With the advent of “net-centric” warfare — highly-integrated and extremely complex next-generation aircraft, warships, and even infantry soldier systems — the US military has invested a good deal of effort into finding something that eases the workload and burden on troops tasked with maintaining these processes and systems, and fixes issues as they appear.
SparkCognition, a startup in Texas with a rapidly growing funding base and ties with big-name defense contractors like Boeing, aims to put a speedy end to this search with the development of an artificial intelligence “fixer” with a broad range of functions, from diagnosing complex issues with military hardware to preventing ships from colliding at sea.
Much like everybody’s favorite Star Wars robot mechanic, R2D2, this new AI system will be able to function on its own, learning the mechanical ins and outs of warships, fighter jets and everything in-between. When something goes wrong — a glitch, a software failure, or a hardware malfunction — the AI can pinpoint the exact problem, then direct maintainers and technicians on solving the issue at hand.
Pilots, don’t get your hopes up just yet… the AI probably won’t look anything like the beeping white and blue barrel on wheels from Star Wars, nor will it come with a cattle prod that can somehow do anything from fixing a busted spaceship to picking the lock on a door. And it definitely won’t slot into a compartment behind the cockpit of your aircraft to keep you company on extended sorties.
Instead, it’ll likely be a series of servers and computers that stream information from sensors planted at critical locations around vehicles and other machines, keeping a watchful eye out for any red alerts or potential causes for concern, and reporting it back to a centralized system overseen by a maintenance team.
The US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will soon begin fully fielding a far-less involved diagnostics system for the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter known as the Autonomic Logistics Information System. ALIS, for short, is designed to give ground crews and support personnel a wide range of metrics and data on the functionality of the F-35.
If new parts are needed, or something is damaged, inoperable, etc., ALIS lets support crew know quickly and efficiently in order to keep the F-35 out of the hangars and in the skies.
SparkCognition hopes that they can also put their AI to sea with the Navy’s surface warfare fleet, especially aboard Littoral Combat Ships which have been experiencing a plethora of engineering troubles over the past few years. By observing and storing information on LCS powerplants, the AI would be able to accurately predict the failure of an engine component before it even happens, allowing for preventative maintenance to keep the ships combat-ready and deployable.
Self-diagnosing and healing systems have already been predicted as an integral part of the future of military aviation, especially as the Air Force and Navy both look towards designing and developing a 6th generation fighter to begin replacing its current air superiority fleet some 15 to 20 years down the road.
By fielding AI systems and hardware which allow an aircraft to fix itself or re-optimize its configuration while in-flight after sustaining damage, fighters and other types with the technology built-in can remain on mission longer, or can promise a safe return of the pilots and other aircrew in the event that the aircraft needs to return to base. While we’re a ways off from these ultra-advanced systems, however, SparkCognition’s AI is still fairly achievable within the next five to seven years.
Let’s just hope that, should the DoD decide to pick up SparkCognition’s AI, it stays more like R2D2 and doesn’t turn into something along the lines of Skynet from the Terminator movies.
While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.
Ronald Lee Ermey, like many of us, was a mischievous kid and teenager. At the age of 17, the judge gave him a choice that would forever change him: Juvenile Detention or military service. The Corps did him right and he did right by the Corps, eventually becoming a Drill Instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and deploying to Vietnam with the Marine Wing Support Group 17.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
After being medically retired for injuries incurred during service, Ermey attended the University of Manilla to study drama where he met his future wife, Nila Ermey. He also had his first taste of Hollywood with a bit role in the Sidney J. Furie film The Boys from Company C, which was a precursor to and inspiration for Full Metal Jacketwhere he would also be cast as a Drill Instructor.
His acumen capturing the warrior on film led him to be called directly on set for Apocalypse Now.
Frances Ford Coppola had filmed his Vietnam War-era epic not too far from Ermey’s university in The Philippines. Ermey became the technical advisor to the man who directed The Godfather; Ermey let Coppola know how things were actually done in Vietnam.
He also scored his next acting role as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him helicopter pilot during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene.
He would continue to act in other films that fit his range, likea Jaws knock-off called Up from the Depths and a sappy Vietnam War romance film called Purple Hearts. Neither would go down as cinematic masterpieces — but it was his passion. He kept busy until he was offered to be the technical advisor for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.
