Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Taran Butler is a better shot than you. Sure, there are people who may be better at very specialized skills within shooting, or who shoot better with a particular style of firearm under certain conditions or at a specific range of distances. But Butler, who runs Taran Tactical Innovations and trains both Hollywood stars and military/law enforcement clients at his facility in Southern California, is often regarded as the best all-around shooter alive.

If his name eludes you, here’s what you’re missing. Butler is a multiple United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) 3-Gun National and World Champion; he’s the man who helped turned Keanu Reeves into John Wick; and he can shoot six, 8-inch plates set 30 feet away with one hand while drawing from the hip in well under two seconds. If you’re not impressed, you should be.


Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.

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Grand Master Taran Butler Hip Shooting 6 plates 1.98sec. Broke his personal record.

Butler said that he was a natural shooter from the start, but his competitive career officially began in 1995. He attended his first match with a Glock 21 pistol — which had a lower capacity than the pistols of the other competitors and required an additional reload. Butler still finished 7th in a field of 118, and that’s when he realized that he had a future in competitive shooting.

The next year he won the Southwest Pistol League’s Limited Division, and from there he went on to win the SPL’s Unlimited Division and a handful of Glock Shooting Sports Foundation matches. After that initial 7th place finish, Butler won every match he entered for the next two years, which were all pistol-shooting competitions. It wasn’t until the following year that he would jump into the world of 3-Gun, an arena he considered “kinda lame” before trying it out.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

In 1997, Butler competed in his first 3-Gun match, the Five Dogs Winter Classic, despite the fact that he didn’t yet have his Benelli shotgun tricked out for 3-Gun — and none of the ways he was taught to load a shotgun were practical for competition. He borrowed two shotguns for the weekend and described those stages as an “absolute disaster because the shotguns didn’t function properly … [it] was a box-office fiasco on every level.”

Butler, who had gotten used to winning, was livid, but he pressed on. He noticed that most of the competitors were going into the prone position to shoot the farthest rifle targets, a distance Butler estimated to be about 100 yards. Figuring that he had nothing to lose after the shotgun stages, Butler shot standing. The second place time for that stage was 25 seconds — Butler finished in 16. On the pistol stages, since that’s Butler’s expertise, he “went dog nuts and absolutely shredded the pistol stages into the ground.” Even though he came in near the bottom for the shotgun stages, his incredible performances during the pistol and rifle stages propelled him to the top, winning the entire match overall. It was the first of many wins, but also some heartbreaking losses.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

Butler’s first trip to the 3-Gun Nationals was in 1999. He was leading by a large margin (about 200 points) after 14 stages, but there were still two to go. The 15th stage required each competitor to rest their rifle on the roof of a car while shooting. Butler’s rifle didn’t have a free-floating handguard, so the contact with the car interfered with the vibration of the barrel, causing the gun to shoot extremely high at 100 yards. The bullets were impacting the torso target at the top of the head when Butlet was aiming for the A zone. He suffered eight penalty misses, ultimately losing the match by five points — which he equates to about half a second. At his next 3-Gun Nationals appearance, the cross pin holding the trigger group in his shotgun broke during the final stage, and the entire trigger group fell out of his gun. He ended up losing by a few points. These losses taught Butler the importance of having high-quality gear and knowing the gear that you have.

In 2003, Butler finally broke through. At the time, Bennie Cooley was the reigning 3-Gun champion. He was unstoppable with a long-range rifle, and Butler was unstoppable with a pistol, so the shotgun stage was where they met in the middle. First up was the pistol stages, and Cooley shot first. He was slower but had no penalties. Butler shot three or four seconds faster but suffered penalties — the pressure had gotten to him, and he was upset with himself. Great, throwing away the Nationals again, he thought. On the next stage, Butler again beat Cooley on time — but, also again, he shot a hostage. At that point, Butler had to shake off the pressure and focus solely on the shooting. The next pistol stages were left-hand, right-hand, and Butler shot them clean. He went on to shoot the long-range rifle and close-range hunting rifle stages, and then shotgun.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Taran Butler, left, with Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves.

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

Butler dominated the stages and ultimately won the 2003 3-Gun Nationals in the Limited Division. That was the beginning of a long winning streak and a record-breaking career. The following year, Butler became the first shooter to win the 3-Gun Nationals’ Tactical Division. In 2012, he won the Open Division, making him the USPSA’s first-ever Multigun Triple Crown Champion, having won Nationals in each of the three divisions.

“It’s kind of like winning a championship belt in three different weight classes in the UFC,” Butler said of his accomplishment.

Another defining moment in his career was in 2007 at the Fort Benning Multigun Challenge. Butler was unaware of a rule change in his division that limited shotgun magazine tubes to eight rounds. His shotgun held nine, so he was automatically moved into the unlimited division where he was shooting against competitors with 16-round mag tubes on their shotguns — and in one case, a 32-round drum mag. They also had 30-round pistols, and their firearms were tricked out with the best upgrades available. Butler said it “is the equivalent to showing up in a bicycle at a motocross competition.”

