It’s been 10 years since the United States Air Force retired the F-117 Nighthawk (an aircraft so secret, Nevada folklore labeled it a UFO).
“The Nighthawk pilots were known by the call sign ‘Bandit,’ each earning their number with their first solo flight. Some of the maintainers were also given a call sign,” said Wayne Paddock, a former F-117 maintainer currently stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
“The people who maintained the coatings on the aircraft radar absorbent material were classified as material application and repair specialists (MARS). MARS morphed into Martians,” Paddock said. “MARS was a shred out from the structural repair/corrosion control career field.”
The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s as a capability for attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. It had up to 5,000 pounds of assorted internal stores, two engines, and could travel up to 684 mph.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)
“It was the first airplane designed and built as a low-observable, stable, and therefore precise platform,” said Yancy Mailes, director of the history and museums program for Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and a former F-117 maintainer.
“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” Mailes said. “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building in Iraq.”
(Airman Magazine photo)
The first Nighthawk flew June 18, 1981, and the original F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989) achieved initial operating capability in October 1983. The Nighthawk originally saw combat during Operation Just Cause in 1989, when two F-117s from the 37th TFW attacked military targets in Panama. The aircraft was also in action during Operation Desert Shield.
Retired Col. Jack Forsythe, remembers being excited when he initially flew a Nighthawk while stationed at Holloman AFB in 1995.
“It was a unique experience,” he said. “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 and F-35 pilots feel today.”
After 25 years of service, the Nighthawk retired April 22, 2008. Forsythe led the four-ship formation to Palmdale, California, where Lockheed Martin staff said their farewells.
“We lowered the bomb doors of each aircraft and people signed their names to the doors,” Forsythe said. “It was really just kind of neat; they had designed it, built it, and maintained it for these 25 years, so it really hit home – the industry and Air Force partnership that made the Nighthawk great. I think the four of us were just really struck by that and have some really great memories of that flight.”
The American flag was painted on the entire underside of his F-117 by the maintainers to help celebrate American airpower.
“I think we all recognized that this was something historic,” he said. “We retired an airplane that people still reference today. We really understood that, so it was a sentimental flight to say the least. It was a great weapon system, very stable and easy to fly. It’s still a memorable experience.”
As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.
Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.
Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling. And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.
In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.
Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.
“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”
Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”
Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.
“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”
He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.
“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”
The Marine Corps is investing in a next-generation water purification system that will allow individual Marines to get safe, drinkable water straight from the source.
The Individual Water Purification System Block II is an upgrade to the current version issued to all Marines.
“With IWPS II, Marines are able to quickly purify fresh bodies of water on the go,” said Jonathan York, team lead for Expeditionary Energy Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “This allows them to travel farther to do their mission.”
Finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield is a key enabler to the Marine Corps becoming more expeditionary. Developing water purification systems that can be easily carried while still purifying substantial amounts of water is part of that focus.
The current system filters bacteria and cysts, but Marines still have to use purification tablets to remove viruses. That takes time – as long as 15 minutes for the chemical process to work before it is safe to drink. IWPS II uses an internal cartridge that effectively filters micro pathogens, providing better protection from bacterial and viral waterborne diseases.
“IWPS II will remove all three pathogens, filtering all the way down to the smallest virus that can be found,” said Capt. Jeremy Walker, project officer for Water Systems. “We have removed the chemical treatment process, so they can drink directly from the fresh water source.”
IWPS II can also connect to Marines’ man-packable hydration packs.
“The system is quite simple and easy to use,” said Walker. “The small filter connects directly with the existing Marine Corps Hydration System/Pouch or can be used like a straw directly from the source water. The system has a means to backflush and clean the filter membrane, extending the service life. The system does not require power, just suction.”
The current system was fielded in 2004 and used by small raids and reconnaissance units in remote environments where routine distilled water was unavailable. Since then, the system has been used in combat and disaster relief missions.
This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. In addition to the Propper gear that’s perfect for the mission, we’ve scoured the market for the very best from other brands to build out a kit that’s perfect for getting out of dodge in a hurry.
We don’t know what you’re preparing for. Maybe you’ve found yourself in hot water with a local gang, maybe you’re convinced that the rise of automation will lead to SkyNet, or perhaps you have the very real concern that molemen will come out of the internal layers of the earth and demand large segments of surface world (an attack to which we are vulnerable thanks to everyone poo-pooing Capt. John Symmes’ expedition to the center of the Earth).
