The Air Force's bomb squad just got an awesome new robot - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians here are working with a custom-made, next-generation robot that will pick apart bombs and study them.

Brokk — a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts with pieces of high-tech ordnance disposal machinery, as well as large construction demolition mechanics — replaces 20-year-old “Stewie,” the previous EOD robot.


EOD techs haven’t had a chance to fully test Brokk’s capabilities yet, but anticipate a live bombing exercise in the next few months will put it to work.

But the $1.3 million upgrade has been worth it so far, according to Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoagland of the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, who said the older robot had him operating more like a mechanic than an EOD technician.

“I don’t have to mop up hydraulic fluid right now. I’m not fixing wires that have [overheated] because of the sun or that have deteriorated over the years,” among other issues, he said during a tour here. Military.com spoke with Hoagland during a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.

The one-of-a-kind, electric-powered Brokk provides smooth extraction with its control arms, operated remotely from a mobile control trailer nearby, Hoagland said.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot
506th Air Expeditionary Group Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight members Senior Airman Aaron Skelton, Tech. Sgt. Stephen Ray Hunter Jr. and Senior Airman Joshua Brum, run a function check on a TALON robot.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)

Some movements can be programmed into Brokk, which weighs around 10,000 pounds. But typically, it takes at least two airmen to operate a controller for each arm, plus another to steer the robot, he said. Technicians will watch a live video feed from cameras fastened to it.

Brokk will allow teams to dismantle bombs — often live — after a range test, in which munitions might have penetrated 30 feet or more underground.

EOD techs then collect data from the bomb, providing more information to the weapons tester on how the bomb dropped, struck its target and or detonated.

“Basically, [it’s] data to figure out what happened, and why the item didn’t perform the way it was supposed to,” Hoagland said. “We hope the test goes well. If it doesn’t, we then go in there with this and take care of it.”

The robot, made by Brokk Inc., was named after the Norse blacksmith “who forged Thor’s hammer,” according to a base press release in April 2018. Part of its arms were manufactured in conjunction with Kraft Telerobotics.

Hoagland said the service could incorporate a few more capabilities into Brokk in the future, depending on necessity.

Whether that means lasers is unknown.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Why you should be training, not exercising

Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.

I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.


The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.

(Photo by Michael Gregory)

The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.

I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

A classic case of the slay fest.

(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)

How I loathed unit PT…

I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.

I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.

Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.

I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.

Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.

  1. A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
  2. A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.

Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?

(Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash)

The difference between training and exercising

In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.

This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.

Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.

(Photo by Jeremy Graves)

I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.

Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.

As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 special benefits reserved for Purple Heart recipients

The Purple Heart is the U.S. military’s oldest medal — but it’s more than just a medal. It’s a symbol of a sacrifice made on behalf of a U.S. troop for his or her unit, mission, and country. It represents a tangible, physical offering — a risk to life or limb. An officer can’t write themselves a Purple Heart package with some fancy wordplay. To get one, a military member must be wounded or killed in action against an enemy. There’s a reason people, veteran and civilian alike, take notice when they see it — it always means something.

So it’s nice to know that those who made such a sacrifice get a little bit extra.


The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

President George W. Bush awards a Purple Heart medal and citation to U.S. Navy sailor Jefferson Talicuran of Chula Vista, California, on Thursday, July 3, 2008, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

1. Medical Priority Upgrades at the VA

The VA prioritizes veterans into eight categories, ranging from Group 1, those with a 50-percent military disability rating or higher, and Group 8, veterans who have no service-connected conditions and are ineligible for medical care. A Purple Heart recipient will automatically be placed in at least Group 3, so they’re never responsible for a copay for medical treatment.

2. The Forever GI Bill

In order to qualify for GI Bill benefits, most troops must serve at least 36 months on active duty. Purple Heart recipients will get full benefits no matter how long they spent on active duty — and they get the full benefits offered in the bill.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

President Barack Obama awards Sgt. James N. Rowland, a Rohnert, Calif. native, the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. The ceremony was held in Al-Faw Palace on Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq on Apr. 7, 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Millett)

3. Preferential hiring in government jobs

When applying for a federal government job, all honorably discharged veterans who served active duty get hiring preference over non-veterans. Vets get five-point preference if they served during a war, served during a campaign for which a campaign medal was created, or served during certain periods or for certain lengths of time.

