Green Beret Travis Wilson is like most members of the Special Operations community. He normally looks at problems and sees two options: find a way around or blow your way through it. The latter worked for Travis downrange, but after multiple IED strikes, enough flashbangs in the face to make even Chuck Norris cringe, and a freefall accident (yeah, seriously, you read that right), Travis, now CEO of Time for a Hero, is taking on a problem that has stopped even the most talented doctors in the world: traumatic brain injury, or TBI.
TBI is often the result of an explosion or crash, both of which are common in the Special Operations community. However, unlike a broken leg or even a gunshot wound, brain injuries just don’t heal like the rest of the body. Even worse, no brain injury is the same, which is what keeps doctors from finding an effective treatment.
As a result, symptoms such as confusion, amnesia, insomnia, and depression can last for months and even years. This is exactly the world Travis found himself in after six deployments and numerous doctors reporting that there was no long term cure for his injuries. So, Travis took matters into his own hands or, more accurately, his own mind.
Travis serving as a Green Beret in Afghanistan
(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)
“It just didn’t make sense to me,” Wilson said. “The doctors were saying there is no cure, but having been a medic, I knew the body was resilient and could heal from all kinds of trauma. I knew there had to be a better answer.”
As a combat medic and exercise science major, Travis knew that the body had an uncanny method to fix itself, but he searched for a treatment that could specifically help brain cells repair themselves. That’s when Travis stumbled upon the founder of Time for a Hero and an unlikely, out-of-the-box solution: stem cells.
I know what you’re thinking: Stem cells? The highly politicized, seemingly creepy, and crazy expensive voodoo treatment that relies on cells harvested like something out of The Matrix? Yep, that’s right, except that Travis and the founders found a stem cell treatment that relies upon the host’s own cells and can be applied to multiple injuries, including TBI.
There was only one problem: The treatment was offered out of the country and was exclusive to the super wealthy and celebrities — you don’t think Tom Cruise has really aged backwards, do you?
Even though you may see stem cell “clinics” in the states, the truly innovative “body heal thyself” kind of treatments aren’t currently approved by the FDA, and aren’t covered by most insurance companies.
Even though the treatment costs roughly ,000 per session, access was a problem Travis could overcome. Travis paired with the founder of Time for a Hero to underwrite all costs for SOF veterans to travel to undergo stem cell therapy. The procedure uses the patient’s own stem cells harvested from the adipose tissue using liposuction (a plus if you’ve been out of the gym for a minute) and then injects the cells into the body using an IV therapy and direct injection into multiple joints.
Mesenchymal Stem cells, which are basically cells that haven’t figured out what they want to be when they grow up (much like most of us), travel through the body and, once they reach the brain, attach themselves to regenerate growth in trauma areas. To date, Travis and his team have sponsored over twenty SOF veterans through this remarkable treatment, and the veterans have reported significant improvement in their cognitive and physical wellbeing.
Travis undergoing Mesenchymal stem cell treatment
(Courtesy of Travis Wilson)
“We’ve seen some remarkable improvement in overall quality of life and thought processes,” Travis said. “These guys are sleeping again and are thinking more clearly for the first time in a long time. Many of these veterans feel alive again.” But there is an added bonus here that we didn’t expect: anti-inflammation, which Travis thinks can be used on the battlefield.
Travis went on to explain that millions of stem cells flooding the body results in positive anti-inflammatory (think bigger than just motrin) effects that allow the body to heal more rapidly. Travis and his team are starting to explore the idea of stem cell treatment on the battlefield, before years of trauma is left untreated.
“The research and data we are collecting from these SOF veterans during their stem cell treatment could help save lives on future battlefields. As a former combat medic, I know how critical it can be to reduce trauma in the first few minutes of an injury. We have a chance to help the body start to heal almost immediately.”
Travis and the Time for a Hero team are planning to treat many SOF veterans this year and will continue to collect data to support other stem cell programs. Travis and his team have even recently been using an app to monitor cognitive growth after the treatment. “I don’t know if the treatment will make you smarter, but it sure as hell has made things more clear for me.”
“We have hundreds of special ops men — and women — on our waiting list and that list is growing everyday. So we’re out spreading the word, letting people know what we’re doing, and asking for help every chance we get.”
For more information on TBI, or how to sponsor a SOF veteran’s treatment, please visit www.timeforahero.com.
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”
When you think “military beverage,” three things typically come to mind: coffee, beer, and energy drinks. But did you know that around the turn of the century, grape juice was the drink of choice among troops? That’s right. For roughly twenty years, everyone from sailors to soldiers to Marines couldn’t get enough of the purple stuff.
Grape juice reigned supreme during the times of the temperance movement and Prohibition, but it wasn’t just because troops couldn’t drink booze. There were plenty of other reasons for troops to reach for the good stuff.