Regardless, our friends over at Propper want to help you prepare. For our illustrative case, we’re going to use a possible zombie outbreak model, because that’s fun for us and something all patriotic Americans should prepare for.
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There you are, quietly typing away on your newest article (You’re all internet writers, right? No? Some of you have real jobs that produce actual value for the economy? Well, aren’t you fancy) when, suddenly, a news alert pops up on your phone:
CDC confirms that new variation of flu virus has spread in America. Small town near you on lockdown. Read more: https://bit.ly/2TVioLq
Sure, there’s a chance it’s nothing, just like there was a chance that alerts on December 7, 1941 were nothing, or that Iraqi forces would never cross into Kuwait in 1990. You didn’t make it to your ripe current age by assuming that potential threats were nothing.
So it’s time to bug out for a little while, get away from population centers, and wait for this whole thing to blow over. And you need to reach your spot before that virus spreads.
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Luckily, you know a pretty good spot in the hills where you’ve got a little water cached, and you’ve got two bags ready to go with all your immediate needs. You head home, get your dog into the car, and grab your PROPPER® Bail Out Bag and Expandable Backpack from the hall closet.
You’re out the door and on the road in under a minute. Medical supplies, ruggedized laptop, water, some old MRE components, and more supplies are already packed away in your trusty bag.
You drive towards your spot, but the ominous rain reaches you on the road, and you’re left driving slow with the wipers on max. Unfortunately, a driver headed the other way isn’t being so conscientious, and they’re flying down the road. You try to slow down and shift to the shoulder, but the other guy is coming too fast and swerves towards you, forcing you to ditch the road entirely to avoid a collision.
The car tumbles down the shoulder and ends driver-side down. You take a quick stock of yourself. Nothing seems broken, and the cut over your eye could be much worse. You take a moment for your mutt.
“Hey, good dog. How are you feeling?”
You hear a quick whine, but then feel a tongue licking your face, so you look over your right shoulder and see a healthy dog. Shaken, but they don’t appear to be favoring a leg. So, that’s great news.
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Carefully, you position your boot against the windshield. You rear back and let loose a quick, calculated kick, cracking the windshield. Two more hits and the glass breaks. You slowly disentangle yourself from the wreck, and free yourself into a cool, consistent drizzle.
It’s not super late yet, but with the storm clouds overhead, you know it’ll be hard to see anything outside the range of your headlights. You take a quick chance to check out the hound and are happy to find no serious injuries. You also slap a quick bandage on yourself and dig out your Streamlight® ProTac HPL USB Rechrg Light.
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It’s charged, so you’ve got a while. And you can always swap in your spare button batteries if you need. You step past the headlights and give a quick scan of the road. You can’t see the car that nearly hit you, but you still want to get moving. Erratic drivers in a potential zombie outbreak area is a horrible sign.
So it’s time to start moving overland to your hideaway. You clip the flashlight to the D-ring on the backpack and dig out the map and compass, taking a quick second to mark your car’s location on the map. The backpack goes on your back, the bailout bag goes over your shoulder, and you step off.
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As you do, you switch on the HQ ISSUE Multi-Band Dynamo Solar Powered Radio and leave the volume on low. You can always crank the dynamo if it runs low on juice, and you can open the solar panel on it come morning. In the meantime, it will help you stay connected to the rest of the world long after you lose cell signal.
As the miles start to crunch away under your boots, you remember that you went offroad a good distance from where you planned, meaning it’s going to take way longer to reach your secret spot and its supply of water. You’re going to need an interim solution.
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But hey, you’re clearly nothing if not well-prepared. You double check the map for the little blue lines and pools that denote water, and alter your course to take you past a nearby creek.
Once you hear the trickle of water over the rocks, you beeline to it. Out here, the water looks pure and clear, but you know that even rainwater this close to the city can be contaminated, and rivers and streams can pick up all sorts of pollutants from its path and bacteria from the local wildlife.