For the non-cinema buffs who are unaware of Kubrick’s directing style, he wasn’t the easiest man to work with. The script had to be followed to a “T” and improv was strictly forbidden. The infamous scene in The Shining where Wendy frantically swings a baseball bat at Jack took 127 takes to get right — that was the level of perfection Kubrick worked with.
None of that threw Ermey. The story goes that while filming, Ermey had worked extensively with the original Gunny Hartman, portrayed by Tim Colceri. Ermey had written 150 pages of insults that would naturally flow out of a Drill Instructor’s mouth — and nearly none of them were used. The few that were chosen came across as weak and nonthreatening.
Ermey did what every good Devil Dog would do in a situation like this. He bulldogged Colceri (would eventually be recast as the door gunner who screams “Get some!“) off camera. He barked insults at the scared actors while channeling his real Drill Instructor past. And he did everything off the cuff.
Kubrick was so impressed he kept Ermey as Gunny Hartman, despite being contrary to every directing technique he used.
Ermey would be nominated at the 1988 Golden Globes for his role of Gunny Hartman and would become a main stay in pop culture icon and the first impression many have of military life.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A special missions aviator from the 41st Rescue Squadron looks out from an HH-60G Pave Hawk over Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Airmen simulated different combat and rescue situations to synchronize efforts between a variety of Air Combat Command airframes.
An F-15E Strike Eagle soars above Grand Bay Bombing and Gunnery Range at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., May 20, 2016. Multiple Air Combat Command aircraft conducted joint aerial training, showcasing the aircraft’s tactical air and ground maneuvers, as well as their weapons capabilities.
A soldier conducts physical training while deployed with Task Force Red Wolf during Exercise Beyond The Horizon 2016 at San Marcos, Guatemala, May 30, 2016.
A soldier observes a Bradley Fighting Vehicle maneuver on an objective during a U.S. Army Central combined arms live-fire exercise, part of Exercise Eager Lion, at the Joint Training Center, Jordan, May 24, 2016. Eager Lion is an annual two-week interoperability exercise that aims to increase the partnership ties between the U.S. and Jordanian militaries.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Master Chief Ship’s Serviceman Alberto Sanchez, center, judges a barber competition as part of Surface Line Week Atlantic. Held annually in Norfolk, Surface Line Week brings Sailors and federal civilians together for friendly athletic and professional competitions.
NORFOLK, Va. (June 1, 2016) Seaman Tristen Blair, assigned to the USS Monterey (CG 61), hugs his mother Karla Blair before the ship departs Naval Station Norfolk with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The ships are deploying in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as well as the Great Green Fleet initiative. While deployed, CSG ships and aircraft will employ operational procedures and energy conservation measures in order to enhance operational capabilities, enabling strike group units to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower without having to refuel.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School (OCS) participate in the Combat Course aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 11, 2016. The mission of OCS is to educate and train candidates in order to evaluate and screen individuals for qualities required for commissioning as a Marine Corps officer.
Marines assigned to Officer Candidate School participate in the Montford Point challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, May 19, 2016. The challenge consisted of a supply run where the Marines went through obstacles and faced similar physical challenges as the Montford Point Marines.
This Memorial Day we honor and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and our freedom.
Pictured here is USCG Cutter Marcus Hanna anchored near the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenny Galanif.
Allow us to direct your attention his extensive line of tasty craft beers.
Since dropping his first batch of Pukwudgie American Pale Ale in April 2015, Bailey has been quietly deepening his alchemical mastery of the hops, malts, and yeasts. (That’s Boston’s version of the breaks, rhymes, and beats.)
He cuts his love of European craft brewing tradition with a fiendish need to iterate and remix. As a result, the Down The Road brew line-up is a veritable mix-tape of innovative, sample-heavy, world heritage beers. DTR very literally has something for everyone.
And as of Nov. 3 of this year, they now have their very own 2,500-square-foot taproom in Everett, MA, complete with 35′ bar, retro-pinball lounge and food trucks-a-go-go.
If you live in the Northeast, grab your Grinch and treat him to a few tasting rounds at the taproom. Or present him with a case of Queequeg’s Revenge New England IPA and see if he doesn’t crack a smile as he cracks himself a cold one.
Because beer is full of many wonderful ingredients, not the least of which are millions of tiny, alcoholic fun bubbles that just want you to lighten the hell up for the Holidays.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
In the early 1980s, the Mil Mi-24 Hind and the Bell AH-1 Cobra were the major attack helicopters on either side of the Cold War. Had the Russians tried to storm the Fulda Gap, these two choppers would’ve butt heads — often — in between efforts to blast the other side’s tanks and troops to hell.
