This sergeant could get the attention of the whole world - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This sergeant could get the attention of the whole world

If you’ve been in the Army, Air Force, or Marines, you probably remember that your sergeant could get and hold your attention – especially in a one-on-one setting. Some sergeants can easily get the attention of a squad, a platoon, or even a division when they go off. But one sergeant was capable of getting the attention of the whole world.


The MGM-29 Sergeant served for 15 years with the United States Army.

(U.S. Army)

The sergeant in question has been in retirement for over 40 years, according to the United States Army. He can’t exactly sign autographs, either. That’s because this sergeant isn’t a person, it’s a missile. To be precise, it’s the MGM-29 Sergeant missile.

A MGM-29 Sergeant launches. It had a maximum range of 84 miles,

(U.S. Army)

The MGM-29 started out as the SSM-A-27 and was a replacement for a system known as the Corporal. The Sergeant system entered service in 1962 and proved to be a much safer, solid-fueled rocket. In fact, while it took nine hours for a Corporal to be readied for launch, preparing a Sergeant took less than an hour.

The Sergeant had a maximum range of 84 miles and came with one of two warheads. One was a high-explosive warhead and the other was a 200-kiloton W52 nuclear warhead. That’s about 13 and a third times as powerful as the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima near the end of World War II. This is why the Sergeant commanded the world’s attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB_6In8pQ_E

www.youtube.com

West Germany also operated this missile

The Sergeant served with the United States Army until 1977 when it was replaced by the MGM-52 Lance in the same roles. Like other tactical missiles, the Sergeant was also exported to West Germany, where it served until 1979.

Learn more about this missile in the video below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force unveils the X-60A, its hypersonic research vehicle

The Air Force has designated the GOLauncher1 hypersonic flight research vehicle as X-60A. The vehicle is being developed by Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division.

It is an air-dropped liquid rocket, specifically designed for hypersonic flight research to mature technologies including scramjet propulsion, high temperature materials, and autonomous control.


“The X-60A is like a flying wind tunnel to capture data that complements our current ground test capability,” said Col. Colin Tucker, Military Deputy, office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology, and engineering. “We’ve long needed this type of test vehicle to better understand how materials and other technologies behave while flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound. It enables faster development of both our current hypersonic weapon rapid prototypes and evolving future systems.”

(Generation Orbit Launch Services)

AFRL’s motivation for the X-60A program is to increase the frequency of flight testing while lowering the cost of maturing hypersonic technologies in relevant flight conditions. While hypersonic ground test facilities are vital in technology development, those technologies must also be tested with actual hypersonic flight conditions.

Utilizing new space commercial development, licensing, and operations practices, X-60A is envisioned to provide the Air Force, other U.S. Government agencies, and industry with a platform to more rapidly mature technologies.

The X-60A rocket vehicle propulsion system is the Hadley liquid rocket engine, which utilizes liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants. The system is designed to provide affordable and regular access to high dynamic pressure flight conditions between Mach 5 and Mach 8.

This is the first Air Force Small Business Innovative Research program to receive an experimental “X” designation.

Featured image: An artist’s sketch of an X-60A launch.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the combat drone Japan has been building in secret

Unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs, are seen as a key part of the future of military aviation. A number of countries have openly been developing these vehicles, including the United States, Russia, and France.


But as We Are The Mighty has learned, Japan also was developing a UCAV, but didn’t tell anyone.

During a recent Air Force conference near Washington, We Are The Mighty witnessed a video at the Kawasaki booth that revealed a brief clip of the company’s research and development efforts into a UCAV. The UCAV appeared to be similar to the Boeing X-45 and Northrop Grumman X-47 test vehicles.

This scene from a video shows Kawasaki’s UCAV prototype in flight. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

An initial request for information was declined by a company representative, who told us that the Japanese government did not wish to discuss the program. The next day, another representative claimed to have no knowledge of the program.

Only after a third Kawasaki representative, Takumi Kobayashi, was forwarded a cell phone photo of the UCAV’s cameo did he state that it was “an experimental aircraft tested about 10 years ago” and that “it was a research project funded by Japan MOD.” Kobayashi later stated in an e-mail that the described the UCAV as “a project in 2008.” Japan does maintain a Self-Defense Force and established a Ministry of Defense in 2007.

David Deptula during his service with the United States Air Force. (USAF photo)

When WATM asked Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance who now serves as the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, about whether he had any indication Japan was developing a UCAV, he had a one-word answer: “No.”

This points to Japan’s UCAV program being carried out behind a veil of secrecy comparable to those used with American black projects like the F-117 Nighthawk.

A second image of the Kawasaki UCAV’s appearance in a video shown at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

The likely reason for this veil of secrecy and the reluctance to discuss the Kawasaki UCAV lies in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. This provision states “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” and that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters hover nearby. Japan calls this carrier-like vessel (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This provision explains why Japan considers its light carriers of the Hyuga and Izumo classes to be “helicopter destroyers.” The Italian carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi, displacing about 10,500 tons as compared to the roughly 19,000-ton displacement of the Hyuga, operated AV-8B+ Harriers during the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya.

X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D, a previous name for the MQ-25a) launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2013. Kawasaki’s UCAV appears similar to the X-47. (US Navy Photo)

How does Kawasaki’s UCAV fall within those restrictions? Its apparent similarity to the X-45 and X-47 opens the possibility that it may not. Deptula told WATM in a phone interview that UCAVs presently fit “much more in an offensive context as opposed to air defense” given the current state of technology.

According to specs available at GlobalSecurity.org, the baseline X-47 did not have a payload capability, but the larger X-47B had two weapons bays and was able to carry 4,500 pounds of ordnance. A planned X-47C was to increase the payload to 10,000 pounds.

An X-47B demonstrator with folded wings on the aircraft elevator of USS George H.W. Bush. (US Navy photo by MC2 Timothy Walter)

Inquiries from WATM to Japan’s Ministry of Defense received no responses, but the Japanese embassy in the United States did respond to an inquiry, offering to have a defense attaché contact Kawasaki for more information. When asked about any plans the Japanese Self-Defense Force had involving UCAVs, they stated, “The Japanese self-defense force is currently not planning on acquiring or deploying UCAVs.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Bulletproof Motivation: Tips from a Navy SEAL, CIA Officer, and Firefighter

When it comes to motivation, Navy SEALs have plenty to spare, but we know one guy that could even make some SEALs look lazy.