Keanu shredding with Taran Butler

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Keanu shredding with Taran Butler

Against all odds, Butler won. Legendary shooter Jerry Miculek, who Butler described as “a man of few words and one of the greatest shooters that ever walked the earth,” was also competing that day. After the match, he approached Butler and said, “Taran, you’re a fuckin’ animal” — and then walked away. Butler said it’s one of the best compliments he’s ever received from a peer. After the Fort Benning match was televised, Butler’s sponsorship opportunities quadrupled. Despite this massive success, Butler had his sights set on accomplishments outside of the competitive shooting world.

The next step for Butler was appearing as the go-to firearms expert on the hit TV series “TopShot” for five seasons. From there, things took off for his career as a firearms trainer. He was hired to work with Hollywood stars such as Keanu Reeves and Khloe Kardashian. When one of Butler’s videos with Keanu Reeves went viral, his popularity in Hollywood exploded.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Keanu Reeves honing his shotgun skills at Taran Butler’s shooting range in California.

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

If you enjoy watching current films with actors who actually look like they’ve held a gun before — and don’t utilize a 1970s-style teacup-and-saucer grip — you can thank Butler for helping to establish a higher standard for gunplay in movies and television. He has consulted on numerous films and has trained A-list Hollywood celebrities, including training Michael B. Jordan for his role as Killmonger in “Black Panther” and Halle Berry for her role alongside Keanu Reeves in the most recent “John Wick” movie. He also trained director Ang Lee and star Will Smith for “Gemini Man.” The film features a young Will Smith shooting a Glock 41 modified by Butler’s company, Taran Tactical Innovations (TTI), against an older Will Smith shooting a Gucci’d-out TTI Combat Master Glock.

Butler also mentioned several projects that have yet been released, including his work with “How I Met Your Mother” star Cobie Smulders for her new ABC show “Stumptown,” an adaptation of a popular graphic novel. He has also trained John Cho for Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop”; Josh Lucas for the upcoming “Purge” film; Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne for “The Old Guard”; and Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, and Aaron Taylor Johnson for an unnamed upcoming film.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Halle Berry training with at Taran Butler’s range in Southern California.

Photo courtesy of Taran Butler

Butler also trains military and law enforcement groups whose jobs and lives rely on the skilled handling of weapons. “Three-Gunners are the deadliest weapons handlers on the planet,” Butler said, pointing to the fact that grueling matches that last three to four days are frequently won and lost by fractions of a second. So world-champion 3-Gun shooters like Butler spend countless hours “training their asses off.” He acknowledged that military and law enforcement groups are more proficient with combat tactics, but they frequently come to people like Butler for firearms operation and manipulation training.

While training military and LEO groups, Butler said he noticed that those who also compete in 3-Gun “annihilate” their non-competition-shooting counterparts. He encourages everyone he trains to also compete in multi-gun or USPSA competitions to hone their skills. While he sometimes works with celebrities for months, Butler usually has only a day or two with tactical groups, so training them is more about tweaking small habits and incorporating 3-Gun fundamentals into their tactics.

In his impressive career, Taran Butler has learned from some of the highest highs and lowest lows in the shooting sports. Few, if any, will ever be able to match his accomplishments in that realm. But he used it as a springboard into an adjacent career that helps shine a light on others as well. Butler’s work with military and law enforcement demonstrates the value of his 3-Gun training and has the potential to save lives. His work with Hollywood stars has raised the standard across the board, even in media he doesn’t touch, when it comes to the realism we see on screen. So, yeah, he may be a better shot than you — but he earned it.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sunset ceremony honors USS Utah’s 58-member crew

As prior and present service members are gathered for the public USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony, there is one thing on everyone’s mind: remembrance. Remembering the bravery of the crew that was lost 78 years ago, remembering the honor possessed by each soul onboard and the legacy they left behind. Fifty-eight members of the USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) crew were lost that day, but today they are celebrated.

The capsizing of the USS Utah is honored every year on the eve of December 7. The former battleship, that was once used for target and gunnery training, was the first ship to be struck by two torpedoes during the attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941.


As the amber rays of the sunset reflected upon the island of Oahu, USS Utah survivor Warren Upton along with World War II veterans Roy Solt and Burk Waldron were greeted by applause from those attending the ceremony.

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, gave thanks to those that served and showed gratitude to everyone honoring the fallen ship.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, says a speech during the USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Dec. 6, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael Amani)

“There’s often a phrase that is associated with the USS Utah,” said Ashwell. “That somehow she is the forgotten ship of Pearl Harbor. It is obvious that the USS Utah is not the forgotten ship. We are all here to remember her and her crew.”

Ashwell recounted the memory of the late U.S. Navy Master Chief Jim Taylor, who served as a full-time volunteer to Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs Office until his passing earlier this year. He served as a liaison for the survivors of Pearl Harbor and their families.

“He helped lay to rest many Pearl Harbor survivors who chose to come back and have their ashes spread in these waters around the Utah and for those who served on the Utah to be placed within the ship,” said Ashwell.

USS Utah Survivor Warren Upton was embraced by many families in attendance as he shook hands and gave hugs to those that thanked him for his service.

“This ceremony was very good,” said Upton. “I really miss Jim. He was a friend to all of the old Utah sailors.”

