Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.
As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.
Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.
But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.
“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.
On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.
“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.
Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.
Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.
Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.
Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.
“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”
The white-suited Imperial soldiers were spotted patrolling a balcony at Disney Springs, the shopping, dining, and entertainment complex that was the first Disney World property to reopen last week. Following a monthslong COVID-19 closure, the complex implemented lots of new precautionary measures, and the stormtroopers were there to remind guests of what they needed to do to stay safe.
“Yeah, I’m gonna need you to move…one bantha’s length away please,” the headstrong female stormtrooper says to the clueless male stormtrooper, a reminder to him and the crowds below of the importance of social distancing.
In another bit, he tries to get the attention of someone in the crowd by saying “Hey! You! With the face covering!”
“They all have face coverings,” she replies.
“Well, I made them all look,” he points out, eliciting a groan from his exasperated companion.
Face masks are, of course, a CDC-recommended measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They’re also required for all employees and guests at Disney Springs, and thus made great fodder for the stormtroopers’ routine.
“Some nice face coverings down there,” the female stormtrooper said of the tourists’ masks below. “Probably nicer than these helmets.”
“I doubt it,” he replied matter-of-factly. “These helmets have atmospheric processing units with multi-stage filtration, heat dispersion, and vacuum-tolerant oxygen delivery.”
“Do you stand at night reading spec manuals?” she asked incredulously.
“That checks out,” she said, the “you nerd” heavily implied.
The stormtroopers’ repartee was nice because it managed to have some fun with the serious situation without making light of it. Wearing face masks and social distancing is serious, but this performance shows that messages aimed at the public can have some levity and be effective.
What would it mean to aircraft carrier power projection and attack capability if its fighters could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?
Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?
While some of these questions may, upon initial examination, seem rhetorical or rather obvious — they are at the heart of a now very critical Navy effort to engineer a new carrier-launched re-fueler by the early to mid 2020s. The drone aircraft, it appears, could bring the promise of more than doubling the strike range of an F/A-18 or F-35C.
With this end in mind, the Navy has recently released a draft Request For Proposal asking industry for design ideas, technologies and a full range of potential offerings or solutions which might meet the aforementioned criteria.
The concept of the effort, called the MQ-25 Stingray, is to fortify the Carrier Air Wing with a hack-proof unmanned refueler able to massively extend the strike and mission range of its on-board aircraft.
“MQ-25 is the next step in Navy’s integration of UAS into carrier strike group. The primary mission is a robust organic fueling capability to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters. The program has identified two KPPs for program: carrier suitability and mission tanking.” Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer, Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, told Scout Warrior in a statement several months ago.
A draft request for proposal will solicit input from industry developers regarding range, shape, speed, performance, avionics and sub-components – as part of a broader to find a synthesis between requirements envisioned for the aircraft and what is technically achievable within the desired time frame. The input will then be analyzed by the Navy in preparation for a formal Request For Proposal to advance industry competition.
The service previously awarded four development deals for the MQ-25 to prior to this draft proposal to industry by sometime this. Deals went to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman.
The process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.
Emmy-Award winner Alec Baldwin will be playing Colonel Jessep in NBC’s live production of “A Few Good Men.” The role was played iconically by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 film of the same name.
According to a report by Variety, Baldwin, along with Aaron Sorkin, Craig Zadan, and Neil Meron, will be credited as executive producers of the live telecast. Sorkin, who wrote the 1992 film and the 1989 play it was based on, is writing the teleplay adaptation.
“Alec is one of our greatest actors. Having him play this role — live onstage for a television audience — is a dream come true. This will be a brand new take on Nathan Jessep and I expect that Alec is going to bust through TV screens and right into living rooms,” Sorkin, also known for producing the television series “The West Wing,” told Variety.com in response to the casting announcement.
Baldwin has played other roles in military-related projects, including Jack Ryan in “The Hunt for Red October,” and Jimmy Doolittle in “Pearl Harbor.” He also has extensive live television experience, being a 17-time host of “Saturday Night Live.”