The Mi-24 Hind not only carried anti-tank missiles, rocket pods, and guns, it also could haul eight troops.
(USAF photo by MSGT David Turner)
Both these helicopters saw their fair share of action. The Hind proved itself in Afghanistan and elsewhere, while the Cobra saw extensive use in the Vietnam War. By the 80s, these were mature, proven designs — and both packed a lot of punch.
The Cobra’s biggest advantage: It presents a much smaller head-on target — and it packs a 20mm punch.
(US Army photo)
The Mi-24 Hind entered service in 1973. The definitive Hind D packed a 12.7mm Gatling gun in the nose and could carry a mix of rocket pods (usually 57mm rockets) and anti-tank missiles (usually AT-2 or AT-6) on six pylons. UH-1s, on the other hand, often carried some 7.62mm machine guns and had pylons enough for two rocket pods. In a sense, the Hind took some concepts from the UH-1 and put them on steroids. Like the UH-1, the Hind could also carry troops into battle — usually eight personnel.
Its likely opponent, the AH-1 Cobra, was somewhat different. In the middle of the Vietnam War, the United States Army wanted a dedicated gunship. Eventually, their search resulted in the HueyCobra. The Cobra was a much smaller target than its predecessor since, unlike the Huey, it didn’t haul infantry around. By the 1980s, the Cobra was armed with a M197 20mm cannon, a three-barrel Gatling gun, and could carry a mix of rocket pods and BGM-71 TOW missiles.
So, in a fictional fight, which of these helicopters would come out on top? As always, much depends on the mission. The Mi-24 Hind would have been very useful for air assault missions. A typical loadout was composed of four rocket pods, each carrying 32 57mm rockets, along with four anti-tank missiles. This would be devastating for rear-area troops, who not only would have to deal with being hit by rockets, but also with the infantry that would soon follow. The Cobra, on the other hand, packed a lot more of an anti-tank punch.
If it came down to a helicopter dogfight, though, the Cobra would have a clear edge. While the Hind does have the speed edge, the Cobra is much smaller and its 20mm cannon packs more of a punch. Were the two to go head-to-head, the Soviets would quickly find themselves down both a chopper and, potentially, an entire infantry section, too.
It was in August 1942 that Private 1st Class Edward Ahrens would cement his place in the halls of Marine bad*sses when he singlehandedly took on an entire group of Japanese soldiers who were trying to flank his unit.
Ahrens, a Marine assigned to Alpha Co. of the 1st Raider Battalion, was in the second assault wave hitting the beaches of Tulagi on Aug. 7, 1942. After pushing off the beach along with Charlie Co., Alpha set up a defensive line that night, according to War History Online.
Then the Japanese fiercely counter-attacked. Fortunately, Alpha Co. had Ahrens protecting its right flank.
“I came across a foxhole occupied by Private First Class Ahrens, a small man of about 140 pounds,” said Maj. Lew Walt, of what he saw the next morning. “He was slumped in one corner of the foxhole covered with blood from head to foot. In the foxhole with him were two dead Japs, a lieutenant and a sergeant. There were eleven more dead Japs on the ground in front of his position. In his hands he clutched the dead officer’s sword.”
Ahrens had successfully thwarted an enemy attack that would have opened a huge gap in the defensive line. As he lay dying, according to Walt, Ahrens whispered to him: “The idiot tried to come over me last night-I guess they didn’t know I was a Marine.”
“Private First Class Ahrens, with utter disregard for his own personal safety, single-handed engaged in hand-to-hand combat a group of the enemy attempting to infiltrate the rear of the battalion.
Although mortally wounded, he succeeded in killing the officer in command of the hostile unit and two other Japanese, thereby breaking up the attack. His great personal valor and indomitable fighting spirit were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.”
The April 2 attack in Garissa, Kenya, was the deadliest and most heinous atrocity the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab has ever committed.
Gunmen from Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Horn of Africa stormed a university campus in the city, killing 147 people after an hours-long siege. It’s the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in which 224 people were killed.
The terrorist attack demonstrates an ongoing security threat in one of the most stable and prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa — and it shows how jihadist groups can remain dangerous even as they lose territory and leadership.