So you pull out your Katadyn Vario Filter and plunge the hose into the water. In a pinch, it can clean and bottle two liters of water in a minute, passing the water through three filters. Activated charcoal eliminates most scents in the water too. But since you’re not in that big of a hurry, you set it to one-liter a minute, reducing wear and tear.
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Refreshed and once again moving to your cache, you start to whistle. You’ve got your dog, you’ve got your supplies, you’re hiking in the rain. As long as the city doesn’t descend into a zombie apocalypse tonight, life could be a whole lot worse. And if it does, well, at least you’re prepared.
And, hey, you’ve even got a GOSO Starter 24-Piece Lock Pick Set in your pocket, so if the worst has come to pass, at least you can break into all sorts of old bases, libraries, whatever, and explore them wasteland-style.
“Let’s go, Mutt.”
This article is sponsored by Propper, the guys dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others.
My story begins at Abilene Christian University in Texas, where I began college in the late 1980s. The summer after freshman year, I met my husband Bob who was serving in the Air Force. Engaged within weeks and married following my sophomore year, my plan was to finish college in our new hometown of Austin.
Due to strict state university standards, I was required to enter college as a second-semester freshman instead of a junior. I was angry – so I took one class and quit.
Fast-forward about 10 years to our new home with two little boys in Altus, Oklahoma. I had a couple of friends from church who were preparing to graduate from community college. Those ladies had families with full-time jobs (and active-duty husbands that went TDY often). That “fire inside” finally found a spark again.
I worked hard over the next two years to earn two associate degrees, one in arts and one in science. I had been told that if you had an associate’s degree, universities had to accept it and couldn’t make you take their designated core classes. With one in each track, I thought I was set. It was also during this period that my dad got sick and passed away. I was able to pause my studies and finish up after I returned home. But once again, we found out we were moving. I didn’t have enough time to finish one last class, so the instructor permitted me to take an incomplete and finish it from Alabama – my first “true” tele-course!
I took another break from school after that because our assignment was only for one year. After seven years (and another four PCS moves), we got the surprise of our lives when our family increased to include two more sons. We had two in junior high/high school and two preschoolers. I volunteered when I could, and one of those opportunities turned into a flex-time job in accounting, my dream job.
Then something changed. A situation came up, and I needed to leave that position. I was unwilling to give up that little bit of time at home with our last child. I understand that it’s not the choice for everyone – but this was my decision, and I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity.
But now, with no job, I suddenly had a great deal of time on my hands. It felt like I was a fish out of water, and I couldn’t breathe.
My husband (who had by then RETIRED – and usually that means no more moving…) asked if I had considered going back to school. And that spark? It flickered again. I didn’t have too much time to decide, but I applied at the local university and was told that there were nine credit hours that Texas required before I could truly begin my junior year. That wasn’t too bad – so I earned those at a local junior college and had everything transferred.
At this point of my education “battle,” I was now up to SEVEN colleges. And in my FIRST SEMESTER at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, guess what? Bob got a promotion and another job offer – in San Antonio. Even I couldn’t believe my luck at this point. I took one last class from San Antonio but couldn’t continue because MSU didn’t have many online offerings – especially the upper-level accounting courses that I needed.
So, I quit again. Or so I thought…
In 2015, I read about a new program that Champlain College Online was offering. It provided affordable degree and certificate programs that were 100 percent online. Moving was no longer an excuse to quit!
Speaking of life experiences, my own include three major neck surgeries, 11 moves (including one to Germany, during finals week), eight different colleges, and – as of spring 2017 – one well-deserved bachelor’s degree in accounting! I’m currently serving as the treasurer for our church and looking forward to performing more financial duties next year.
For some, it only takes four years to complete a degree, and for some of us more than 30 years. All that matters is that we as military spouses persist and eventually achieve our goals.
Jane Brumley has been a military spouse for 30 years. Her husband Bob retired from active duty in 2008 and currently serves as a Department of Defense civilian. They have four children, two who are still at home. They are currently stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Jane spends her time volunteering with both schools, serving as Treasurer of her family’s church and at the base tax center, utilizing her Accounting degree. She is thoroughly enjoying her time traveling throughout Europe.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Russia celebrated its Navy Day on July 29, 2018, with a naval parade on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, a day of pomp and military power that Russian President Vladimir Putin attended.