Earning your place among the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL teams, gathering intelligence for your nation’s security as a CIA officer, or serving as a fire officer for a professional fire department would each be enough to fill most lives, but not for our friend Frumentarius–he’s done all three, and you can call him Fru, for short.

We caught up with Fru recently to talk about motivation, and how young service members can follow in his accomplished footsteps. Of course, Frumentarius isn’t his real name, but it’s not a throw-away pseudonym either. After a career in covert special operations and another in covert intelligence gathering, he’s learned the value in keeping his identity at arm’s reach when it comes to engaging with the public.

The Navy SEALs specialize in small unit tactical operations in difficult and dangerous environments.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

I’ve known Fru for a few years now, and can personally attest that the guy practices what he preaches. Keeping your body in good working condition through three of the most physically demanding careers out there is nothing to scoff at, but it’s not his physical fitness that sets Fru apart from the pack; in a lot of ways, it’s his mindset.

I wanted to know what advice Fru had for young service members just beginning their careers in uniform, and like you’d expect from a SEAL, a spy, or a firefighter; he didn’t disappoint.

“Just enjoy the experience as something you’ll miss when it’s over. Always work hard at everything you do so that you become a ‘go-to’ guy or girl when somebody needs something done,” Fru said.

“Don’t get too jaded, but cultivate a sardonic sense of humor and learn to laugh at the sometimes-absurd nature of military life and war. Treat your family as your number one priority throughout so that you have a good support system at home. Have fun because it will be over before you know it!”

When this is what you do at work, it pays to have support at home.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle D. Gahlau/Released)

Of course, military service isn’t all good days, especially if you want to become a SEAL, Ranger, Green Beret, or any other member of America’s Special Operations units. In order to be successful, you’ve got to learn how to keep your head in the game and stay motivated. I asked Fru what he does when he’s working through exhaustion or high loads of stress.

“Those are the times when you need to be the most motivated,” he told me. “No one enjoys those times, and a true leader (in the sense of someone worth following or emulating) thrives in those difficult moments.”

A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student participates in interval swim training in San Diego Bay.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)

“Embrace the pain and stress and exhaustion and tell yourself those are the moments that make your own life exemplary — they are what make it stand out. They are what in many ways will define your service. You’ll tell the stories of those hard times for decades afterwards. Make them count and be the hero of your own story.”

But even Navy SEALs like to have a good time, and Fru is quick to point out that, while exhaustion and stress are par for the course, it’s still probably one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

“Most people are aware of the camaraderie, the high speed equipment/gear, the missions/operations, and all of that,” Fru explained.”

“They may not be aware that SEALs get paid to work out every single day, to dive and parachute, and to generally do fun stuff as part of the job. There are some sucky parts too, but for the most part, SEALs are paid to do stuff they love to do.”

The sort of stuff Navy SEALs do for fun.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Anthony Harding/Released)

Eventually, Fru left the SEALs to go to work for the CIA. While these two jobs may compliment one another, being a SEAL didn’t guarantee him a spot in America’s most secretive intelligence service. Just like earning his SEAL Trident, Frumentarius had to start from scratch and prove he could hang in the very different world (and culture) that is The Agency. As Fru is the first to tell you, even SEALs can’t rest on their laurels.

“I had an academic background in international affairs that made it an appealing move for me. After getting to the Agency, I then tried to remember that I was in a different culture than the SEALs,” he said.

“Some things I brought over with me, in terms of attitude and drive, but other things I had to leave behind (most of the ‘military’ culture). I ultimately made the transition successfully by working as hard as I could to be an effective CIA officer, knowing that my time in the SEALs was not something I could rest on. I had to earn my way at the CIA like every one else.”

(CIA Photo)

I asked Fru what his best tips are for current service members that want to pursue a career in an elite intelligence outfit like the CIA.

“Get a degree in foreign language, economics, chem/bio/nuke, or international affairs/politics. If you can be proficient in a hard language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc), even better.”
Just like being in the SEALs, working for the CIA has its benefits. For Fru, some of the coolest parts of serving in that capacity was getting to see the big picture, and playing a role in how it unfolded. Even so, a job with unique benefits also comes with unique challenges.
“CIA officers have to be choosy in their chosen targets of collection because CIA officers are supposed to acquire intelligence unobtainable through all other means. That’s the real challenge.”

Aerial view of the CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia

(WikiMedia Commons)

Fru has since left the CIA behind as well, opting to switch to a different sort of service life that allows him to maintain a more regular lifestyle: that of a professional firefighter. Just like his previous gigs, saving lives and putting out fires can be extremely physically taxing. So I wanted to know how Fru had managed to stay so fit, active, and injury free throughout all of his various roles.

“A commitment to self-care — physically, mentally, emotionally, health-wise — is paramount. You have to commit to eating somewhat healthy, taking care of your body through aerobic exercise, weight training, and stretching, and to taking care of your emotional/psychological needs.”

“That means finding something healthy that works as an outlet for you (shooting, slinging weights, running, reading, playing guitar, painting, whatever). You have to keep yourself on an even keel as best as you can because all of those jobs have immense stresses. They’ll occasionally overwhelm you, and you have to just reset yourself and continue to carry on.”
If you want to know more about our friend Fru, or just to give him a shout on social media to thank him for his service, you can find him on Twitter here. Make sure to tell him Sandboxx sent you!

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy says it has top-secret information about UFOs

The Navy has said it has top-secret information about unidentified flying objects that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States” if released.

A Navy representative responded to a Freedom of Information Act request sent by a researcher named Christian Lambright by saying the Navy had “discovered certain briefing slides that are classified TOP SECRET,” Vice reported last week.

But the representative from the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence said “the Original Classification Authority has determined that the release of these materials would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.”


The person also said the Navy had at least one related video classified as “SECRET.”

Vice said it independently verified the response to Lambright’s request with the Navy.

Lambright’s request for information was related to a series of videos showing Navy pilots baffled by mysterious, fast objects in the sky.

The Navy previously confirmed it was treating these objects as UFOs.

An image from a 2004 video filmed near San Diego showing a UFO.