Seems fitting. Every time you drink your “cup of Joe” you’re actually mocking a much despised and highly controversial Navy secretary.
Welch’s grape juice first came about in 1869 when the American physician and dentist, Thomas Bramwell Welch, invented a method of pasteurizing grape juice to halt the fermentation process, preventing it from turning into wine. The result was non-alcoholic and more suitable for church services. Then, it caught on with the temperance movement crowd — long before Prohibition took effect.
On June 1st, 1914, General Order 99 — which banned alcohol on all Navy vessels and installations — was instituted and, as you might expect, sailors lost their minds. They were left with two options: coffee or juice.
From that moment on, sailors referred to their coffee as “cups of Joe,” named after the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. The slang was adapted as an insult to the man who took away their booze. But sailors couldn’t just constantly chug java — they needed something rich in much-needed vitamins, and fruit juice was the answer.
Welch’s caught on to the trend and doubled down in lending support to the troops. It was a massive success. The sailors loved grape juice and it quickly became a coveted commodity aboard naval vessels.
A few years later, during World War I, Welch’s turned their Concord grapes into a jam called “Grapelade” and sent it to the troops overseas. Once again, the delicious, fruity goodness was a smash hit among the troops. When the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution was put in place in 1919, effectively disallowing booze across all branches of service, troops took a page from the Navy’s playbook and turned to grape juice.
But troops weren’t just drinking it for the taste — it provided a number of health benefits, too, as outlined in the video above.
An Army cadet from Michigan State University recently set a Guinness World Record for the most chest-to-ground burpees completed in 12 hours, an effort that helped him raise more than $7,800 for his nonprofit group for wounded veterans.
4,689. That’s the number of burpees Bryan Abell, a 23-year-old ROTC cadet, accomplished July 7, 2019, in his hometown of Milford, Michigan. His original goal was 4,500, the minimum number required by Guinness to set the record, but Abell kept going when there was time to spare.
Abell’s drive to push forward is rooted in the Army’s core values, he said. Before becoming an ROTC cadet his sophomore year, Abell originally enlisted as a National Guard infantryman in 2015, assigned to the 126th Infantry Regiment for the Michigan National Guard.
“If I wasn’t in the military, I wouldn’t have broken the record,” he said. The Army has taught me “to be proud of what you’re doing and to keep moving forward. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.”
Abell not only proved it to himself, he proved it to the world.
Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, rests during a work out Aug. 16, 2019, at Fort Knox, Ky.
(Photo by Reagan Zimmerman)
Guinness officially certified his record shortly before he started Cadet Summer Training-Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, last month. CST is a must-pass field training program for cadets and a stepping stone in becoming an officer in the Army.
Training for a world record
No stranger to physical activity, Abell is a veteran of multiple ultra-marathons, often running more than 50 miles through the winding wooded trails of Michigan’s countryside.
At first, Abell planned to vie for the record of “most burpees in an hour,” but after seeing nobody had accomplished the 12-hour record, he changed his mind.
After planning his record setting goal, Abell started a training regimen in his parents’ backyard. He initiated training by doing more than 500 burpees a day and over time he increased his daily total to more than 1,500. During the six weeks he trained, Abell did nearly 33,000 total burpees.
A dirt hole, where Abell trained, formed in the grass of his parents’ backyard. As the hole became deeper, it served as a testament to his will to set the world record. Although Abell was stronger with each passing day, his dad “wasn’t very happy with the hole,” he joked.
Today, the yard is back in the pristine condition his dad generally maintains it at, and the once deep, dirt hole has become a faded memory.
Burpees for a purpose
Milford, a Detroit suburb with a population of more than 6,000, was handpicked by Abell as the location for the world record attempt. The reason was simple — Abell said “it was home,” and he “just wanted to see it in the record books.”
That said, the clerical tasks of setting a world record weren’t as simple. Breaking a record can be a tedious job, he admitted, “It became pretty stressful. I didn’t realize how much time would go into (filling out paperwork).”
In addition, with CST on the horizon, Abell needed to speed up the application and training process. Luckily, Guinness offered two options: 12-week review or a priority, five-day application review. Abell opted for the quicker option.
“I chose the priority option because I didn’t have much time,” Abell said. “I wanted to (attempt the record) before I came to advanced camp. The application came back within five days and basically from there, I had to set a date.”
After establishing the application process, the next step was his favorite part: gunning for the record books.
Cadet Bryan Abell, Michigan State University ROTC, shows off his Guinness World Record plaque at his home in Milford, Michigan.
“I just wanted to do the burpees,” Abell joked.
