When you first enlist and are given loads of new gear, it’s a pretty great feeling — until you realize that you’ll have to return most of it eventually. Not all of it, but most. Obviously, you keep your well-worn and dirty uniforms and plenty of small, inconsequential things, like IR beacons.
Although each Central Issuing Facility of each branch at each duty station as their own standard operating procedures, in general, they all follow a guideline of “if it’s touched a troop’s skin or it’s basically worthless, then the troop keeps it.” But if you stop and think about it, what doesn’t get dirty and worn just from regular use?
With that in mind, here’s a rundown of things that would be better off left in a troop’s hands as they head into the civilian world — or to their next duty station.
I mean, you guys really want it THAT bad…
(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)
Sleeping bag sets
Here’s a fact: The only way to get comfortable in one of these sleeping systems is to strip butt-naked so your body heat is evenly distributed. Still want it back?
These things get nasty after they’ve soaked in so much body odor and sweat that it’s like CIF asking for your field socks back.
No one wants to put their mouth on the Camelback that some nervous private was chewing on…
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)
Camelback, canteens, and water systems
As you can imagine, these directly touch your mouth. If you’re required to return it, that means others returned it before you. Now, we’re sure it’s been cleaned time and time again, but we still can’t help but wonder about what kind of nasty germs have lived on it.
“Those would look so great as civilian attire!” said no veteran ever.
(Photo by Rob Schuette)
It seems like every branch swaps out their service uniform faster than you can blink. Generally speaking, the military wants their old uniforms back before you can get a new set.
Just to toss salt on the already pointless wound, they’ll raise hell if the old uniform you’re turning in isn’t perfectly clean.. you know, for the next troop who definitely won’t be wearing it.
Even if you don’t spray paint it, it’ll still get worn the hell out.
(Photo by Spc. Brianna Saville)
Duffel bags with your name stenciled on
Duffel bags are cheap. They’re just a bit of canvas made into a bag. Everyone in the military has the exact same O.D. green bag, so units ask troops to spray paint their name, last 4, and unit onto the bottom.
Here’s the problem: that paint isn’t coming off any time soon. Good luck trying to find another “Milzarski” in that that exact same unit after I leave.
What’s worse is when the CIF clerk gets hostile with you and questions you why parts are missing. Because, you know, we needed to save a life?
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ciara Wymbs)
Instead of asking troops to turn in a partly-used first-aid kit, why not let them keep it and stash it in their vehicle in case of emergencies? Sure, it puts the military out a whole (according to Amazon), but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bunch of medical supplies out there in the hands of people trained to use them?
It’s really not uncommon for troops to just buy a cheapo woobie off-post at some surplus store…
(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)
The poncho liner
There’s one item that every troop holds dear above the rest — their poncho liner, affectionately called a “woobie.”
Troops sleep with it, it’s fairly cheap, the camo pattern is quickly outdated, and they’re perfect for emergency situations. Long after troops get out, if they managed to sneak one past supply, they’ll cuddle up with it on the couch and fondly recall their service.
The military community is rallying around LeahAnn Sweeney, United States Marine Corps veteran and Pin-Ups for Vets Ambassador, as she battles breast cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sweeney was a Motor Transport Operator in the Marines and served with the San Diego County Sheriff Department before volunteering at veterans’ bedsides with her fellow pin-ups; now, the single mother of three could use a little help of her own.
Her family has created a Meal Train, where people can make a monetary donation or sign up to bring a meal to LeahAnn and her family.
Sweeney served four years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, operating motor transport tactical wheeled vehicles and equipment that transported passengers and cargo in support of combat and garrison operations. As a 3531, she also performed crew/operator level maintenance on all tools and equipment for assigned vehicles. Throw in her career as a Deputy Sheriff and I think it’s safe to say we’ve got a certifiable badass on our hands.
Spotting an active member of the local Southern California community, Pin-Ups for Vets (an organization dedicated to helping hospitalized and deployed service members and their families) invited Sweeney to become part of its 2020 fundraising calendar.
“It brings a sense of gratitude and joy to be able to bring a smile to those who have proudly served our country. I am especially fond of visiting the few remaining World War II veterans and hearing their stories, as I have a personal family history of those who served and sacrificed during that wartime era,” Sweeney has said of the non-profit organization.
LeahAnn Sweeney in the 2020 Pin-Ups for Vets fundraising calendar.