The parade, which involved 40 warships, 38 aircraft, and about 4,000 troops, was unfolding when a Serna-class landing craft collided with a bridge. Oops.
The video below shows the Ivan Pas’ko going about 8 to 10 knots as it collides with the bridge, jolting and even knocking over some of the crew members who had been standing at attention.
It’s unclear how the incident happened, and there were no reports of injuries, but the bridge and ship were partially damaged, according to Defence Blog, which first reported it. Some egos were most likely scraped up as well.
The Russian navy “will get 26 new warships, boats and vessels, four of them equipped with Kalibr missiles,” Putin said during a speech at the parade, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
The Air Force is now finalizing requirements documentation, planning a new round of combat-scenario assessments, and refining an acquisition strategy for its fast-tracked new Light Attack aircraft.
The Air Force plans a new round of tests and experiments for the new aircraft — a new multi-role aircraft intended to fill specific and highly dangerous attack mission requirements amid circumstances where the US has achieved air supremacy.
Following an initial Air Force Light Attack aircraft in August 2017, which included assessments of a handful of off-the-shelf options, the Air Force is now streamlining its effort to continue testing only two of the previous competitors from summer 2017 — Textron Aviation’s AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano.
Senior Air Force leaders had told Warrior Maven that, depending upon the results of summer 2017’s experimentation at Holloman AFB, N.M., the service might send a light attack option under consideration to actual combat missions to further assets is value. Now, given what is being learned during ongoing evaluations, service officials say an actual “combat” demo test will not be necessary.
“At this time, we believe we have the right information to move forward with light attack, without conducting a combat demonstration. The Air Force is gathering enough decision-quality data through experimentation to support rigorous light attack aircraft assessments along with rapid procurement/fielding program feasibility reviews,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that the for the new aircraft, a $2.5 billion effort over the course of the service’s 5-year development plan.
In keeping with the Air Force vision for the Light Attack aircraft, the anticipated test combat scenarios in which for the US Air Force has air supremacy – but still needs maneuverability, close air support and the ability to precisely destroy ground targets.
The emerging Light Attack aircraft is envisioned as a low-cost, commercially-built, combat-capable plane able to perform a wide range of missions in a less challenging or more permissive environment.
The idea is to save mission time for more expensive and capable fighter jets, such as an F-15 or F-22, when an alternative can perform needed air-ground attack missions — such as recent attacks on ISIS.
Light Attack aircraft, able to hover close to the ground and attack enemies in close proximity to US forces amid a fast-moving, dynamic combat situation, would quite likely be of substantial value in counterinsurgency-type fights as well as near-peer, force-on-force engagements.
The combat concept here, were the Air Force to engage in a substantial conflict with a major, technically-advanced adversary, would be to utilize stealth attack and advanced 5th-Gen fighters to establish air superiority — before sending light aircraft into a hostile area to support ground maneuvers, fire precision weapons at ground targets from close range, and even perform on-the-spot combat rescue missions when needed.
Additionally, the Air Force will experiment with rapidly building and operating an exportable, shareable, affordable network to enable air platforms to communicate with joint and multi-national forces and command-and-control nodes, Grabowski said.
The upcoming experiment, to take place from May to July of 2018 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, is expected to align with combat-capability assessment parameters consistent with those used August 2017.
“This will let us gather the data needed for a rapid procurement,” Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, said in a written statement.
Air Force officials previously provided these parameters to Warrior Maven, during the analysis phase following summer 2017’s experiment:
– Basic Surface Attack – Assess impact accuracy using hit/miss criteria of practice/laser-guided bomb, and unguided/guided rockets
– Close Air Support (CAS) – Assess ability to find, fix, track target and engage simulated operational targets while communicating with
the Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC)
– Daytime Ground Assault Force (GAF) – assess aircraft endurance, range, ability to communicate with ground forces through unsecure and secure radio and receive tactical updates
– Rescue Escort (RESCORT) – Assess pilot workload to operate with a helicopter, receive area updates and targeting data, employ ballistic, unguided/guided rockets and laser-guided munitions
– Night CAS – Assess pilot workload to find, fix, track, target and engage operational targets
At the same time, service officials do say the upcoming tests will more fully explore some additional criteria, such as an examination of logistics and maintenance requirements, weapons and sensor issues, training syllabus validity, networking and future interoperability with partner forces.