(CNN/Department of Defense)

The term UFO, along with others like “unidentified aerial phenomena” and “unidentified flying object,” does not necessarily mean the object is thought to be extraterrestrial. Many such sightings ultimately end up having logical and earthly explanations — often involving military technology.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon had also previously told The Black Vault, a civilian-run archive of government documents, that the videos “were never officially released to the general public by the DOD and should still be withheld.”

The Department of Defense videos show pilots confused by what they are seeing. In one video, a pilot said: “What the f— is that thing?”

The Pentagon spokeswoman Susan Gough said this week that an investigation into “sightings is ongoing.”

Joseph Gradisher, the Navy’s spokesman for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told The Black Vault last year: “The Navy has not publicly released characterizations or descriptions, nor released any hypothesis or conclusions, in regard to the objects contained in the referenced videos.”

According to The Black Vault, Gradisher said the Department of Defense videos were filmed in 2004 and 2015. The New York Times also reported that one of the videos was from 2004.

You can watch the 2004 video here, as shared by To the Stars Academy, a UFO research group cofounded by Tom deLonge from the rock group Blink-182:

FLIR1: Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release

www.youtube.com

One of the videos was shared by The New York Times in December 2017, with one commander who saw the object on a training mission telling The Times “it accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Another pilot told the outlet: “These things would be out there all day.”

Pilots told The Times that the objects could accelerate, stop, and turn in ways that went beyond known aerospace technology. Many of the pilots who spoke with The Times were part of a Navy flight squadron known as the “Red Rippers,” and they reported the sightings to the Pentagon and Congress.

“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds,” the Times report said.

Scientists also told The Times they were skeptical that these videos showed anything extraterrestrial.

Gough, the Pentagon spokeswoman, would not comment to Vice on whether the 2004 source video that the Navy possessed had any more information than the one that has been circulating online, but she said that it was the same length and that the Pentagon did not plan on releasing it.

An image from the 2015 video.

(NYT)

John Greenewald, the curator of The Black Vault, told Vice in September that he was surprised the Navy had classified the objects as unidentified.

“I very much expected that when the US military addressed the videos, they would coincide with language we see on official documents that have now been released, and they would label them as ‘drones’ or ‘balloons,'” he said.

“However, they did not. They went on the record stating the ‘phenomena’ depicted in those videos, is ‘unidentified.’ That really made me surprised, intrigued, excited, and motivated to push harder for the truth.”

US President Donald Trump said in June that he had been briefed on the fact that Navy pilots were reporting increased sightings of UFOs.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Army’s new helmet protects against blunt force impact

It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.

Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.


“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.

During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.

“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.

The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.

Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”

Equipment return

On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.

Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”

Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.

“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”

Soldier protection system

After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.

The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.

The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.

“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.

The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.

The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.

In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.

Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.

Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.

Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.

“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”

A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.

“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.

Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.

Articles

Watch this guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns get stabbed and carry on

Imagine being at your regular guard shift and your relief commander comes in and accidentally stabs you in the foot. Most of us would have trouble walking and go to the hospital. We certainly wouldn’t finish our shift.


But we aren’t The Old Guard.

A video taken by a visitor to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery captured a bayonet mishap – the last thing anyone wants to hear after the word “bayonet.”

The Old Guard – soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry guard the Tomb of the Unknowns 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any weather and even the middle of a hurricane.

Every half hour, the guard, called a Tomb Guard Sentinel, is changed. the changing begins with a white glove inspection of the outgoing guard’s rifle.

A video captured by YouTube user H Helman shows the Tomb Guard Commander accidentally losing his grip on the rifle and putting the bayonet through the guard’s foot.

The look on the guard’s face never changes. There’s clearly a shock to the system as the bayonet slides home, but all you ever see from the guard is a very slight wince.

The Old Guard is trained and drilled meticulously to maintain their professionalism, military bearing, and discipline. Accidents and outbursts from the Sentinels are extremely rare. As a matter of fact, if you weren’t watching this incident closely, you may even miss what happened.

Instead of running away, being carted off, or even being relieved, the Sentinel who was stabbed carried on with his shift. He marched back and forth along his route, blood oozing from his foot as he walked.

Neither he, the commander, nor the other Sentinels ever missed a beat. They sharply finished their watch. This kind of discipline is the reason 90 percent of the soldiers who try to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns wash out of training.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 Questions with Greg Bishop: From Bosnia to the Box Office

Greg Bishop advanced from private in the Army to Lieutenant Colonel, across a spectrum of specialties from Infantry to the Signals Corps and finally to Public Affairs. He had a dream to work in Hollywood when he was young which he fulfilled through his military service. Bishop runs MUSA Consulting now for the entertainment industry advising on different projects. Bishop has produced his own feature Ktown Cowboys and worked on projects such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Day the Earth Stood Still, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Battlefield 4 and Snitch.


1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?

I grew up in the suburbs of Louisville, KY, in a normal, all-American, middle-class family and experience. I was the third of four boys, I had loving parents who are still married today. My father, who was a Marine Corps officer and Vietnam Veteran, was tough but a great role model. My mother took great care of us boys and she was our superhero. We grew up in the pre-home-video game era, so we spent most of our time outside, playing sports, riding bikes, chasing girls and getting into normal boyhood trouble complete with skinned knees and elbows, broken bones and hearts.

2. What values were stressed at home?

With my father being a Marine, and having four boys within six years of one another, discipline, hard work and personal responsibility were paramount in the Bishop household. A strong work ethic was instilled in all of us, so all of the Bishop Boys worked as soon as we were big enough to rake leaves, shovel snow, or cut grass. Our family also pretty much had a newspaper delivery dynasty in the neighborhood for several years. All of us delivered papers until we were old enough to have a regular job, and that was back in the days when newspapers were delivered two times a day. Once old enough, we all had after school jobs washing dishes, busing tables, working in fast food, or whatever we could do to make money legally.

We all went to private Catholic high schools and we were expected to pay half of our tuition for the first three years; our parents covered all of it in our senior year. At the time it was tough. My friend’s parents were giving them money for their hobbies and entertainment while I had to work to pay for the things I wanted or wanted to do. My Mom would slide us a couple bucks if she knew we were tight on cash, but for the most part if I wanted to go to the arcade and play video games, those were my quarters going in the machine. I bought my first car at 15 before I even had a driver’s license. It was a lot of work for a kid, but in the end, my parent’s lessons paid off. All of my brothers currently work for themselves in one capacity or another.

3. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?

I wasn’t the best student in high school. I had to go to summer school my freshman year, and I think I only had two A’s in my four years…one in Physics and one in Film Appreciation. Don’t ask me to explain that. In my junior year I was cast as an actor in a local educational video on teen suicide. The director allowed me to tag along throughout the production and post-production process. That was my first taste of video production and I really loved it. My senior year, in the film appreciation class, I made a Super-8 movie as the final project, and that’s when I really fell in love with film and video production. I loved the process and everything about it. I knew I needed to go to film school.

Now, there were no film schools in Louisville, so I attended a couple regional colleges for a couple of years, but it wasn’t really doing anything for me. I desperately wanted to go to film school. Then one day I saw an Army commercial promoting the GI Bill and the Army College Fund which just so happened to be the amount of money I needed. I went to see a recruiter; told him I wanted the college money and if I was going to join the Army, I also wanted to paint my face green and run through the woods with a gun. I signed up for the infantry and I shipped off to Basic Training February 27, 1989. While at Fort Benning, I was offered the opportunity to apply for Army OCS (Officer Candidate School). I was accepted and made it through OCS. I was commissioned a year and a day after I arrived at Basic Training and spent the first half of my career as an Army Signal Officer serving in Korea, Fort Campbell and Germany. I wasn’t really thrilled with being a Signal Officer.

While at Fort Campbell I met, fell in love and married my amazing wife, and then the Army let me finish my degree through their Degree Completion Program. I got my bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University, which is right outside of Fort Campbell. I studied public relations there and did a summer internship in an advertising firm. At this point the film school dreams began to dwindle, but I enjoyed advertising because it was still very creative. So while still serving I took the GMAT, applied for MBA programs, all with the intention of getting out of the Army and going to work in advertising.

I still owed the Army a few years because of the time they gave me to finish my degree, so fast forward a couple of years, in the mid-90’s, I was stationed in Germany and deployed to Bosnia. One day I stumbled on an article in the Stars and Stripes, about Army Advertising, that changed my life. I learned that I could do advertising IN the Army. I loved being a Soldier, I just didn’t like the Signal Corps. I learned I needed to become a public affairs officer to get that job, so after my company command time in the Signal Corps, I transitioned over to Army Public Affairs, and my first job in that career field was with Army Recruiting Command’s Advertising Directorate at Fort Knox.

While stationed at Fort Knox I was accepted into the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling program and I went to USC (University of Southern California) where I got my MA in Strategic Public Relations. While there, I learned about this awesome job in LA where a Public Affairs Officer served as the Army’s liaison to the entertainment industry. I really wanted THAT job one day.

While at USC, OIF and OEF started, so after graduating I was assigned to Fort Campbell and deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division from ’05-’06. I was one of the first brigade combat team PAOs during the Army’s “Transformation” period. I had a great team, an important mission, and was part of one of the best divisions in the Army. It was a tough but rewarding year.

After Iraq I was assigned as the Deputy PAO for the Headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in downtown DC. After serving there for a couple of years it was again time for a reassignment. I learned an important lesson from a senior officer once and it was to not just accept any assignment the Army offers you. If you want something, you have to fight for it. I fought very hard to get the PAO job in Hollywood. My branch manager told me that the entertainment office position was open, but he would not fill the slot because the Chief of Public Affairs (2-star general) believed it didn’t need to be filled. I told my branch manager that that position was one of the most important public affairs jobs in the Army, but he assured me the general had made his decision, and it was “final.” I told him that I was going to write a white paper on why it was such a critical position and why I was the right guy for it…I asked him to promise me that he’d read it. He did, and he agreed, but now had to go change the mind of a 2-star general to put me into that position.

The general called me into his office a couple weeks later, told me my white paper made sense and he thanked me for keeping him from making a mistake. I admired him for his humility. He told me to pack my bags, you’re going to Hollywood. A few months later, I was on the set of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and I thought to myself, “Holy shit, the Army got me to Hollywood.” It was a surreal experience. I retired from the Army about 10-years ago and have been working in the entertainment industry ever since.

Bishop with his Drill Sergeant on Basic Training graduation day.

4. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?

I am most proud of just being a soldier and serving. I am proud to represent our country. I’m proud that I began my Army career as a Private First Class with no degree and finished as a Lieutenant Colonel with a master’s degree. My proudest achievement in service was the year I spent in Iraq where I like to say we fought the information war. Serving as a PAO doing media relations with major news agencies was interesting but working with the Iraqi people to set up their own newspapers and media outlets was the most rewarding. I helped Iraqi citizens run their own businesses, instructing them on how to create a revenue model for their newspapers, radio and TV stations. I also helped my two interpreters create a market research company that helped the local government, the U.S. Army and the U.S. State Department understand the concerns and opinions of local Iraqi citizens. We advised the police, fire and government public affairs of what it means to tell their citizens the truth. We were there for the first election in Iraq and I got to be a small part of it. It was an incredible experience.

Bishop (top left) deployed in Bosnia.

5. What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?

The military and entertainment business are very similar. I told Michael Bay once that, “you shoot film and we (the Army) shoot bullets, everything else is the same.” People in entertainment might be shocked to hear this, but both industries require teamwork, leadership, planning, and even OPSEC. You deal with fiefdoms, budgets and timelines. Hard work and discipline are key. Understanding the commander’s intent, or the director’s vision, it’s the same. Neither culture suffers fools for very long. Both are meritocracies for the most part. I think it’s more so in the military than in Hollywood, and Hollywood is more nepotistic that the military, even though that exists in both worlds. But if you’re good at what you do, you’ll succeed. I knew the Army trained me to be a producer, I just needed to learn the entertainment industry language.

6. What project did you most enjoy doing while working in Hollywood?

I worked in Hollywood as a soldier and as a civilian. As a soldier, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was the most fun. It was a Michael Bay movie, so we blew things up and we fired thousands of rounds on set. We had nearly everything in the Army inventory in that movie. There were so many explosions. We shot live rounds from Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles on set. The set caught on fire a couple times. Everybody was out there putting the fire out. Even Michael Bay had a hose in his hand putting out the fire. Every day was just a blast.

