Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.

Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.


FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.

FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet the first female 3-star general in the US military

The U.S. military has always been fertile soil for firsts throughout our nation’s history, and the promotion of Carol A. Mutter to become the nation’s first female lieutenant general serves as a perfect case in point for Women’s History Month.

Women have served in the military from the earliest years of our representative republic.

Deborah Sampson (Gannett) served covertly when she disguised herself as a man under the assumed name of Robert Shurtleff, to join the Continental Army and fight in the Revolutionary War in 1782. Sampson went so far as to cut a musket ball out of her own thigh to prevent a battlefield surgeon from discovering her true gender. She was honorably discharged as a private in 1793.


Women gained the opportunity to serve openly in World War I when Congress opened the military to women in 1914. However, it took more than two centuries between the time Sampson first shouldered a musket to the time when women served as general (flag rank) officers in the American military. Mutter achieved one-star brigadier general rank in 1991.

Three years later Mutter became the first woman in the history of America’s military to achieve two-star major general rank in 1994, and two years after that in 1996 she became the first woman to become a three-star lieutenant general in any American military branch.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Lieutenant General Carol A. Mutter, Marine Corps, was the first woman in the U.S. military to achieve the rank of three star general.

Born in 1945 in Greeley, Colorado, Mutter graduated in 1967 from officer candidate school at the University of Northern Colorado as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Mutter had a number of firsts during her 32-year career in the Corps:

  • First woman to qualify as Command Center Crew Commander/Space Director at U.S. Space Command.
  • First woman of flag rank (general officer rank) to command a major deployable tactical command.
  • First woman Marine major general, and senior woman in all the services at that time.
  • First woman nominated by a U.S. president (Bill Clinton) for three-star rank.
  • First female lieutenant general in the U.S. Armed Forces.

During a 2014 interview for the documentary Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots, Mutter explains why she joined the Marine Corps during the early years of the Vietnam War.

“Because they’re the best, there’s no doubt about that,” she said. ” … when I joined, (the Corps) was only one percent female and there were no women in the deployed forces at all. So, as long as the women were back in the rear doing the jobs that the men didn’t want to do, there was not much of a problem.”

The general has been recognized as a trailblazer by several different organizations. Among them is the National Women’s Hall of Fame which inducted the general in 2017.

Mutter retired from the Corps in 1999 and lives with her husband at their home in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.

Information for this article is drawn from several different sources including:

This article originally appeared on United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

Navy: no exceptions to fitness standards for transgender sailors

A new 12-page handbook released by the Navy today describes in detail when and how a sailor can complete a gender transition, down to how transgender sailors can participate in urinalysis tests and when it is appropriate to wear clothing of a preferred gender during visits to foreign ports.The guidance also contains a caution for sailors hoping to transition: they will be expected to pass the physical fitness requirements of their preferred gender immediately on transition, and are expected to take the initiative to train to those standards in advance.


As of Oct. 1, sailors were allowed to begin the process to change their official gender designation in personnel systems in accordance with a Pentagon mandate. Beginning in November, the Navy will dispatch mobile training teams to all major commands to explain the new policies and what they mean for the fleet. By July of next year, the Navy and all the other armed services will be accepting transgender applicants into ranks.

Also read: 3 myths about the new military retirement system

But the new guidance from the Navy makes clear that readiness will remain a top priority, even as sailors transition.

“There are no separate or distinct standards for transgender Service members,” the Navy administrative message containing the new guidances reads. “Service members and [military medical providers] must carefully consider the time required to adjust to new PRT standards as part of the medical treatment and transition planning process.”

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Screen grab from video highlighting changes to Navy PFA | Navy Video

The Navy’s physical readiness test, or PRT, has different requirements for men and women at every age group. For example, male sailors between the ages of 20 and 24 max out the PRT with 87 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 8 minutes, 30 seconds or less, and a 500-yard swim in six minutes, 30 seconds. Women in the same age group need to complete only 48 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 9 minutes, 47 seconds, and a 500-yard swim in seven minutes, 15 seconds to max out.

Meanwhile, height and weight standards also differ for male and female sailors. A male sailor who is within standards at 5′ 3″, 155 pounds and plans to transition to female must then meet standards for female sailors, which set the maximum weight for that height at 152 pounds.

Only a military medical provider can determine if a medical waiver is justified for sailors who are out of standards as they transition, the guidance states.

When and how to transition

In order to complete a gender transition while in uniform, sailors must receive an official diagnosis from a military doctor indicating that gender transition is medically necessary, according to the guidance. That diagnosis, along with a medical treatment plan, then must be reported to the appropriate unit commanding officer to for approval of the timing of medical treatment, taking into consideration when the sailor will rotate to another command, deployment and other operational schedules, and how the transition will affect career milestones. If a specific case requires immediate medical treatment, the guidance states it will be treated like any other medical emergency affecting a sailor. In these cases, the sailor may be transferred to limited duty status and “result in an unplanned loss to the command,” according to the Navadmin.

The commanding officer must respond to transition requests within 90 days, according to the new policy. The CO is allowed to take into account impact to the current mission, including “morale, welfare, and good order and discipline of the command,” when determining timeframe to respond to transition requests.

Gender transition treatment plans will differ from sailor to sailor and may include behavioral health counseling, hormone therapy, surgery, and real-life experience, the Navy’s term for for dressing and behaving in public as the preferred non-birth gender.