On Twitter, Colby College political science professor Laura Seay noted the extraordinary sacrifice it requires for a family to even send someone to college in a place so much closer to Kenya’s arid and impoverished eastern desert frontier than it is to just about any of its major cities.
“Today’s loss is immeasurable,” she tweeted.
Al Shabaab didn’t just choose the softest of targets; it attacked a place where it could wipe out as many young, promising, and educated people as it possibly could.
In the Westgate Mall attack in September of 2013, Shabaab struck at the heart of Kenyan business and trade, attacking Nairobi’s famed status as east Africa’s cosmopolitan crossroads. The Garissa attack was even deadlier and perhaps even grimmer in its messaging. Shabaab struck Kenyan society where they knew it would hurt the most.
The Garissa attack is shocking for yet another reason. Al Shabaab has repeatedly struck outside of its safe haven in southern Somalia over the past year, carrying out a series of gun attacks around the coastal town of Mpeketoni, Kenya, that killed over 60 people during the summer of 2014.
It’s retained its external attack capabilities and command structure despite suffering what would seem to be a series of debilitating setbacks. In January, the former head of Shabaab internal intelligence, who had earlier surrendered himself to Somali authorities, publicly denounced terrorism and urged his former colleagues to lay down their arms.
A September 2014 drone strike killed Ahmed Godane, Shabaab’s domineering leader and one of the most-wanted terrorists in Africa. Another drone strike on March 18 killed Adnan Garaar, the head of Shabaab’s external operations and the mastermind of the Westgate attack.
But Shabaab has forged a new model for how declining terrorist groups can remain dangerous, as analyst Clint Watts argued in a World Politics Review article published just before the Garissa massacre.
Shabaab has done nothing but splinter, vacate territory, and lose top leadership since ruling over most of Somalia and nearly all of its capital, Mogadishu, in 2010. Even so, Watts observes that “a sizeable military coalition is still fighting in the Horn of Africa more than four years after the group’s zenith,” a reference to an ongoing African Union military mission in Somalia in which Kenya is a longtime participant.
Shabaab has kept itself intact by retreating into the southern Somali wilderness and refocusing its efforts around large-scale attacks rather than holding or governing massive swaths of territory. Just a week before the Garissa attack, Shabaab killed over 20 people during a raid on a hotel in Mogadishu, including a Somali diplomat.
Even after years of decline, Shabaab has a remote safe haven that’s preserved its ability to pull off large-scale attacks in multiple countries in consecutive weeks.
More worrying is Shabaab’s deep network in neighboring Kenya, which is home to a sizable Somali minority as well as refugees from Somalia’s devastating famine, which had killed over a quarter-million people by 2013 and was greatly exacerbated by Shabaab’s refusal to allow aid groups into areas it controlled.
As Caroline Hellyer wrote for Al Jazeera two weeks before the Garissa attack, Shabaab’s relationship with a “hardline underground group” called al-Hijra gives it a ready-made network in Kenya and Tanzania, allowing it to recruit extremist elements well beyond Somalia.
One grim upshot of the Garissa attack is that it demonstrates Shabaab’s broad operational capabilities in Kenya, East Africa’s cultural, economic, and political leader and a US strategic ally. The region doesn’t have to deal with a Shabaab-ruled Somalia — but it may have swapped that problem for a Shabaab that has even greater ambitions to strike outside of its diminished Somali safe haven.
With all the advances in military clothing technology these days, there’s still one glaring holdover from the days of military uniforms gone by: boot laces. We have velcro work uniforms, and velcro body armor, zippers on work pants, and plastic buckles have replaced the old metal clasps on web gear.
Yet, every day, U.S. troops are lacing up their boots just like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Commando 30-plus years ago. What gives?
Pictured: me before work every morning during my time in the Air Force… In my head.
The truth is that there’s actually a good reason for all the combat/work uniform gear that American troops wear every day. From the way it’s worn, to what it’s made of, to how it’s worn, it all actually has an operational value to it. The most enduring reason velcro isn’t used as a means to secure one’s boots is that shoelaces are built to last, like most other military-grade gear. Velcro wears out after repeated use and becomes less and less sticky with time.
Another reason for laces securing their boots is that if one of the laces does happen to wear out and snap, a spare boot lace can be secured pretty easily. All a Marine at a combat outpost in the hills of Afghanistan has to do to re-secure his boot is to get a lace and lace it up. If it were secured with velcro, both sides being held together would require a seam ripped out and new velcro patches sewn in its place.