Russian media announced on Jan. 11, 2019, that it had significantly improved the stealth on its Su-57 fighter jet by applying a coating to the glass canopy on the cockpit, as well as similar upgrades to its Tu-160 nuclear bomber.
Russia’s state-owned defense corporation Rostec told Russian media the new coating “doubles radar wave absorption and reduces the aircraft cockpit’s radar signature by 30%” and added that Russia’s Su-57, Su-30, Su-34, Su-35, and MiG-29K jets already have the upgrade.
But none of those jets, including the Su-57, which Russia explicitly bills as a stealth fighter, are considered that stealthy by experts contacted by Business Insider.
While Russia’s Sukhoi fighter/bombers have enviable maneuverability and serious dogfighting capability, only the US and China have produced true stealth fighters.
Conspicuous rivets jutting out of the airframe and accentuator humps spoiled any possible stealth in the design, the scientist said.
Radar absorbing materials have been used to disguise fighter planes since World War II and have some utility, but will do little to hide Russian jets which have to carry weapons stores externally.
Other experts told Business Insider the Su-57’s likely mission was to hunt and kill US stealth aircraft like the F-22 or F-35.
TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, described the Su-57 as a “multirole fighter designed to destroy all types of air targets at long and short ranges and hit enemy ground and naval targets, overcoming its air defense capabilities.”
But Russia has declined to mass-produce the jet despite declaring it “combat proven” after limited engagements against rebel forces in Syria that didn’t have anti-air capabilities.
These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.
This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.
I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:
MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.
Schedule video conference calls.
Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.
Create a virtual water cooler.
Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.
Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.
Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!
Dedicate a space.
This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.
Don’t neglect hygiene.
Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.
This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.
As such, US Marines are still in Syria advising and providing fire support to SDF fighters, and sometimes reportedly at times even getting into direct fire fights (they’re also in country to deter Russian and Iranian influence, which the US largely denies or neglects to mention).
The US Air Force released some pretty incredible photos of US Marines training for those missions.
Check them out below:
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
“We can confirm this picture is of U.S. Marines conducting training on a 120mm mortar system in Syria on or about July 23, 2018,” Operation Inherent Resolve told Business Insider in an email.
The 120mm mortar has a range of up to five miles and a blast radius of 250 feet when it lands on a target. The Marines are using these indirect fire weapons to strike at ISIS positions and vehicles.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
Although OIR wouldn’t reveal where these pictures of US Marine mortarmen were taken, this picture was also taken by the same Air Force photog a few days earlier near Dawr az Zawr.
Dawr az Zawr is in eastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River, which has largely been a deconfliction line between US and Russian troops, and where US forces also killed about 200 Russian mercenaries in February 2018 that encroached into their area attempting to seize an oil field.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.
While ISIS still has a presence in Syria, the civil war in Syria appears to be in its last throes, as Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken much ground and even recently began issuing death certificates for missing political prisoners taken before and during the civil war.
When restrictions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus closed Travis Air Force Base’s schools, shut services’ doors and canceled social gatherings, the community’s lifeblood stopped pumping.
“Everything just went dark,” said Air Force spouse Jessica Moser.
60th Air Mobility Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant Derek Crowder recognized the challenge, saying it was essential to engage people by strengthening their four pillars: mental, physical, spiritual and social.
Volunteers got innovative, finding ways to set activity abuzz and get the lifeblood pumping again. “The great things that we have going across the installation are important because even though we can’t gather in masses, there are still good opportunities that we can connect,” Crowder said. “That’s what will get us through this.”
It seems to be working.
Providing Essential Supplies
When Air Force spouse Jenn Taylor heard that local medical facilities needed masks, she volunteered to sew them. She wasn’t an expert seamstress, but she had the equipment and time, she said. “I thought that was really important,” Taylor explained. “Blood, sweat and tears go into it.”