Sailors are allowed to begin participating in real-life experience before their gender transition is complete and their official gender has been changes in the personnel enrollment system, but must do so only in off-duty status, according to the guidance. All official unit functions, on-base or off, are considered to be on-duty status for sailors, making them off limit for real-life experience outings. And sailors deployed aboard ship face significant limitations: whether working or not, they are considered on-duty on ship at all times. While they can venture out in the clothing of their preferred gender during foreign port visits, these too are subject to restrictions and cultural sensitivities of the country in question.

“Commands need to be cognizant of host-nation laws and social norms when considering RLE in an off-duty status in foreign nations,” the guidance states. “Travel warnings, the State Department’s country-specific website, the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, and any U.S. regional military commander directives should be reviewed and heeded.”

During transition, some missions may be off-limits for sailors. Transitioning sailors will be restricted from flying and diving ops during medical treatment and there may be limitations for sailors who have access to nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons.

“The Navy’s bureau of Medicine is studying the effects of medical treatments associated with gender transition on members of the aviation and diving communities,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement.

Gender transition is only complete after a military doctor documents that the service member has completed required medical treatments and written permission from the commanding officer to change the official gender marker in the appropriate personnel administrative systems. While Defense Department guidance says no sailor may be kicked out of the service on the basis of being transgender, sailors are advised to consider the needs of the service when choosing how and when to transition. Transition should be completed during one tour of duty to avoid interrupting medical treatment and requiring additional coordination and a new transition plan, which may disrupt operational requirements at a new command. And transition during boot camp or service academy training is not advised.

“A service member is subject to separation in an entry-level status during the period of initial training … based on a medical condition that impairs the Service member’s ability to complete such training,” the guidance states.

Keeping the fleet comfortable

As a result of transgender sailors being permitted to serve openly, the entire fleet may get a little more modest.

Nudity in berthing and shower facilities is out, according to the guidance, and sailors must maintain a “minimum standard of coverage” walking through spaces, while sleeping, and while using bathrooms and washrooms, in order to show courtesy for others and maintain good order and discipline, according to the guidance.

Unit commanders are prohibited from creating exclusive berthing or bathroom facilities for transgender sailors, but are expected to use their discretion to enact appropriate policies to ensure the protection of privacy for individual sailors.

For urinalysis drug tests, which require that one sailor observe another procure the urine sample, the observer will be another of the same designated gender. But there may be adjustments to ensure the relative comfort level of the observer and the observed. These will be written into a future policy, the Navadmin states.

Though the details may be challenging, Navy officials said the service wants to make sure all qualified personnel find their place in the fleet.

“Our goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the most qualified and capable service members,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement. “If an individual can meet the Navy’s standards, they should be afforded the opportunity to serve.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russian submarines are causing alarm all over the world

Russian undersea naval activity in the North Atlantic has reached new levels, and NATO is worried that the undersea cables connecting North America and Europe and the rest of the world are being targeted.


“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” US Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s submarine forces, told The Washington Post. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

Moscow’s subs appear to be interested in the privately owned lines that stretch across the seabed, carrying insulated fiber-optic cables. The cables are strewn across the world’s oceans and seas, carrying 95% of communications and over $10 trillion in daily transactions.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
A Russian Sierra-class attack submarine. (Photo from Wikimedia commons)

Blocking the flow of information through them could scramble the internet, while tapping into them could give eavesdroppers a valuable picture of the data flowing within. The cables are fragile and have been damaged in the past by ships’ anchors, though usually in areas where repairs are relatively easy.

Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach, the UK’s defense chief, has also sounded alarm about Russia’s apparent focus on the undersea cables. “There is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds,” he said earlier this month.

Lennon’s and Peach’s warnings are only the latest about Russian undersea activity in the vicinity of important underwater infrastructure.

The New York Times reported in late 2015 that increased Russian naval activity near the lines led US military officials to fear Moscow planned to attack the cables in the event of conflict. US officials said they had seen elevated Russian operations along the cables’ routes in the North Sea and Northeast Asia and even along US shores.

Many undersea cables are in familiar places, but others, commissioned by the US for military purposes, are in secret locations. US officials said in 2015 that increased Russia undersea activity could have been efforts to locate those cables.

There was no sign at that time that any cables had been cut, and Lennon declined to tell The Post if the defense bloc believed Russia has touched any of the undersea lines.

But elevated Russian undersea activity comes as NATO members and other countries in Europe grow more concerned about what they see as assertive Russian activity on the ground, in the air, and at sea around the continent.

Russian planes have had numerous near-misses with their NATO counterparts over the Baltics in recent months, and Russia’s massive Zapad 2017 military exercises in Russia and Belarus during September had NATO on edge.

A force multiplier

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

Moscow has also pursued naval expansion, with a focus on undersea capabilities. A modernization program announced in 2011 directed more money toward submarines, producing quieter, more lethal designs. Moscow has brought online or overhauled 13 subs since 2014, according to The Post.

Among them was the Krasnodar, which Russian officials boasted could avoid the West’s most sophisticated radars. US and NATO ships tracked the Krasnodar intently this summer, as it traveled from Russia to the Black Sea, stopping along the way to fire missiles into Syria. More advanced subs are reportedly in production.

Subs are seen by Moscow as a force multiplier, as rivals would need to dedicate considerable resources to tracking just one submarine.