With hometown pride, the day finally came. From 7:05 a.m. to 7:05 p.m., and only resting periodically, Abell averaged at least six to seven chest-to-ground burpees a minute.
“I could only rest for 20-30 seconds,” said Abell, who also took short restroom breaks during the timed event.
In lieu of a witness from Guinness, Abell took a different route to provide proof of his record. He set up multiple cameras from different angles to watch his proper form, and he had six individuals working two-person, four-hour shifts while he contended for the world record at the Carls Family YMCA.
At least one of the witnesses, at any given time, was required to have a fitness-related certification.
The event was live streamed on social media from his nonprofit organization’s page, Stronger Warrior Foundation, where he also received donations.
A good cause
Stronger Warrior Foundation, officially incorporated in January, is a nonprofit Abell founded with his sister, Katelyn, during his sophomore year in college.
The siblings started “from the ground up”, he said, and their main purpose is to help servicemembers and veterans who have been wounded or have suffered disabilities from combat-related service.
The live streamed, half-day challenge raised more than id=”listicle-2639958942″,300, with more donations generated after he set the world record.
Abell doesn’t plan to give up his record anytime soon.
When asked what he’d do if someone does 5,000 chest-to-ground burpees and breaks it, he laughed and said, “Then I’d have to do 5,001.”
So check out these six reasons why you need a sense of humor in the infantry
1. You have to find a way to laugh off the rough times.
Being deployed to a combat zone means you’re more than likely going to live through and see some crazy shit. After surviving a close call, it’s natural for troops to crack a dark joke or two in order to mentally settle themselves after a serious situation. Laughter is the best medicine.
It may not look healthy at first, but it works. (Image via Giphy)
Combat zones can be intense and traumatic. Humor makes everything better!
Sometimes just being immature takes some of the pressure off. When you’re stationed out in the middle of nowhere, you don’t have much except the comedy that you come up with in your head. Fart and d*ck jokes are a great go-to comedy tools.
I just recorded the battalion commander peeing. (Image via Giphy)
3. We prank each other to help pass the time.
Grunts usually have a crap ton of downtime if they aren’t patrolling or manning a post. This allows us to come up with plenty of ways to prank another troop with what we have on hand — which isn’t much.
It takes awhile to come up with the pranks, but some troops are better than others.
Some troops just have it. (Image via Giphy)
4. We play “grab ass” all the time.
After living, training, and being deployed for months on end, troops develop a bond that earns us the right to “ball tap” or play “grab ass” without much legal consequence. But if you play “grab ass” with another troop, you better sleep with one eye open as playful revenge is coming.
Someone is going to get themselves some payback later. (Image via Giphy)
This game is typically controlled under false pretenses as getting your mark into proper position can be challenging.
5. It boosts everyone’s morale.
When you’re deployed, the days tend to blend. Fridays feel like Mondays because no one is keeping track — we have the same routine every single day. Like we said before, laughter is the best medicine so if you can’t learn to laugh — it sucks to be you.
6. We constantly give each other shit because it’s our way of bonding.
Grunts don’t typically volunteer to talk about their hopes and dreams that often. Instead, we tell stories of being back home and the people we slept with (not sparing any details), as well as, how much beer we’re going to drink when we get home.
Joking and shit talking builds us pretty tight bonds. So if you can’t do that, once again, that sucks for you.
2019 San Francisco 49ers Season: Playoffs: Super Bowl LIV 2020 Kansas City Chiefs vs San Francisco 49ers Sunday, February 2, 2020 Santa Clara, CA (49ers Photo)
When Air Force Academy football player Ben Garland broke his left hand at practice in 2009, Head Coach Troy Calhoun thought he might miss the rest of the season. Garland played that week.
“You thought, ‘My goodness, this guy, he’s a pretty special human being,”’ Calhoun said.
Garland, 32, is now entering his sixth NFL season overall and his second season with the San Francisco 49ers. For the last nine years, the offensive lineman has spent his offseasons with the Colorado Air National Guard.
Garland was 5 years old when he attended an Air Force football game with his grandfather, who was a colonel. That experience led the determined boy to vow to play on that field someday and become an officer.
Garland played on the defensive line at the Air Force Academy from 2006 to 2009, earning all-Mountain West conference, second-team honors as a senior. He signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent and placed on the reserve/military list for two years so he could honor his military commitment.
Garland became an offensive lineman in 2012 and has been on three teams that reached the Super Bowl — the Broncos after the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons after the 2016 season and the 49ers last February. Garland started at center during San Francisco’s 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
“I’m definitely known around the wing as the guy who plays in the NFL,” said Garland, who is 6 feet 5 and weighs 308 pounds.
Capt. Ben Garland. Courtesy photo.