As a civilian, it has to be producing my first movie Ktown Cowboys with my business partner Brian Chung. We took it from script all the way to distribution. It premiered at SWSX (South-by-Southwest) in 2015 and it was a nerve-racking experience having so many strangers watching our film. But there’s nothing more rewarding than watching an audience laugh and enjoy a film that your team made. Finishing a movie is very tough. Making a bad movie is hard, making a great film is almost impossible. The military trained us to face challenges and solve difficult situations. That’s true in a military operation and it’s true in the film business.

MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.

MLRS from the Army in Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. Photo credit Paramount Studios.

The film that Greg produced. Photo credit IMDB.com

7. What was it like transitioning to Hollywood?

Even though I had worked in the Entertainment industry for the Army it was harder than you may think. The industry doesn’t have the time to help anybody else achieve their dreams unless it’s a family member. Most people stop returning my phone calls once I no longer “had the keys” to Army helicopters, troops, vehicles, locations, etc.

I knew some people at Electronic Arts who worked on the Battlefield franchise. Working with them was one of our first gigs. One of the early challenges we had was knowing how much to charge for our services. As a Soldier, you work as long as it takes to accomplish the mission and your pay is the same regardless of outside circumstances. There’s really no relationship between pay and time in the military. I remember in one of our early phone calls with EA one of the producers asked us how much we charge for our services. At the time we had no idea what our time and expertise was worth. We threw out a number and the EA guys laughed at us. They literally said, “We can pay you more than that!” Lesson learned.

We probably wasted a lot of money and time starting a business immediately after retirement because we were career military guys and not trained businessmen. We made some mistakes, learned a lot, but we’ve been doing this for more than 10-years now.

One other similarity between Hollywood and the military is both cultures tend to slap labels on people. In the military we literally wear those labels on our uniform. That’s one of the things that always bothered me about the military culture. Promotions and career paths tend to be very rigid and bureaucratic. In the civilian world there are 25-year old CEOs and they’re judged on performance of their leadership and the company. There aren’t any 25-year-old generals. The entertainment industry is similar though because if you’re a consultant, in their mind you’ll always be a consultant. It’s tough to use that role as a stepping stone into something bigger like acting, or directing, or producing.

Our consulting company was essentially our film school. It helped us learn the language of the industry. In 2012 we created our production company, and while our consulting company is still operating and growing, our production company is our primary focus these days.

Bishop working with Norman Lear on Netflix’s reboot of “One Day at a Time”.

Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Photo credit IMDB.com

A screenshot of Battlefield 4. Photo credit imdb.com.

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra released in 2009. Photo credit IMDB.com.

8. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?

I have a few leadership lessons.

  1. For big challenges, eat the elephant one bite at a time. Don’t let the scope of the challenge intimidate you. Take it on incrementally.
  2. You have to do the work. A lot of young people think accomplishing something is as easy as Googling it. It isn’t. You have to do the work, and oftentimes the work is more difficult than you imagine.
  3. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Write the white paper telling the two-star general he is making a mistake.
  4. Teamwork. It’s critical that you come together to achieve a common mission or objective. You won’t do it alone.

For those getting out of the military soon, I recommend that you find and do something you’re passionate about. Do something that excites you. Do something that will make you look at weekends as a distraction and look forward to Monday mornings. Whatever you are passionate about and love doing, find a way to do it and make money from it. If it doesn’t work, you can always get a government job or contracting job or whatever job other retired military people do.

9. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

In 1927 the first Academy Award for Best Picture went to the Army for a movie called Wings. The military has been part of Hollywood ever since and military stories have always been a part of the DNA of filmmaking and storytelling in Hollywood. For decades Hollywood was patriotic and told mostly pro-American stories portraying our troops against foreign enemies. Yes, it was probably borderline propaganda, but it was a unifying effort from people who loved their country. After the Vietnam War, and even more so after 9/11, most films and television programs about our troops were about fighting their own government, their chain of command or themselves. The politics in the industry shifted along with the way Hollywood portrayed our military. Hollywood struggles with telling authentic stories about our military. It seems we’re mostly portrayed as superheroes or broken mental patients. To answer your question, the only way we can change Hollywood is to do it ourselves. That is the only way it is going to get done authentically. We need to work to become the writers, or producers, or financiers to fund our own content. It’s easier to do that today than it’s ever been, but it’s still extremely difficult.

A scene from Wings in 1927 that won the first Oscar for Best Picture. Photo credit Paramount Studios.

10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?

Personally, I am most proud of my marriage to my wife of 25 years. She is my life’s purpose. Career wise, building three businesses with my business partner Brian Chung. But I am not done yet, so we will see what comes next.


Articles

US wants to issue special operators a new personal defense weapon

It’s the caliber that’s beloved by the commando crowd for its close-in ballistics and smooth shooting through a short-barreled, suppressed rifle. And what was once a weapon for the secret squirrel types has now gone high-profile with a new solicitation from U.S. Special Operations Command asking industry for options to outfit spec ops troops with a new personal defense weapon.


Special Operations Command wants a new close-in battle weapons with nearly impossible specs. (Photo: Army Special Operations Command)

In a formal Request for Information, SOCOM is asking for options to equip its commandos with an M4A1-compatible upper receiver group that fires the .300 Blackout cartridge and configures the weapon into a short-barreled rifle no longer than 26 inches with the stock fully extended.

The whole PDW with the upper can’t weigh any more than 5.5 pounds and has to have a collapsed or folded length of a tick over 17 inches.

Also Read: Delta Force and SEAL Team 6 want these new weapons

Those dimensions will be tough to meet, firearms experts say, and combined with the requirement that the weapon be able to fire with the stock collapsed or folded narrows the current options significantly.

And, oh, the upper has to convert from a .300 BLK barrel to a 5.56 one in less than three minutes.

(Could a variation of the Honey Badger be the only real option out there? Ah, the sweet irony!)

Aside from the dimensions, weight and conversion time, the selection of the .300 BLK cartridge for the new kit is one of the first public acknowledgements of special operators’ preference for the caliber in its close-quarters combat arsenal.

Developed about five years ago by the now Remington-owned Advanced Armament Corp. for SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force types who wanted a replacement of the MP-5 submachine gun, the .300 BLK is essentially a 7.62 bullet in a cut down 5.56 case. That gives it good short-range ballistics and allows operators to use the same magazines, lower receivers and bolts of standard-issue rifles but with a different barrel.