The ocean breeze and the water washing up against the memorial site are the only sounds heard as Musician 1st Class Collin Reichow, from Herndon Va., plays “Taps” upon his bugle. Sailors of many different ranks render a salute as the melody flows from his instrument. The ceremony comes to an end as everyone is reminded to never forget USS Utah.

MIGHTY MONEY

5 times to consider putting your savings in a CD for at least a year

Since interest rates are down compared to last year — and likely to remain unchanged or fall even further in 2020 — it’s a good time to be strategic about where you save money.

A certificate of deposit (CD) can offer good earning potential without any of the risk of a stock market investment or the variable interest rates of a high-yield savings account.

When you open a CD, you agree to lock your money up for a specific period of time — usually anywhere from three months to five years — in exchange for a fixed annual percentage yield (APY). You typically can’t access your cash until the CD’s maturity date without incurring a penalty, which makes it a good place to safely grow money that you need at a certain date and not before then. It can also help curb impulse spending.


Currently, the best CDs are offering between 2% and 2.25% APY for varying minimum deposits and terms between 12 months and five years. Generally, the longer the term length, the higher the rate. Any term shorter than a year probably isn’t worth it right now, since the rates are comparable to the best high-yield savings accounts.

You can’t add money to a CD after the initial funding period (usually between 10 and 14 days), so it’s not the right type of account for actively saving money. But if you already have cash set aside for a future purchase, a CD is worth considering. Here are five times to open a CD for your savings:

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

1. You’re waiting to buy a house

Saving for a down payment can take years. But just because you finally reach your savings goal doesn’t mean you have to buy a house right away. Maybe mortgage rates aren’t where you’d like them to be or you just haven’t found a place you love yet. If you’ve decided to wait at least a year to buy a house, a CD can keep your down payment safe and earning a consistent return in the meantime.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

2. You’re planning a home renovation

If there’s a home improvement project on your to-do list next year, but you already have the cash, consider opening a CD to earmark the savings. As long as the renovation isn’t something that needs attention right away (think: a big leak or a damaged roof), then you can lock in a high interest rate now to earn more on your money while you iron out the details of the project — and actually find the time to do it.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

3. You spend a lot during the holidays

The end-of-year holidays seem to get more expensive every year. Make it easier for your future self by setting aside a cash reserve now that you can use next year for shopping, booking travel, and buying gifts. Once your CD matures, you can use the cash to put toward your holiday purchases if the timing is right or replenish the fund you pulled from.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

4. You have big travel plans

If you’re actively saving for a travel fund, a high-yield savings account is the way to go. But, if you’ve already reached your goal, or even part of it, and want to make sure the money stays safe until you’re ready to jet off, try a CD. You won’t be able to dip into the account for impulse spending and you’ll wind up with even more money than you started with thanks to above average interest rates.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

5. You’re preparing for a move

Between packing supplies, movers, and buying new stuff, moving can run up a lengthy tab. But setting up a moving fund? That’s something many of us plan to do, but never quite get around to.

If you know you’ll be moving in the future, whether to a new state or just a new neighborhood, consider setting aside some extra cash in a CD so you can be sure there’s no scrambling for money when the time comes. It doesn’t need to be a ton of cash — some of the best CDs require to open — but you’ll need to add something to start earning a return.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New audio released from failed B-1 bomber ejection

“Is that an actual emergency?” an air traffic controller at Midland Airport, Texas, asks an Air Force B-1B Lancer crew experiencing an engine fire.

After someone interjects a quick “Yes,” the voice replies, “Actual emergency. Alright, Bravo go.”

The conversation is part of a recently released audio clip between the control tower and a Dyess Air Force Base-based bomber that had to make an emergency landing in May 2018 after an ejection seat didn’t work following an engine fire. The audio was obtained and published by Military Times.

As the B-1, call sign Hawk 91, approaches the airport, air traffic control asks how many people and how much fuel is onboard. The response is four airmen and enough fuel for roughly four hours of flight time.

The B-1 is then assigned a runway.


“Approach, Hawk Nine-One, airfield in sight, cancel IFR [instrument flight rules], we are going to be making a long, straight-in approach,” one of the crew says. IFR is a set of Federal Aviation Administration rules requiring civil aircraft to use instrument approach procedures for civil airports. Approach procedures are different for military pilots and aircraft.

The tower tells the crew to maintain visual flight rules (VFR) instead. Once the B-1 lands, the crew tells the control tower it will be “emergency ground egressing.”

In July 2018, then-Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Robin Rand awarded Distinguished Flying Cross medals to the crew, including Maj. Christopher Duhon, Air Force Strategic-Operations Division chief of future operations at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and an instructor pilot with the 28th Bomb Squadron; Capt. Matthew Sutton, 28th BS weapons system officer instructor; 1st Lt. Joseph Welch, student pilot with the 28th; and 1st Lt. Thomas Ahearn, a weapons system officer assigned to the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

“Thank you for showing us how to be extraordinary. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. I have never been prouder to wear this uniform than I am today because of you four,” Rand said during a July 13, 2018 ceremony honoring the airmen.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

U.S. Air Force Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, left, takes a group photo with the B-1B Lancer aircrew during a Distinguished Flying Cross medals presentation, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, July 13, 2018. Rand formally recognized the heroism and exceptional professionalism of the B-1B aircrew members involved in the May 1, 2018, in-flight emergency and resulting emergency landing in Midland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Emily Copeland)

Officials said in a release that it was the first-ever successful landing of a B-1B experiencing this type of ejection seat mishap.