Garland has worked primarily in public affairs with the Air National Guard, handling media and community relations as well as internal communications. He has deployed abroad, including to Jordan in 2013.
He was also the recipient of a 2018 Salute to Service Award, in part, because of actions off the field including donating game tickets each week to service members, visiting the Air Force Academy annually to speak to students, working with Georgia Tech ROTC and mentoring local young officers, according to the NFL.
“Once you join the military, you are always an airman or soldier or whatever branch you choose, but we’re all service members,” said Major Kinder Blacke, chief of public affairs for the 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard. “I don’t really think you take that uniform off. I guess I would say I see him as a guardsman who’s an excellent football player and has pursued both of those dreams at once. It’s really admirable.”
Garland said he cherishes his time at Air Force.
“It was extremely challenging and physical, and you were exhausted at times, but the challenging things in life mean the most to you,” he said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I have some of my closest friends from it.”
Garland served on active duty from 2010-12 after graduation. He was already a member of the Air National Guard by the time he made his NFL debut for the Broncos against the Raiders in Oakland on Nov. 9, 2014.
“The way he is able to have a full plate but to do it with such drive and energy, he has an enormous amount of work capacity,” Calhoun said.
The coronavirus pandemic has altered the sports calendar and left a question mark over Garland’s NFL career. There is no guarantee that Garland will be with his teammates for the 49ers’ scheduled opener against the Arizona Cardinals at home on Sept. 13.
Regardless, Garland still possesses a clear vision for what lies ahead.
“Once my NFL career is over, I’d love to do more stuff with the military,” he said. “It just depends where my body’s at. …[In] the military, you get people from all walks of life to come together to be one of the best teams in the world. These selfless, incredible, courageous people, you get to know and be friends with. I definitely want to be a part of that as long as I can.”
Keep up with Garland’s career updates by following him on Instagram.
All sailors, from the “old salts” to the newly initiated are familiar with the following terms:
Chit: A chit in the Navy refers to any piece of paper from a form to a pass and even currency. According to the Navy history museum, the word chit was carried over from the days of Hindu traders when they used slips of paper called “citthi” for money.
Scuttlebutt: The Navy term for water fountain. The Navy History Museum describes the term as a combination of “scuttle,” to make a hole in the ship’s side causing her to sink, and “butt,” a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships to hold drinking water; thus the term scuttlebutt means a cask with a hole in it.
Crank: The term used to describe a mess deck worker, typically a new transferee assigned to the mess decks while qualifying for regular watch.
Cadillac: This is the term used to describe a mop bucket with wheels and a ringer. When sailors are assigned to cleaning duties, they prefer the luxurious Cadillac over the bucket.
Knee-knockers: A knee-knocker refers to the bottom portion of a watertight door’s frame. They are notorious for causing shin injuries and drunken sailors hate them.
Comshaw: The term used when obtaining something outside of official channels or payment, usually by trading or bartering. For example, sailors on a deployed ship got pizza in exchange for doing the laundry of the C-2 Greyhound crew that flew it in.
*Younger sailors may use the term “drug deal” instead of comshaw.
Gear adrift: The term used to describe items that are not properly stowed away. The shoes in this picture would be considered gear adrift. Also sometimes phrased as “gear adrift is a gift.”
Geedunk: The term sailors use for vending machine and junk food.
Snipe: The term used to describe sailors that work below decks, usually those that are assigned to engineering rates, such as Machinists Mates, Boilermen, Enginemen, Hull Technicians, and more.
Airdale: These are sailors assigned to the air wing — everyone from pilots down to the airplane maintenance crew.
Bubble head: The term sailors use to describe submariners.
Gun decking: Filling out a log or form with imaginary data, usually done out of laziness or to satisfy an inspection.
Muster: The term sailors use interchangeably for meeting and roll call.
Turco: The chemical used for washing airplanes.
Pad eye: These are the hook points on a ship’s surface used to tie down airplanes with chains.
Mid-rats: Short for mid rations. The food line open from midnight to 6:00 a.m. that usually consists of leftovers and easy-to-make food like hamburgers, sandwich fixings, and weenies.
Roach coach: The snack or lunch truck that stops by the pier.
Bomb farm: Areas on the ship where aviation ordnancemen men store their bombs.
Nuke it: The term used when a sailor is overthinking a simple task. Here’s how the Navy publication, All Hands describes the term:
“The phrase is often used by sailors as a way to say stop over thinking things in the way a nuclear officer might. Don’t dissect everything down to its nuts and bolts. Just stop thinking. But that’s the thing; sailors who are part of the nuclear Navy can’t stop. They have no choice but to nuke it.”