Subs are also able to operate without being seen, to carry out retaliatory strikes, and to threaten resupply routes, allowing them to have an outsize impact.

Russia now fields 60 full-size subs, while the US has 66, according to The Post.

Adding to Russia’s subsurface fleet are deep-sea research vessels, including a converted ballistic missile sub that can launch smaller submarines.

“We know that these auxiliary submarines are designed to work on the ocean floor, and they’re transported by the mother ship, and we believe they may be equipped to manipulate objects on the ocean floor,” Lennon told The Post.

 

Russian officials have also touted their fleet’s increased operations.

In March 2017, Adm. Vladimir Korolev, commander of the Russian navy, said the Russian navy in 2016 “reached the same level as before the post-Soviet period, in terms of running hours.”

“This is more than 3,000 days at sea for the Russian submarine fleet,” Korolev added. “This is an excellent sign.”

‘Those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats’

Western countries have also pursued their own buildup in response.

While US plans call for curtailing production of Virginia-class attack subs when Columbia-class missile subs begin production in the early 2020s, a recent study found that the Navy and industry can produce two Virginia-class subs and one Columbia-class sub a year — averting what Navy officials have described as an expected submarine shortfall in the mid-2020s and keeping the fleet ahead of near-peer rivals like Russia and China.

The US is looking to sensors, sonar, weapons control, quieting technologies, undersea drones, and communications systems to help its subs maintain their edge. (Government auditors have said the Columbia-class subs will need more testing and development to avoid delays and cost overruns down the line, however.)

Elsewhere in NATO, Norway and Germany — the latter of which does not currently have any operational subs — recently agreed on a deal to build two submarines for each country.

The response extends to tactics as well. US and NATO personnel have dedicated more time to anti-submarine-warfare training and operations. Transponder data shows that the US Navy has in recent months flown numerous sorties over areas where Russian subs operate, according to The Post.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons

“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, told The Wall Street Journal this fall.

As the number of sub-hunting ships that can patrol the North Atlantic, Baltic, and Mediterranean has fallen since the Cold War, NATO members are working to deploy more air and sea assets. This summer, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey signed a letterof intent to start development of new submarine-detecting aircraft.

The number of frigates — typically used for anti-submarine warfare — in use by NATO allies has fallen from about 100 in the early 1990s to about 50 today, prompting the US to rush to field more in the coming years.

Attention has also returned to the North Atlantic choke point between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK. The GIUK Gap was a crucial element of Cold War naval defenses, and US anti-submarine planes were based in Iceland for decades before leaving in 2006.

Also Read: This is how British Commandos pulled off ‘The Greatest Raid of All’

The US Navy has been upgrading hangers in Iceland to accommodate new P-8A Poseidon aircraft, however, and the Pentagon has said the US and Iceland have agreed to increase rotations of the US surveillance planes there next year.

As the Russian navy seeks to reverse the contraction it experienced after the Cold War, NATO too is looking to expand its commands after shrinking in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union.

A recent NATO internal report found that the alliance’s rapid-response abilities had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War” and recommended setting up two new commands to streamline supply efforts.

One, based on the continent, would oversee the movement of personnel and material in Europe, and the other, potentially based in the US, would oversee transatlantic resupply efforts and the defense of sea lanes.

“If you want to transport a lot of stuff, you have to do that by ship,” Lennon, NATO’s submarine commander, told The Journal this fall. “And those ships are vulnerable to undersea threats.”

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to commander, Task Force 67 participates in a photo exercise during Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. The annual multilateral Allied Maritime Command exercise meant to develop interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Plans for the new commands were approved in early November. More details are expected in February, though current plans include embedding the NATO North Atlantic command with US Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

“We are a transatlantic alliance, and we must therefore be in a position to transport troops and equipment over the Atlantic,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said recently. “For that we need secure and open seaways.”

Articles

Here’s how volunteers are stepping up to fight terrorism

Hunkered down in sniper positions on the top floor of an abandoned building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, two Americans and a British volunteer face off against Islamic State snipers on the other side of the front line. The trio, including two who were battle-hardened by experience in the French Foreign Legion and the war in Iraq, have made the war against IS in Syria their own.


They are among several US and British volunteers in the decisive battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, the city in northeastern Syria that the militants declared the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The men joined US-allied Syrian militias for different reasons — some motivated by testimonies of survivors of the unimaginable brutality that IS flaunted in areas under its control.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
People’s Protection Units work towards peace. (Photo from KurdishStruggle on Flickr.)

Others joined what they see as a noble quest for justice and a final battle with the “heart of darkness,” in a belief that violence can only be met with violence.

Taylor Hudson, a 33-year old from Pasadena, compares the fight for Raqqa to the 1945 Battle of Berlin in World War II that was critical to ending the rule of Adolf Hitler.

“This is the Berlin of our times,” said Hudson, who doubles as a platoon medic and a sniper in the battle against the militants. For him, IS extremists “represent everything that is wrong with humanity.”

Syria’s war, now in its seventh year, has attracted foreign fighters to all sides of the complicated conflict.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

Islamic extremists from Europe, Asia, and North Africa have boosted the ranks of the Islamic State group, as well as rival radical al-Qaeda-linked groups. Shiite Iranian and Lebanese militias have sided with the Syrian government, deepening the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million, half of Syria’s pre-war population.