Weeks preceding the ceremony, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the Dyess B-1 had to make an emergency landing over an ejection seat malfunction.

The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a June 18, 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.

When the crew tried to eject, “the cover comes off, and nothing else happens,” she said, referring to the weapons systems officer’s ejection hatch. “The seat doesn’t fire. Within two seconds of knowing that that had happened, the aircraft commander says, ‘Cease ejection, we’ll try to land.’ “

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. May 1, 2018. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land.

Images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

Following the mishap, Air Force Global Strike Command grounded the fleet for nearly two weeks over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats.

While the B-1s returned to normal flying operations, both Foreign Policy and The Drive reported that the ejection seat issue may be more widespread than previously disclosed.

“While specific numbers will not be released, not all B-1Bs were affected by these egress system component deficiencies,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Military.com in a statement on July 19, 2018, following the news reports.

“The Air Force has 62 B-1Bs in the fleet. All B-1Bs are cleared for normal flight operations. We always apply risk management measures for flights based on the aircraft, the flight profiles, and crew experience,” Stefanek said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Qataris saved two lost Marines from certain death

It was the height of the short-lived but intense shooting portion of the 1990-91 Gulf War. Two Marines who had been manning an essential listening post in the middle of the desert suddenly found themselves lost and wandering through Saudi Arabia like Moses trying to find his way out.

Unlike Moses, however, they weren’t going to survive for years and years on end. There was a good chance they would soon both be dead, either from Iraqi tanks and helicopters or – more likely – thirst and exposure. But luckily they found salvation in their allies.


Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

There’s a reason even Stormin’ Norman loved the Qataris.

According to Quora user Robert Russell Payne, he and a fellow Jarhead Marine were stumbling around in the desert, unable to locate their unit or even tell anyone where their unit might have been by that point. As Payne says, reading a map in the desert is hard, which sounds like a silly thing to say, unless you’ve ever been in the desert.

Life in the deserts in and around Saudi Arabia is not an easy life. The lack of water for survival is readily apparent, but it’s not just exposure to the elements or dying of thirst that can kill you. Almost everything in the desert is adapted to maximum killability. The weather in the dry sands of the Arabian Peninsula is just the start. The highest temperature recorded on the peninsula is 53 degrees Celsius, or 127 degrees for you American readers. Remember what those Desert Storm Marines were wearing in that?

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

To feel it, just go to the beach wearing everything you own.

Suddenly the wandering troops saw another military post, they just happened to stumble upon. But they weren’t exactly sure who that nearby installation belonged to. If it wasn’t the Americans, then whose was it? Should they approach? Half expecting the base to just light them up as they came closer, the two Marines bravely walked on. IF they were approaching the wrong outpost or if just one of the guards had an itchy trigger finger, the whole thing could have gone belly up.

But it didn’t. It turns out the base belonged to a U.S. ally: Qatar. Payne admits the Qataris could have just lit the two men up, but they didn’t. Instead, like true professional soldiers, the Qatari troops held their ground while not just lighting up the evening sky with their remains. The Qataris didn’t speak English. They were in the middle of the same war. Yet they allowed these strangers to approach the base and explain their situation on a dark and moonless night.

Even though the Qatari troops didn’t speak much English, they were able to determine where the Marines belonged. Under the cover of darkness, the two were quickly packed up in a truck and hauled away to their unit. If it were not for the Qatari troops, those two Marines would likely have been lost forever.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the site the 2020 Mars rover will explore

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five year search, during which every available detail of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet was scrutinized and debated by the mission team and the planetary science community.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA’s next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions — and past microbial life — but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet’s surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.


“The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life.”

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera.

(NASA photo)

Jezero Crater’s ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five different kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so appealing to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team’s entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Along with the massive nearby river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west, and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

“The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,” said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.”

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012. This allowed the science community to consider more challenging landing sites. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will enable the “sky crane” descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. A final report will be presented to an independent review board and NASA Headquarters in the fall of 2019.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity rover taken on Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018). A Martian dust storm has reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

(NASA photo)

“Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars,” said Zurbuchen. “The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue their work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success.”

Selecting a landing site this early allows the rover drivers and science operations team to optimize their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the rover is safely on the ground. Using data from NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, they will map the terrain in greater detail and identify regions of interest — places with the most interesting geological features, for example — where Mars 2020 could collect the best science samples.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars2020

More information about NASA’s exploration of Mars is available online at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mars

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with Augustus Caesar might explain his haircut

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was testifying about Libra cryptocurrency before the House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 23, 2019, some viewers were focused on policy — but some were focused on his hair.

One congresswoman, Rep. Katie Porter, even brought up his hair during the hearing.