A-29 Super Tucano
US-trained pilots with the Afghan Air Force have been attacking the Taliban with A-29 Super Tucano aircraft.
A-29s are turboprop planes armed with one 20mm cannon below the fuselage able to shoot 650 rounds per minute, one 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four 7.62mm Dillion Aero M134 Miniguns able to shoot up to 3,000 rounds per minute.
Super Tucanos are also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons such as the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.
The Super Tucano is a highly maneuverable light attack aircraft able to operate in high temperatures and rugged terrain. It is 11.38 meters long and has a wingspan of 11.14 meters; its maximum take-off weight is 5,400 kilograms. The aircraft has a combat radius of 300 nautical miles, can reach speeds up to 367 mph and hits ranges up to 720 nautical miles.
AT-6 Light Attack
The Textron Aviation AT-6 is the other multi-role light attack aircraft being analyzed by the Air Force. It uses a Lockheed A-10C mission computer and a CMC Esterline glass cockpit with flight management systems combined with an L3 Wescam MX-Ha15Di multi-sensor suite which provides color and IR sensors, laser designation technology and a laser rangefinder. The aircraft is built with an F-16 hands on throttle and also uses a SparrowHawk HUD with integrated navigation and weapons delivery, according to Textron Aviation information on the plane.
Five international partners observed the first phase of the Light Attack Experiment, and the Air Force plans to invite additional international partners to observe this second phase of experimentation, a service statement said.
Have you ever been asked whether you have ever killed someone?
If you are a military veteran, chances are you probably have — and it’s always been awkward. Because honestly, what are you really supposed to say? It’s not a question that most troops want to answer: If it’s a yes, it was likely in combat and just part of your job. If it’s a no, should you feel bad that you weren’t one of the cool kids on your block with a confirmed kill?
From a civilian perspective, most simply don’t know it’s an inappropriate question. In their eyes, troops are taking out bad guys all day long, and they are genuinely curious about how that goes. And for veterans who end up on the receiving end of this question, it’s important to remember this ignorance — and that you were once this clueless too.
So how do vets respond? There are a few ways, ranging from the super-serious to the sarcastic as hell.
1. The super-serious: “That’s not an appropriate question to ask.”
If you want to shut it down right here, you can answer back with this. Because really, it’s hardly ever appropriate to ask that question. No one runs up to World War II vets and asks whether they killed anyone. They are just thanked for their service and left alone, not burdened with potentially rough memories.
2. The serious: “Yes/No, but that’s not something I want to talk about.”
You’ve given the answer to that morbid question, but made it clear that’s all they are going to get. If pressed, you can always revert to explaining that it’s inappropriate.
3. The uncomfortably silent: “Yes/No [pause for dramatic effect]”
If you want to flip the uncomfortableness around on the person asking the question, respond with a simple yes or no and then just look straight back at them, with unblinking eye contact. Talk about awkward.
4. Answering the awkward question with a awkward question: “Have you ever slept with your sister?”
With this one, you can effectively turn the tables and demonstrate just how awkward the question made you. The questioner will likely recoil when asked — similarly to your reaction — and you can then add, “No, huh? Ok let’s talk about something else then.”
5. The True Lies answer: “Yeah, but they were all bad.”
Take a page out of Arnold’s playbook from the film “True Lies.” If you haven’t seen it (what?!), Schwarzenegger plays an international spy but his wife has no clue. When she finds out and starts asking him questions, she gets to the killing question. He tries to soften the blow of this shocking news. I think it went ok.
6. The funny: “You mean today, or in total?”
You could always give an unexpected answer dripping with sarcasm. Go with this one, dramatically saying “not yet,” or give a ridiculous number: Like 67.
“Well my official number if 67, but that’s only confirmed. Pretty sure I’ve gotten a lot more than that.”
So how do you respond? Let us know in the comments.
Starboard quarter view, taken while the USS Thresher was underway on April 30, 1961. (U.S. Navy/J.L. Snell)
Nearly six decades after a Navy submarine plummeted to the bottom of the sea during a deep-dive test, families of those lost in the tragedy are finally getting a look at hundreds of documents about the accident the service has long kept under wraps.