“LeahAnn has led a life of service, from doing four years in the Marine Corps as a Motor Transport Operator, to getting out and working for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department as a Deputy Sheriff, to doing ‘service after service’ as a volunteer with our non-profit organization,” remarked Gina Elise, the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets. “As long as I have known LeahAnn, I have had so much respect and admiration for her. When she says she is going to be there, she is there, always willing to lend a hand where it is needed. She has been incredible with the patients at the VA Hospital, providing her beautiful smile to brighten their day and an ear to listen to their stories. My heart goes out to her and her family. As they say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ so I know she will be able to fight this. She knows that her fellow Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be there as her support network.”
Her spirit of service and generosity have spurred a movement of those willing to show their support.
“As a single mother of three children, the need to feed her family doesn’t stop, but she’ll only be able to leave her home for mandatory tests and treatments during this quarantine. Providing basic groceries and meals are a vital part of her family’s care and her personal recovery,” said the Meal Train organizer, Lindsay Hassebrock.
Anyone who wants to mobilize and show support can share this article or links to the Meal Train, donate right here to help, or even sign up to cover a dinner for the Sweeney family.
And LeahAnn, if you’re reading this, just know that your military family has your back. Semper Fi.
Featured Image courtesy of United States Marine Corps and Marie Monforte Photography
Police around the country have begun using a new tool that comes straight out of comic book lore: a device that shoots out a cord, binding a person’s arms or legs together.
The BolaWrap 100, which some media organizations have compared to a tool from Batman’s utility belt, was developed by Las Vegas-based Wrap Technologies. It allows the police to fire a Kevlar cord, and wraps tightly around a person.
Wrap Technologies has touted the benefits of the device as a way to subdue suspects without using force. But last week, when Los Angeles Police Department leaders told the city’s board of police commissioners that it intended to test the device for a trial period in January, the LA Times reported that critics pushed back at this notion.
One member of Black Lives Matter, Adam Smith, told commissioners the department would probably deploy the tool mostly in minority communities, according to the LA Times.
Wrap Technologies has said over 100 police agencies across the country currently use the Bola Wrap.
Or, it binds their legs together, restricting their movement.
The LAPD intends to start testing the device during a trial period in January.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Country music superstar Chris Young has released two platinum albums, been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and has nine number 1 hits. He’s on his Raised On Country Tour right now, and he took some time to talk about what it’s like to visit with Navy working dogs, to see so many vets and service members on his tour after his sister’s time in the Marines, and to have a tour sponsor in USAA that can help him get in touch with more military audiences.
Young picked the cities for the tour for the standard reasons, but he’s gotten to enjoy some little perks and experiences at military stops. Like when, two weeks ago, he got to hang out with dog handlers at Naval Base San Diego.
“There are so many markets where we’re going to go that are pretty large military markets as far as bases,” he said, “and, you know, we’re able to do the things like we did in San Diego on the naval base the other day.”
“We knew there were going to be a bunch of partnership opportunities like that [with USAA] and I just have a big love and respect for the military,” he said. “So anytime you get a tour sponsor where you know, everything already lines up on its own, it’s a pretty incredible thing.”
He isn’t new to the military experience, though. Young’s sister was a West Coast Marine who worked on helicopters. And she married another Marine. Seeing his sibling’s sacrifices deepened his respect for the military.
“I remember that I would see, first-hand, about the amount of time that people are going out. She and I have always been really, really, really close and so when you go months at a time, sometimes, without being able to see somebody because their travel versus what you’re doing to travel and anything else I think you understand it in a different way I guess.”
It’s his sister’s and his brother-in-law’s military service that he thinks of when he’s performing “The Dashboard,” a song about two brothers when one is sent to war and leaves his truck behind. For anyone who hasn’t heard it, we won’t give away the ending, but it’s not the ending made typical by “Riding with Private Malone.”
Young didn’t write “The Dashboard,” but he connected with it when he heard it.
“That song, buddy of mine Monty Criswell wrote it, and I just thought it was so different from the way I had heard other songs written even along the same line, topically, just the way he handled that song and made it something really, really special and anytime that I’ve played I always use the chance to reference my sister because obviously, she’s a Marine so I get a chance to nod to her and my brother-in-law when I sing that song and I always make sure to say something about them.”