Ten-point preference is given to veterans who have a service-connected disability — including Purple Heart recipients.

4. Commissary and MWR access

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act makes Purple Heart recipients eligible for on-base shopping and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area use starting in 2020.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

President Trump shakes hands with U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Alvaro Barrientos, after awarding him with a Purple Heart, with Tammy Barrientos at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Apr. 22, 2017 in Bethesda, Maryland.

(CBS News)

5. State Benefits

Many states offer some sort of extra benefit to Purple Heart recipients. In Arizona, in-state university tuition can be waived for Purple Heart recipients. In South Carolina, children of Purple Heart recipients are eligible for free in-state university tuition. Check with your state VA to be sure — individual states offer property and income tax breaks that you may never hear about in a national discussion.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happened when 200 insurgents attacked these 49 Americans

It would go on to be known as the Battle of Wanat, the most costly single engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan to that point. Nine U.S. soldiers would make the ultimate sacrifice alongside another 31 U.S. and Afghan troops who were injured. But their defense allowed 46 paratroopers, three Marines, and their Afghan allies to hold against a coordinated attack by over 200 insurgents.


(Writer’s note: This article contains descriptions of real-world violence and there is a video embedded that shows attack helicopters firing on insurgents on the burning outpost. Obviously, viewer/reader discretion is advised.)

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

View of the 120mm mortar at COP Kahler days before the Battle of Wanat.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Queck)

The attack on the U.S. forces near Wanat in Afghanistan centered on Kahler, a combat outpost in the area. COP Kahler was a strong position, but it faced a number of defensive weaknesses. First, it wasn’t the high ground in the valley. That’s a compromise military leaders sometimes have to make, but you really don’t want to have to defend a position where an enemy can fire on it from above.

Another problem was that civilian buildings came close to the outpost. This included a mosque that the attackers would misuse as a fortress to get an advantageous position against the defenders.

Finally, and probably most importantly, COP Kahler was not yet done. Engineers had been working for weeks to prepare for construction, but the actual building only began on July 9, four days before the attack would come. And a number of important defensive measures wouldn’t be complete for weeks or potentially months.

Some of the defensive positions on July 13 were still just concertina wire and guns, though some positions were protected by boulders, HESCOs, or hasty earthworks. The task force had planned for the possibility that an attack would come early, while the outpost was still vulnerable. But the intelligence estimates did not anticipate an attack by hundreds, and the assets at the base didn’t either.

But Chosen Company of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment was holding and building Kahler, and they had prepared well for an attack with what they had.

The defenders’ TOW missile launcher was mounted on a HMMWV that could be driven around the site, but a platform was quickly built to give it better fields of view and fire. And there were two mortars, a 120mm and a 60mm, to provide additional muscle.

And the Americans had built observation posts in the territory around the outpost. These would allow American forces to inflict casualties from higher ground, but it would also deny the enemy a chance to occupy those three positions, meaning that was three fewer positions the insurgents could attack from.

And the engineers were busy from July 9 to 13, filling as many HESCOs and digging out as many fighting positions as they could. They were able to provide significant protection to the 120mm and many fighting positions before the attacks came. The 60mm mortar had a pit and a few sandbags, providing some protection. (Some of the defenses and fighting can be seen in this video.)

There were signs in the buildup to the attack that it was coming. Men in the nearby bazaar were seen watching the Americans and seemingly doing pace counts to figure out distances. The number of children in the village slowly dropped, and Afghan contractors refused to bid on some services for the base.

So when Capt. Matthew Myer saw five shepherds traveling together near the base he immediately prepared for a complex attack, using his TOW and mortars to hit the men shifting around the base. Five shepherds will rarely travel together because that many shepherds signals that there are either too many shepherds or too many goats in one area for normal grazing.

But before Myer could give the order to attack, two bursts of machine gun fire signaled the enemy forces, and then a rain of rockets came onto the U.S. warriors. The Battle of Wanat was on, and the enemy had seized the initiative.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

A Army graphic shows the defenses at COP Kahler during the Battle of Wanat. Notice OP Topside which is physically separated from the rest of the defenses. The hotel and mosque were key buildings controlled by insurgents during the battle.

(U.S. Army Combat Studies Institute)

That first volley came in the first hours of July 13, and it contained a very large amount of RPGs. While the Army history of the battle gives no official number to the rockets that hit the base, quotes from the men who fought in the battle described an absolute rain of rockets that left dozens and dozens of tail fins on the ground around the Americans. A radiotelephone operator later said that the “RPG fire was like machine gun fire.”