Marines do some pretty spectacular and/or ridiculous things while deployed. Anyone who follows Terminal Lance on Instagram can tell you that much. What Marine Warrant Officer Faustin Wirkus did was pretty spectacular, but really it was just a day in the life of a U.S. Marine. Except this time, the Marine in question ended up being proclaimed king of the island in a voodoo ceremony — and he ended up with a wife, whether he wanted to or not.
At this point, half of everyone is wondering what happened and the other half is wondering if voodoo is why you so rarely see the warrant officers in your unit. Well, It was why then-Sergeant Wirkus had to stop showing up for duty. It wasn’t that Wirkus was opposed to hard work — he was a United States Marine after all, and he grew up breaking coal from slate in the Pennsylvania Coal Country.
But, Wirkus, he had an island to rule.
Best. Additional Duty. Ever.
Wirkus arrived in Haiti in 1915 with his fellow Marines. He spent much of his first year around the capital of Port-Au-Prince. Germany had been intervening in a number of Caribbean insurrections. The Haitians suddenly overthrew the American-backed dictator on the island, and Caco Rebels installed an anti-American president.
The Marines were sent in to occupy and stabilize the island while enforcing the American “Monroe Doctrine” — an intolerance toward European meddling in the Western Hemisphere. They were also protecting U.S. economic interests. Wirkus was one of many Marines sent to Haiti aboard the USS Tennessee. It was aboard that ship he first saw the island of La Gonâve.
I totally understand the appeal.
He asked a Marine NCO about the island. The reply was cryptic and short.
“If you’re lucky, you’ll never get any closer to that place than you are now. No white man has set foot on it since the days of the buccaneers. There’s a post on it now, but the men stationed there don’t usually come back — and if they do, they’re fit for nothing but the bug house… Place is full of voodoos and God knows what else.”
Luckily, he was kept in the capital during his first deployment in Haiti. He soon fell from a truck and broke his arm. After his recovery in the U.S., he was sent to Cuba, and eventually back to Haiti. It was four years later and the young Marine was now a Sergeant, but was a commissioned officer in the local Garde d’Haiti, keeping the Caco Rebels at bay in the outer edges of the island nation.
U.S. Marines in the occupation of Haiti.
He was good at it, and so, of course, he would eventually be sent to the one place everyone told him he would be lucky to never see. No, it was not Twentynine Palms, it was the mysterious island the NCO warned him about: La Gonâve.
Wirkus was extremely interested in the island. It captivated him but none of the other Marines could tell him anything about the island’s interior; none of them had ever dared to venture inland. His first assignment on the island was to assess prisoners of the Garde who were charged with “offenses against the Republic of Haiti” and “trivial voodoo offenses.”
Among them was a woman named Ti Memenne, who warned the Marine that she would see him again. Still, Wirkus sent her on to Port-Au-Prince with a recommendation for lenient treatment.
Faustin I was reincarnated as Faustin II.
“They made me a sort of king in a ceremony I thought was just a celebration of some kind. I learned later they thought I was the reincarnation of a former king of the island who had taken the name of Faustin I when he came into power. The coincidence was just good luck for me.”
Faustin II’s good luck was good luck for the locals. The 19-year U.S. occupation of Haiti did not go as smoothly or nonviolently for the rest of the country. But that good luck ran afoul of the President of Haiti, who was able to visit the island for the first time in 1928. Incidentally, he was able to visit without being murdered by the island’s inhabitants, thanks to the command decisions of Faustin Wirkus. The President was not thrilled with the King and requested he be transferred to the mainland United States.
Emperor Faustin II. Or Sergeant Fustin Wirkus. Again, depending on your belief in voodoo.
He went willingly in 1929 and left the Corps shortly after. He returned to active duty in the days before World War II and was made a Warrant Officer who served in the Navy’s pre-flight school in North Carolina. He died just months before the end of World War II and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery,
The US Air Force flew B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers through the disputed South and East China Seas on March 4, 2019.
“Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and participated in routine training missions, March 4, 2019,” US Pacific Affairs told ABC News, explaining that while one bomber “conducted training in the vicinity of the South China Sea,” the other trained near Japan in cooperation with the US Navy and Japanese forces.
Online flight-tracking data for the flights indicates that one flew near the Philippines while the other conducted operations around Japan.
The last time the US Air Force sent bombers through the South China Sea was in November 2018. The US repeatedly sent bombers through the area in 2018.
The B-52 bombers stationed in Guam are there in support of the US Air Force’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission intended to deter any country with adversarial intentions.
The B-52H Stratofortress.
Bomber flights over the South and East China Seas are perceived as challenges to China, which has attempted to assert its dominance over the strategic waterways. The US has, in the past, sent bombers to Korea in a show of force to the North in the wake of hostile actions.
As it does with US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations, Beijing has previously criticized US bomber flights over the South and East China Seas, calling them “provocative.”