For Young, who has gotten a kick out of playing for troops since he was at bases like Fort Bliss before his first record contract, it’s nice to get back in front of them. But as his fame has grown and technology has advanced, he’s found better ways of recognizing vets and service members in huge venues.
A partner company makes these “armbands where we’ve been able to ask people prior to the show, we go, ‘Hey have you or has anyone in your family served?’ And then we can actually light up their armbands for a song and kind of call them out say thank you that way … which is pretty cool.”
For Young, that made USAA agreeing to come as tour sponsor perfect. He already loved the military and liked to take time during shows to raise them up, so having a sponsor whose customer base is almost exclusively military families let everything sync up.
“I’m already totally all in on and any chance that I get to say thank you in multiple different ways to military, that’s something that’s been important to me my entire career. [Partnering with USAA] is just going to be awesome. It’s just going to work so I think it’s one of things that just happened.”
Even though I am a prophet, you can’t base your entire life off a horoscope, no matter how badass and totally true it is. You might have to make some decisions on your own. I know, that’s scary and you might make mistakes. I can’t be there to hold your hand. At least, not unless you pay me, a lot, cause you’re pretty f’ed up.
Anyway, don’t be such a soup sandwich. You’re embarrassing me.
Remember all those times you fantasized about how great your life would be if the universe provided the perfect opportunity? That time is here, and if you don’t go for your goals right now, you will have missed an incredibly powerful time for growth and achievement. Your perceived career and money problems seem to be looming over your head, but they’ll pass without consequence if you don’t do anything impulsively. You are positioned for incredible advancement, but all you can think of this weekend are lustful thoughts. Just don’t break the bank or do something in public your mom would find distasteful, because this week it will definitely end up on the internet.
You only get rewarded if you actually do the right thing.
Leaders don’t do the right thing because someone is watching. A real leader does the right thing all the time—when things are good and when things are sh!t. They also never stop improving, even when things are going great. Don’t get complacent; just because you hope everything you do will work out perfectly, doesn’t mean it will. If asked to work alone or in secret, do it and do your work to the higher standards. You will find yourself in unexpected leadership roles.
This week finds you focused on friends and events, maybe planning to see some live music or something. Don’t plan a trip just yet. Remember that thing where you have to put on a uniform and play military? This week forces you to find balance between your increasing need for freedom and work which must be redone. The fact this mess was not your doing is inconsequential. You must fix the mistakes of others, and you must do so perfectly. Try to be a good leader and don’t cry about it while you work. Everyone else will be inspired by your example, and you may even enjoy yourself.
Okay Private, let’s do this again. Literally, you will be asked to return to something you believed was complete. Just got back from a deployment? The field? A float? You might have to go back. Do whatever the task requires and try not to tell too many lies this week. Your web of deceit is more likely to trap you than your prey. This weekend brings all the adult entertainment you could hope for, especially if you are traveling. Have fun, but be respectful—you never know who is lurking about watching.
This week finds you re-examining the past, again. On top of that nonsense, your decision-making ability concerning money is terribly flawed and emotionally driven. Don’t burn any bridges no matter how much you would like to this week; just focus on the little things and keep your head down. If you find yourself involved in a romance with someone other than your primary relationship, keep it on the DL, and you will probably get away with it this week. As long as you don’t leave a paper trail, anyway, so hide those receipts and don’t tell your friends about your illicit fling, that is.
Whatever your go-to move is, your game is on point.
Oh yeah, it’s about time us Leos got some love, pun intended. If you are single and looking for a friend, or relationship, or repeat from your past you are likely to find it. In fact, even if you are not looking for it, it will probably find you. Time with your friends will lead to romantic opportunities. Oh yeah, don’t forget about your oath of enlistment; this week it’s low on your priority list, but your relentless work ethic coupled with powerful aggression positions you for career advancement.
If you get the opportunity for advanced training this week, jump on it. Even if you have to forgo something you really want. It will not only pay off, it will be way more fun than you were expecting. If the training involves shooting, blowing stuff up, or punching people in the face, you will not only excel, but will probably end up as the honor grad. Have fun and remember the only person you should expect perfection from is yourself. As long as you remember—while perfection is the goal, it is an unreachable one.
Come on, it’s just some desperately needed character building.