On the anti-IS side — though far less in numbers than the thousands of foreigners who swelled the IS ranks — most Western foreign volunteers have been drawn to the US-allied Kurdish militia known as The People’s Protection Units, or by their Kurdish initials as the YPG. The US military has developed a close relationship with the YPG and its extension, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the war against IS.

Related: US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

Some Western volunteers have died in battle — earlier in July the YPG announced that 28-year-old Robert Grodt, of Santa Cruz, California, and 29-year-old Nicholas Alan Warden, of Buffalo, died in the battle for Raqqa.

Since launching the push on Raqqa on June 6, the US-backed forces have conquered a third of the city.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa has been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. (Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Hudson, who has been fighting in Syria for the past 13 months, said he was moved to tears by stories in the media of Iraqi Yazidi women who were enslaved by IS militants and looked for a way to help. A pharmacy student who learned combat medicine in the field, he said he had treated some 600 wounded ahead of the march onto Raqqa.

The presence of Western anti-IS volunteers in Syria has created something of a conundrum for their governments, which have often questioned them on terrorism charges.

“I am not a terrorist,” said Macer Gifford, a 30-year former City broker in London, who came to Syria three years ago to volunteer first with the Kurdish militia. Now he is fighting with an Assyrian militia, also part of the US-backed forces battling IS militants.

“I am here defending the people of Syria against terrorists,” he added.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Raqqa, Syria. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Gifford has been questioned by both his British government and by the US government. At home, he has written and lectured about the complex situation in Syria, offering a first-hand experience of IS’ evolving tactics.

He believes the militants can only be defeated by sheer force.

“The Islamic State (group) is actually an exceptional opponent,” Gifford said. “We can’t negotiate them away, we can’t wish them away. The only way we can defeat them is with force of arms.”

For Kevin Howard, a 28-year old former US military contractor from California who fought in Iraq in 2006, the war against the Islamic State group is more personal.

A skilled sniper who prides himself in having killed 12 IS militants so far, Howard said he is doing it for the victims of the Bataclan Theatre in France, where the sister of one of his best friends survived. The Nov. 13, 2015 attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the national stadium, and the Bataclan, where 90 died.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr.

“This is a continuation of that fight, I think if you leave something unfinished, it will remain unfinished for a lifetime,” he said, showing off his 1972 sniper rifle.

On his forehead and neck, he has tattooed the “Rien N’empêche” — or “Nothing Prevents”— words from the song of the French Foreign Legion in which he served, and “life is pain.”

“For me this is a chance to absolutely go to the heart of darkness and grab it and get rid of it,” he added.

From his sniper position on Raqqa’s front line, he peeked again through the rifle hole. For Howard, the orders to march deeper into the IS-held city can’t come soon enough.

MIGHTY HISTORY

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Israeli secret service agents ran an entire fake luxury beach resort in Sudan as a front for its operations in the 1980s, according to a BBC investigation.

A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.

And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.

An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:

“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.

“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”

Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.

The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Satellite imagery of a plot of land roughly where the Arous resort used to be.

Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.

An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.

Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.

Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.

Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”

He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”

The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
The resort was keen to showcase its proximity to the sea and water sports equipment.

The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.

They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.

After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.

The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.

The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.

“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”

The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.

Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”

Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like being an Army combat photographer in South Korea right now

When Private First Class Ethan T. Ford first thought about joining the military, he immediately had his hopes set on being a combat photographer.

“Joining the military has given me a lot of options and I’ve done a lot of things I would have never had the option to do before. I wouldn’t have traveled to Korea, cover historical events, or be in a movie,” Ford said.

As a 25V Combat documentation/production specialist, Ford is his unit’s official videographer, tasked with shooting and editing footage and capturing every moment of garrison operations.


Like all soldiers, Army photographers get trained on basic combat skills and learn how to operate weapons, expertly engage in hand-to-hand combat and administer basic first-aid.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan Ford practices photography techniques while on assignment in Seoul, South Korea.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

But being an Army photographer requires dedication and resilience. When the rest of the unit goes home or finishes the mission, the Army photographers get to work to upload their photos and videos and create products for the historical record.

When his friends in Oregon ask him what it’s like to be in the Army, he says he gives them the honest truth.

“Being in the Army is not hard, at times it can be mentally draining, but anyone who is physically capable can do it.”

This is not a typical assignment, according to his supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Pedro Santos, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Yongsan Visual Information Support Center.

His team is made up of creative types who strive on challenges.

Army photographers have to be able to quickly react to any situation in any environment. You have to make sure you’re ready and that your equipment is in good shape and your batteries are charged.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Dancers perform traditional acts during a community relations event at US Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, Korea.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

Between assignments, the soldiers are back in the office learning new skills, teaching each other new tips and critiquing each other.

Other parts of the job include handshake photos and designing PowerPoint slides, which isn’t the most inspiring for the truly passionate photographers like Ford, but meeting expectations is important.

One of the advantages to enlisting as a combat photographer, according to Santos, is that the experience and education you gain is unmatched.

“When it comes to someone who is passionate about something and they want to pursue that in the military as well I sometimes you get lucky and you get someone like Ford who is passionate about it,” Santos said.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford reflects on his various assignments while stationed in Seoul, South Korea.

(US Army photo)

Santos encourages his team to speak to the customer, usually a senior leader like a first sergeant or commander and find out what their goals are, what type of video or photography they would like and then you have to be creative and find out what kind of angles you are going to take the shot from and how you are going to prepare for it.