“Cover me, this is a hemstitch!”
Speaking of austere locations, has anyone ever tried to use velcro when it was soaking wet or caked in mud? For anyone who’s ever seen a recruiting video for any branch of the military (including the Coast Guard), it becomes pretty apparent that mud, water, and lord-knows-what-else are occupational hazards for the feet of the average U.S. troop. Bootlaces don’t need to be dry, clean, or chemical agent-free to work their magic, they just work.
The whole idea behind clothing a capable, combat-ready force is to eliminate the worry about the clothing as long as each individual troop follows the clothing guidelines. Everything about military work gear and combat uniforms is that they can be worn relatively easily and their parts can be replaced just as easily – by even the least capable person in a military unit.
Even the new Second Lieutenant.
Finally, the most significant reason troops need laced-up boots instead of goofy velcro attachments is the most unique aspect to their chosen profession: the idea that they may be in combat at some point. Military combat medics will tell you that the easiest way to access a wounded foot area is to simply cut the laces away and toss the boot. That’s probably the biggest combat-related factor.
Besides, where would Marines string their second dog tag if they secured their boots with velcro?
Winston Churchill once said there was nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at and missed. Well, one crew of the SR-71 Blackbird has an authoritative take on Churchill’s famous saying.
On Aug, 26, 1981, in the midst of major exercises in North Korea that had people worried about a possible invasion, one of these Mach 3-capable spy planes was sent to track North Korea’s forces.
The United States wanted to get intelligence about missile sites in the very secretive country, and the Blackbird was often the aircraft of choice.
What made the Blackbird’s Aug. 26, 1981 mission unique though, was that this time, the regime of Kim Il-Sung took a shot at the speedy plane as it made a pass over the Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ. The mission profile often involved multiple passes.
Maury Rosenberg and Ed McKinn were making their third pass when they saw the rising plume of a missile. Rosenberg calmly turned his plane to the right, going away from North Korea, and he and McKinn watched the missile detonate.
Thanks to the SR-71’s high speed, the aircraft and the crew escaped the hit.
In response to the development of the the SR-71, the Soviet Union built the MiG-25 Foxbat to counter both the spy plane and the planned B-70 Valkyrie bomber. But even the Foxbat couldn’t stop the SR-71 from going where it wanted, when it wanted.
What did stop the SR-71? Budget cuts at the end of the Cold War.
But even then, there was a five-year period where the SR-71 made a comeback in the 1990s before the accountants did what no enemy could to: force the Blackbird out of the sky.
Wondering what it takes to cut the mustard in Special Forces selection?
The time of my first (just) two-year enlistment in the Army was coming to an end. I originally enlisted for the shortest amount of time in the Army in the event that if I really hated it too much I only ever had two years to endure. There were two things that I was positively certain of:
I really DID want to stay in the Army
I really did NOT want to stay right where I was in the Army
It wasn’t a matter of being so fervent about wanting to excel into the ranks of Special Forces soldiers at that time; rather, it was the matter of getting away — far away — from the attitudes and caliber of persons I was serving with at the time in the peace- time Army as it was. I understood, so I thought, that the way to ensure I could distance myself from the regular army aura was to go into Special Forces, namely the Green Berets.
(Special Forces Regimental insignia)
That was a great path forward, but with a near insurmountable obstacle — you had to be a paratrooper! Jumping from an airplane in flight was fine by me, the problem associated with that was that most airplanes had to be really high up before you jumped out of them. I was then as I am still horrendously terrified of heights — woe is me! My fear of altitudes was keeping me from going to Airborne Jump School and stuck in my current morass of resolve.
Well, just two short years in the regular “go nowhere, do nothing” Army and I was ready to jump out of high-in-the-sky airplanes parachute or no parachute. I was ready to jump ship!
Jump School was indeed terrifying despite the small number of jumps, just five, that we were required to make. All of the jumps were in the daytime though mine were all night jumps. All that is required to qualify as a night jump is to simply close one’s eyes. I did. I figured there was nothing so pressing to see while falling and waiting for the intense tug of the opening of the parachute, so I just closed my eyes.
(Every jump can potentially be a night jump, so says I — Wikipedia commons)
There were 25 of us paratroops headed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) upon graduation from Jump School. I was the highest ranking man even as an E-4 in the group, so I was designated the person in charge of the charter bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg, NC for the course — of course! I imagined that duty would not entail much on a bus ride of just a few hours. I was shocked when approached by two men from my group who wished to terminate their status as Green Beret candidates.