Does a squad leader have to pull a midnight guard shift or is that the work of the lower enlisted swine? Trick question, but you might want to review the NCO’s creed. Anyway, I’ll tell you the answer: Yes, you do. There is a good chance it will feel like the only thing that exists this week is work, but that’s not totally true. This is a time to focus on your duties, but your pleasant attitude and willingness to do things you normally feel are beneath you will endear you to others and lead to all sorts of travel and romance opportunities.
Just remember how you felt the first time you watched the Miracle of Life.
Hey corporal, are you trying to make a baby? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but didn’t they show you that video about where babies come from in Boot Camp? Let me know if you need me to send you a link so you can review it. Other than your sloppy finances and questionable morals, things are looking up for you. Your home and family life are pleasant and engaging. You may find a positive change in your daily duties. Lateral transfer, perhaps?
You win a four-day pass for crushing the SGM’s PT event? Go visit your family. You will have a bunch of your favorite thing, Fun. Promise. You might even get someone to show you how to do your laundry. No matter where you find yourself this week, get out and explore the local area, even if you’ve been everywhere a million times before. Surprising excitement awaits you. Just don’t overdraft your account again while enjoying yourself.
There, there, it’ll all be over soon. Uhhh… we hope.
Remember how life has been kicking your ass recently? There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This week starts with no apparent end to the problems you have been dealing with, but by next week things start to improve, slowly at first, then gaining momentum rapidly. However, there will continue to be one thing hanging over your head through next week; just accept what you cannot control. Besides, it has to be resolved eventually. I think…..
We both know you can’t help it, but for the love of God. Please skip the melodrama.
This week, you might find your military duties getting in the way of your favorite hobby—going out and spending time in public with as many different people as possible. On top of that, you are forced to work in isolation and in secret. You’re not gonna die. I mean not from working by yourself, but eventually yes, you will die. To make it worse you will have an old friend, or maybe a new one, drop by this weekend to ‘catch up and stuff’ and come Monday they will not want to leave. We all know how you feel about ‘long term relationships,’ and it will restrict your freedom far too much.
Why on Earth would an army provide its enemy with ammunition? So they would use it, of course. The United States wanted the North Vietnamese to use the ammo they provided because they would take out the weapon (and maybe even the person) using it.
There was no unconventional war like the one that played out behind the scenes of the greater war in Vietnam. One small aspect of that hidden war was Project Eldest Son, a plan that would take out the enemy’s individual infantry rifles using its own ammunition.
It was carried out by a U.S. military entity called the Studies and Observations Group, the Special Forces unit that was behind many of the top secret missions and operations inside the Military Assistance Command Vietnam. The unit was in many of the major battles and offensives of the war, including the Tet Offensive and the Easter Offensive. But Project Eldest Son was different. It was a slow burn, a subtle influx of materiel into the enemy’s supply and ammunition depots, with one marked difference – one that wouldn’t show itself until it was too late.
Starting in 1967, the United States and the MACV-SOG began sending the Communist forces throughout the area ammunition for the AK-47, machine guns, and even mortars. They all looked ordinary, but they didn’t work like any ordinary ammo – and they weren’t just duds, either. These rounds were filled with high explosives, enough not just to fire the projectiles, but enough to destroy the weapon and severely wound the shooter. For the mortar rounds, the explosives together could kill an entire mortar crew.
After a while, the United States hoped the Vietnamese Communists would be afraid to use their own weapons and ammo. Killing the enemy was a good side effect, but the SOG needed some of them to survive.
For two years, special operators all over Vietnam would capture ammunition and supply centers, infuse cases of ammo with the faulty ammunition and then let it end up back in the hands of the enemy. Like seemingly everything in Vietnam, you never knew what might be booby-trapped. Eventually, the SOG would have to warn U.S. troops against using Communist weapons and ammo over the defective new M-16 to prevent the explosives from killing friendlies.
The program only ended because it was leaked to the media in the West, but even so, the efficacy of the program was never fully known.
The Cold War spawned decades’ worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.
The US was responsible for at least seven nuclear weapon designs during the Cold War that now seem outlandish or ill-advised. But the US wasn’t alone in its willingness to build seemingly absurd weapons systems to gain some kind of advantage over the Soviets.
In the 1950s, the UK designed a nuclear landmine that would be placed in West Germany to stop a hypothetical Soviet assault on the rest of Europe, the BBC reports. The landmine, dubbed Operation Blue Peacock, would be operated remotely so that it could be detonated at the moment when it could inflict maximal damage on the invading Red Army.
