Every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has built up a solid supply of memes. Eventually, the Space Corps will become the sixth branch. So, why not help the Space Corps get started with a few memes of their own? After all, the branch itself has become one giant meme…
…come on, “Space Force?”
You know they’ll be salty all over when the Space Corps gets in, too.
(via Claw of Knowledge)
The desire to know more intensifies…
I don’t even want to imagine the hell that will be zero-gravity latrine cleaning…
On the day after Thanksgiving 1984, a Soviet citizen on a tour of the DMZ suddenly abandoned his group and sprinted to freedom in South Korea.
Vasilii Matuzok long dreamed of fleeing the oppression of Communism. He even obtained a job in Pyongyang as a means of making his escape attempt.
But despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is anything but. The four-kilometer wide area is heavily mined and guarded by armed soldiers from each side. A crossing there was as near suicidal during the Cold War as it is today.
However, at a small village named Panmunjom (the site of the Korean War Armistice signing), the North and South created a Joint Security Area. This area is heavily guarded but it contains no minefields or other the deterrents to crossing that can’t be said for the rest of the DMZ.
When Matuzok’s tour group was distracted, he made a break for it.
Immediately realizing what was happening, some 30 North Korean soldiers pursued him and fired wildly in the hopes of bringing him down before he could reach the other side.
This immediately created a significant incident. As the two sides were still technically at war – having never signed a peace agreement – the North Korean soldiers pursuing Matuzok instantaneously became an armed incursion. The UN guards quickly alerted the United Nations Quick Reaction Force at nearby Camp Kitty Hawk.
The United Nations had a Joint Security Force company comprised of Americans and Koreans stationed at Camp Kitty Hawk to respond to any incidents at the Joint Security Area and provide the guard detail.
As the incident developed into a full-on firefight between the North Korean soldiers and the UN’s JSA guards, Capt. Bert Mizusawa got the call at Camp Kitty Hawk. He told his men to load up while he got as much information as he could from the Tactical Operations Center.
As his group sped the quarter mile to the JSA, Mizusawa was unaware of the defection. His sole purpose was to restore the Armistice conditions. The North Korean soldiers, invaders at this point, had to be turned back, he said, “with no concern for proportionality… we were going to win no matter what.”
When Mizusawa and the QRF arrived with three infantry squads augmented with three machine gun teams, the UN guards at the JSA had the intruding North Koreans pinned down in an area known as the “Sunken Garden.” It had been only fifteen minutes since Matuzok defected.
Mizusawa sent one squad east to reinforce the men at Checkpoint 4, who were engaged against the North Koreans there while he personally led the other two squads on a flanking maneuver to the southwest. During their movement, the men came across Matuzok hiding in the bushes.
Captain Mizusawa immediately realized the urgency of the situation. If the North Koreans were able to kill or recapture Matuzok, they controlled the narrative of the day’s events.
After confirming Matuzok’s intention to defect, Mizusawa put him in the personal custody of the QRF Platoon Sergeant who raced him to safety at Camp Kitty Hawk.
With the defector now secured Mizasawa was in a tactically perfect situation. He had his enemy pinned down on low ground and was in position to move in from the flank. The Americans executed a textbook example of Battle Drill 1A. As the lead fire team bounded into the Sunken Garden under accurate suppressive fire, the North Koreans attempted to flee.
Caught in the open, they chose to surrender rather than be gunned down.
The elapsed time since the defection was approximately 20 minutes. It only took six minutes after the arrival of the QRF platoon to defeat the North Korean threat.
During the fighting, a South Korean KATUSA soldier was killed and an American soldier wounded when they drew heavy fire from the North Koreans protecting the escape of Matuzok.
The North Koreans lost three killed, five wounded, and eight captured during the incident.
However, for the North Korean soldiers, failure in this situation would be costly. It is believed that the leader of the North Korean troops and his subordinate were summarily executed immediately after the incident.
Despite being one of the worst instances of violence on the DMZ in some time, further bloodshed was avoided.
Hoping to keep the incident quiet, the Army choose to withhold some awards immediately after the firefight. It would not be until the year 2000 that the Army recognized the service and awarded or upgraded seventeen decorations to participants on that day.
