops, artillery, and a massive fleet at his back. He held the city. He was a hero once again. He could’ve been on easy street for the rest of his career. General. Governor. Pimp.
But there was one problem across the trenches from him: a young artillery officer named Napoleon.
Napoleon was young, relatively inexperienced, but still skilled as all hell.
Napoleon was not yet famous, but this battle would lay the major groundwork. The French siege at Toulon initially floundered, despite Napoleon offering very sound artillery advice and strategies. Two commanders were relieved before a third arrived, heard a couple ideas from Napoleon, and said, “well, get on with your bad self, then.”
Napoleon took command of additional forces and gave the suggestions that would form the major plans. The battle started to shift with the French taking many of the outlying forts and redoubts.
O’Hara, always bold, saw too many French guns in redoubts around his city and decided to personally lead an attack against them.
O’Hara was fighting his way toward the French division commander when Napoleon and a few other officers charged into his flank with hundreds of men. O’Hara’s force broke and began a hasty retreat back to the city, struggling to stay ahead of Napoleon.
Unfortunately for O’Hara, always one to lead from the front, he had no chance of getting back around the French and was forced to surrender. He was taken prisoner and sent to Paris for confinement.
The British general spent two years in a French prison before returning to England. He would survive seven more years, long enough to see Washington serve as America’s first president and Napoleon become the First Consul of the French Consulate.
Probably sour grapes for the general who fought ably against both of them, but not quite well enough to defeat either.
In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.
Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.
Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came tothe site emblazoned with miniature American flags.
But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)
In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used aform to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.
Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.
In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”
To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.
An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.
That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.
In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.
“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.
Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.
The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.
Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.
Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.
TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.
It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.
Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.
We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.
The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.
And that “military discount”? All of .
In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.
Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:
The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.
Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.
“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”
We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.
TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.
We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.
We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).
We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.
When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).
On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.
When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .
While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.
On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.
TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.
It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”
“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.
Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.
The Sherp all-terrain Russian adventure-mobile looks like a Tonka truck. The two-passenger ATV with 63-inch wheels is deceiving in that it appears much larger than it actually is from far away.
The Sherp’s all-terrain capabilities are impressive. With nearly two feet of ground clearance, it can roll over brush fields, swamps, forest floors, and even fallen trees — it can clear anything up to 27.5 inches tall. Its ridged wheels are grapplers in rocky terrain and act as water paddles in the river.
The truck is way underpowered, however, sporting a 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel with 44 hp. The engine gives it a head-spinning speed of 28 mph on land and 3.7 mph in the water. Despite the power let down, it looks incredibly fun to drive.
Many Soldiers seek Air Assault School as a simple way to get a skill badge for gloating rights. It’s only two weeks of sliding down ropes — how hard could it be? Kinda difficult, actually, if you’re not prepared.
Being a dope-on-a-rope is the fun part, but cocky and unprepared soldiers will often get dropped before they reach that point. To get the opportunity to really learn what rotor wash is, you’re going to have to do a lot of work. There’s a lot more to the school than you might think. Here’s what you need to know if you want to make it through.
I honestly don’t know if that guy was planted there by the instructors, but we all got the message. There’s no messing around at this school.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
If you’re at the Sabalauski Air Assault School, for the love of all that is holy, don’t sh*t-talk the 101st Airborne
If you’re stationed at Fort Campbell, home of the Sabalauski Air Assault School, you’re more than likely going to be voluntold to attend. The 101st is pretty fond of their Air Assault status and almost everyone at the school is rocking their Old Abe.
If you’re not in the 101st and are attending on TDY, it’s ill-advised to sport an 82nd patch or Airborne wings. You might get pestered if you do, but won’t get kicked out or anything. All of that goes out the window, however, if you mouth off about the divisional rivalry.
Just how easy is it to get kicked? Here’s a fun, true story: A guy standing next to me on Day Zero couldn’t hold his tongue. He told the instructor, who kept his composure throughout, that “if you choking chickens can do this, so can I.” The instructor just opened the fool’s canteen, poured some water out, shook it near his ear, and told the idiot that he was a no-go before he could set foot on the obstacle course.