One person on Twitter pointed out that the short haircut might have something to do with Zuckerberg’s fascination with first century BCE Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar.


In a 2018 New Yorker profile, Zuckerberg revealed his admiration for the emperor — he and his wife even went to Rome for their honeymoon. He told the New Yorker, “My wife was making fun of me, saying she thought there were three people on the honeymoon: me, her, and Augustus. All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus.”

Zuckerberg and his wife even named one of their daughters August, reportedly after Caesar.

All of that admiration may be why Zuckerberg’s hairdo closely resembles “The Caesar” haircut (though the style is actually named after Emperor Julius Caesar, below).

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

(Hilverd Reker/Flickr)

But Augustus, Julius Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son, has similar hair in most statues.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Augustus

(Wikimedia Commons)

Facebook did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on where Zuckerberg drew inspiration for his ‘do, so while we don’t know for sure, it’s possible the Caesars’ iconic cuts were the source.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Kill and Survive: A stealth pilot’s guide to excellence

U.S. Air Force pilot Bill Crawford is a stealth pilot, someone who has risen to the very top of an extremely challenging field. But to hear him tell it, it can all be chalked up to a very simple secret, a secret that will sound familiar to anyone who has served in the military.


Kill and Survive: A Stealth Pilot’s Secrets of Success | Bill Crawford | TEDxRexburg

www.youtube.com

His trick is becoming the best in the world, studying and refining himself and his processes until he’s above whatever cutoff he needs to clear. And that includes the time in college when he learned that the Air Force was cutting fighter pilot training slots from about 1,000 a year to 100 per year. In order to make sure he cleared the cutoff, Crawford became the best.

Not the 100th best, not the 10th. He received a scholarship that year for being the single best.

And he wants everyone to have the chance to be the best in the world at whatever it is they do.

In his TEDx talk, Crawford talks about bombing Baghdad, conducting inflight refuelings, and, most importantly, conducting the post-mission debrief. The after-action review.

And, yeah, that’s a big part of Crawford’s secret. As anyone in the military can tell you, all the branches have some sort of process for reviewing mission performance and success (two different things) from any operation. Crawford’s version from his Air Force career is asking five questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. What went right?
  3. What went wrong?
  4. Why?
  5. Lessons learned?

The Army had a slightly different version. What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why? What should we, as a team, sustain about that performance? What should we change? But all the branches have some version of this process.

And this self-review is key to understanding modern military success. If you look at old articles from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, plenty of hand-wringing in the West was about the pain, death, and destruction Russia inflicted, but many military leaders worried about Russia’s review process after the invasion.

That’s because the most successful organizations and individuals define their processes and actively assess whether or not they are doing it the best way they can. Russia hadn’t historically reviewed their successes all that deeply. But they decisively won the war on the ground in Georgia in five days, then they reviewed their success for how to do better.

And that meant that they wanted to improve their processes. Crawford wants everyone to learn to do that process in their own life just like the American military has for decades, and Russia now does as well. And the process is simple.

But it’s also hard to do. Crawford and his team had to do their debrief from bombing Baghdad right after they landed. So, right after completing 40-hours of flying and bombing, they had to go sit in a room and discuss their process, their success, and what they could do better.

But if you can make yourself do all that, you’re more likely to get better. And if you keep getting better, you’ll be the best.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Curious Kids: What’s it like to be a fighter pilot?

This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children of all ages. The Conversation is asking young people to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome: find details on how to enter at the bottom.

What’s it like to be a fighter pilot? – Torben, aged eight, Sussex, UK.


Thanks for your question, Torben. I’m a professor working at the University of Portsmouth’s Extreme Environments Laboratory, where we study how humans respond when going into space, mountains, deserts and the sea, as well as what it’s like to be in submarines, spacecraft and, of course, jet planes.

To be a fast jet pilot, you must be fit and smart, and able to do what’s needed, even when the going gets tough. You also get to wear some very special clothes, to protect your body while flying.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Capts. Andrew Glowa, left, and William Piepenbring launch flares from two A-10C Thunderbolt IIs Aug. 18, 2014, over southern Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jamal D. Sutter)

If you’re a fighter pilot, you’re not allowed to get air sick (which is a bit like getting car sick, in a plane). And you have to be the right height and weight to fit in the cockpit — and to jump out in emergencies.

Fighter jets can go 1,550 miles an hour: that’s more than twice the speed of sound, or 25 miles in a minute. So, if you live two miles from school, you could get home in less than five seconds in a fighter jet.

Only the best pilots in the world can fly a plane that goes so fast: you have to be able to think and act very quickly. To help you, modern jets listen to your voice, so you can tell them what to do — it’s called “voice command”.

Fast jets aren’t smooth to fly in, like the kind of planes you go on holiday in — they’re more like a fast fairground ride. You have to be strapped into your seat very tightly, so that you don’t get thrown around.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

First Lt. Kayla Bowers, a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot, looks out of the cockpit of her aircraft during the squadron’s deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

In fact, flying that fast and making lots of turns and dives can make you feel very sick. Can you imagine being sick, while wearing a mask and flying a plane at 1,000 miles an hour? That’s why fighter pilots have to be checked and trained to make sure they don’t get air sick.