Matuzok, the defector that started everything, eventually was allowed to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee under an assumed name.
More than 120 sailors from Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 participated in community service projects at the Tanglin Salvation Army and the Chai Chee Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen in Singapore, Nov. 26-27, 2018.
Sailors who volunteered at the Tanglin Salvation Army sorted donated clothing, electronics, toys, and a variety of assorted household goods.
Lt. Ryan Albano, divisional officer in the Command Religious Ministries Department aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), and one of the event coordinators, said community service is a part of the mission and legacy of the Navy.
“This is perhaps one of the most important things I get to do in the Navy,” said Albano. “We set a high standard everywhere we go that the United States Navy does not simply come to consume. We also show up to give back.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Angelina Grimsley)
The sailors volunteered on Nov. 26 and 27, 2018, which are the days the Tanglin Salvation Army receives the bulk of its weekly donations.
“We are really happy to have extra help on our busiest days. It was a big help to us,” said Benjamin Sim, the location’s human resources manager.
Sailors also volunteered at Willing Hearts Soup Kitchen by breaking down over 300 pounds of fish for stocks and stews and helping to organize the dry storage of more than 500 pounds of rice.
“It’s important to show our host nation that we’re allies and represent ourselves and our nation in a positive light,” said Aviation Administration man 2nd Class Javon Wilkerson, a volunteer at the soup kitchen.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Angelina Grimsley)
Willing Hearts cooks, serves lunch, packages, and delivers an average of 6,000 meals a day from sunrise until after sunset to those in need. The meals are distributed to over 60 locations to feed Singaporeans who are unable to leave their homes.
The community service projects were conducted during a scheduled port visit to the island nation by John C. Stennis, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile cruiser USS Spruance (DDG 111).
The ships moored at Changi Naval Base following a high-end dual carrier strike force exercise in the Philippine Sea with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, providing Sailors the opportunity to explore the island and the city.
DARPA’s AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.
Eight teams were selected to create artificial intelligence (AI) “agents” that would be capable of simulating a real dogfight between fighters, referred to as within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, more formally. The first two rounds of this competition saw these virtual pilots engage with one another in simulated combat environments in November and again in January. This third round of AI dogfighting included similar competitions, with the four finalist firms squaring off in a round robin. The event then culminated with the hands-down victor, Heron Systems, taking on a real human fighter pilot in another simulated fight.
And Heron really brought the heat, with its artificial intelligence system ultimately securing the AI championship by defeating Lockheed Martin’s AI system.
Heron consistently proved to have the most accurate targeting apparatus of any AI agent, as it engaged opponents with laser-accurate gun strikes often in the first merge of the fight.
“It’s got to keep that opponent in that one degree cone to win the game,” Ben Bell, Heron’s Senior Machine Learning Engineer, told Sandboxx News.
“You saw that a lot with Lockheed, we’re both nose on, we’re both creating damage, but when their nose is off by that one degree, that’s where we were able to win a lot of these engagements.”
That superior aiming capability was on particular display when squaring off against the U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot representing humanity in this battle for what some consider to be the future of aviation. While the pilot’s name was not released due to OPSEC concerns, DARPA did provide his callsign: Banger. They also explained that Banger was not just a working fighter pilot, he’s a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, which could loosely be described as the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school, for the movie buffs out there. The real Top Gun, of course, is a Navy school called the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.
Heron’s AI system racked up the first four wins against Banger in quick succession, leveraging its incredibly precise aiming to whittle Banger’s aircraft “life” down in a series of looping merges. In the fifth and final bout, Banger changed approaches, sweeping his aircraft out away from Heron’s F-16 and creating separation with high-G turns.
However, the new tactics only seemed to delay the inevitable, with Heron managing to kill Banger’s F-16 once again, without the human pilot managing to get a single shot on target.
Heron’s AI pilot was widely described as “aggressive” by DARPA staff and the Air Force pilots on hand throughout the competition. Under control of Heron’s AI, the virtual F-16 would practically play chicken with its opposition — something the human pilots were quick to point out would be a violation of training regulations in a real simulated dogfight. Of course, in an actual dogfight, there are no such limitations… but Heron’s aggression may still have been turned up just a bit too high to serve as a reasonable wingman.