Word spread, and now she sews masks only for Travis service members, who are required to wear them at work. Taylor even fulfilled a last-minute order for 12 service members leaving for Germany. Having the masks were necessary for their departure. A mom of three whose spouse is deployed, Jenn said productivity is important. “It can make you feel small and powerless if you don’t have something to focus on.”
Two neighbors now help prepare fabric, which increased her production from 10 masks per day to 30. They’ve made over 275 masks so far.
Like essential workers, some families need supplies, too. The struggling economy is making it tough for some to make ends meet. “A lot of spouses lost their jobs,” Moser said. An active community volunteer, Moser knew that, because of imposed restrictions, many local organizations had resources to give but no way to give them.
Moser provided the way.
She collaborated with the Cost of Courage Foundation, Operation Homefront and Blue Star Families to prepare bags of food, toys and supplies for Travis families. With the help of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Moser organized a drive-through event, where families could pick up a bag.
Over 200 bags were given away – for free.
As Easter approached, Moser had one objective: spread joy. With no egg hunts or celebratory barbeques, she and other key spouses organized a drive-through Easter party. From the safety of their cars, families stopped at stations to take pictures with the Easter bunny, receive treats, select household supplies and enjoy the festive atmosphere. “There were a lot of happy children, and parents were grateful,” she said.
Crowder described other Eastertime efforts to spread cheer and lift spirits. On Easter, Travis’ Airmen Committed to Excellence group led a Chalk Cheer event. Dozens of families came to Travis’ David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center to support its 2,500 personnel by chalking encouraging messages and drawings outside. The event was a hit.
Crowder said he was heartened to hear that one medical center worker walked “the entire hospital just to see all of the messages that are out there.” Crowder has also sought to engage service members and families in ways that keep them sharp. In addition to a 30-day book challenge, designed to keep minds stimulated, Crowder launched a 14-day physical fitness challenge. He’s encouraging airmen to exercise in new ways while the gym is closed.
Airmen post their goals and workouts to Crowder’s social media, which cultivates a community of support and accountability. “It’s just great to see people thinking of different ways to challenge themselves physically,” Crowder said, praising airmen’s use of water jugs for weights and commitment to family bike rides. Multiple volunteers and organizations have found unique ways to support and connect, Crowder emphasized, adding that each person should find what works for them. “That’s going to be what helps us bounce back,” Crowder said. “It’s staying in tune with what’s going on across the installation.”
Service has helped volunteers push through their own challenges. “It’s stressful and scary,” admitted Moser, who also coordinated 1,000 care packages for dorm residents – twice. “But I guess I’d rather focus on the things that I can do rather than the fear and the unknown.”
Community members have sent volunteers patches, pictures of kids opening goodie bags and heartfelt notes of appreciation. “I think folks have seen where the Air Force and the installation have really wrapped their arms around the situation that we’re in and spread that message of ‘Hey, we’re going to take care of you,'” Crowder said. That, Crowder believes, is an example of what the Travis community – and the Air Force – is all about.
It’s transcending difficulties, making a difference and reaching a higher purpose.
The United States is withholding a $255 million military aid payment from Pakistan until it cracks down on what President Donald Trump has called “safe havens” for anti- Afghanistan militant groups, officials said.
State Department officials said on August 31 that the funds won’t be released from an escrow account until the United States sees that Pakistan is moving against the Afghan Taliban and allied groups like the Haqqani network that U.S. intelligence agencies say have resided for years withinPakistan’s borders.
Pakistan has denied that it harbors terrorists and has said the United States is using Islamabad as a “scapegoat” for its own failure to win the 16-year war in Afghanistan.
The new U.S. stance toward Pakistan prompted a protest resolution in the Pakistani parliament this week as well as anti- U.S. protests in the streets that Pakistani police had to disperse using tear gas.