Some assignments can take up to one month of preparation and rehearsal.

“One thing you can’t really reach combat photographers is post editing, from my experience, you can take an amazing photo and be done with it, but when someone takes the time to perfect their work, it is impressive and it shows,” Santos said.

“You are in a great area, one of the biggest cities in the world. There is inspiration everywhere.”

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford captures a nature scene near his hometown of McMinnville, Oregon.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

On weekends, Ford goes out on his own on the weekend and practices different techniques and works on improving his craft. His favorite style of photography is capturing candid moments and doing street photography.

One of the highlights of his tour in South Korea was a special assignment in October 2018 when Ford witnessed history in the making and was the only photographer allowed in a meeting between North Koreans and South Koreans in the blue building at the Joint Security Area. The event was one of the first steps in a negotiation that is expected to result in officially ending the war between the two countries.

Outside of photography, Ford is a movie buff. He loves war movies and his favorite movies include Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Hacksaw Ridge to name a few.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

A river photographed near McMinnville, Oregon, the hometown of Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford.

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

Early 2019, Ford got to skip his normal routine of morning physical training, chow and VISC photography duties and was granted a two-day pass to play a movie extra in a Korean War film set in 1950 with actors Megan Fox and George Eads.

“Playing a movie extra was a lot like being in the military,” Ford said, “It was a hurry up and wait situation. It took several hours to drive there and several more to get dressed.”

One of the best parts of the experience was getting one-on-one acting advice and mentorship from actor George Eads, who plays MacGyver on TV.

Although the Department of Defense does not keep track of the numbers of service members who appear in television and film projects, there are many opportunities to play extras in movies because It is it is incredibly difficult for civilian actors to realistically portray the discipline of the U.S. warfighter without having served, according to Brian Chung, a military advisor to big Korean production studios in Seoul and in Los Angeles.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Private First Class Ethan T. Ford cast as an officer in a movie shot in Seoul, South Korea.

(US Army photo)

In fact, 90 percent of DOD-supported projects, including documentaries and reality television programs are unscripted, according to Master Sgt. Adora Gonzalez, a U.S. Army Film and TV Entertainment Liaison in Los Angeles.

“All service members have been trained since basic training to stand, walk and talk a certain way on duty,” Chung said.

Chung is a former U.S. Army Captain and was previously stationed in Yongsan as a military police company commander.

He understands how challenging it can be for soldiers stationed in Korea to be working long hours while displaced into a new culture, which is why he reached out to leaders at United States Forces Korea to get approval for the soldiers to be part of the movie.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)

“It was personally satisfying as a U.S. Army veteran of Korean decent, to honor the warriors of the Korean War with authentic portrayals that could only have been achieved by their successors serving on the same peninsula that they sacrificed so much to protect. Seeing the look of excitement on the young troops’ faces as they hustled around set from wardrobe, to the make up chair, to an authentic 1950’s set was an amazing icing on the cake,” Chung said.

The movie will be released around the same time that his tour ends in June 2019, when he will report to duty at his new assignment at Fort Meade, Maryland.

“I’m going to miss going out and eating in Itaewon, especially the fried chicken and ramen,” Ford said. “It’s some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. You won’t find anything like it in the U.S.”

After his time in the Army, Ford plans on taking more advanced courses and going back to Oregon and becoming a professional photographer.

“The Army is what you make of it. You can make it be miserable or make it be the best time of your life,” Ford said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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This is why it’s better to be shot by an AK-47 than an M4

Admittedly, I’d rather not be shot with either, but if I had to choose, I’d take a round from the AK47 over the M4 any day of the week. To understand why, it’s important to have a very basic look at the physics behind terminal ballistics, in this case being the science of what happens when a penetrating missile enters a human body. The first place to start is the Kinetic Energy Equation:


KE = ½ M (V12 – V22)

Breaking this equation down into its components, we have Kinetic Energy (KE) influenced by the Mass (M) of the penetrating missile, as well as the Velocity (V) of the missile. This make sense, and it is logical that a heavier, faster missile is going to do more damage than a lighter, slower missile. What is important to understand is the relative influence that Mass and Velocity have on Kinetic Energy, as this is key to understanding why I’d rather be shot by an AK than an M4.

You’ll notice that the Mass component of the KE equation is halved, whereas the Velocity component is squared.

For this reason, it is the Velocity of the projectile that has far more bearing on the energy that it dissipates into the target than the mass.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Bang. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

The V1-V2 component of the equation takes into consideration that the projectile might actually pass straight through the target, rather than coming to rest in the target. In this instance, the change in the Velocity of the projectile as it passes through the target (V1 being its velocity as it enters, and V2 being velocity on exit) is the factor that is considered when calculating how much energy the missile delivered into the target.

Naturally if the projectile comes to rest in the target (ie: no exit wound) then V2 equals zero and the projectile’s velocity as it entered (V1) is used to calculate the KE.

That’s enough physics for now, but you get the concept that the optimum projectile to shoot someone with is one that has a decent mass, is very, very fast, and is guaranteed to come to rest in your target, as to dissipate as much energy as possible into them, and hence do maximal damage.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
M4 Carbine. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The next concept to grasp is that of permanent cavitation versus temporary cavitation. Permanent cavitation is the hole that gets left in a target from a projectile punching through it. You can think of it simply like a sharp stick being pushed through a target and leaving a hole the diameter of the stick. The permanent cavity left by a bullet is proportionate to the surface area of the bullet as it passes through the tissue.