Fast jet pilots also have to wear lots of special clothes to protect them in different situations. One thing they have to wear is a helmet to protect their head, and a mask with a microphone.

The mask is linked up to a system that can provide extra oxygen if anything goes wrong — after all, there’s less oxygen in the air when you’re flying very high, and humans need plenty of oxygen to breathe properly.

Standing on Earth, humans experience gravity at 1G (that’s one times the acceleration due to gravity). But when fighter jets make fast turns and rolls, the pilot can experience up to 9G (by comparison, roller coasters only produce 3-6G). That means they feel nine times heavier, which can be very unpleasant and would make most people black out.

To help with this, fighter pilots also wear special trousers that squeeze their legs tightly when they go round bends — this keeps the blood pumping up to their brain, to stop them from fainting: trust me, you don’t want to faint when flying a fast jet.

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Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II, March 6, 2013.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Fast jet pilots may also have to wear a flying suit, a life jacket and an “immersion suit” — that’s a suit which keeps you warm and dry, if you end up in the sea. They may also wear another suit to protect them from chemicals and other dangerous things.

All this kit and clothing can make a fighter pilot pretty hot. Plus the jet has a plastic lid and lots of very clever electronics, which can also heat up the cockpit. And when the plane goes fast through the air, it warms up due to friction — like when you rub your hands together fast.

To stay cool, fighter pilots can wear a special vest with long small tubes in it, which pump cold water around. Or, they can wear a suit next to their skin which has cold air blowing through it.

Pilots sit on a rocket-powered ejector seat, so if he or she gets into trouble, they can pull a handle and be blasted up into the air and away from the crashing plane.

Luckily, the seat has a parachute that opens up and lets them float down to the ground safely. But the force of the ejection actually makes them shorter for a little while afterwards.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to us. You can:

  • Email your question to curiouskids@theconversation.com
  • Tell us on Twitter by tagging @ConversationUK with the hashtag #curiouskids, or
  • Message us on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Trump’s Iran summit was rejected by the Iranians

President Donald Trump has set out on a puzzling and ambitious policy towards Iran that looks increasingly focused on a summit that would deeply humiliate the Islamic Republic’s leadership.

Trump’s new Iran policy calls for an economic crackdown following the withdrawal from the Iran deal, a buildup of anti-Iran military alliances with the US’s regional partners, and a media campaign to heat up already simmering civil unrest in the country.


But, while the circumspect approach mirrors Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign that helped force North Korea and China to change their tunes, this time he’s opened with an offer for a summit.

“I’m ready to meet anytime they want to,” Trump said of Iran during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on July 30, 2018. “No preconditions. They want to meet? I’ll meet.”

Later, Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, laid out some preconditions , but the offer remained extended.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Iran, theoretically, has a lot to gain from improved relations with the US. Since the US withdrawal from the Iran deal, Iran’s currency has taken a nosedive, soaring up to around 120,000 rials to a dollar. In August and November 2018 Iran faces two new waves of sanctions that will shut off their access to US banking and oil exports.

Though the US sanctions post-deal will be unilateral and not as strong as the pre-deal UN-imposed sanctions, fear angering the US, the world’s largest economy, will likely scare off Europeans who are otherwise committed to the deal.

In short, Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, likely imposed tremendous cost and stress on Tehran’s economy, and Iran has responded by staying in the deal and trying to portray itself as a good actor worthy of the world’s support against US hegemony. For the moment, Trump is having his cake and eating it too.

A ‘kiss the ring’ moment from Trump to Iran would be deeply humiliating

Iran’s parliament, for the first time ever, has called up Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to grill him on the foreboding economic downturn. Iran watchers consider Rouhani a moderate who spent considerable political capital in negotiating with the US and the West to cast the Iran deal.

But now, Iran finds itself having signed away its nuclear ambitions for almost none of the economic rewards promised by the west.

Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament who is seen as part of Iran’s moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now ” would be a humiliation .”

Other figures in Iran’s government dismissed the idea as non starter, saying the nuclear deal represented the talks they supported, and having that ripped up made future conversations untenable.

Instead, Iran hopes to improve relations with Europe, who it hopes will brave US sanctions to continue to buy its oil. But as many of Europe’s businesses are exposed to the US’s massive financial reach, it’s hard to imagine Iran doesn’t take a haircut on its potential future earnings.

Meanwhile, Trump has, in short order, laid down a remarkable track record with summits, especially with US adversaries. “I’ll meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said on July 30, 2018.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

If Trump helped North Korea’s image, imagine what he could do for Iran.

A Trump summit has its appeal

Trump became the first US leader to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the world’s worst human rights violator. Kim agreed to only vague, symbolic or non-binding moves to help the US while Trump heaped praise on the leader and defended his brutal regime.

Trump also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and appeared to take his word for it that Moscow did not meddle in the US’s 2016 election, earning himself a stinging rebuke from his own party andtop intelligence experts .

Neither one of these summits produced anything of real substance for the US public. So far, the US has reaped the reward of some repatriated war dead from the Korean War and a soccer ball from Putin .