Because of the shortened case, the .300 BLK also performs better than 5.56 in rifles with extremely short barrels (under 9 inches) and when shooting with a suppressor, ammo experts say, which aligns with special operations troops’ preference for suppressed rifles in close-in shootouts.

The SOCOM request states that companies have until April 10 to respond with their options.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s railgun is a lesson on how to not develop weapons

The US Navy’s efforts to develop a powerful electromagnetic railgun are a lesson in what not to do, a top US admiral said Feb. 6, 2019.

The US has “a number of great ideas that are on the cusp,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the Atlantic Council, adding that “some of these technologies are going to be absolutely decisive in terms of defining who wins and who does not in these conflicts and in this new era” of great power competition.

But the US needs to accelerate the process because its adversaries are moving faster, he said. The admiral called attention to the railgun, a $500 million next-generation weapon concept that uses electromagnetic energy to hurl a projectile at an enemy at hypersonic speeds.


The US Navy has been researching this technology for years, but the US has not armed a warship with the gun. China, a rival power, appears to have mounted a railgun on a naval vessel, suggesting it may be beating the US in the race to field a working railgun with many times the range of existing naval guns.

Electromagnetic Railgun located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

“I would say that railgun is kind of the case study that would say ‘This is how innovation maybe shouldn’t happen,'” Richardson said. “It’s been around, I think, for about 15 years, maybe 20. So ‘rapid’ doesn’t come to mind when you’re talking about timeframes like that.”

He said that the US had learned a lot from the project and that “the engineering of building something like that, that can handle that much electromagnetic energy and not just explode, is challenging.”

“So we’re going to continue after this, right? We’re going to install this thing. We’re going to continue to develop it, test it,” he said. “It’s too great a weapon system, so it’s going somewhere, hopefully.”

The admiral compared the railgun to a sticky note, which was invented for an entirely different purpose, to illustrate that the US had learned other things from its railgun research.

The hypervelocity projectile developed for the railgun, for instance, “is actually a pretty neat thing in and of itself,” he said, and “is also usable in just about every gun we have.”

“It can be out into the fleet very, very quickly, independent of the railgun,” he said. “So this effort is sort of breeding all sorts of advances. We just need to get the clock sped up with respect to the railgun.”

During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, the US Navy fired hypervelocity projectiles developed for railguns from the standard 5-inch deck gun on the destroyer USS Dewey, USNI News reported in January 2019.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) transits the Pacific Ocean while underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations.

(U.S. Navy Photo)

And it’s apparently a concept the Navy is considering for the Zumwalt-class destroyers, the guns for which do not work and do not have suitable ammunition.

These hypervelocity projectiles are fired through the barrel via sabots that hold the round in place and harmlessly fall out the end of the barrel after firing. The sheer power of the electromagnetic pulse and the round’s aerodynamic profile allow it to fly much faster than normal rounds to devastating effect — the US Navy has said its experimental railgun could fire these bullets at seven times the speed of sound.

But experts argue that the railgun is inherently problematic technology, saying that regardless of who gets there first, the guns are likely to be militarily useless.

Railguns are “not a good replacement for a missile,” Bryan Clark, a naval-affairs expert, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”

He added: “It’s not useful military technology.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These Gold Star families capture their grief in stunning new book

The military has a very prescribed, formal process for telling Gold Star families about the loss of their service member. Two to three members of that branch of the military will receive word that they need to notify a family of a casualty. They carefully double and triple check the information. They ensure each other’s uniforms are perfect. And then they knock at the door.


Travis and Ryan Manion, brother and sister. Travis was a Marine Corps officer killed in Iraq during a firefight where he moved forward to draw enemy fire. His mother created a foundation named for him, and his sister now serves as that foundation’s president.

(Photo courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)

Three women who received those knocks are sharing their stories of sudden loss in a new book, The Knock at the Door. One lost her brother in combat, and two lost husbands. Two of their loved ones died in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq. But the stories these women tell apply far outside of the military. They hope their stories will help others grapple with grief, whether it comes from the loss of a job, a cancer diagnosis, or a knock at the door.

Ryan Manion is one of the authors and the President of the Travis Manion Foundation. The foundation is named for her brother, a Marine first lieutenant who died in Al Anbar, Iraq, in 2007 while drawing fire from wounded members of his unit.

Ryan, and indeed, all three of the book authors, experienced some break in the prescribed casualty notification processes. In Ryan’s case, she rushed home after getting a call from her family. One uniformed Marine was there with a family friend who had served in the Marines with Ryan’s father. The family friend, a retired lieutenant colonel, had helped tell the family. Ryan’s father told her.

My dad stared at me with a blank look. Then in a very measured tone, he said, “Travis was killed.”

The uniformed Marine had struggled under the strain. He was sitting in his car, cradling his head against the steering wheel. It’s the home visit no service member wants to make.

Ryan grieved as she and her family made preparations to bury Travis. She wouldn’t take off an old, red Marine Corps sweater until it was time to greet his body at Dover. Even then, she carried it with her. When they held the funeral, she connected with Travis one last time by rubbing his head.

I knew that, after the last person knelt down to say a prayer in front of Travis, the funeral director was going to close that casket forever, and that would be it. I’d never see my brother’s face again. I rubbed his head one last time and felt my heart sinking as my father gently pulled me away.

But the book isn’t about the women’s losses. Or at least, it’s not just about that. It’s mostly about how they faced living again without their loved ones. And one of the great lessons that Ryan shares comes after the deaths of her brother and mother. As she attempted to do better things in her life in their memory, she was saddened whenever she came up short.

But she learned a vital lesson in that time, “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.” You can heal from falling short. You don’t have to wear it forever.

Amy Looney Heffernan and Brendan Looney. Brendan was a Navy SEAL killed in a helicopter crash.

(Photo courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)

A close friend of Travis tragically died just a few years later in 2010. Brendan Looney was a Navy SEAL deployed to Afghanistan who had almost completed his tour when he was killed in a helicopter crash. The Navy couldn’t initially get a hold of his wife, Amy Looney Heffernan. A receptionist for her company sent the Navy officers to a company conference and had Amy meet them there.

And so Amy learned of her husband’s death in a hotel room. Her sister-in-law took lead on logistics, helping do everything from scheduling the big events to getting items for Amy to wear at the funeral, especially a big pair of sunglasses to hide her tears.