“It’s important to realize that a BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers) engagement can occur in any direction and any altitude. We’ll often begin with a basic starting parameter to develop a site picture to reference, but a real engagement doesn’t have those cuffs,” Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 Pilot instructor and former F-16 pilot, tells Sandboxx News. “The enemy always has a vote, meaning they always reserve the right to do something you’re not expecting. When that occurs you have to find a creative solution to counter the unexpected problem. “
F-16 Fighting Falcon (DoD Image)
According to Bell, their AI agent placed an equal emphasis on damaging the opponent and minimizing its own risk.
“If the agent sees a 51% chance of scoring a kill as it heads into a neutral merge, it’s going to take it,” Bell explained.
Of course, aside from some really exciting video game playing, this entire exercise had official purposes too. DARPA is not only seeking to improve drone aircraft systems, they’re also looking to increase the level of trust between human pilots and AI systems. In the future, these same sorts of artificial pilots will likely be flying alongside humans, and other similar systems will fly along with them in the cockpit of their own aircraft.
By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand. We’ve already seen this approach lead to data fusion capabilities in advanced platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which automates simple tasks and provides the data to the pilot by way of helmet mounted and heads up displays.
Bell explained that the current AI agent used to secure this victory could be adjusted to prioritize its own safety to a higher degree, which might make pilots a bit more comfortable with its approach to combat. He also pointed out, however, that just because something’s scary to human pilots, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
A U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron 213 (VF-213) “Black Lions” flown by CDR Greg “Mullet” Gerard and LTJG Don “Coach” Husten engages a General Dynamics F-16N Viper aggressor aircraft flown by Lieutenant Commander George “Elwood” Dom during training at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, California. (US Navy Photo)
“Trust comes from being able to execute a mission with a high degree of success. There’s some point where you have to say you know that it works and in all the ways we tested it, it was superior to its opponent.”
He went on to clarify, however, that there will certainly be “some give and take” between their engineers and real pilots moving forward.
When asked about Heron’s ace in the hole, its incredibly accurate targeting system, Bell made sure to point out that the way in which this competition was executed was to the human pilot’s disadvantage. Banger was flying in a simulated environment using a VR headset, which doesn’t equate that well to a real fight in the real sky, and gives their computer pilot instant awareness of its surroundings.
However, that VR environment may have also worked in Banger’s favor, as his final bout against Heron’s AI saw him executing a number of 9G maneuvers that would have taken a significant toll on a human pilot. Heron’s system, on the other hand, would not be physically affected by executing these maneuvers in a real aircraft.
“Dogfighting, or Basic Fighter Maneuvers as we call it, is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment. The most difficult part is perceiving what the adversary is doing,” Lee explains. “You’re looking for minute changes in their lift-vector which foreshadows their next move. That’s why it’s important to have good vision (which can be corrected with glasses or surgery).”
While going undefeated against a highly trained human pilot is a great feather for Heron System’s cap, this doesn’t mean the end of human fighter pilots is near. DARPA’s goal isn’t to replace humans in the skies, but rather to supplement them with capable drone assets and an auto-pilot system that could conceivably make human pilots far more capable, by freeing up their mental bandwidth in a fight.
President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.
The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.
“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’
“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.
Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.
A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.
Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.
“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.
Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”
In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”
“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.
The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.
The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.
The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.
The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”
Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.
Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.
The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.
In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.
“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.
More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.
“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.
The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.
The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.
In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”
Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities
In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.
The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.
Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.
“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.
In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:
“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”
The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.
Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.
The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.
“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.
At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.
He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.
In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.
(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.
It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.
In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.
In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.
Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.
As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.
With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.
As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.
As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.
The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.
Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.
Fifty years after Neil Armstrong said, “One small leap for man, one giant leap for mankind,” during the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, one American soldier will take the next “giant leap” into space.
Col. Andrew Morgan, astronaut and Army emergency physician, is counting down to his launch for a nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station, July 20, 2019 — the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Morgan, a Special Forces battalion surgeon with more than 20 years of military service, is the first Army Medical Corps officer to be selected as an astronaut.