But the weapon had a major hitch. Buried underground, it was possible that the mine would become cold to the point that the detonator would be unable to trigger a nuclear blast. In 1957, British nuclear physicists found a solution: chickens
“The birds would be put inside the casing of the bomb, given seed to keep them alive and stopped from pecking at the wiring,” the BBC notes. The chickens’ body heat would be enough to maintain the triggering mechanism’s working temperature. In all, the chickens would be estimated to survive for a week, after which time the bomb would return to a possibly cooled and inoperable state.
In all, the landmines designed in Operation Blue Peacock were thought to yield a 10-kiloton explosion which would produce a crater 375 feet in diameter, according to the American Digest. Such destructive potential ultimately led to the abandonment of the project as the British realized that there would be an unacceptable amount of nuclear fallout from such a blast — never mind the complicated issue of burying nuclear weapons within the territory of an allied nation.
By 1958, after the production of only two prototypes, Operation Blue Peacock was abandoned.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During World War II, the Army had a unit of special forces known as the “Ghost Army.” Officially called the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, the unit used theatrical and deceptive techniques to fool the enemy. It was soldiers putting on a show with special effects like speakers, inflatable tanks, fake radio transmissions and more.
Made up of 1,100 soldiers, the team used these illusion methods to deceive Axis intelligence–specifically, creating false targets, and faking a much larger force than was actually present.
Their ghost-like tactics
The Ghost Army’s mission was clear: to impersonate Allied Army units. They remained near the front lines of the war, hiding in plain sight, creating fake battle scenes and camps. They did this by remaining unseen until they wanted to be, and only letting Germans see what they wanted them to see.
Their “traveling road show” was taken to France shortly after D-Day.
Inflatable tanks, planes, Jeeps and trucks were all used, courtesy of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. Inflating the items with an air compressor, the soldiers would hide the fake vehicles — poorly — with branches and trees, so they could still be seen from far away. They also created false airfields and bivouacs — the latter had laundry drying in plain sight. Motor pools and tank formations were also formed, all of which could be done within a few hours of work. Their “show” was a well-choreographed routine.
It’s worth noting that soldiers in the 603rd were mostly artists and recruited from schools in the Northeast. After the war, many of its former members went on to become known for their artwork.
In addition to visual deceptions, the Ghost Army used sound and light effects. With the help of sound engineers, they played recordings from real Army units. They would adjust the recording based on the current scene they were created, played with high-tech equipment and amplifiers. The sounds were so projected that they could be heard as far as 15 miles away.
False radio transmissions were also played, known as “spoof radio.” By pretending to be soldiers from real units, they employed different communication styles to even further mislead the enemy.
Finally, when the unit did receive real vehicles, they used tactics that they called atmosphere. For instance, driving a few tanks in a circle to create the appearance of a convoy. They would also place dummy Military Police, and painting various insignia on false headquarters to make the scene even more realistic.
The unit’s inception
The Ghost Army came to be after a similar tactic was used by the British military just a few years prior. Soldiers were recruited for their talents in creativity, artistry, and theatrics. In addition to recruiting from art schools, the Army found members at ad agencies, engineering and architecture firms, and they heavily recruited actors.
Together, the efforts of 1,100 were able to create the false presence of two units with more than 30,000 soldiers. Their efforts are credited for moving German forces away from actual Allied units in more than 20 locations.
Their mission was classified until 1996, when the records were finally unsealed. There was also a PBS documentary, The Ghost Army, released in 2013.
The US Air Force’s 64th Aggressor Squadron, which uses 20 F-16 fighter jets to train the rest of the force on realistic battle scenarios against enemy fighters, will use the paint scheme of Russia’s newest fighter jet, the Su-57, for one of its jets.
And this should give the US a considerable advantage in aerial combat against the Russian jet that’s meant to take on US F-22 and F-35 fighters, Brig. Gen. Robert G. Novotny, who commands 38 squadrons including the 64th, told The Drive.
Beyond-visual-range radars and missiles that can seek heat or electronic emissions have made visual camouflage on aircraft somewhat less of a priority over the years, but Novotny said camo still has an important psychological effect.
The Su-57 sports a “digital shark” paint job of pixelated blues and grays that distorts what pilots may see in the air. The US, as a counterpoint, has largely abandoned painting its jets with camouflage and has moved to integrating stealth coatings.