The US has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea in 2019, and the US Navy has also twice sent US warships through the Taiwan Strait.
In response, China has issued warnings, urging to steer clear of these areas, and even flexed its muscles by showing off its anti-ship weaponry, such as the “carrier killer” DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile.
B-52 bombers are high flying heavily-armed aircraft. Some are nuclear-capable bombers, while others have been denuclearized. It is unclear whether the B-52 bombers flying above contested waterways are nuclear-capable aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
I had heard the story many times, personally. But until today I had never heard Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s telling of it to a packed house in 2010. Just four days following the death of his own son in combat, Kelly eulogized two other sons in an unforgettable manner.
Two years ago when I was the Commander of all U.S. and Iraqi forces, in fact, the 22nd of April 2008, two Marine infantry battalions, 1/9 “The Walking Dead,” and 2/8 were switching out in Ramadi. One battalion in the closing days of their deployment going home very soon, the other just starting its seven-month combat tour.
Two Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 22 and 20 years old respectively, one from each battalion, were assuming the watch together at the entrance gate of an outpost that contained a makeshift barracks housing 50 Marines.
The same broken down ramshackle building was also home to 100 Iraqi police, also my men and our allies in the fight against the terrorists in Ramadi, a city until recently the most dangerous city on earth and owned by Al Qaeda. Yale was a dirt poor mixed-race kid from Virginia with a wife and daughter, and a mother and sister who lived with him and he supported as well. He did this on a yearly salary of less than $23,000. Haerter, on the other hand, was a middle class white kid from Long Island.
They were from two completely different worlds. Had they not joined the Marines they would never have met each other, or understood that multiple America’s exist simultaneously depending on one’s race, education level, economic status, and where you might have been born. But they were Marines, combat Marines, forged in the same crucible of Marine training, and because of this bond they were brothers as close, or closer, than if they were born of the same woman.
The mission orders they received from the sergeant squad leader I am sure went something like: “Okay you two clowns, stand this post and let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” “You clear?” I am also sure Yale and Haerter then rolled their eyes and said in unison something like: “Yes Sergeant,” with just enough attitude that made the point without saying the words, “No kidding sweetheart, we know what we’re doing.” They then relieved two other Marines on watch and took up their post at the entry control point of Joint Security Station Nasser, in the Sophia section of Ramadi, al Anbar, Iraq.
A few minutes later a large blue truck turned down the alley way—perhaps 60-70 yards in length—and sped its way through the serpentine of concrete jersey walls. The truck stopped just short of where the two were posted and detonated, killing them both catastrophically. Twenty-four brick masonry houses were damaged or destroyed. A mosque 100 yards away collapsed. The truck’s engine came to rest two hundred yards away knocking most of a house down before it stopped.
Our explosive experts reckoned the blast was made of 2,000 pounds of explosives. Two died, and because these two young infantrymen didn’t have it in their DNA to run from danger, they saved 150 of their Iraqi and American brothers-in-arms.
When I read the situation report about the incident a few hours after it happened I called the regimental commander for details as something about this struck me as different. Marines dying or being seriously wounded is commonplace in combat. We expect Marines regardless of rank or MOS to stand their ground and do their duty, and even die in the process, if that is what the mission takes. But this just seemed different.
The regimental commander had just returned from the site and he agreed, but reported that there were no American witnesses to the event—just Iraqi police. I figured if there was any chance of finding out what actually happened and then to decorate the two Marines to acknowledge their bravery, I’d have to do it as a combat award that requires two eye-witnesses and we figured the bureaucrats back in Washington would never buy Iraqi statements. If it had any chance at all, it had to come under the signature of a general officer.
I traveled to Ramadi the next day and spoke individually to a half-dozen Iraqi police all of whom told the same story. The blue truck turned down into the alley and immediately sped up as it made its way through the serpentine. They all said, “We knew immediately what was going on as soon as the two Marines began firing.” The Iraqi police then related that some of them also fired, and then to a man, ran for safety just prior to the explosion.
All survived. Many were injured … some seriously. One of the Iraqis elaborated and with tears welling up said, “They’d run like any normal man would to save his life.”
What he didn’t know until then, he said, and what he learned that very instant, was that Marines are not normal. Choking past the emotion he said, “Sir, in the name of God no sane man would have stood there and done what they did.”
“No sane man.”
“They saved us all.”
What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.
You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: ” … let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.”
The two Marines had about five seconds left to live. It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was half-way through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.
For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing non-stop…the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have know they were safe … because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber.
The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.
The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God.
Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty … into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.
With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.
Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”
Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.
Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.
“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”
For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.
In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.
Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”
As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.
It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.
“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”
The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.
The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”
Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.
Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.
Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”
Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.