Along with his crewmates, Morgan is scheduled to arrive at the ISS six hours after blasting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where he will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 60, 61, and 62.
“It is a tremendous honor to launch on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission,” Morgan said during an interview Monday from Star City, Russia. “The entire crew of Expedition 60 has been entrusted with being the torch bearers of the next generation of space exploration.”
With St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square providing the backdrop, Expedition 60 crewmember Col. Andrew Morgan, NASA astronaut and Army emergency physician, poses June 28, 2019, as part of traditional pre-launch activities.
(Photo courtesy of Beth Weissinger)
He added there is no better way to commemorate the achievements of Apollo 11 than with a mission to space with an international crew.
It will be Morgan’s first space mission. His crew members include Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency.
Morgan and his crewmates will facilitate research on various projects, including mining minerals in the Solar System, looking into methods for engineering plants to grow better on Earth, and examining cells from Parkinson’s patients in zero gravity to better understand neurodegenerative diseases, according to a NASA press statement.
Morgan joined NASA as a member of the 2013 astronaut class, and was assigned his specific flight 18 months ago.
However, according to Morgan, he is a soldier first.
During the space mission, Morgan plans to pull from his military experience, where he is certified as a military flight surgeon and special operations diving medical officer.
Army Astronaut Col. Drew Morgan, NASA Detachment, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, receives the oath of office during an underwater promotion ceremony in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.
(NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory photo)
“I am a sum of my experiences,” Morgan said. “The Army has been a critical part of my experiences since the very beginning.”
Where he is today is because of the Army, he added.
In 1996, while a cadet at West Point, Morgan, along with his team, earned the national collegiate title for competitive skydiving. His military career also includes time with the Army’s “Golden Knights” demonstration parachuting team.
Skydiving is a “core part” of who I am, Morgan said. He added the “calculated risk taking” and entrusting his life with team members parachuting laid the foundation he needed to become an astronaut.
Shortly after parachuting, he became the battalion surgeon for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), also known as the “Desert Eagles.”
After three years serving on flight status, combat dive, and airborne status with the Desert Eagles, he was selected for a strategic operations assignment in the Washington, D.C., area, according to his NASA biography.
Col. Andrew Morgan.
“I’m a soldier, a physician, and an astronaut,” Morgan said. “I made the decision to be a soldier when I was 18, and I am very, very proud of that.”
There are a lot of similarities between military deployments and being an astronaut, he said, including time apart from his family.
Morgan’s family are no strangers to deployments. The astronaut has deployed multiple times with the Special Forces in direct combat support operations to Afghanistan, Africa, and Iraq.
Married for nearly 20 years and a father of four, Morgan said his family is ready for the upcoming mission.
They understand the makeup of the mission, he said, and “we are all in this together.”
“I want to make everybody proud,” Morgan added. “I want to accomplish my mission with a team that’s highly effective. If I can accomplish all of that and come home safely to my family, then mission accomplished.”
The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.
U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.
“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”
A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.
A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”
MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.
A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”
SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.
“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.
When you look at the V-22 Osprey, you see an amazing aircraft. The tiltrotor has been a true game-changer for the United States, particularly the Marine Corps, which uses it to carry out missions that are impossible to accomplish with normal helicopters. But there was another plane that could have done some of what the Osprey does today — five decades ago.
That plane was the XC-142, a result of collaboration between Ling-Temco-Vought (a successor of the company that made the F4U Corsair) and Ryan-Hiller. This plane wasn’t a tiltrotor like the V-22 Osprey, but instead tilted its wings to achieve vertical take-off and landing capability. Both the Air Force and the Navy were interested in the plane.
Imagine a plane like this landing on a carrier or amphibious assault ship — and bringing 32 grunts into battle. The XC-142 was a 1960s-tech version of the V-22 Osprey.
The XC-142 had a top speed of 432 miles per hour, a maximum range of 3,790 miles, and could carry 32 grunts, four tons of cargo, or 24 litter patients. By comparison, the V-22 Osprey has a top speed of 316 miles per hour, a maximum un-refueled range of 1,011 miles, and can carry 24 grunts or 20,000 pounds of cargo.