The insurgent forces had sneaked up close to the outpost and unleashed hell, and the volume of fire indicated that there had either been a major buildup of rockets at these positions or else runners were keeping the shooters well supplied. This rain of explosions took the TOW launcher out of the fight and suppressed a mortar and some machine guns and grenade launchers.

Myers and his men were suddenly struggling to achieve fire superiority. The mortar crew got at least four high-explosive rounds off despite the incoming fire, but were driven back from the weapon by the RPGs and machine gun fire. Rounds were flying in from buildings and trees near the outpost, and the fire was concentrated on the mortarmen.

But they weren’t the only ones in trouble. Another main objective of the enemy force was cutting one of the observation posts, OP Topside, off from the main force. While the OPs provided protection to the COP, they would also be vulnerable to enemy attack until the engineers were done clearing vegetation from the fields of fire.

A mortar crewman was injured by an RPG, and then another was hurt while dragging the first casualty to safety at the command post. The TOW launcher and HMMWV exploded, and it injured an Afghan soldier, knocked out some American communications equipment, and dropped two unexploded but unstable missiles back onto the defenders.

The artillery assets supporting the outpost sent death back at the attackers whenever they could, but they were firing 155mm howitzers at high angle. Danger close starts at just over 700 yards, and anything closer than 600 yards in rough terrain is simply too risky to fire. The automatic grenade launchers on the base had a similar problem.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Defenders at Kahler the day before the Battle of Wanat.

(U.S. Army soldiers)

The weapons that were available were fired at such a high rate that many of them began to overheat, and then the only .50-cal went down after an enemy round struck it in the feed tray cover.

But the worst of the fighting for the Americans took place at OP Topside. Only nine Americans were there at the start of the fighting, and the insurgent activity made reinforcing them a dangerous and tricky task, though the paratroopers would do so successfully multiple times.

The OP had its own artillery observer, but he was wounded in that first RPG volley. A paratrooper at Topside was killed in that same volley, and another died just moments later while attempting to throw a grenade. Another was wounded so badly that he could not fight.

The six men able to fight, including the forward observer, were forced to work through their own injuries and beat back the attack. Fortunately, the observer had sent a list of pre-planned targets back to the gun lines days before, and so artillery was able to send some assistance despite the fact that the observer could not conduct the calls for fire.

The defenders attempted to get the upper hand, but their own crew-served weapons went down from overheating or ammo shortages, and then one gunner was killed while firing his M4.

Finally, reinforcements from the main COP moved out. But the three-man team lost one soldier en route to a wound in the arm. Soon after they arrived, the enemy made it through the wire.

The attack was repulsed, but the two reinforcements were killed, and so was another soldier. A short time later, a sergeant moved forward to suppress fighters in a nearby building and was killed. Only one soldier was left in fighting shape with another three seriously wounded.

The defender managed to take out an enemy position with a light anti-tank weapon, giving most of the survivors just enough time to fall back to another position. But in their haste, they missed that the forward observer was severely wounded but still alive.

This artilleryman grabbed a grenade launcher and fired every round he had and threw every hand grenade he could reach. Just before he was forced to make a last stand at the OP, four men from the COP reinforced him, and Topside remained in American hands.

But a new attack, once again led by RPGs, strained this control. Every paratrooper on the OP was wounded, and one would die soon after. A platoon sergeant gathered a new force of seven paratroopers and two Marines and once again reinforced the OP, arriving shortly before the Apache attack helicopters.

Gun runs by the helicopters with their 30mm cannons finally drove the attackers back and allowed this larger force to protect the OP. Another platoon from Chosen Company arrived to help out their brothers-in-arms. This force brought multiple machine guns and two automatic grenade launchers with them on HMMWVs as well as multiple anti-tank rocket launchers.

The quick reaction force assaulted into the bazaar, driving the enemy from nearby buildings while suppressing other positions with the trucks. QRF fighters threw out smoke to mark insurgent positions and the Apaches eliminated them. Slowly, the volley of RPG fire lessened and, four hours after the attack began, the terrorist forces finally began to retreat.