Well, the course certainly MUST be hard if men are quitting already on the bus ride to the course.
“Sure fellows, but can you at least wait until we get to Bragg to quit?” I pleaded.
Once at Ft. Bragg, it was our understanding that we were on a two-week wait for our SFQC class to begin. Our first week we tooled about doing essentially nothing but dodging work details like cutting grass and picking up pine cones. The second week was an event that the instructors called “Pre-Phase,” a term that I didn’t like the sound of and braced for impact.
“Pre-Phase,” in my (humble) opinion, was a pointless and disorganized suck-athon. It was a non-stop hazing with back-breaking, butt-kicking, physical events determined to crush the weak and eliminate the faint of heart. In the end we had a fraction of the number of candidates that we started with. I noted that of the 25 men I brought over from Jump School, only me and one other very reserved soldier survived. We nodded at each other and shook hands at the culmination of the mysterious Pre-Phase.
“Good job, brother-man!” I praised him.
“Thank you; my name is Gabrial, you can call me Gabe,” he introduced.
“Great job, Gabe — George is my name — please, call me Geo!” I invited.
The documented entry-level criteria included the ability to pass the standard Army Physical Readiness Fitness Test (APRFT) in a lofty percentile, though one I am loath to admit I do not remember. There was also a swim test that was required of us to perform wearing combat fatigues, combat boots, and carrying an M-16 assault rifle.
We did it in the post swimming pool. It was a bit of a challenge but by no means a threat to my status as a candidate. I was nonetheless dismayed at several men who were not able to pass it after having gone through all they had. It was sad.
(Special Forces have a charter for conducting surface and subsurface water operations — Wikipedia commons)
The first month of the SFQC was very impressive to me as a young man barely 20 years old. It was all conducted at a remote camp in the woods where we lived in structures made of wood frames and tar paper — barely a departure at all from the outdoor environment. We endured many (MANY) surprise forced marches of unknown distance, very heavy loads, and extreme speed that were hardly distinguishable from a full run.
Aside from the more didactic classroom environment learning skills of every sort, there were the constant largely physical strength and endurance events like hand-to-hand combat training, combat patrolling, rope bridge construction with river crossings, obstacle course negotiating, living and operating in heavily wooded environments. We learned to kill and prepare wild game for meals: rabbits, squirrels, goats, and snakes. Hence the age-old term for Special Forces soldiers — “Snake Eaters,” a moniker I bore with proud distinction.
(Survival skills are essential in Special Forces — Wikipedia Commons)
We all had to endure a survival exercise of several days alone. There were dozens of tasks associated with that exercise that we had to accomplish in those days: building shelter, starting and maintaining a fire for heat and cooking, building snares and traps to catch animals for food, and building an apparatus to determine time of day and cardinal directions.
Since the same land was used time after time by the survival training, it was understood by the cadre that the land was pretty much hunted out, leaving no animals to speak of for food. Therefore there was a set day and time that a truck was scheduled to drive by each candidate’s camp to throw an animal off of the back. When the animal hit the ground it became stunned and disoriented. We had just seconds to profit from the animal’s stupor to spring in and catch it before it ran away… or go hungry for the duration.
Hence the sundial I built and my track of the days, to have myself in position to capture my animal when the time came. The time and the truck came. I crouched along the side of the terrain road. The cadre slung a thing that was white from the truck. It hit the ground and was stunned. I pounced on what turned out to be a white bunny rabbit.
“Oh… my God!” I lamented earnestly in my weakened physical and mental capacity, “I’ve stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s enchanted forest… I can’t eat the White Rabbit!”
(He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date — Wikipedia Commons)
Some men were unfortunately unable to capture their rabbits in time before they ran away. One man was overcome by grief at the prospect of killing his rabbit — his only source of companionship. He rather built a cage for it and graced it with a share of the paltry source of food that he had. Me, I was a loner and swung my Cheshire rabbit by the hind legs head-first into a tree. I ate that night in solace and in the company of just myself.
Men who could no longer continue sat on the roadside each morning and waited for a truck, one that I referred to in disdain as the hearse, to be picked up and removed from the course. One of them was carrying a cage lovingly constructed from sticks and vines in which sat therein a nibbling white rabbit. The man was washed out of the course for failing tasks, backed up by quitting. There was no potential for a man to return for a second time if he had quit on his first try — quitting was not an option.