Get as much time on obstacle courses as you can before attending
The Day-Zero obstacle course isn’t that physically demanding. Every obstacle is designed so that everyone from the biggest gym rat to the smallest dude can pass. It’s more of a thought exercise than a physical exam.
The challenge that gets the most people is the rope climb. You can climb a rope with almost no effort if you carefully use your feet to create temporary anchors as you work your way up. Check out the video below for a visual example.
The “Air Assault” that will forever play in your head will remind you why your knees are blown out at 25.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Hecht)
Get used to saying “Air Assault” at least 7000 times a day
“When that left foot hits the ground, all I want to hear is that Air Assault sound.” This literally means you’ll be saying, “Air Assault” every single time your left foot hits the ground while you’re at the school. It’s not very pleasant considering it’s a three-syllable phrase and you’ll be uttering it every other second.
The answer to every question is “Air Assault.” Every movement is “Air Assault.” You’ll probably start mumbling the phrase after a while, but don’t let the instructors catch you doing it.
Also, don’t sleep in class. That’s a shortcut to getting kicked.
(Photo by Army Spc. Brian Smith-Dutton)
There’s actually a lot of math
After you’re done with the obstacle course, the first phase is all about the helicopters. You’ll be expected to memorize every specification of every single helicopter in the Army’s roster.
And, yes, you’ll need to brush up on your basic math skills to plot out how far apart each helicopter should be given their size and area of landing. But don’t worry, you’ll get to the fun stuff soon enough.
Another heads up: That yellow stick thing is super important. You don’t want to learn the hard way why you have to poke the helicopter with it.
(Photo by Pfc. Alexes Anderson)
Expect to do more sling-load operations than fast roping
Oh, you thought Air Assault was all about jumping out of helicopters and quickly touching on what it takes to be a Pathfinder? That’s hilarious. You’re now going to be qualified for a detail that will almost always come up when you’re deployed: sling-loading gear to the bottom of helicopters.
The math skills and carrying capacities you crammed into your brain will ensure that you’re the go-to guy whenever a sling-load mission comes up. It’s only after that test that you move onto the repelling phase. This is when things gets fun.
Do units still do blood wings? Probably not. It’s not that bad, really.
(Photo by Sgt. Mickey Miller)
Make sure your 12-mile ruck march is up to speed
If you’re in a combat arms unit, making a 12-mile ruck march in under three hours isn’t asking much. That’s just one mile every fifteen minutes if you pace yourself properly. The ruck is the absolute last thing you’ll be doing at Air Assault School, just moments before graduation. And yet, people still fail.
If your unit came to cheer you on and give you your blood wings and you can’t complete the elementary ruck march at the end, you’ll never live down the fact that you failed while everyone was finding parking.
Jeremy A. asks: How did flipping the bird come to mean fu?
While some common gestures, such as the high five, have pretty well known and surprisingly modern origins, it turns out one of the most popular of all has been around for well over two thousand years, including having various similar connotations as it has today.
Unsurprisingly once you stop and think about versions of the expression’s meaning, extending the middle finger simply represents the phallus, with it perhaps natural enough that our forebears chose their longest finger to symbolically represent man’s favorite digit. (Although, there are some cultures that instead chose the thumb, seemingly preferring to have their girth, rather than length, represented here…) It’s also been speculated that perhaps people noticed that the curled fingers (or balled fist in the case of the thumb) made for a good representation of the testicles.
Either way, given the symbolism here, it’s no surprise that the expression has more or less always seemed to have meant something akin to “F*k You” in some form or other, sometimes literally.
For example, in Ancient Greece, beyond being a general insult, in some cases there seems to be a specific implication from the insult that the person the gesture was directed at liked to take it up the bum. In the case of men, despite male on male lovin’ being widely accepted in the culture at the time, there were still potentially negative connotations with regards to one’s manliness when functioning as the bottom in such a rendezvous, particularly the bottom for someone with lower social standing.