As Amy said the night before the funeral:

I might be crying my eyes out, but the last thing I need is people looking at me like I’m some naive, pathetic little girl. If people start fawning all over me with pity, it’s just going to piss me off. I know what I signed up for and so did Brendan. I just don’t want people to feel sorry for me, you know?

But Amy struggled in the weeks after, neglecting the dogs that she and Brendan had shared, refusing to eat, spending hours on the couch, neglecting herself. She describes a routine of “Ambien, pajamas, and a dark room,” before she forced herself to get better for herself, for Brendan, and for her poor dogs.

Amy’s recovery was challenging, but she eventually describes how she packed for a mountain excursion in Peru designed to help her and other Gold Star family members remember their loved ones while challenging themselves.

Amy and Ryan knew each other through their loved ones; Brendan had actually spoken at Travis’s funeral, and Travis was moved from his family plot to Arlington National Cemetery after Amy asked for the friends to be buried together, fulfilling Travis’s original wishes.

Ryan described the process of moving Travis in just three days so he could rest next to Brendan. The secretary of the Army had to sign off on the move, but the family tried to keep the proceedings quiet so the focus would remain on memorializing Brendan. But some Marines got word of the transfer and held a quiet assembly to honor Travis.

“We just kind of told our close friends and family that we were reintering Travis on that Friday,” Amy said. “And we’ve actually, the Marines from Quantico, one of them was friends with Travis at the time. He was an instructor there. And one of the [Officer Candidate School] housing buildings is named Manion Hall. And so he ended up finding out, and I remember we showed up at Arlington and there was like 200 Marines in dress blues standing at full attention. Which was a pretty incredible sight to see.”

Marine 2nd Lt. Robert Kelly stands with his wife Heather. Robert would later die in an IED strike in Afghanistan. His wife has co-authored a new book about grief.

(Courtesy Travis Manion Foundation)

But while Amy and Ryan knew each other, their co-author Heather Kelly was unknown to them until her husband was buried just a few rows away at Arlington. Marine Lt. Robert Kelly, a son of a prominent general, was killed by an IED in Afghanistan. Heather received her casualty notification five hours early as the Marine Corps leaders wanted to make sure she found out at the same time as her father-in-law, and they had moved his alert forward so that he would learn from a friend instead of the list of casualties he would see in the morning.

Heather turned to black humor to get through the funeral process. She and her brother-in-law created a running joke about her riding into the funeral on an elephant to properly honor Robert, a joke that came about after a funeral director tried to upsell the family on a decorative guest book.

Heather continued the joke in front of some Marines, and they ran with it:

They were eager to fulfill the wishes of a fallen hero’s family, and God bless them, they actually half-seriously discussed getting me to the Washington Zoo. I think they may have even placed a phone call to the zoo to arrange for me to pet an elephant, which they figured would be a close second to leasing one for the day. Ah, Marines. No better friends in the world, no worse enemies.

Heather met the other two women after Amy wrote an op-ed about remembering her husband not only as “a warrior for freedom” but also an “ambassador of kindness.”

Now, all three women work through the Travis Manion Foundation to foster kindness and a dedication to service in the next generation and to help veterans and Gold Star families find continued purpose and opportunities to serve in their community. Their book, The Knock at the Door, came out November 5.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India’s anti-missile launch just worsened problematic space-trash

On March 27, 2019, India launched a missile toward space, struck an Earth-orbiting satellite, and destroyed the spacecraft.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a televised address shortly after the launch to declare the anti-satellite, or ASAT, test a success. He praised the maneuver, called “Mission Shakti,” as “an unprecedented achievement” that registers India as “a space power.” Modi also clarified that the satellite was one of India’s own, according to Reuters.

“Our scientists shot down a live satellite. They achieved it in just three minutes,” he said during the broadcast, adding: “Until now, only US, Russia, and China could claim the title. India is the fourth country to achieve this feat.”


While Modi and his supporters may hail the event as an epic achievement, India’s ASAT test represents an escalation toward space warfare and also heightens the risk that humanity could lose access to crucial regions of the space around Earth.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


That’s because destroying the satellite created debris that’s now floating in space. Those pieces have the potential to collide with, damage, and possibly destroy other spacecraft.

The threat that debris poses isn’t just limited to expensive satellites. Right now, six crew members are living on board the International Space Station (ISS) roughly 250 miles above Earth. That’s about 65 miles higher than the 185-mile altitude of India’s now obliterated satellite, but there is nonetheless a chance some debris could reach higher orbits and threaten the space station.

Two astronauts are scheduled to conduct a spacewalk on March 29, 2019, (it was going to be the first all-female spacewalk, but that’s no longer the case) to make upgrades to the orbiting laboratory’s batteries. Spokespeople at NASA did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for information about the risk posed by this new debris field.

Regardless of what happens next, tracking the debris is essential.

“The Department of Defense is aware of the Indian ASAT launch,” a spokesperson for the US Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and catalogs objects in space, told Business Insider in an email. “US Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command is actively tracking and monitoring the situation.”

The potential risk to the ISS and other satellites only scratches the surface of larger worries associated with destroying spacecraft, either intentionally or accidentally.

Space debris begets more space debris

Any collision in space creates a cloud of debris, with each piece moving at about 17,500 mph. That’s roughly the speed required to keep a satellite in low-Earth orbit and more than 10 times as fast as a bullet shot from a gun.

At such velocities, even a stray paint chip can disable a satellite. Jack Bacon, a scientist at NASA, told Wired in 2010 that a strike by a softball-sized sphere of aluminum would be akin to detonating 7 kilograms of TNT explosives.

This is worrisome for a global society increasingly reliant on space-based infrastructure to make calls, get online, find the most efficient route home via GPS, and more.

A space-debris hit to the space shuttle Endeavour’s radiator found after one of its missions. The entry hole is about 0.25 inches wide, and the exit hole is twice as large.

(NASA)

The ultimate fear is a space-access nightmare called a “Kessler syndrome” event, named after Donald J. Kessler, who first described such an event in 1978 while he was a NASA astrophysicist. In such a situation, one collision in space would create a cloud of debris that leads to other collisions, which in turn would generate even more debris, leading to a runaway effect called a “collision cascade.”