Medical evacuation crews landed under fire to get the wounded out, in at least one case evacuating a casualty while an Apache made a gun run just 30 yards away. This limited American losses to the nine paratroopers already killed. A massive surge in U.S. and Afghan forces occurred July 13 with Afghan commandos coming in to clear the nearby village house-to-house and gain intelligence.

The biggest surprise for the Afghan commandos came when they searched the Afghan National Police station near the compound. A massive cache of weapons was there with most of them having been recently fired. But the evidence was that they had fired in support of the insurgents, not against them. The police chief and others were arrested.

Over the following days, American air assets pummeled insurgent positions, and future Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley set up operations in Wanat. An estimated 20-50 enemy fighters were killed in the fighting.

Despite the hard-won tactical success, senior leaders decided that holding Wanat was simply too costly and drained resources from more fruitful fights elsewhere. Chosen Company was pulled out.

popular

Why these Navy cats spent more time at sea than you

Sailors are a superstitious bunch. Cats were said to bring good luck on ships and prevent bad weather. While nobody can prove or discredit myths like that, what cats actually did was successfully catch rodents. In killing diseased-ridden rats, cats helped make for a safer, healthier journey, thus further fueling superstitions.


Historical evidence dates the link between cats and sailors as far back as their domestication in Ancient Egypt and through the Viking golden age — but why? For starters, cats have a natural reaction to barometric pressure changes.

So, if you come to know the habits of an on-board cat very well, once they start to take an unusual liking to shelter, you can intuit a storm is incoming. This, plus the fact that every ship needs a mascot made cats very welcome among sailors.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot
That blur in the lower middle is the mascot cat of the USS Pensacola. Because cats took photos in the 1860’s as well as you’d expect them to. (Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)

Ships’ cats were very well taken care of during their service. They would receive rations like any other sailor, were given bunks and living spaces like any other sailor, and they got plenty of love and attention like any other sailor.

Sailors would generally leave the felines alone to hunt any rodents that sneaked aboard while docked. And, during the lonely months at sea, cats were big morale boosters when solemn sailors needed a friend.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot
Don’t you just hate being woken up for firewatch? (Courtesy of the United States Naval Institute)

One of the most well-known naval kitties was Unsinkable Sam of WWII. As the story goes, he survived the sinking of three ships before retiring. He was first aboard the German battleship Bismark as a kitten (originally named Oscar). When it sank in May 1941, he was found adrift by the HMS Cossack, the ship that destroyed the Bismarck.

When the HMS Cossack sank in October 1941, Sam was with the picked up with the surviving crew and taken to Gibraltar and served as the ship’s cat for the HMS Ark Royal, which then sank in November 1941. Because he still had six lives to go, the Royal Navy saw fit to grant him shore duty as mouse-catcher at the Governor General of Gibraltar’s office.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot
His likeness is immortalized at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.

(Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat by Georgina Shaw-Baker)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat-search-and-rescue flying in support of Florence victims

Reserve and active duty pararescuemen were undergoing dive and jump training Sept. 11, 2018, in Key West, Florida, when they were recalled back to their home units to immediately begin the process of pre-positioning for Hurricane Florence search-and-rescue operations.

Reserve airmen within the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, put their lives on temporary hold to respond to a natural disaster.


“When we returned to Patrick (AFB) that evening, we unpacked our dive gear and repacked all of our hurricane gear,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joe Traska, 308th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. “We went home to see our families briefly and returned the following morning to begin the trip to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.”

In all, 140 Reservists dropped what they were doing on a Wednesday afternoon to fix and fly search-and-rescue aircraft, and perform everything imaginable in-between, to get four HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and all the necessary personnel and equipment heading north to Moody AFB, Georgia, when the prepare-to-deploy order was given Sept. 12, 2018.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter aircrew airmen with the 334th Air Expeditionary Group, sit alert on the Joint Base Charleston, S.C.flightline Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

The 920th RQW airmen integrated forces with active duty personnel at Moody AFB’s 23rd Wing and began posturing for an official disaster relief operation as one cohesive Air Expeditionary Group, waiting out Hurricane Florence as it crawled through the Carolinas.

Two days later, Maj. Gen. Leonard Isabelle, director of search-and-rescue operations coordination element for Air Force North Command, officially established the 334th Air Expeditionary Group tasked with positioning the fully integrated forces of airmen and assets for relief efforts to assist those most severely impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Within 18-hours, 270 airmen working together seamlessly picked up and moved their search-and-rescue operation from middle Georgia forward to Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Senior Master Sgt. Will Towers checks the tail rotor blades as part of his preflight checklist at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Sept. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

However, the coastal installation was still under evacuation orders leaving the 334th AEG faced with establishing a bare base operations center while contending with lingering unfavorable weather conditions.