For instance, if an AK47 round of 7.62mm diameter at its widest point passes cleanly through a target, it will leave a round 7.62mm hole (permanent cavity). If this hole goes through a vital structure in the body, then the wound can be fatal. However, if the bullet passes through soft tissues only, then the permanent cavity can be relatively benign.

This is a slight oversimplification of the concept, as bullets will rarely remain dead straight as they pass through human bodies, as they have a tendency to destabilize, and the heavier back-end of the bullet will want to overtake the front.

This concept, known as yaw, increases the frontal surface area of the bullet as it passes through tissue, and hence creates a larger permanent cavity.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Far more damaging than the permanent cavity left by a projectile is the temporary cavity that it creates. Anyone who has ever watched the TV show MythBusters will have some familiarity with this concept, and it is best demonstrated using slow motion video imagery of bullets being shot into special jelly known as ballistic gelatin, which is calibrated to be the same density as human soft tissues.

What can be seen in these video images (below) is the pulsating dissipation of energy that emanates out from a bullet as it passes through the gelatin.

Also read: This is perhaps the fastest shotgun in the world

This is a visual illustration of the concept of temporary cavitation, and it allows the viewer to begin to appreciate the devastating effect that a high velocity missile can have once it enters a human body. The temporary cavitation is the transfer of Kinetic Energy from the projectile into the tissues of the target, and as we learned above, is relative to the mass and, more importantly, the velocity of the projectile.

As the energy of the projectile is dissipated into the tissues of the target the temporary cavitation pulverizes structures adjacent to the bullet’s tract, including blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and any solid organs that may be in close proximity.

For that reason the high velocity projectile does not need to pass directly through a structure in the body to destroy it. The higher the Kinetic Energy of the projectile the further out from the permanent cavity the temporary cavity extends.

Below is a slow motion video of a 5.56x45mm round (same as the M4 fires) hitting ballistic gelatine in slow motion. After watching, the medical provider can begin to appreciate the damage that gets done to tissues by the pressure wave of the temporary cavitation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRbAfdoU9vY

(Brass Fetcher | YouTube)

Another characteristic of the M4 round is the tendency for the bullet to disintegrate if it strikes tissue at a decent velocity. Despite being a jacketed round, owing to it being smaller, lighter, and faster than an AK47 projectile, it tends to yaw faster once it hits tissue and the shearing forces on the bullet once it is traveling at 90 degrees through the tissue often tears the bullet into pieces, thus creating multiple smaller projectiles and increasing the chances of all of the bullet parts remaining in the target, and hence dissipating more energy.

The AK47 round, being slightly heavier and slower than the M4 round will have a tendency to remain intact as it strikes tissue, and whilst it will penetrate deeper, it tends to remain intact and not yaw until it has penetrated much deeper than the M4.

More: This Marine tweaked his body armor to instantly treat a gunshot wound

The video below shows a soft point round being used, which theoretically should be more destructive than its full metal jacket counterpart, the video still illustrates nicely the significant penetration of the AK47 round without it yawing significantly or disintegrating.

I once saw a good case study illustrating this point nicely where a casualty had sustained an AK47 gunshot wound to the right lateral thigh and we recovered the intact bullet from the inside of his left upper abdominal wall. It had passed through approximately 1 metre of his tissues and shredded his small bowel, but the projectile hadn’t fragmented at all, and the temporary cavitation hadn’t done enough damage to be lethal. The casualty required a laparotomy to remove multiple sections of small intestine, but made a good recovery. That one is a story for another time.

(The Ammo Channel | YouTube)

Although an unpleasant injury to have, the fact that the AK47 round was travelling slower than an M4 at the same range would have been, coupled with the fact that the projectile remained intact and didn’t yaw significantly as in passed through him, meant the wound was nowhere near as devastating as the above-mentioned M4 injury in the same area.

It must be noted however that the comparison is far from perfect given that the M4 injury involved the bone, with the one immediately above passing solely through soft tissues.

So there it is, all things being equal, when all is said and done I’d rather be shot with an AK47 than an M4 on any day of the week. Naturally, as medical responders, it is always important to treat the wound and not the rifle that inflicted it, and I have certainly seen some horrendous AK47 wounds over the years and some relatively minor ones from M4s, so it all depends.

The main take home points for medicos are to be aware of the magnitude of damage that can be caused by the temporary cavitation resulting from high velocity missile wounds, and also if you find an entrance wound, there’s no telling where in the body the projectile might have ended up!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bowe Bergdahl just apologized to those hurt searching for him

In testimony at a sentencing hearing, US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has apologized to the troops who got hurt searching for him after he deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009.


“I made a horrible mistake,” Bergdahl, 31, said on Oct. 30 in his most extensive comments to date in the North Carolina military court proceedings where he pleaded guilty earlier this month to desertion charges. “Saying I’m sorry is not enough.”

Bergdahl suffered a blow earlier in the day when the presiding military judge said President Donald Trump had not damaged his chances of getting a fair sentence [when he repeatedly called Bergdahl] a “traitor” who should be executed while campaigning last year.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Judge Jeffery Nance, an Army colonel, said Trump’s “condemning and damning” statements will not influence him in determining Bergdahl’s sentence.