Moving on to an early specific example we have Aristphanes’ 423 BC The Clouds. In it, a character known as Strepsiades, tired of Socrates’ pontificating, decides to flip off the famed philosopher.
Socrates: Well, to begin with, they’ll make you elegant in company— and you’ll recognize the different rhythms, the enoplian and the dactylic, which is like a digit. Strepsiades: Like a digit! By god, that’s something I do know! Socrates: Then tell me. Strepsiades: When I was a lad a digit meant this! [Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]
For whatever it’s worth, in the third century AD Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we also have this reference of a supposed incidence that occurred in the 4th century BC, concerning famed orator Demosthenes and philosopher Diogenes.
[Diogenes] once found Demosthenes the orator lunching at an inn, and, when he retired within, Diogenes said, “All the more you will be inside the tavern.” When some strangers expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, [Diogenes] stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”
(No doubt water was needed to put out the fire created by that wicked burn.)
Moving on to the first century AD, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. On a no doubt completely unrelated note, the chief organizer of his assassination, and first to stab him, was one Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:
Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.
Speaking of the implications of this insulting gesture, it seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christianity, or at least records of it diminish. This may mean people actually stopped popularly flipping the bird or may just mean its uncouth nature saw it something not generally written about. That said, we do know thanks to the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville that at least as late as the 6th century people were still extending the finger as an insult, in this reference particularly directed at someone who had done something considered “shameful”.
Moving on to more modern times, the gesture was popularly resurrected in documented history starting around the early 19th century, with early photographic evidence later popping up in the latter half of the 1800s. Most famously, we have a photograph of the gesture flashed by present day Twitter sensation and former 19th century baseball iron man Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters in 1886 when the team, along with the New York Giants, posed for a group photo. In the photo, Old Hoss can be seen giving the bird to the cameraman. (We’ll have more on Charley “Hoss” and his possible connection to a different expression in a bit.)
Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants, Major League Baseball Opening Day 1886. Charles Radbourn giving the finger to cameraman (back row, far left).
At this point you might be wondering why we call extending the middle finger today — “flipping the bird” or “giving the bird”. The connection is speculated to derive from the centuries old practice of more or less making bird sounds, particularly owl and geese calls, as an equivalent to booing when an audience is dissatisfied by something. This, in turn, gave rise to the popular 19th century expression to “goose” someone and then a little later led to the expression “give the big bird”, as noted in William Earnest Henley’s late 19th century work, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present:
Big Bird: To get or give the big bird — To be hissed on the stage…. When an actor or actress gets the big bird, it may be from two causes; either it is a compliment for successful portrayal of villainy, in which case the Gods simply express their abhorrence of the character and not of the actor; or, the hissing may be directed against the actor, personally for some reason or other. The Big Bird is the goose.
By the mid-20th century, this seems to have extended to “giving the bird” not just referring to insulting sounds, but to describe extending the middle finger as well. One of the earliest examples of this can be found in the 1942 animated film A Tale of Two Kitties. In it, the pair of cats attempt to capture Tweety bird. At a certain point, one of the cats implores the other “Give me the bird!” The other cat then turns to the viewers and exclaims “If the Hays Office would only let me, I’d give him the bird alright.”