“The base had to literally open their gates for our arrival,” said Lt. Col. Adolph Rodriguez, 334th Mission Support Group commander. “They (JB Charleston officials) began recalling critical personnel to give us the necessary assistance for this operation to be a success.”

With the aid of the host installation, the 334th AEG was at full operational capability, ready to conduct search-and-rescue missions when the first HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter landed Sept. 15, 2018.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Col. Bryan Creel, 334th Air Expeditionary Group commander, discusses search-and-rescue operational plans with Lt. Col. Jeff Hannold, 334th AEG deputy commander, at Joint Base Charleston on Sept. 15, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Technical Sgt. Kelly Goonan)

Switching gears from readiness training in South Florida to real-world operations in South Carolina is a prime example of, “being constantly fluid and flexible,” said Capt. Jessica Colby, 334 AEG public affairs officer. “Search and rescue is often like that: You never know where you’re going to go, you never know how big of a footprint you can bring, or what will be needed.”

There is one constant in situations like these, training, explained Rodriguez. “Reserve citizen airmen must constantly train to not only stay current, but to propel their capabilities beyond just meeting the minimum requirement. Honing their proficiencies will ultimately provide the best possible performance in real-world operations. All of the readiness training efforts that the 920th RQW has conducted has better positioned the Wing to this current operational pace.”

“The same capabilities which make the U.S. armed forces so powerful in combat also lends themselves extraordinarily well to disaster relief.”

“It’s amazing what these citizen airmen did inside and outside their Air Force specialty codes,” Rodriguez said. “They’re doing things they’re trained for, and accomplishing tasks beyond their job scope with zero deficiencies and zero mishaps.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.



MIGHTY HISTORY

How Sears became the store of the American Century

One of America’s longest-serving retailers is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. While this doesn’t mark the end of the 130-year-old retailer, it doesn’t exactly bode well for its future, either. With 700 just over Sears and K-Mart stores nationwide, the company is bleeding money it doesn’t have. Hopeful sources tell the Wall Street Journal that there will still be upwards of 300 stores open for the coming holiday season, but the company is a shadow of its former self.


The once-dominant retail sales company, first founded as a mail-order catalog in 1891, has been in a slow decline over the past decade.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot
(Wall Street Journal)

The company once sold everything, from dresses to appliances to even cars at one point. In fact, President Jimmy Carter even grew up in a shotgun-style house his family purchased through a Sears catalog. Hell, the company even sold cocaine and opium at one point. Try getting that on Amazon.

While anecdotes about Sears, Roebuck, and Company selling patent medicine are quaint, this was a company that was — for much of its life — ahead of its time. The story of the rise of Sears is almost the story of the American century — of the American dream.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

An automobile offering from a 1909 Sears catalog.

In the months and years after the Civil War, communication and transportation technologies that were developed to help the Union fight and win the war were still on the cutting edge. While working as a railroad agent around the early 1880s, Richard Warren Sears purchased a collection of unwanted watches from a local jeweler and then resold them to his coworkers — picking up a big profit along the way.

He used this experience to start a mail-order watch business with a watch repairman named Alvah Roebuck. The duo moved to Chicago, a rail hub, and expanded their offerings to other jewelry. After selling that business, he moved away to Iowa but came back to the mail-order business shorty after. That’s when Sears and Roebuck founded Sears, Roebuck, Company.

They began to expand into the rest of the postwar United States. Not through brick and mortar stores, rather the company expanded the offerings in its catalog. Most importantly, they began to service the more remote areas of the United States, lending dependability and stability to the supply side of these remote markets — something local stores could not do.

Eventually, the company went public, survived the Great Depression, changes in ownership and direction, and by the 1930s, was opening stores in urban areas to respond to the American population moving closer to those areas and away from rural ones. The company still distributed goods to rural communities from its multi-million square foot warehouse in Chicago. Control over its distribution was one of the stores’ original keys to success.

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Fashionable and functional.

Sears was the original “everything” store. Rather than sell the latest fashions or flash-in-the-pan trinkets, the original Sears stores sold reliable consumer staples at a lower cost. Socks and sheets aren’t sexy, but everyone needs them and the Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, was built on a foundation of consumer needs.