Iran, similarly, could hold a summit with Trump, but its political culture forbids such a thing. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has cast itself as standing up to the US with fierce opposition. Its senior government figures chant “death to America.” Iran’s navy holds the dubious operational goal of destroying the US Navy . Domestically, Rouhani already stuck his neck out for the US with the Iran deal.

For Iranian leaders to smile and shake Trump’s hand would symbolize a deep capitulation and recognition that the US holds tremendous power over Tehran, and that their values of opposing US hegemony stand subordinate to their will to survive economically, for which they’ll need a benevolent Trump.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane USAF flying saucer-shaped missile

The wizards who brought you the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank have been serving the U.S. military’s needs for more than a century. In that time, General Dynamics, the multi-billion dollar defense contractor responsible for many amazing technological advances, has made history many times over, from developing the Navy’s first submarines to the Air Force’s first ICBM.

They may have even develop the flying saucer UFO.


In the late 1950s, the Air Force was looking to replace the B-52 Bomber with a nuclear-capable hypersonic upgrade. For this mission, the air service wanted the experimental XB-70 Valkyrie. The Valkyrie could fly at speeds of Mach 3 while dropping nuclear bombs on the unsuspecting or unprepared Soviet Union.

But how can the Air Force protect its bombers while they’re flying at three times the speed of sound in an unfriendly territory? The answer was to give it a defensive missile system, code named Pye Wacket, after a local Massachusetts urban legend involving a witch’s familiar who protected her master.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

The XB-70.

(U.S. Air Force)

The Valkyrie didn’t actually need defensive missiles. The Soviets didn’t have anything that could actually threaten the XB-70, but the airframe was considered a long-term solution and the Air Force wanted to ensure it had defenses should the need materialize. The missiles wouldn’t just need to hit interceptor aircraft, it would need to be capable of hitting SAM batteries and surface-to-air missiles themselves.

It also needed to be able to fly at seven times the speed of sound. So, General Dynamics engineers developed a wedge missile, in the shape of a lens – a kind of flying saucer – that could be fired from the aircraft in any direction and was capable of deft maneuvering.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Pye Wacket at the Arnold Engineering Development Center, in Tennessee.

The Air Force tested the new weapon between 1957 and 1961. The weapon was based on a saucer propulsion design from NASA’s Alan Kahlet, who wanted to use it for manned spacecraft. For the missile, designers wanted to include a small nuclear warhead, one that would neutralize the target but also be able to prevent an enemy nuclear warhead from exploding, a process called “dudding.”

Unfortunately for the future of the Pye Wacket missile, the Air Force ultimately decided that the best way to hit the Soviets with a barrage of nuclear devices was a series of rockets that used extremely unstable fuel and could be fired by any fool who knew the key combination was “000000000.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Does the United States need more troops in Europe?

America’s top military commander in Europe wants more forces to deter Russia, but how much is enough?

The head of the United States European Command and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, General Curtis Scaparrotti, suggested additional resources might be needed to protect allies from Russia. Since the Cold War, America’s nuclear capabilities have been enough to deter Russia, so what has changed?

Deterrence maintains peace because our nuclear weapons make an escalating war suicidal. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara laid out in his 1967 speech, deterrence is the “highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor… even after absorbing a surprise first strike.”


The assertion that more military units are needed in Europe implies that America’s nuclear deterrence is insufficient to do the job on its own. There are only two reasons why this might be the case. The first is that America has incorrectly signaled to Russia that nuclear weapons will not defend the Baltics. The second, is that President Trump’s transactional mindset and past musings on not upholding mutual defense obligations are serious and have signaled to Russia Trump’s ambivalence towards NATO.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Russia is modernizing its military and is capable of overrunning the Baltics in 24 to 60 hours. One of the reasons for the Scaparrotti’s concern is the geographical fact that the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on Russia’s border. Yet America’s nuclear umbrella over Europe has held for almost 70 years. In fact, when asked whether Russia could overwhelm NATO, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t agree with that.” He worries about Russia’s advantage in regional forces, but he also thinks that NATO is stronger.

Indeed, NATO already committed more troops to defend the Baltics and Poland in 2016. Their press release stated there would be “four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.” Those battalions are led by America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany with contributions from other European allies.

However, if American and European defenses ever did uncouple, Europe would be in danger because they still possess no real collective defense and no combined nuclear deterrence. Their militaries are atrophied with France quickly running out of ammunition against Muammar Gaddafi’s third-rate Libyan forces in 2011. Moreover, Germany, once the home of Prussian martial prowess, now has no functioning submarines, few working aircraft or tanks, and guns that don’t shoot straight. If Europeans expect to be able to have a greater say and to avoid Trump questioning the alliance, Europe needs to at least meet their NATO spending obligations.

Eight European allies plan to meet their NATO defense spending guidelines by the end of 2018, up from three who currently meet it. Given the upcoming NATO summit in July 2018, more European allies may yet meet that threshold. While there is a growing divide between Europe and America, Washington has still maintained its signal of deterrence (Trump committed to NATO in mid-2017). As long as Russia believes American nuclear weapons will defend NATO territory, Moscow will not touch an inch of it.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump at the White House, Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Finally, recent studies carried out by RAND Corporation’s Andrew Radin have found that attacking the Baltics not only falls outside of Moscow’s core interests but that such an attack would likely be out of defense. Radin wrote in The National Interest, “[T]he main way that Russia would develop an interest in attacking the Baltics is if it perceives NATO building up sufficient forces to pose a threat.” Given America’s history with the Monroe Doctrine, the Zimmermann Telegram, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should come as no surprise that countries react forcefully to other’s forces on their doorsteps.