Related: This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

“I am completely unaffected by any comments President Trump has made,” he said, noting that he plans to retire next year and is not seeking any promotion that potentially could be blocked by the White House.

The judge said he would consider the president’s comments as a mitigating factor, however, raising the possibility of a lighter punishment for Bergdahl.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

Bergdahl faces a maximum sentence of life in prison after pleading guilty on Oct. 16 to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

The Idaho native was captured by the Taliban after walking off his combat outpost in Paktika Province in June 2009 and spent the next five years in captivity before he was released in a controversial prisoner exchange with the militant group.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A gymnast just defected from North Korea by ‘vaulting a 12 foot border wall’

Just in time for Thanksgiving, WATM brings you breaking news to remind you to to feel especially grateful: North Korea is the worst. Sure, America might have super high COVID rates and a little election chaos, but at least you don’t feel the need to defect by vaulting a 12′ barbed wire fence to your freedom. That’s right, a North Korean gymnast mustered all of his talent and courage combined with a healthy amount of desperation and hope, and vaulted a border wall into South Korea to seek asylum.

According to the Chosun Ilibo, the 20-something man climbed an iron pole and used the height to jump over the border fence. He was then spotted about a mile south of the border by South Korean forces using a thermal observation device. The man was promptly detained, identified himself as a former gymnast and reportedly requested political asylum.

Officials were so taken aback by his feat that they asked him to demonstrate twice how he was able to jump over the three-meter fence, according to the BBC’s Seoul correspondent. Authorities vowed to investigate why hi-tech security systems did not work.

According to the London Telegraph, “the audacious defection sparked alarm that the high security demilitarized zone, separating North from South, had been successfully crossed. The four-kilometre-wide, 250-kilometre-long strip is fortified by fences, minefields and armed sentry posts. Few defectors take the dangerous option of trying to break through, with most of the 33,000 who have fled North Korea since the ’90s opting for risky but more achievable routes through China.”

And, just because we love you and know how much you love reading about North Korea, here are 7 facts about North Korea from our good friends at Business Insider:

1. North Korea ranks 51st in population, but has one of the largest standing militaries

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
The North Korean military. 

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Two North Korean children rollerblade. 

According to National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder, rollerblading is popular “all over the country.” He reported that he couldn’t “count the number of rollerblading locations there are in the capital city [Pyongyang],” in particular.

3. Drugs are common and largely unregulated

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Kim Jong-Un visiting Ryuwon Footwear Factory in Pyongyang. 

Drug use in North Korea is largely unregulated and quite common, with an estimated 30% of North Koreans using drugs, UPI reports. Known locally as yeoksam, marijuana is grown in such quantity that smugglers sneak it across the border into China for foreign sale, according to Radio Free Asia.

Public Radio International reports that methamphetamines, and specifically highly potent crystal meth, are also common in the DPRK, and though these drugs are not as openly permitted as pot, their use is widespread. Meth is often used less for recreational purposes and more as an appetite suppressant and to help workers toiling away for long hours at farms, factories, and in other trades.

4. North Korea is home to the world’s largest stadium

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
The May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. 

Not only is the DPRK home to the biggest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity, but it holds that distinction by a massive margin. The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium (also known as May Day Stadium) has a total capacity of 150,000 people.

It dwarfs the next largest stadium, which is Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium, which accommodates 107,600 people. The venue is used for occasional sporting events, but its primary purpose is to host the annual Arirang Festival, a massive affair held each August and September that celebrates North Korean history, culture, and achievements.

5. North Korea holds political elections every five years

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
North Koreans clap during a mass rally organized to celebrate the re-election of Kim Jong Un as First Chairman of the ruling National Defense Commission, 2014. 

Strange as it might seem for a dictatorship to hold elections, North Korean citizens go to the polls every five years. However, the ballots they receive only list one candidate name, for the office of Supreme People’s Assembly deputy in their district, according to The Economist.

The only decision the voters have to make is whether to vote for the sole candidate listed or to vote against them, which involves placing their ballot in a separate box from the positive votes and having their identity noted, which could be considered an act of treason, The Economist reports.

6. North Korea exists in its own time zone

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
A clock hangs above chairs inside a waiting room at the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital. 

As of August 15th, 2015, North Korea exists in its very own time zone, shifted at least a half-hour apart from any other place on earth, CNN reports. Pyongyang time is GMT+08:30, to be precise, and was adopted in an apparent return to the time the nation used prior to twentieth-century Japanese colonization.

7. For some North Koreans, life is improving

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Munsu Water Park, North Korea. 

To be clear, for many North Koreans almost every day is a struggle where food shortages, horrid work conditions, and government oppression define life. But for some DPRK citizens, everyday life bears some similarities to the rest of the world, NPR reports.

More and more North Koreans have access to mobile phones, DVD players, and other devices that were virtually unknown less than a generation ago, according to NPR. Recreational opportunities including movie theaters, amusement and water parks, and more are common in Pyongyang and a handful of other population centers, and influence from the wider world increases more with each passing year, NPR reports.

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6 countries who are friends with North Korea

Under the rule of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been a real jerk on the international scene — like, even more than usual. In fact, not too many countries are willing to be friends with North Korea. But there are some countries who are willing to stand by them. Surprisingly, that total reaches six.