So much high-speed space junk could surround Earth, Kessler calculated, that it might make it too risky for anyone to attempt launching spacecraft until most of the garbage slowed down in the outer fringes of our planet’s atmosphere, fell toward the ground, and burned up.

“The orbital-debris problem is a classic tragedy of the commons problem, but on a global scale,” Kessler said in a 2012 mini-documentary.

Given the thousands of satellites in space today, a collision cascade could play out over hundreds of years and get increasingly worse over time, perhaps indefinitely, unless technologies are developed to vaporize or deorbit space junk.

A launch in the wrong direction

An ASAT test that China conducted in January 2007 showed how much of a headache the debris from these shoot downs can become.

An illustration of the space-debris cloud created by China’s 2007 anti-satellite test.

(CSSI)

As with India’s test, China launched a missile armed with a “kinetic kill vehicle” on top. The kill vehicle — essentially a giant bullet-like slug — pulverized a 1,650-pound weather satellite, in the process creating a cloud of more than 2,300 trackable chunks of debris the size of golf balls or larger. It also left behind 35,000 pieces larger than a fingernail and perhaps 150,000 bits smaller than that, according to the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) and BBC.

The CSSI called the test “the largest debris-generating event in history, far surpassing the previous record set in 1996.”

Years later, satellite operators and NASA are still dodging the fallout with their spacecraft.

Even without missiles, plenty of space debris is created regularly. Each launch of a rocket deposits some trash up there, and older satellites that have no deorbiting systems or aren’t “parked” in a safe orbit can collide with other satellites.

Such a crash happened on Feb. 10, 2009: A deactivated Russian communications satellite slammed into a US communications satellite at a combined speed of about 26,000 mph. The collision created thousands of pieces of new debris, many of which are still in orbit.

There are more productive ways to use rockets

To be clear, India’s Mission Shakti test likely was not as dangerous as these other debris-creating events.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

However, the forces involved a space-based crash can accelerate debris into higher and different orbits. So obliterating any satellite is not a step in the right direction. Nor is creating a capability that could one day, either intentionally or accidentally, spark a Kessler syndrome event.

Much like the idea of deterrence with nuclear weapons — “if you attack me, I’ll attack you with more devastating force” — deterrence with anti-satellite weapons is extremely risky. With either, an accident or miscalculation could lead to devastating and lasting problems that would harm the entire world for generations.

Image made from models used to track debris in Earth orbit.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

As a global society, it’d behoove us not to cheer the achievement of a weapons capability that edges the world closer to a frightening brink. Instead, we should rebuke such tests and instead demand from our leaders peaceful cooperation in space, including the development of means to control our already spiraling space-debris problem.

“If we don’t change the way we operate in space,” Kessler said in 2012, we are facing down an “exponentially increasing amount of debris, until all objects are reduced to a cloud of orbiting fragments.”

Rather than individual countries investing in missile-based weaponry, perhaps we should call on our leaders to spend that human and financial capital on our world’s most dire and pressing problems — or even work toward returning people to the moon and rocketing the first crews to Mars.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Elvis’ time in the Army scared the hell out of the communists

A sense of dread washed over the youth in 1958 when The King of Rock and Roll got his draft papers. Elvis Presley was told by Uncle Sam that he’d have to join in the Army and, graciously, he accepted his fate. The higher-ups knew exactly who they had standing in formation, but Presley didn’t accept any special treatment — he chose to just be a regular guy.

His service to the United States Army wasn’t particularly special. He got orders to West Germany, crawled in the exact same muck as the rest of the Joes, and was essentially no different than any other cavalry scout in his unit. He honorably served his two-year obligation before returning to the life of a rockstar.

But that’s just what happened on our side of the Iron Curtain. The East Germans and the Soviet Union were on the verge of going to war because the guy who sang Jailhouse Rock was on their doorstep.


Because obviously Elvis’ dance moves were the only reason people would ever consider escaping a communist dictatorship. Obviously.

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.)

The idea that a man of Presley’s fame and fortune would give it all up for patriotism didn’t make any sense to the communists. He was the perfect embodiment of all things Western and he just happened to show up at their doorstep. Something, in their mind, had to be up.

Their conclusion was that the United States had Elvis singing and dancing so close to the border in order to cause young communists to leap the border to go see him in concert.

To the East German defense minister, Willi Stoph, Elvis and his rock music were “means of seduction to make the youth ripe for atomic war.” The East Germany Communist Party leader, Walter Ulbricht, even said in an address to the people that it was “not enough to reject the capitalist decadence with words, to … speak out against the ecstatic ‘singing’ of someone like Presley. We have to offer something better.”

Lipsi – der ddr-tanz / the gdr-dance

www.youtube.com

The communists needed a secret weapon of their own to counter Elvis’ sultry hip movements. So, they came up with the Lipsi, a dance that was, uh… Let’s just say the communist-approved version of the waltz that was aimed towards youngsters never caught on because, well…

Keep in mind, he was, basically, just a private being told to move rocks because his commander told him so.

(National Archives)

Then came another public relations nightmare for the Soviets. Elvis was voluntold into a working party responsible for moving the Steinfurth WWI Memorial off-post and back into the neighboring community. Presley and his platoon simply relocated the memorial, but were heavily photographed throughout — because he was Elvis.

The West Germans were enamored because The King was honoring their people’s legacy. The Soviets feared that his “good will” would draw East German youth away from communism. The Soviets insisted that Presley’s involvement was part of a greater, sinister plot and doubled down on their anti-Elvis stance.

All hail the King, baby!

(National Archives)

After the monument was rededicated and the Lipsi failed to take off, the East German youth actually started to listen to the music of the guy that the government feared. The communists’ overreaction to Elvis only generated intrigue, and more and more people wanted to check out his music. The anti-Elvis sentiment snowballed and compounded until, eventually, all dancing done without a partner was strictly forbidden. Why? Because it could lead to everyone doing pelvic thrusts like a savage capitalist.

No, seriously. That’s not a joke. Rock-and-roll dancing was akin to sexualized barbarism to the communists, and people were beaten, arrested, and sentenced to prison for partaking. Riots ensued when the East German youth were screaming, “long live Elvis Presley!” And when protesters had their homes raided, the intruders would routinely find pictures of Presley stashed away.

Sgt. Presley would eventually leave West Germany and transition back to civilian life, but not before inadvertently creating some new fans along the way.