The event that cut the greatest swath through the candidate numbers was the individual land navigation event. It lasted a week or so with some hands-on cadre-lead instruction, some time for individual practice, culminating in a period of several days and nights of individual tests. The movements were long, the terrain difficult, the stress level very high. Every leg of the navigation course was measured on time and accuracy — we had to be totally accurate on every move, and within the speed standard.
(SF troop candidate during Land Navigation Phase of SFQC moves quickly with heavy loads — DVIDS)
I recall a particular night when all of us lay in our pup tents waiting for our release time to begin our night movements. Just as the hour was on us a monumental torrent of rain began to gush down. The men scrambled and clambered back to their tents like wet alley cats. I performed a simple mathematical equation in my head:
time equals distance
hiding in a tent for an undetermined period equals zero time
zero time equals zero distance
choosing one’s personal comfort over time equals failure
I had a Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked cigar clenched tightly in my teeth; it was lit before the rain but no more, and I assure you most fervently that it was never in any way Cuban! Plowing through the vegetation for many minutes I came to a modest clearing that I came to be very familiar with over the days. It told me that I was thankfully on course for the moment. The rain was tapering off generously and I felt a leg up on the navigation for the night.
I reached for my cigar but there was none there save the mere butt that remained clenched in my teach. To my disgust the waterlogged cigar had collapsed under its weight and lay in a mushy black track down my chin and neck edging glacially toward my chest. There would be no comfort of the smoke, nor deterrence of mosquitoes by the smoke of the Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked positively non-cuban cigar that night.
More than five months later I sat on my rucksack (backpack) of some 50 lbs just having completed a timed 12-mile forced ruck march, nothing any longer between me and graduation from the SFQC course. There were plenty of things to think of that had happened or did not happen to me over the nearly half-year, though I somehow chose the bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg to ponder. How rowdy and arrogant the crowd had been, all pompously sporting green berets that they hadn’t even earned yet. Me, I had chosen to wear my Army garrison cap — nothing fancy.
I filtered through the events that had taken each man who had not already quit from that arduous bus ride from Jump School. I remember how they had all failed or quit one by one except that one brother whose hand I shook at the end of pre-phase.
Buses pulled up to move us back to some nice barracks for the night, some barrack at least 12 miles away by my calculation. Usually everyone snatched up his own rucksack by his damned self, but on this occasion the brother next to me pulled up my rucksack to shoulder height for me in a congratulatory gesture of kindness.
I in turn grabbed his rucksack in the same manner though with a deep admiration and respect for the man who had come all the way with me from Jump School through the SFQC fueled by reserved professionalism. His name was Gabriel, but I just called him Gabe.
The Defense Department stands ready to assist in operations surrounding a failing dam in northern California, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters today.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said DoD officials are watching closely as the dam erodes.
“The dam is failing, and evacuation orders have been given to close to 200,000 people in the area,” he said. “While the [water] depths are reported to be decreasing, we do note that rain is expected later this week.”
DoD is in touch with the California National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency through the commander of U.S. Northern Command, Davis said. Northcom provides command and control of Defense Department homeland defense efforts and coordinates defense support of civil authorities.
“We’ve dispatched liaison officers to the state emergency operations center, and are prepared to deploy any Title 10 capabilities – federal military – quickly if requested,” Davis noted, adding that the entire California National Guard, which comprises about 23,000 service members, is on alert status.
FEMA and DoD coordinating officials stand by to put state and federal asset requests into action as they arise, he said.
“If the dam should break, there are FEMA, California National Guard and DoD personnel who will all be prepared to respond,” the Pentagon spokesman told reporters. “We are leaning forward and are ready to assist if needed.”
Types of help DoD is prepared to provide include aviation, airborne imagery and water rescue — both swift water and still water — as well as mass care and shelter assistance, he added.
DoD officials are trying to anticipate such requests before they come, Davis said, and is keeping a dialogue open to quickly get its forces ready should they be needed.
“We recognize that one of our most solemn duties is to assist the American people in their greatest time of need,” the captain said. “While the state, first and foremost, has the responsibility for doing that, there’s a federal element, should they need it, which is ready to respond quickly.”