The Navy on Wednesday released the first 300 pages of a court of inquiry on the catastrophic 1963 loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Thresher. The documents provide details into the Navy’s worst undersea accident, which claimed the lives of 129 men onboard.
While Navy leaders say they’re committed to being transparent with the families and the public about what caused the Thresher — the first sub in its class — to sink, it took a court order to reach this point.
Capt. Jim Bryant, a retired Navy submarine officer, sued his former service in 2019 to get it to release the full 1,700-page report on the Thresher accident. A federal judge ordered the Navy in February to begin releasing portions of that report monthly to the public.
“I think I’m doing the Navy a favor,” Bryant told Military.com this week. “This is a significant historic event … and the reactions were very sound. It’s a really good story here for the Navy.”
Rear Adm. Bill Houston, director of the Undersea Warfare Division at the Pentagon, told reporters Tuesday that Navy leaders don’t believe the newly released Thresher documents “will shed any additional light on her loss.” Still, he added, the Navy is committed to releasing additional portions of the report monthly, despite much of it remaining classified.
“This process requires coordination between many organizations, and takes time to be done correctly,” Houston said. “But the Navy knows this is the right thing to do.”
He declined to comment on Bryant’s lawsuit prompting the documents’ release.
The first batch of documents released this week includes witness and exhibits lists, findings of facts, opinions, recommendations and initial testimony. Families were notified in a letter sent last month from Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, that the Navy was working to declassify the documents and make them public.
Joy MacMillan and her brother Tim Noonis lost their father, Walter “Jack” Noonis, to the Thresher accident. Both credited Bryant for the time he put into pushing the Navy to release the documents. The decision to do so “should have been automatic,” MacMillan said.
“We would definitely want to know,” she said. “We know it won’t bring them back, but it does help to understand how something like that could have happened to our family.”
MacMillan’s mother, who passed away in 2016, had four children under the age of 10 when the Thresher sank.
“It was intense, but I think my mom did a fabulous job picking her boots up and marching forward, but I would never say that it was easy,” MacMillan said. “I feel that it would’ve been an honor to all the moms to get this information.”
Bryant said the families — along with the rest of the public — deserve access to the answers.
“Naval history is important,” he said. “And when the technology is no longer of danger to national security — well, I think we should know about it.”
How Tragedy Led to Change
The Thresher had just completed a months-long overhaul period when — on April 10, 1963 — the sub began dive tests off the coast of Massachusetts.
It was accompanied by the submarine rescue ship Skylark, which received garbled communications about the Thresher experiencing minor difficulties.
The court of inquiry determined that the Thresher sank due to a piping failure that resulted in a loss of power and the inability to blow ballast tanks quickly enough to avoid sinking. Houston said this week that the Navy stands by those initial determinations.
Bryant wanted to know more, though, and was unsatisfied with the Navy’s original decision to publicly release just 19 of the 1,700 pages of documents from the court of inquiry. It was only after a Freedom of Information Act request failed to shake loose the documents that he took the Navy to court.
The families and the public have a right to know more about the decisions that led up to the accident, he said. In 2018, Bryant wrote a piece for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine arguing that data showed the Thresher “very likely had already sunk below her 1,300-foot test depth limit when she reported minor difficulties.”
“The result,” he wrote, “was a hull collapse that could have been avoided with more testing and better planning.”
Noonis, who said he’s read everything he could find publicly on the Thresher, said he’d like the Navy to further analyze acoustical recordings of the Thresher accident that were picked up by the Navy’s Sound Surveillance System, known as SOSUS.
Bryant described an analysis Navy Reserve Lt. Bruce Rule provided during 1963 testimony about what the SOSUS picked up on the Thresher’s sinking. According to Bryant’s April 2020 Proceedings article titled “USS Thresher (SSN-593) Disaster: Ten Questions Our FOIA Lawsuit Hopes to Answer,” Rule’s observations reject the Navy’s assessment that there was major flooding on the sub before implosion.
While Noonis said he’d like to see the Navy take another look at that claim, he isn’t holding out much hope — especially since the service isn’t releasing the documents by choice.
“They were forced to release it,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the government coming out and changing their conclusion. … Bureaucracies aren’t fond of finding fault with themselves.”
People who study technology need access to any information available about major accidents to understand the decisions leading up to them, so they don’t repeat the same mistakes, Bryant said this week.