The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.
It was the moment in history that every Western film has tried to emulate. The Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, and their friend, Doctor John Henry Holliday, made their stand in October, 1881, against the outlaw Cochise County Cowboys who had been terrorizing the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.
As the clock struck 3:00, Marshal Virgil Earp issued a warning to the outlaws, telling them to “throw up [their] hands.” Moments later, shots rang out and black smoke filled the narrow streets. A half-minute later, three of the five outlaws had been gunned down and the other two ran like hell. The heroic lawmen stood tall.
Moviemakers and novelists have flocked to this moment and heaped praise onto Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday — and that’s not without good reason. I mean, their lives and friendship make for a goldmine for potential stories and, if you want some protagonists who’ve earned an abundance of cool points, they’re your huckleberries. What’s not to love about a couple of gunslinging bros laying down the law in the Wild West?
Yet, noticeably absent from the spotlight is the man who actually confronted the outlaws. The actual lawman of the group (not just appointed as one) who actually knew the ins and outs of gunfighting: Marshall Virgil Earp, Wyatt’s older brother.
The 83rd Infantry were renown for their sharpshooting skills. Something that would prove useful in the Wild West.
(National Park Services photo)
Virgil’s story begins a week after his 18th birthday on July 26, 1861, when he joins the Union Army. He’d fallen in love and fathered a child with Ellen Rysdam in secret. Her parents strongly disagreed with her choice in him but they married anyway. They’d spent time together raising their daughter, Nellie Jane, before he was mustered into the Illinois Volunteer Infantry for three years.
When the Civil War broke out, he was reassigned into the 83rd Illinois Infantry and sent down to Tennessee. Detailed records are gone with time, but he did something to earn a court-martial and was docked two weeks of pay. By that point, his loving wife was informed that he’d fallen in combat by her father before being unceremoniously shuffled toward a guy he did approve.
After Virgil returned from the war, his wife and daughter vanished with the new man. He did what any recently-returned veteran would do at the time and ventured west to ease his heartache. This is when he reunited with his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and met an unusually badass dentist by the name of Doc Holliday in Dodge City, Kansas. In Dodge City, Virgil used his military experience to become a deputy town marshal.
For historical perspective, this was Tombstone and the one street was where the showdown happened.
He’d soon get the heck outta Dodge when he was informed that the Cochise County Cowboys down in Prescott, Arizona Territory, were causing mayhem. On one of his first patrols, he first encountered the outlaw gang robbing a stagecoach at the edge of town. He picked up his Henry rifle and plucked them off from a great distance.
He was promptly given the role of Prescott’s night watchman and was later elected as constable for his hard-line stance against the outlaws. Virgil wrote to his brothers, who were in need of work. that a new silver-mining town, Tombstone, was perfect for them, and so they headed south. The U.S. Marshall over Arizona appointed Virgil as the Marshal of the Tombstone District of Pima County. His main goal was to stop all of the coach robberies that occurred between Prescott and Tombstone.
In order to keep the rates of violence and crime down, Virgil enacted an ordinance that prohibited deadly weapons in Tombstone. All weapons must be turned into a stable or saloon upon entering town. This ordinance, as you might imagine, didn’t stop the Cowboy gang from harassing innocent bystanders and making constant threats against the lives of the Earp brothers.
Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, after the outlaws refused to drop their weapons at Virgil’s command.
And the scene of that infamous gunfight is now the biggest tourist trap in the area, bringing money into the middle-of-nowhere town.
(Photo by Ken Lund)
Once upon a time, Wyatt Earp was a lawman. But his days of being officially on the blue side ended in Dodge City and Witchita. In Tombstone, Virgil had appointed Wyatt as his temporary assistant, along with Morgan and Doc as temporary “special policemen.”
It should be noted that prior to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Morgan and Doc had never been in any documented firefights, and Wyatt Earp had only one officially under his belt — but all three had remarkable track records in fist fights. Virgil. however, was well-versed in firefights. It should also be noted that while everyone else was using their iconic (but tiny) western revolvers, Virgil was unloading his big-ass coach gun into the outlaws, despite being shot through the femur.
Sam Elliot played Virgil in 1993’s ‘Tombstone,’ which we think is a pretty well-deserved tribute.
(Buena Vista Pictures)
The gunfight came to an end and the lawmen rose victorious — but the fighting would continue. For their actions that day, they were all reprimanded. Virgil continued as marshal over Tombstone after being cleared of all wrongdoing.
The Cowboys would unrelentingly go after the Earps. Virgil would later be severely wounded by three shotgun-wielding assassins who simultaneously fired on him. This attack ended his career in law enforcement and he ceded marshal duties to his brother, Wyatt. Assassins killed Morgan Earp a few months later.