“Long ago, when aerial combat almost always involved visually acquiring the adversary, an enemy aircraft paint scheme could provide an advantage by either delaying detection, i.e., it blended in with the background environment, or it could confuse a pilot by masking its aspect angle or range,” Novotny told The Drive.
In the past, the Aggressor Squadron has sported paint jobs from Russia’s Su-34 and Su-35 fighters, as well as China’s J-20 stealth fighter.
A major advantage for US fighters
“The aggressor paint schemes serve a purpose other than just looking cool,” Novotny said. He cited the book “Red Eagles: America’s Secret MiGs” by Steve Davies that explains “buck fever,” a phenomenon that happens to fighter pilots upon seeing the enemy.
Novotny said Davies described it as “the emotion a new hunter feels the first time they aim a rifle at a deer,” or something that can cause well-trained pilots to freeze up and fail to act in combat.
(Russian Embassy / Twitter)
“Although the 64th Aggressors are not flying actual [Russian] aircraft, we use adversary paint schemes to help mitigate the risk of buck fever,” Novotny continued. “Based on that threat-representative training, our warfighters are much more likely to arrive at a merge, visually identify the enemy, and kill!”
The Aggressor with the new paint job will soon start in on a busy schedule of simulated air combat against US fighters like F-15s, F-22s, and F-35s in exercises like Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, where the squadron is based.
While the Su-57 paint job is designed to ready the US for combat against a formidable Russian fighter, it was not the obvious first choice, or even a choice made by Novotny — he posed the question to his Facebook followers, who overwhelmingly chose the Su-57.
Though the Su-57 has no large orders on the books and may never see a large role in Russia’s air force, people apparently jumped at the idea of a US fighter taking on the new challenge.
Novotny, for his part, agreed that the Su-57 was a relevant foe to train against.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”
Going out on the town with a group of veterans is definitely an experience that all civilians should try at least once. Not only will it dispel any preconceived notions that a civilian might have about the troops — we’re not all crazy, loud as*holes — it’s also a crash course in military culture and etiquette.
It’s the best way to learn all of the little details, like where veterans naturally position themselves in a bar (to get a better view of everyone coming in and out) and how they’ll instinctively form a wedge formation as they walk (a secure way of moving from one place to another).
(Photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer)
After you’ve settled in and you’re throwing back a few cold ones, one question that’s sure to surface from the civilian tag-along is why veterans solemnly make a toast and tap their drink or shot on the bar before resuming a night of heavy drinking. This tradition actually has roots that extend all the way back to ancient times.
The toast is a piece of international bar culture, but the military takes it to the next level. The first part is standard: Someone raises their glass and either dedicates the drink to group’s collective health or says something silly like,
“Life is a waste of time, and time is a waste of life. So let’s get wasted all of the time, and have the time of our life.”
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffery Allen)
This brief, poignant message is a way for the person making the toast to appreciate everyone with them. If a veteran is giving that toast, they’ll next tap the drink on the table or bar to appreciate everyone not with them — the fallen. Think of this as a less-messy version of pouring one out for the dead. The veteran first shows respect to those around him or her, then to their fallen comrades, and then, finally, to his or herself by knocking one back.
It’s also seen as a sign of respect to the bartender and the house — who are some of the select few people that a veteran never wants to anger. This same tradition was also seen in ancient Irish times as a way to scare off evil spirits.
So, if you see a veteran do this, by all means, join them. Keep the moment solemn as they are, nod, smile, tap your drink with them, and enjoy your night.
Major League Baseball teams are showing their appreciation for service members, both past and present, with military discounts on 2019 game tickets. Many teams also hold military appreciation days to honor those who have served our country.
Look for your favorite team in the list below and take advantage of the military discounts that can help get you to the ballpark for less.
Sailors and Airmen present a giant American flag before the 2012 major league baseball All-Star Game. More than 30 Sailors and 45 Airman held the flag during the singing of the National Anthem and pregame events.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason C. Winn/Released)
The Orioles offer a discount off of all tickets for military and their families, available at the Oriole Park Box Office. You can also find bigger discounts by contacting your nearest ITT/Leisure Travel office.