In announcing the new strategy last week, Trump said “we have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting… That will have to change.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the time that the administration was considering curtailing aid, severing Pakistan’s status as a major non- NATO ally, and even hitting Islamabad for the first time with sanctions, unless it tackles anti-Afghan militant groups within its borders.
“We’re going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” Tillerson said.
To Pakistan’s alarm, Trump also floated the possibility of inviting India – Pakistan’s archrival – to get more involved in Afghanistan unless Pakistan is more cooperative.
The administration’s notification to Congress of an indefinite “pause” in installments on a $1.1 billion military assistance package for Pakistan represented the administration’s first step to make good on those promised measures.
The United States has sought before to use aid to Pakistan as well as U.S. weapons sales as leverage to secure Islamabad’s cooperation onAfghanistan.
Pakistan maintains that it already is doing everything it can to eliminate terrorists in the country, and has been more successful at doing so than its next-door neighbor, Afghanistan, even with the help of thousands of NATO and U.S. troops.
Moreover, Pakistan has complained that the United States does not appreciate the sacrifices Islamabad has made by joining the U.S. antiterror campaign, which Islamabad said has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers.
Mock IEDs attacks, fire and maneuvering drills, and scrambled medical evacuations are just a few exercises Marines and sailors run while training at Mojave Viper. “The Viper” takes place in Twentynine Palms, California, the largest training base of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Although each scenario the Marines encounter is played out under strict supervision, it’s considered the closest thing to war a young infantryman are exposed to before facing the real enemy. The training takes place in a desert landscape that closely resembles the environment troops will meet in Afghanistan — and it sucks.
It’s f*cking filthy
Infantry Marines and sailors from various bases show up to Camp Wilson, where their desert training will take place. 99.9 percent of the time, the Marines occupy the K-spans located on the grounds. Those K-spans are rarely cleaned before the incoming troops arrive, which causes problems.
Plus, since you’re training in an open-desert landscape, the wind will blow all types of viruses and bacteria about. This, in conjunction with already-dirty living conditions, causes troops to come down with all kinds of illness, like pink-eye and a variety of sniffles. Keep your mouth closed and your eyes covered whenever possible.
Cpl. Dwight Jackson, a working dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, cools off his dog, Hugo while training in Twentypalms, Calif.
The summer heat
If you’re unlucky, you’ll be sent to Mojave Viper during the late spring and early summer months. You better start getting ready for the heat.
Not only is it freakin’ hot in the direct sunlight, but the blazing heat is made even worse by training in your full PPE gear. Welcome to hell!
Lance Cpl. Charles Wohlers, 1st LE Gunner, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, prepares his gear for the cold wear before the Motorized Fire and Movement Exercise exercise on range 114, at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
(Photo by Pfc. William Chockey)
The cold nights
If you think the days are bad, just wait until the sun goes down and the temperatures drop. Hell has just frozen over.
Lance Cpl. Daniel Breneiser, right, gets vaccinated against smallpox by Hospital Corpsman Nathan Stallfus
(Photo by MC1 Nathanael Miller)
Showering in a pool of smallpox
While stationed in the camp, most troops receive a smallpox vaccination on their upper arm. This vaccination creates a small blister which takes a few weeks to heal and may leave a scar. However, during that healing period, troops still have to shower to maintain proper hygiene.
As you shower, water will run over the blister and onto the floor. When multiple troops shower at the same time, the plumbing usually gets backed up, essentially creating a nasty pool of smallpox-laden backflow. Great.
In 1846, American firearms legend Samuel Colt teamed with Capt. Samuel Hamilton Walker to produce the most powerful sidearm ever issued to the U.S. military – the Colt Walker 1847.
Walker, a Texas Ranger (no joke) and officer in the militaries of both the Republic of Texas and the United States when Texas entered the Union, served in the American West’s many armed conflicts. He fought the Indian Wars and the Texian War of Independence as well as the Mexican-American War.