Wyatt and Doc would eventually bring those responsible to justice and their names would be remembered throughout history for being the toughest lawmen in the West. Virgil needed many years to recuperate, but never fully recovered.
He would eventually cross paths with his former-wife, Ellen, and his daughter when he was an old man. There wasn’t any bad blood, and he was happy to meet three grand-kids he never knew existed.
Video games way oversold the military. Shooter after shooter and strategy game after strategy game promised a career filled with Firebats and thermonuclear grenades, but the actual military turned out to be a lot of hard work using basic tools. Where are the cybernetics and robots and zombie plants?
Turns out, “they’re” working on it. Here are 6 features of video games coming to real combat. Given, you know, the programs are successful
Can’t wait until my future robot partner takes a human hostage and then gives me a creepy wink during the standoff.
What it is: In futuristic games like Titanfall, infantrymen go in with squads of robot soldiers that can carry their own weapons, drawing fire away from their human counterparts and slaying enemy forces like steel grim reapers.
Who’s making it real: DARPA (yeah, they’re going to come up a lot in this article) has the “Agile Teams” program which is tasked with creating mathematical models for assessing human-machine teams and looking for the best balance. Since programs to allow humans and machines work together on the battlefield already exist, DARPA is basically trying to build the measuring stick to assess those teams and improve them before they’re deployed.
In important note: Agile Teams isn’t only, or even mostly, about performance in ground combat. They’re also looking at how to pair robots and humans in analyzing intelligence, fighting a cyber battle, or conducting electronic warfare.
A soldier practices firing with an AimLock system.
(U.S. Army Angie Depuydt)
What it is: Most shooters, even ones that don’t advertise it, have some kind of “aim assist” built into gameplay. Through these systems, the computer makes the shooter just a little more accurate either by moving the targeting reticle slightly towards the enemy when the trigger is pulled or by curving bullets slightly towards targets, counting near-misses as hits.
Who’s making it real: Two groups are actually working on this. The Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is working on AimLock, which basically takes the two major parts of the weapon (the upper and lower receivers), and separates the upper receiver from the rifleman’s direct control. The shooter pulls the trigger when they’re aimed at their target, the software and motors point the upper receiver at the target, and the round is fired.
Another program in development with the Army Research Lab re-purposes technology originally designed for stroke victims to reduce tremors. In the Mobile Arm Exoskeleton for Firearm Aim Stabilization program, new shooters are attached to a machine that stabilizes their arm while firing, dampening all the little tremors that make a big difference at hundreds of yards. Best of all, the program is shows results — even after the equipment is removed. Firers are becoming 15 percent more accurate after using and then removing MAXFAS.
What it is: In games like Warframe and Borderlands 2, players can work side by side with a murderous drone that kills enemy combatants, seeking out its own targets and watching the life slowly seep out of their human eyes.
Who’s making it real: To be fair, autonomous drones are already real, but they’re mostly good for vain athletes who want their drone to automatically take selfies. This NATO article summarizes a number of programs, mostly U.S. ones, for everything from autonomous wingmen for human pilots to drone swarms for the Air Force, Navy, and Army (yeah, it’s like KitKats — everyone wants a piece).
One fact that the military is generally quick to point out, though, is that all autonomous systems both in development and currently operational, have a “human-in-the-loop” system, meaning that the AI can only recommend targets, it cannot approve lethal action on its own. A human has to give the kill order.
Autonomous supply and medevac drops
What it is: In video games, you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for a requested resupply to come in. Turn on a lunar beacon in Borderlands 2? Your gear will slam into the ground within seconds. Just Cause 3 lets you select a customized supply loadout, from guns to helicopters, and have it delivered within seconds.
Graphic summarizing the Active Plant Technologies program.
What it is: From Final Fantasy‘s cactaurs to Plants vs. Zombies entire arsenal, video games have lots of examples of awesome plants. Plant 42 from Resident Evil can even eat humans and, potentially, turn them into zombies.
Who’s making it real: While DARPA is shamefully refusing to investigate the strengths of the T-virus in plant life, they are working with industry to propel the Advanced Plant Technologies program, where plants are modified to act as sensors, changing physical traits when in the presence of certain chemicals, pathogens, radiations, or electromagnetic signals. So, if you want to know whether the Wizard of Oz is still making nukes, just check the poppy fields.
Tactical Augmented Reality System screenshot
What it is: Nearly every first person shooter has a heads up display, a bit of information on the screen with everything from a minimap to an ammo count. See: Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, etc.
Who’s making it real: Lots of groups are working on different aspects of it, but the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center and the Army Research Lab have debuted a pretty impressive prototype called Tactical Augmented Reality that can display the locations of allies and known adversaries as well as comms info and navigation.