Therefore, America should focus on signaling deterrence without putting Russia in a corner. The idea that more boots are somehow necessary on top of 1,350 deployed nuclear warheads aimed at Russia’s cities is absurd. If over a thousand nuclear missiles cannot signal to Russia that an incursion into NATO territory is a bad idea, then any additional soldiers never will.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Military Life

8 stores that let you know you’re near a military base

Military installations are built to be self-sustaining. Many have their own water and power supplies, housing facilities, and enough entertainment options to keep troops on the installation. Just off-post, however, you’ll always find the same selection of stores that easily let anyone on TDY know that they’ve found the right place.


Many of these shops are helpful and offer troops better deals than they’d find on-post. Others, however, cater to a troop’s less-than-helpful needs. It’s not to say that all shops off-post are sketchy — but plenty of them are.

Here’s just a handful of the shops that thrive off of having a huge population of troops just a stone’s throw away.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

It’s more than likely that any given Marine has the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor tattooed on them — but not all tattoos are the same. Don’t be the guy with the worst in the platoon.

(Courtesy Photo)​

Tattoo parlors

Troops love to show off their ink. Plenty of tattoo parlors around military installations are home to masterful artists who approach each job with pride. They take their labor of love seriously and put their best work forward for America’s war fighters.

And then there’re the parlors that offer dirt-cheap ink that won’t cut deeply into a young, dumb boot’s beer money. Remember, you’ll get exactly what you paid for.

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The chances of you getting spotted at one of the thirty-seven now-open liquor stores is slim.

(Courtesy photo)

Liqour stores

Since military installations are exempt from sales taxes, it would make sense that buying highly taxed items, like liquor, almost exclusively at the Class 6 (on-post liquor store) is a no-brainer.

But those lines are long and no one wants to run into their first sergeant while you’re both carrying a bottle of Evan Williams on a Tuesday night.

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“You’re trying to sell me a vintage poncho liner used by Gen. Mattis himself? Best I can do is .”

(Courtesy Photo)

Pawn shops

Troops are constantly moving between installations and, along the way, they may want to shed a few household goods. Conversely, they may not want to spend the extra cash on buying something new if they know they won’t have it for long.

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Do you want to get made fun of for buying a car at 35% interest rate? Because that’s exactly how it happens.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

Used-car dealerships

In the military, everyone needs a car to get around. When troops come back with some extra “play money” they earned on deployment, they’ll upgrade their ride.

Many used-car dealerships aren’t as altruistic as they seem. If the only selling point they have going for them is that “E-1 and above are approved,” then you know that you’re about to get hammered on interest rates.

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Which kinda defeats the purpose of having a privately owned weapon, but whatever.

(Photo by Michael Saechang)

Gun shop

Military and gun cultures go hand in hand. So, it makes sense that gun shops find a happy home just off-base.

Not to burst any bubbles among the lower enlisted who live in the barrack, but personally owned firearms and weapons are prohibited in living quarters — rules are rules. So, if you want one, you’ll need to store it in the unit’s arms room and hope you can convince the armorer to come in when you want to go hunting.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

That, and their lines are a lot shorter when you’re scrambling to get back within regs after a 4-day weekend.

(Photo by Joe Mabel)

Nail salons/barber shops

In the civilian world, nail salons are plenty. Barber shops are also plenty. But you won’t find the two mixed as often as you do near military bases.

Sure, it’s more expensive than on-base options, but sometimes it’s worth it. Especially if you want a haircut that says, “maybe I’m an officer, maybe I’m just a specialist.”

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

Who knows? Maybe you’re buying the exact poncho liner that “went missing?”

(Photo by William Murphy)

Military surplus stores

These stores almost always claim first dibs outside of the main gate. Here, you’ll always find a good deal on something that you’re trying to avoid getting a statement of charges for. Why pay the to Uncle Sam because someone took your poncho liner when you can buy and immediately turn in a one found at the surplus store?

Now, we’re not openly accusing any military surplus stores of unintentionally fencing stolen, military gear, but some of the shadier ones are the go-to spots for blue falcons.

Taran Butler is more than the man who made John Wick

By going to a payday loan spot, you’re essentially paying to avoid getting help from the people trying to help you.

(Photo by Pvt. Yoo, Jinho)

Payday loan offices

There’s a silver lining to most of the places on this list, especially if they’re owned and operated by veterans of the installation they service. Then there are the payday-loan scammers that prey on troops like vultures in a desert.

There are far too many alternatives available to troops that don’t involved being nickeled-and-dimed to death in the name of scrounging up a few quick bucks. If you are really hurting for cash, have a heart-to-heart conversation with your commander and see what options are available through your branch’s version of an emergency relief fund.