With a 9-inch barrel and .44 caliber round, this weapon had an effective range of 100 yards and the muzzle energy of a .357 Magnum. At only 4.5 pounds, the Colt Walker 1847 was the most powerful U.S. military sidearm ever issued and the most powerful pistol until the introduction of the Magnum .357 in 1935. Walker himself carried two of his own pistols into Mexico during the war with the U.S. mounted rifles.
When one of his troops killed a Mexican soldier with the pistol at Veracruz, a medical officer reportedly remarked that the hand cannon shot hit with equal force and range as a .54-caliber Mississippi Rifle.
There were some drawbacks to the design, including that sometimes the cylinders blew up in the shooter’s hand due to the amount of powder used — which was twice the amount used in similar weapons of the time. Colt recommended using 50 grains of powder, instead of the prescribed 60. Lard was sometimes used to keep all the cylinders from exploding at once.
The Colt Walker’s legacy lives on in the hearts of firearms enthusiasts and American historians. In 2008, an original model, with original powder flask, fetched $920,000 at auction. That model was sold by Montana’s John McBride, whose great-great uncle was a Mexican War veteran.
Watch below as two European enthusiasts load and shoot a reproduction of the Colt Walker 1847.
Sand shifts below service members’ feet as sulfur engulfs the air and humidity lingers across the island. The weight of reality and historical value settles among them as they take in the view of where so many of their fellow service members lost their lives. This is, Iwo To (Iwo Jima).
Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conducted a historical professional military education for squadrons stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 7, 2017.
They loaded service members on KC-130J Hercules aircraft and flew them from the air station to Iwo To.
Once disembarked from their flights, they broke off into groups and conducted a hike passing by caves, memorials, and old machine-gun nests before reaching the top of Mt. Suribachi.
As the service members gazed across the island from atop Mt. Suribachi they left behind items such as rank, belts, name tapes, and dog tags.
“Never in my entire life did I think I’d ever be in Iwo Jima,” said U.S. Navy Seaman Anthony Adams, a corpsman with VMGR-152. “It blew my mind; the best part of the day was being able to place my shield at the top of Mt. Suribachi.”
Mt. Suribachi was a key strategic position for the Japanese military, serving as the toughest line of defense for the island during World War II. U.S. Marines with the 28th Marine Regiment surrounded and climbed the mountain at an estimated rate of 400 yards per day until the famous raising of the colors atop the mountain.
“It tugs at my heart strings,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory Voss, an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12. “This is a huge piece of Marine Corps history. Marines shed blood, sweat, and tears here. Granted I’ve only been in for five years, but this is the most exciting thing that I’ve done in my career. I’m honored that I could be here.”
As the service members began their journey down to the black beaches to collect sand from the once blood-ridden island, exhaustion was present through the sounds of grunts and groans, but not one Marine backed down. They trucked though the beating sun and radiating heat of the active volcano that is Iwo To.
“It was demanding,” said Voss. “Though we didn’t go through what our brothers and sisters went though, it was definitely a challenging — but humbling — experience.”
Service members collected sand from the beaches in whatever container they had so they could take a piece of history with them to keep or give to their families back home. Collecting sand from the beach is a tradition that most guests partake in during their journey across the island.
The beach played a significant role in the advancement on the island. Hundreds of, Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVTs) carried troops to the steep sulfur beaches of the island as U.S. Naval ships rained fire down upon the Japanese fortifications.
By the end of what was about a month of battle, 27 service members received the Medal of Honor, almost half of them posthumously.
“Tradition, lineage, and Marine Corps history means the world to me,” said Voss. “It reminds me of where we come from. Just to say I was in the same family as Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone is amazing.”
As we celebrate the Marine Corps birthday, it’s important to remember the Marines that drew the line, went above and beyond the call of duty, and their unselfish acts of valor. We must also remember the sailors that fought alongside them, through the bloody, tattered clothing to heal their wounds, and the Coast Guardsmen who replenished their brothers and sisters with supplies as enemy fire came barreling down upon them. On that island, we remember that U.S. Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz said, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”