This is strangely also the foundation of Sears’ downfall. A company that had survived everything from the Panic of 1893 to the Great Depression and two World Wars would begin to lose sight of what once made it great and profitable. While Sears’ dedication to consumer needs helped drive American industry, helped develop suburban areas in the days following World War II, and even drive U.S. companies into Mexico and Canada, it began to lose sight of that foundation.

In the 1980s, the company expanded into credit holdings, stocks and financial products, even real estate. By the 1990s, it was no longer a price leader. Years of inflation in the 1970s and 1980s led to the foundation of similar department stores based on competing with companies like Sears through lower prices. K-Mart, Target, and Walmart fired the first shots that led to Sears’ decline. Amazon just put the nails in the coffin. Allen Questrom, a retired retail executive says 1985 was the year Sears made its first mistake.

“They took their eye off the ball,” Questrom, former head of Sears rival J.C. Penny, told the Wall Street Journal, referring to Sears opening the Discover Card brand. Other industry insiders say it happened earlier, when it purchased brokerage and real-estate firms like Dean Witter Reynolds and Coldwell Banker.

But by the time Sears decided to get rid of its financial holdings, it was too late. It survived the Great Recession, but its last profitable year came in 2010, posting losses of over billion since. Despite a further shedding and sales of unprofitable assets and an increased focus on what does work for the company’s remaining stores, the 70,000 employees left at the once-iconic retailer no doubt wonder if there’s anyone in the wings that could make Sears great again.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New missile defense plan could be aimed at North Korea

President Donald Trump rolled out his vision for the future of nuclear war fighting on Jan. 17, 2019, with the Missile Defense Review, and the plan reads like a guide to taking down North Korean missile launches.

The review, originally slotted to come out in May 2018, may have been postponed to avoid spooking North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un met with Trump the following month, Defense News reported.


North Korea regularly reacts harshly to any US military move that could threaten it, and has frequently threatened to strike the US with nuclear weapons in the past.

Throughout 2017, the US and North Korea traded nuclear threats that saw the world dragged to the brink of unimaginable bloodshed and destruction.

During that time, military planners, Congress, and the president all considered the unimaginable: Going to war with North Korea.

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(KCNA)

‘All options’ still on the table

North Korea, a serial human rights violator and nuclear proliferator, presents itself as an easy target for US intervention even for the most dovish commander in chief, but there’s one small problem.

North Korea’s chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, all of which can be affixed to ballistic missiles, pose a tremendous threat to South Korea, a staunch US ally, and increasingly, the US mainland itself.

North Korea discussed lobbing missiles at the US military in Guam and detonating a nuclear warhead above the Pacific ocean. Former Pentagon and Obama administration officials say this easily could have led to an all-out war.

During that period, Congress discussed the F-35 stealth fighter jet as a possible ICBM killer.

“Very simple — what we’re trying to do is shoot [air-to-air missiles] off F-35s in the first 300 seconds it takes for the missile to go up in the air,” Rep. Duncan Hunter said during a November 2017 meeting on Capitol Hill with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, according to Inside Defense.

Additionally, the US Missile Defense Agency in June 2017 put out a request for proposals to build a high-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft capable of flying higher than 63,000 feet and carrying a laser to shoot down ballistic missiles as they arc upwards towards the sky.

Both of these systems, a laser drone and an F-35 ICBM killer came up in Trump’s new missile defense review. North Korea was mentioned 79 times in the review, the same number of times as Russia, though Moscow likely has 100 times as many nuclear warheads as Pyongyang.

But Russia, the world’s largest country by far, has a vast airspace no drone or F-35 could patrol. Only North Korea, a small country, makes any sense for these systems.

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A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Even defense is offensive

While the Missile Defense Review in theory discusses only defensive measures against missile attacks, the military does not only defend, it also goes on offense.

Trump has directed the US to research using the F-35 and possibly a laser drone to take out missile launches which only make sense over North Korea.

If the US could significantly limit missile retaliation from North Korea it would mitigate the downside of taking out Kim, one of the top threats to US national security.

On Jan. 18, 2019, a North Korean nuclear negotiator will head to Washington to talk denuclearization with the White House.