Despite the battle over the documents, though, Bryant credits the Navy with taking important steps in the aftermath of the Thresher tragedy to help prevent other undersea mishaps. That’s why he said he wants to see the service share any documents it has that can help others understand what went wrong.
Houston said the Thresher remains a defining event for the submarine service. Every new Navy submariner learns about the vessel.
“From day one, every new submariner checking onboard discusses the impact of Thresher to the submarine force, and the significant improvements that transpired as a result of her loss,” he said.
The Navy’s Submarine Safety program, known as SUBSAFE, was born out of the Thresher accident. SUBSAFE has “drastically improved quality control and assurance in the fabrication, construction and maintenance of submarines,” Houston said.
“Since the program’s inception, no SUBSAFE-certified submarines have been lost at sea,” he said.
MacMillan said she’s grateful the accident led to change, but said without the Navy releasing the full probe, no one can be certain all possible steps have been taken to prevent something similar from happening again.
“Was it the main coolant pump? Was it just a push too fast for a deeper dive in the Cold War?” she said. “It really does feel like it’s been [more than enough] time to know what really occurred.”
Now, as the Navy begins releasing never-before-seen documents on the accident that prompted those changes, Houston said the service must balance being transparent while still protecting information relating to national security.
Bryant said he and his attorney feel the Navy’s plan to release about 300 pages connected to the Thresher probe every month is reasonable, but noted they’ll be closely monitoring what is held back or redacted.
If the Navy refuses to declassify information they feel should be made public, Bryant said, “We’re going to fight them over it.”
MacMillan said she hopes the documents being released prove to the public that it’s possible to take on powerful organizations that might be reluctant to release information. Bryant didn’t have a stake in the Thresher accident, she said, but fought to do the right thing.
“If you work long and hard enough, you can get to the truth,” she said. “… As a 6-year-old child kind of still frozen in that time period, I think it’s high time that they come up with something.”
Is there anything else that aggravates already overworked military spouses more than micro complaints from their civilian friends? Probably not.
Being married to the military is a lot like hastily extinguishing small government-issued trash can fires, only to realize you will never put them all out no matter how hard you try. The government loves issuing trash can fires, and by year three, you learn to sit back and roast marshmallows over them instead.
Yes, military spouses evolve quickly from the simple state that was their civilian life to the constant state of chaos surrounding a life of service. Nothing is more annoying than forcing a passive-aggressive “oh that must be hard for you” head nod when Susie starts rattling off her civilian life complaints.
See if your friend’s grievances made our list.
When their spouse’s 48-hour business trips are made to seem as hard as a deployment
Civilian- “Oh your spouse is away a lot too? My John, he has to travel a whole three times a year for work and I just don’t know what to do with myself during those weekends he’s away.”
If eyes could emit laser beams, military spouses would be the first to be equipped with them. How many times have you as a spouse had to endure this comparison? No Susan, John’s work trips to Denver are nothing like the average work trips that the military sends our spouses on. A good day is when you find out your spouse did not get recycled in Ranger school (again) and you’ll see them in a short 60 days from now.
When they complain about having the same boring job for the last 10 years
Civilian- “Ugh, you are so lucky not to have to work. I’ve been at this same boring job for the last 10 years and I can’t wait to retire.”
To an outsider looking in, an unemployed military spouse living in Hawaii might seem like a choice or even a benefit, but the military community knows better. Not only are there periods where military life keeps us from working, but the few of us who do, find it near impossible to find the kind of employment that offers such unicorn benefits like retirement.
When their schedules are “so busy”
Civilian- “We are busy bees I tell you. The kids have their sports and I just have to find time to shop for the right piece to go above the mantle before it just drives me nuts. Don’t even get me started on how I had to push back my hair appointment.”
The first year after a PCS for military spouses involves the trial and error of everything from coffee shops to dentists, to assessing what is still missing or broken from the move. By the time we get settled in enough to get our kids in sports clubs or half-ass decorate the living room, new orders roll in. Nothing is busier than a military spouse eating a “fridge purge” sandwich on the way to baseball where she plans to make the seventh call to find out when the movers are coming this week taking her to a place she has to Google to find.