Going back to Charley “Hoss” Roadbourn, he is widely speculated to be the inspiration for the expression “Charley Horse”, indicating a random muscle cramp in the leg. The expression popped up in baseball shortly after his historic 1884 season in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 441 strikeouts in 678 and 2/3 innings, winning 59 games by modern rules (or 60 by the scorers of the day) despite the fact that his team only played 112 games that year. If you’re wondering how he managed to pitch in so many games, this was as a result of a fight between he and the team’s other best pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, that saw Sweeney leave and Old Hoss offer to start every game for the remainder of the season. He nearly did this, starting 40 of the remaining 43 games that year and winning 36 of them. However, at a certain point he reportedly became so sore he couldn’t even raise his arm above his head without significant warmup that required starting by soft tossing from just a few feet and slowly working back as his arm loosened up. It is speculated that his prolific pitching around this time, and presumably frequent cramps from over use of his muscles, may have inspired the expression. For whatever it’s worth, a 1907 issue of the Washington Post indicates that Old Hoss actually once had a severe leg cramp in a game, which directly gave rise to the expression. Whatever the case, one of the earliest known instances of the expression “Charley Horse” occurred in an 1887 edition of The Fort Wayne Gazette where it notes, “Whatever ails a player this year they call it a ‘Charley horse’…”
American seamen captured by the North Koreans in the famous “Pueblo crisis” once used the North Korean’s ignorance of the meaning of extending the middle finger to good use in propaganda photos taken by their captors. When asked, the captured men simply stated that it was a good luck gesture, so were allowed to continue using it in the photographs… at first. When the North Koreans discovered what it actually meant, the seamen were beaten.
As we alluded to in the body of this piece, there are several places on Earth where a thumbs up has a similar meaning to extending the middle finger. Why we bring this up specifically is that when American troops first started being stationed in Iraq, some reported being greeted by civilians offering a thumbs up, with the soldiers (and many in the media) interpreting it as most Westerners would — all the while not realizing the people were more or less flipping them off.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Let’s face it – the most important aircraft that a carrier has in its air wing are not the fighters the protect it, nor the attack planes to hit targets.
Actually, no operation can go on without the carrier’s airborne early warning aircraft.
Surprised? Don’t be. Airborne early warning aircraft help protect carriers in two ways.
First, they place an eye high in the sky so that it can see further and detect threats earlier. Second, they provide the means to displace that eye, so that it is harder to find the base (whether on land or at sea).
This displacement is particularly valuable at sea. Planes from land bases can usually land at other bases. But if a carrier is sunk out in the middle of the ocean, the pilots in planes in the air only have two options: Bail out, or make a splash landing.
The United States solved this problem with the E-2 Hawkeye. This plane had long range (the E-2D adds aerial refueling), and a powerful radar. But not all countries have full-deck carriers.
The British hit on the solution after the Falklands War by mashing up an air-search radar with the Sea King helicopter. They later did the same with the Agusta-Westland Merlin.
Russia had tried to build its own version of the E-2, but Ukraine got custody of the An-71/An-74 Madcap after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the Yak-44, the only alternative to the Madcap, couldn’t be operated off the Kiev or Kuznetsov-class carriers.
So, the Russians have fielded the Ka-31, an airborne early warning variant of the Ka-27/Ka-29 Helix series of helicopters, which they intended as a stopgap.
The Ka-27 has long been used on Russian surface combatants as an anti-submarine helicopter, and at 37 feet long and 17 feet, nine inches high, it is shorter but taller than the MH-60R Seahawk (just under 65 feet long and 12 feet, four inches high). The Ka-31 is slightly longer (41 feet long) and taller (18 feet, four inches).
You can see a video about this Russian solution below.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is probably the most watched, most ironically named 250 kilometers found anywhere in the world. Despite the unprecedented brutality of the Korean War and the sporadic violence between the two, people still routinely try to get through the DMZ, often even going the hard way – going right through the most heavily defended strip of land in the world.
Commando raids, spies, and even axe murderers have all tried to cross the DMZ in some way. In just 25 years after the Korean Armistice was signed, more than 200 incursion attempts were made across the area. There had to be a better way.
This is how they did it in 1969. Surely by 2019, we could do better.
Enter Samsung, the South Korean multinational conglomerate best known for making exploding mobile phones, which makes so many other products. They have an aerospace division, as well as divisions to make textiles, chemicals, and even automated sentry guns that kill the hell out of anyone who doesn’t know the password – the Samsung SGR-A1.
The defense system is a highly-classified, first-of-its-kind unit that incorporates surveillance, tracking, firing, and voice recognition technology to keep the humans in South Korea’s military free to operate elsewhere while still being massively outnumbered.