Members of the military are invited to purchase discounted tickets (online only) to 2019 Houston Astros home games. There is a limit of 6 tickets per person per game. Choose from all Monday through Thursday games and for the Mariners Weekend Series on 9/6 – 9/8. Blackout dates include the Yankees Series (4/8 – 4/10) and Cubs Series (5/27 – 5/29).
Active duty and retired military may purchase up to 4 half-price tickets for all regular season Kansas City Royals games (excluding Opening Day and Marquee game dates) in the Field Plaza, Outfield Plaza and View Level seating areas.
The Minnesota Twins offer Military Mondays. For select games throughout the season, active military members or veterans, plus four guests, receive half-price tickets in Home Plate View seating locations.
The A’s offer a military discount to all 2019 home games. Active-duty, reserve, veterans, and retired military personnel are able to purchase tickets at 25% off the dynamic rate in any Field Level or Plaza Level section.
Military members can receive two complimentary tickets to select Monday home games, additional bonus dates and special ticket offers throughout the season. MacDill Air Force Base ITT also offers discounted tickets to Tampa Bay Rays games.
Military members receive special pricing on game tickets for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Specially priced tickets can be purchased online with verification. Service members can enjoy up to 50% off select locations for every game of the season.
The Atlanta Braves offer discounted tickets for all regular season home games during the 2019 season. They are offering off seats in the Terrace Infield and Home Run Porch, along with 50% off seats in the Grandstand Reserved seating locations. Get this discount online after verification or at the SunTrust Park ticket windows with valid ID.
The Cincinnati Reds offer special pricing on tickets to active-duty, reserve, veteran, and retired service members and families. Tickets are available in a variety of locations on a first-come, first-served basis. Get discount online after verification.
The San Diego Padres offers military discounts, including 50% off Sunday Military Appreciation tickets. Tickets for military and their families are available online through verification or at the Padres Advance Ticket Windows at Petco Park. And military personnel can also get discounted Padres tickets at the San Diego MWR.
The Nationals have a special ticket offer for active-duty, reserve, veteran, and retired military personnel. Military service members can also receive discounted tickets through MWR and ITT offices at area bases and the Pentagon.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the Most Interesting Man in the World or your beard-curious buddy:
~the brand of whisker oils created and prefered by Special Ops ~
Beard Oil, made by and for h-to-G* operators. (*honest-to-God — was that clear or unclear? Just wanna know for future use…)
Nicholas Karnaze is a man-lotion mixologist. A master craftsman of oils for beards. With his company, stubble ‘stache, he works to single-handedly elevate grooming standards for the bewhiskered gentlemen of the civilized world. How did this happen? How did Karnaze come to be your chin-wig’s Furry Godfather?
In 2012, Karnaze was a retired Marine Special Operator adjusting to civilian life, when he got the call that everybody fears. His close friend and fellow Raider, Sgt. Justin Hansen, had been killed in combat in Northwest Afghanistan.
Five stages of grief notwithstanding, everybody deals with the death of a comrade differently. For Karnaze, honoring Justin meant, among other things, forsaking the razor and letting his facial hair fly free and easy until the funeral. Justin was, himself, the proud owner of a truly mighty war beard. Karnaze’s gesture would prove to be both fitting tribute and an unexpected path forward.
Karnaze found that civilian #beardlife suited him. But the growth process was no picnic and there didn’t seem to be anything available to help him curb the itchiness or tame the unruliness of his rapidly maturing man-mane. So he improvised.
“I have fond memories of standing in my kitchen watching AMC’s Breaking Bad. Walt was making meth and I was making beard lotion.”
And when his Special Ops buddies caught wind of his efforts and started bugging him for samples, the cycle was complete and Heisen-beard was off to the entrepreneurial races.
These days, stubble ‘stache isn’t so much tending to individual beards as it is grooming a movement. Nobody’s saying you have to man-sprout a thick, bushy jowl-pelt in order to be awesome, much less masculine. The military has grooming standards for a reason and the squared-away men and women of the United States Armed Forces have been holding it down on Planet Earth for years now.
But if you are going to forge a path through the rich, peety byways of beardlife, all Karnaze is saying is, let him teach you how to show that mug-rug the respect it deserves. But most important of all–and this is evident in his company’s ardent financial support of organizations like the Marsoc Foundation – Karnaze wants warriors suffering from combat trauma of any kind to understand that a crucial aspect of masculinity–of awesomeness in general–is the willingness to ask for help.
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.