When they complain about that one time they had to move
Civilian- “Moving (down the street) was a nightmare. It took forever to go through our things. I never want to do that again.”
Nothing brings salty military spouses more joy than to hear your tragic horror story about your move down the block to that custom home you designed yourself which will perfectly meet every single one of your family’s needs. That sounds hard.
Yes, we military spouses who can live entire decades of our lives half packed and ready to move (again) in 18 months sympathize with your hardship. We who live as lifelong renters in someone else’s 1999 cookie-cutter home with beige everything feel bad that it was difficult to pick precisely the right marble for your countertops. We who must label trash cans as “do not pack” cannot fathom how difficult it was for you to leisurely watch the actual professional movers delicately move your furniture with actual customer service in mind.
We are military spouses and we have zero time for your civilian complaints.
We greet superior officers, pay homage to the American flag, and show respect to fallen comrades by rendering the powerful, non-verbal gesture known as the hand salute.
Though there’s no real written record of how or where the worldwide tradition started, saluting dates back in history to a time when troops would raise their right hand (their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.
Today, recruits learn how to properly hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate the act countless times before heading out to active service. After a while, muscle memory kicks in and the gesture becomes second nature. But many civilians use the salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so, so wrong.
Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.
Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.
Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.
According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.
On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”
Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.
In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”
Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.
“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”
Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.
“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”
Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.
“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”
At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.
“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”
Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.
“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”
But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.
“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”
DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.
“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”
Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.
“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.
“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”
It’s almost beach season! That means it’s time put on those colorful tank tops and get your feet sandy. However, before we sizzle in the sun, many of us want to get our arms jacked so that we can give out free tickets to the gun show.
So, how can you get your arms pumped up before summer? Well, at this point in the year, it’d take a miracle — but now is always the best time to start.
The biceps are composed of two muscles: the long and short head. To bulk them up, you’ll also need to include some work on the triceps — which is made up of the lateral, medial, and long head.
If you’re ready to get that daily muscle pump going, then let’s go.
Straight barbell curls
Note: Don’t get these confused with EZ-curls, that’s something different.
This exercise requires a tight grip on the bar, keeping your hands about shoulder-width apart with your elbows placed in front of your hips. With your wrists straight, lift the bar up and feel the squeeze in those biceps.
Then, lower the bar slowly, focusing on the negative motion. This movement should take approximately three seconds to complete. Go any faster and you’re probably not getting the full rep.
While using an adjustable cable machine, take a solid step backward, set your feet, keep a slight bend in your knees, then push down and breathe out. After you push down, slowly raise the bar until your elbows return to a 90-degree bend.
Seated incline bench dumbbell curls
Similar to a straight bar curl, seated incline bench dumbbell curls are a great way to shoot blood into your biceps and achieve that epic pump. While in a seated 45-degree position, have workable weights in both hands — which should be hanging down by your sides.
As you start the rep, bring the dumbbells up and squeeze the bicep at the peak of the rep, then, lower that sucker back down slowly. The key to this exercise is to keep your back firmly on the bench. Lifting off the inclined bench could result in crappy form, and we don’t want that.
Laying flat and using an EZ-curl bar with a proper amount of weight, start the rep by lowering the bar toward your forehead. Keep your elbows pointed inward and you slowly bring the bar to touch your forehead.
If you mismanage the rep, you can smack yourself right in the forehead. We don’t want that, but that’s why they call it a skullcrusher.
This exercise focuses on expanding the width of your bicep and forearm. Once you’ve grabbed a manageable set of weights from the rack, hold them down by your side until you are ready to begin.
Now, raise the weights up by bending elbows at a 90-degree angle and squeeze that sucker at the peak. There are many ways to complete this exercise correctly. You can alternate hands and which direction you decide to move the weight: toward your chest or out in front of you.
Overhead tricep extension
This one is the opposite of the tricep push down. Once you’ve chosen a legit dumbbell weight that you can handle, bring it over your head with two hands and stretch it back behind you. Make sure you don’t hit yourself with the weight as you begin the rep, extending your arms straight overhead.
Once you slowly lower the weight down, remember to breathe and halt the weight when your elbow reaches a 90-degree angle. Then, bring the weight back up. Easy day, right?
Note: These exercises should be done with a spotter or a fitness professional. Have fun getting buffed out, but don’t get hurt out there.