Gun-toting death robots is the perfect solution.
While other sentry guns have been developed and deployed elsewhere, this is the grand stage. The Korean Peninsula is the Carnegie Hall of weapons testing, where chances are good the weapon will likely get used in an operational capacity sooner rather than later. Failure is not an option. That’s why each 0,000 sentry gun comes equipped with a laser rangefinder, thermographic camera, IR illuminator, a K3 LMG machine gun with 1,000 rounds of ammo, and a Mikor MGL 40mm multiple grenade launcher that doesn’t give a damn about the ethical issues surrounding autonomous killing machines.
If this thing had legs, it would be a Terminator-Predator hybrid.
The only controversy surrounding these weapons, now deployed in the DMZ, is whether or not they truly need a human in the loop to do their job. The system could conceivably be automated to kill or capture anyone who happened upon them in the area, regardless of their affiliation. To the robot, if you’re in the DMZ for any reason, you are the enemy. And you must be stopped.
“Human soldiers can easily fall asleep or allow for the depreciation of their concentration over time,” Huh Kwang-hak, a spokesman for Samsung Techwin, told Stars and Stripes. “But these robots have automatic surveillance, which doesn’t leave room for anything resembling human laziness. They also won’t have any fear (of) enemy attackers on the front lines.”
Compounding the M16’s troubles was its lack of a proper cleaning kit. It was supposed to be so advanced that it would never jam, so the manufacturer didn’t feel it needed to make them. But the M16 did jam.
“We hated it,” said Marine veteran John Culbertson. “Because if it got any grime or corruption or dirt in it, which you always get in any rifle out in the field, it’s going to malfunction.”
The troops started using cleaning kits from other weapons to unjam their rifles.
“The shells ruptured in the chambers and the only way to get the shell out was to put a cleaning rod in it,” said Wodecki. “So you can imagine in a firefight trying to clean your weapon after two or three rounds. It was a nightmare for Marines at the time.
Towards the end of 1965, journalists picked up on mounting reports of gross malfunctions. The American public became outraged over stories of troops dying face down in the mud because their rifles failed to fire, according to a story published by the
Small Arms Review.
Thankfully, the reports did not fall on deaf ears. The manufacturer fixed the jamming problems and issued cleaning kits. The new and improved rifle became the M16A1.
This video features Vietnam Marines recounting their first-hand troubles with the M16:
“The amazing thing about RDJ is that he’s arguably the most famous movie star on the planet, or the biggest movie star on the planet,” Holland said while participating in a panel at a convention called FanX in Salt Lake City, Utah on Sep. 7, 2019. “But he’s always early, he knows every crew member’s name, he always knows his lines. He’s professional, he’s kind, he’s caring.”
The 23-year-old actor, who made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” went on to say that Downey Jr. was immediately welcoming to him.
“I was sick on set one day and I didn’t really know the guy,” Holland said, adding that Downey Jr. invited him to his trailer and was comforting.
“He was really sweet and he kind of looked after me and took me under his wing a little bit,” the “Spider-Man: Far From Home” star said. “Entering the Marvel Universe is daunting, it’s a big process.”
Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
He added: “The thing I’ve learned most from him, and I’ve learned from [Chris] Hemsworth and [Chris] Evans and Scarlett [Johansson] and everyone really, is that just because you’re at the top, doesn’t mean you can be a d—.”
Downey Jr.’s character, Iron Man/Tony Stark, acted as a mentor to Holland’s young webslinger throughout the movies he has appeared in. Holland also revealed that he has the veteran actor’s name saved as “The Godfather” in his phone and thought their friendship was over after he accidentally hung up on Downey Jr.
Despite Tony’s heartbreaking death in 2019’s “Endgame,” the two stars have remained close. Amid news that Holland will be departing the MCU due to a deal between Sony and Marvel falling through, the actors met up to spend time together.
“We did it Mr Stark!” Holland captioned a series of photos of the stars taking selfies together, referencing a similar line that Peter said during Tony’s final moments in “Endgame.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.