Here’s who they are:

1. Russia

This really comes as no surprise. After all, in 1948, the Soviet Union helped put Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, into power. During the Korean War, Soviet pilots flew missions in support of North Korea and helped with the country’s flight training. Russia also exported a lot of gear to Pyongyang, including MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Russian fighter. (Photo via Public Domain)

2. China

Again, no surprise, given that during the Korean War, Chinese troops intervened on the side of North Korea. China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner, and the two countries share a 900-mile long border.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Photo: Xinhuanet

3. Iran

This relationship could be surprising, except for the fact that Iran wants to buy a lot of weapons. In fact, Iran has purchased mini-submarines and ballistic missiles from the Hermit Kingdom, and a “scientific” alliance (read: nuclear weapons development) is also going on.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Iranian soldiers on parade. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

4. Syria

If there is a dictator who would challenge Kim Jong Un for most hated, it is Syria’s Bashir Assad. Like Iran, Syria sees North Korea as a source of weapons.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Hmeymim airfield in Syria. (Photo via Russian Ministry of Defense)

5. Cuba

Cuba remains one of the few communist regimes in the world. North Korea, also a holdout communist regime, is reaching out to its fellow client of the Soviet Union.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Fidel Castro became a close friend of the Soviet Union, something JFK tried to stop with the Bay of Pigs invasion. (Photo: Keizers)

6. Equatorial Guinea

According to many measures, Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights record. North Korea has reportedly been reaching out to its fellow pariah.

Check out this video rundown on the the countries that are North Korea’s only friends:

Articles

The Army may allow all soldiers to sport ‘operator beards’

You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.


Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Confederate General James Longstreet

For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”

According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Army Special Forces on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.

“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”

The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki)

“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”

“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.

The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.

At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bob Dole promoted to Colonel

Longtime politician Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in World War II by German gunfire, was honorably promoted to colonel May 16, 2019, in a private ceremony at the WWII Memorial.

Dole, 95, served as a captain in the 10th Mountain Division before pursuing a political career that included nearly 30 years as a U.S. senator for Kansas and the Republican presidential nominee in 1996.

Surrounded by the memorial’s pillars and arches, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley promoted Dole in front of a crowd of Dole’s friends and family and other Army leaders.


In its 244-year history, Milley noted, the Army has only honorably promoted three former officers. First, George Washington was promoted to general of the Armies, and then Lt. William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was promoted to captain.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, right, present former Sen. Bob Dole a wooden box with colonel rank in it during a honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Dole is the only living recipient of such an Army promotion.

“I’ve had a great life and this is sort of icing on the cake. It’s not that I have to be a colonel; I was happy being a captain and it pays the same,” Dole said, jokingly.

While a student at the University of Kansas, a 19-year-old Dole volunteered for the Army Enlisted Reserve Corps in 1942. Six months later, he was called up to active duty and commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1944.

He later deployed to Europe where he served as a platoon leader fighting against Nazi Germans in the hills of Italy.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Former Sen. Bob Dole, left, with his childhood friend, Bub Dawson, in 1944. Dole received an honorary promotion at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.

On April 14, 1945, Dole’s company launched an attack, but a stone wall and a field of land mines trapped them in an exposed area, according to an excerpt on his 1996 presidential campaign website.

As a German sniper began to fire on his unit, Dole selected a group of soldiers to go with him to take out the sniper when his radioman was hit.

Dole, now on his stomach, pulled the wounded soldier across the battlefield into a foxhole. Seconds later, an enemy shell exploded, ripping into his right shoulder, shattering his collarbone and part of his spine while leaving his arm dangling.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Former Sen. Bob Dole addresses the crowd during his honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“I lay face down in the dirt,” Dole said in the excerpt. “I could not see or move my arms. I thought they were missing.”

At first, Dole was paralyzed from the neck down and the Army sent him to a military hospital in Kansas so he could die near his home. Sensation slowly returned to his legs and left arm, but then he caught a fever of almost 109 degrees.

To save his life, doctors performed an emergency kidney operation.

“His war was over against the Nazis, but his fight was really just beginning,” Milley said.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Former Sen. Bob Dole stands at attention along with his wife, Elizabeth Dole, left, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley during the playing of the National Anthem at Dole’s honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

It took nearly three years and nine operations for Dole to recover from his wounds, which left him without the use of his right arm and limited feeling in his left arm. He improvised ways to strengthen his arms, and even learned to write left-handed, according to the website.

Dole earned two Purple Heart medals and two Bronze Stars with valor and, in 1947, he was medically discharged from the Army as a captain.

“As we know, he persevered and healed and he went on to distinguish himself in the service of his country many, many times over in both the House of Representatives and the Senate,” Milley said.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Former Sen. Bob Dole, lower right, and his wife, Elizabeth Dole, pose for a photo with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey before Dole’s honorary promotion ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Some of Dole’s legislative legacies, the general noted, include passing laws that made it easier for families to access food stamps, improvements to the Social Security program, extending the Voting Rights Act, and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In April, President Donald Trump signed legislation to authorize Dole’s promotion after Army leadership was asked to review his service record and contributions to the nation’s defense.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, left, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, right, present former Sen. Bob Dole a framed copy of the legislation to promote him to colonel during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Dole was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in January 2018 for his service to the nation as a “soldier, legislator and statesman.”

“Thank you all for being who you are and what you stand for,” Dole told the crowd, “and that you love America and you’re willing to fight for America, regardless of the consequences.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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