Bristol Palin, daughter of reality TV star and former Governor of Alaska and VP candidate Sarah Palin, and Dakota Meyer, Marine vet and Medal of Honor recipient, announced their surprise marriage earlier this week, 13 months after nixing their first attempt at nuptials.
“Life is full of ups and downs but in the end, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be,” the couple told the TV show “Entertainment Tonight.”
The couple met while Meyer was filming a TV show in Alaska in 2014. They were soon engaged, which caused both mom and daughter to gush on Instagram: “I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” Bristol wrote in a since-deleted post. “We’re happy to welcome Dakota into our family,” Gov. Palin added.
But with less than a week to go before the big day, the wedding was canceled. Sarah Palin cryptically posted the news on Facebook, adding that they’d just discovered that Meyer had been married before. (Bristol Palin was also married before to Levi Johnson who is the father of her first child.)
Then, boom, another bombshell: Bristol was pregnant. “I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you,” she wrote in a blog post last summer without saying whether or not Meyer was the father.
Palin gave birth to daughter Sailor Grace on December 23, 2015. More drama followed soon thereafter as Meyer filed for joint custody.
“For many months we have been trying to reach out to Dakota Myers (sic) and he has wanted nothing to do with either Bristol’s pregnancy or the baby,” Gov. Palin told “Entertainment Tonight.” “Paramount to the entire Palin family is the health and welfare of Sailor Grace,” she said. Palin also accused the Marine vet of trying to “save face.”
Eventually, Meyer was awarded joint custody, and that outcome also rekindled the spark between Palin and him.
“On one hand, we know that everything happens for a reason, and there are no mistakes or coincidences,” Meyer wrote on Instagram, alluding to the pair’s past. “On the other hand, we learn that we can never give up, knowing that with the right tools and energy, we can reverse any decree or karma. So, which is it? Let the Light decide, or never give up? The answer is: both.”
Meyer received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Ganjgal on September 8, 2009, in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. As indicated in the citation, “Meyer personally evacuated 12 friendly wounded and provided cover for another 24 Marines and soldiers to escape likely death at the hands of a numerically superior and determined foe.”
The 36 page indictment outlines a massive scheme to defraud the government through a series of kickbacks, money laundering, and medical malpractice.
The feds allege the conspiracy began in 2014 when Richard Cesario and John Cooper founded CCMGRX, LLC (later renamed CMGRX). The premise of the company was to market compounded prescriptions to service members, retirees, and their dependents, documents show.
Compound prescriptions are drugs which are mixed in an effort to provide a unique prescription that meets the specific needs of the patient. They are not approved by the FDA, but may be prescribed when a patient is unable to have a specific ingredient in a drug, or the drug is not available in a specific form, such as prescriptions for children who can’t swallow a pill and must have a liquid version of the medication.
Cesario and Cooper enlisted the help of three marketers, Joe Straw, Luis Rios, and Michael Kiselak, to recruit pharmacies and patients, the indictment shows.
The patients allegedly were oblivious to the scam, instead being told that they were taking part in a medical study being done by an independent non-profit organization, the Freedom From Pain Foundation. The company was operated by Cesario and Cooper, who used the company to launder the money they received from TRICARE, Justice says.
Money was allegedly paid to five different pharmacy owners and two doctors.
After paying beneficiaries for participating in the study, kickbacks were allegedly sent in the form of checks to the doctors, pharmacy owners, and marketers. The rest was pocketed by Cesario and Cooper, the feds say.
More than 30 separate counts were filed against the men, including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.
The indictment also outlines some of the punishment the men will face should they be found guilty, beginning with a list of properties in Texas, Florida, and Costa Rica that the men will have to turn over to the government.
Additionally, 32 vehicles, including Ferraris; Maseratis; Aston Martins, Corvettes; Mercedes-Benz; Jaguars; Porsches; Hummers; Cadillacs; BMWs and several trucks and SUVs will be seized by the government upon conviction of any single offense.
The indictment goes on to list multiple boats and recreational vehicles, bank accounts in the names of the men and family members, cash, investment accounts, firearms, jewelry, other property, and “working interest” in several oil companies, as well as a “money judgement” that could all be seized by the government in an effort to recoup the over $100 million scammed by the group.
According to the press release regarding the indictment, Cesario and Cooper, who were placed in custody earlier this year, are being held until trial. The other 10 men all made bail until their trial.
Each of the charges against the men is punishable by between 5 and 10 years, and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service helped investigate and breaking up the alleged conspiracy ring.