Like the V-22, the XC-142 had a rough time during testing. One prototype crashed, killing the plane’s three-man crew. The plane also had a history of “hard landings” (a bureaucratic way of saying “minor crashes”) during early phases. Pilots also had trouble controlling the plane at times, which is not good when you have almost three dozen grunts inside.
The MV-22 Osprey made it to the fleet, but in some ways, it has worse performance than the 1960s-era XC-142.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser)
Ultimately, the Navy backed out of the XC-142 project. The Air Force made plans for a production version, but they never got the go-ahead to buy it. The XC-142 went to NASA for testing and, ultimately, only one prototype survived to be placed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
It’s a reality no one likes to face: accidents happen in wartime, and sometimes the wrong people get killed. Once the fog of war is lifted, someone has to sort out what happened and why, no matter how much the truth hurts. There are many infamous, tragic examples of the U.S. military losing good people to friendly fire, the most well-known perhaps, being the story of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Friendly fire incidents are not unique to the United States military. Notable examples of casualties inflicted by friendly forces can be found all the way back to the ancient Greeks. An Austrian army even fought a full-on battle against itself on one occasion. The fog of war can be thick and pervasive.
Tillman was killed in Afghanistan while attempting to support his own unit.
In the wake of a friendly fire incident, especially a public one, even if it’s not as well-known as the Tillman incident, there must still be accountability. Friendly fire, it should be noted, is a distinctly different event from a fragging, as far as the Army and the Uniform Code of Military Justice are concerned. A friendly fire incident involves the killing or wounding of friendly forces while engaging with what is thought to be a hostile force. “Fragging” is simply premeditated murder. An investigation of the incident will reveal who is at fault for which potential offenses. When a troop or unit is found to have committed a friendly fire incident, depending on the severity, the investigators will first look into the type of error committed.
The two offenses most likely to be charged in such an incidence are involuntary manslaughter or the lesser charge of negligent homicide. For the involuntary manslaughter charge to stick, investigators have to prove “a negligent act or failure to act accompanied by a gross, reckless, wanton, or deliberate disregard for the foreseeable results to others.” Pointing a pistol believing it to be unloaded and firing it accidentally killing someone is an example of involuntary manslaughter. For a negligent homicide charge, all the prosecution has to prove is negligence, even a simple failure to act that resulted in the death of another.
During Desert Storm, 77 percent of American vehicle losses were attributed to friendly fire.
Dereliction of duty is another charge that could be levied in a friendly fire investigation. This would mean the accused knew he or she had a duty to perform and willfully neglect to perform them or knowingly underperform them without a reasonable excuse – though ineptitude is a defense against this charge.
While these are the most common charges for those accused of friendly fire incidents, in the U.S. military, few of these -charges ever go to a court-martial and those that do usually result in an acquittal. The reason for this is not a failure to respond to the issue of friendly fire, friendly fire incidents have been around since the beginning of war and will continue to occur in wartime. It is simply difficult to prove that negligence or wanton disregard was at play for troops who had to make split decisions in combat situations. Even the best troops can make bad decisions with tragic consequences when bullets start to fly.
During World War II, the US accidentally bombed neutral Switzerland more than once.
Even when charges aren’t pursued by courts-martial, troops are still able to be punished through non-judicial punishment. Career-ending letters of disapproval can be written, troops can be put behind desks, pilots can be grounded. The difference is in proving negligence.
In the case of Pat Tillman, his fellow Rangers saw movement and muzzle flashes from Tillman’s position while they were being attacked from the surrounding areas. Since they reasonably believed they were firing at the enemy, it did not meet the charges of negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter. While none of the soldiers involved were criminally liable, seven received non-judicial punishments for various offenses, including dereliction of duty.
NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.
The new findings — “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere — appear in the June 8, 2018 edition of the journal Science.
Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.
“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”
“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”
Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water — an essential ingredient for life as we know it — to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources.
“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”
Seasonal Methane Releases
In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. This variation was detected by Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.
Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins. Methane previously had been detected in Mars’ atmosphere in large, unpredictable plumes. This new result shows that low levels of methane within Gale Crater repeatedly peak in warm, summer months and drop in the winter every year.
“This is the first time we’ve seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it,” said Chris Webster of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. “This is all possible because of Curiosity’s longevity. The long duration has allowed us to see the patterns in this seasonal ‘breathing.'”
Finding Organic Molecules
To identify organic material in the Martian soil, Curiosity drilled into sedimentary rocks known as mudstone from four areas in Gale Crater. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake. The rock samples were analyzed by SAM, which uses an oven to heat the samples (in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit, or 500 degrees Celsius) to release organic molecules from the powdered rock.
SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample – fragments of larger organic molecules that don’t vaporize easily. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make car tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.
The results also indicate organic carbon concentrations on the order of 10 parts per million or more. This is close to the amount observed in Martian meteorites and about 100 times greater than prior detections of organic carbon on Mars’ surface. Some of the molecules identified include thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.
In 2013, SAM detected some organic molecules containing chlorine in rocks at the deepest point in the crater. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.
Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.
These results also inform scientists’ decisions as they work to find answers to questions concerning the possibility of life on Mars.
“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”
This work was funded by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.
The rigors of combat and the expectations of a soldier on the front lines may directly conflict with a person’s religious or moral beliefs. If a person is firm in their convictions and they’ve proven they’re serious about their beliefs, they may apply to be recognized as a conscientious objector.
Being opposed to war is not a Get Out of War Freecard. Simply read the stories of Medal of Honor recipients Cpl. Desmond Doss, Cpl. Thomas W. Bennett, and Specialist Joseph G. LaPointe and you’ll learn that being a conscientious objector doesn’t even mean you’ll be taken off the front lines.
Additionally, conscientious objection is too often confused with pacifism and cowardice — but this is far from the case. Watch Hacksaw Ridge (if you don’t want to read the book it’s based off, The Conscientious Objector) and you’ll quickly see what we mean.
What the status actually does give a troop is a way to aid their country while remaining faithful to any beliefs that prevent a troop from personally engaging in combat.
The 1-A-0 status was the classification for the Medal of Honor recipients, like Cpl. Doss, who still saved the lives of countless men but were religiously opposed to fighting their enemy.
To be labeled as a conscientious objector, a troop must prove to the military that their convictions are firmly held and such beliefs are religious in nature. The status is not given for any political, sociological, or philosophical views or a personal moral code.
Potential recruits in today’s military cannot enlist with any conscientious objections. Such an issue is plainly addressed in a question presented to all recruits at MEPS. It asks,
“Do you have any religious or morale objections that would hold you back from participating during a time of war?”
In an all-volunteer military with many applicants who aren’t conscientious objectors, answering this to the affirmative could bar them from enlistment.
It’s also not entirely uncommon for troops who are already serving to become conscientious objectors, typically when faced with a combat deployment. Troops are then sent in front of a board to determine if their beliefs are genuine or not. If approved by the board, the troop is then classified as either a 1-0 Conscientious Objector, which honorably discharges them from service, or as a 1-A-0 Objector, which leads to a travel to non-combatant duties and prevents them from handling weapons.
Conscientious objectors could also opt to do Civilian Public Service — where they’d stay stateside and perform duties as firemen, park rangers, and hospital workers.
In the past, the U.S. military has needed men to fight and has employed conscription policies to fill out the ranks. If you were selected to serve, decided you didn’t agree with the war (on whatever grounds), but were not recognized as a conscientious objector, you faced fines or jail time for refusing to enter service. No conflict saw more applications for conscientious objector status than the Vietnam War.
Unfortunately for the many who were opposed to the war, a political footing doesn’t exempt you from service. While previous wars saw exemptions for Anabaptists, Quakers, Mennonites, Moravians, and various other churches, disagreeing with U.S. policy wasn’t going to keep you from the fight.
Those who think conscientious objectors are just afraid to fight may be surprised to learn that many folk with religious objections will often opt to be 1-A-0 objectors and enter the service as a non-combatant, like a construction or medical work, as was seen with most Amish men drafted during WWII.