But even as Trump goes ahead trying to find an uneasy peace with Pyongyang, the missile defense review clearly looks to give the US capabilites certain to upset the deterrence relationship and balance between the two nuclear powers.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the history of US military haircuts

When America was founded in 1776, the officers in charge wore powdered wigs. As time marched on, so did the evolution of regulation hairstyles — including facial hair. For most, facial hair isn’t an option anymore, but the military haircut was still in a world of its own.

From the buzzcut to the flattop to the high and tight, these are the definitive trends we can’t forget.


We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with Wahl, the brand used by professionals.

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Not a wig.

Revolutionary War

In the late 18th century, large, curled hairdos were totally in for men, who normally achieved this look by wearing wigs (called ‘periwigs’ or even ‘perukes,’ if you want to be fancy about it). However, this coif just wasn’t practical for soldiers; they were hot, expensive, and susceptible to infestation.

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That hair tho…

(Mel Gibson in “The Patriot” by Columbia Pictures)

Officers may have worn a looser, pigtail wig, that could have been made from their own hair or that of horses, goats, or yaks. Common soldiers, however, did not wear wigs. They either styled their long hair into the pigtail (called a queue) or, if their hair was too short, they styled a queue out of leather and attached a tuft of hair to the end.

Early Republic

The queue, however, would find an enemy in Maj. Gen. James Wilkinson, the commanding general of the newly-established United States Army. He abolished the queue, much to soldiers’ dismay.

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Did he do it because the “pigtail was an aristocratic affectation that had no place in an egalitarian republic” or because he couldn’t grow his own? You decide…

The U.S. Army even court-martialed a guy who refused to cut his hair in accordance with the new standards. Lt. Col. Thomas Butler was found guilty, but he died before his sentence could be carried out — braid intact.

Civil War

By the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, long hair was out and facial hair was in.

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You do you, Ambrose.

Though there were regulations about dress and appearance, beard and facial hair fashion tended to default to “the pleasure of the individual.” The variety of styles therefore ranged from short, refined looks (the famous Civil War-era Admiral David Farragut sported a stately combover with no beard, for example) to the… well… not so refined.

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How does your beard flow, on a scale of 1 to General Alpheus Williams?

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U.S. Marine Pfc. James B. Johnson was killed in action in the Pacific during WWII.

The World Wars

World War I was the first time when shaving became mandatory — not only was it a good sanitary practice, but it was necessary to get a seal on the gas mask. The face was to be clean-shaven and the hair no more than one inch long. By World War II, fingernails were also mentioned in the regs (they were to be clean).

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This is actually a decent depiction of the military haircuts during Vietnam.

(Photo by Ted Wicorek)

Vietnam War

Long hair was fashionable for civilians during the 1970s but, for the most part, the military sported the opposite look — they also had Article 15 to contend with for non-compliance.

On Naval ships, however, rules were a little more relaxed. For years, it wasn’t uncommon for ships to have beard-growing contests while at sea.

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Beard-growing contest aboard the USS Staten Island.

In 1970, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt began issuing “Z-grams” to help boost recruitment and retention. He used these communications to allow longer hair, beards, and sideburns. This policy lasted until the mid-1980s.

The 80s also saw the rise in the mustache.

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Due 100% to the standards set by Robin Olds, am I right?

Today, the mustache is still allowed, though there are now strict guidelines about how to wear it. Even a legendary triple ace from two wars like Col. Olds had to shave his as soon as he left Vietnam.

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Medal of Honor recipient Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr. sports what is probably the perfect modern military haircut: still in regs, but pushing it *just enough* to make you think.

Desert Storm and Post-9/11

Today, each branch of the military favors strict hair regulations for both men and women. There are medical exemptions extended as needed, and certain missions allow for relaxed hair standards (and even full beards), but overall, the “high and tight” reigns.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Navy’s last F/A-18C Hornet just took its final flight

The last Navy F/A-18C Hornet, aircraft number 300, made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana on Oct. 2, 2019.

Assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Cecil Field, Florida, aircraft number 300 completed its first Navy acceptance check flight Oct. 14, 1988. Lt. Andrew Jalali, who piloted the Hornet for its final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana, was also born in 1988.

“Today marked the final United States Navy F/A-18C Operational Hornet flight,” said the Commodore, Command Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Capt. Brian Becker.


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Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

The aircraft has remained with the Gladiators for its entire 31-years of service. The aircraft took off from NAS Oceana accompanied by three F/A-18F Super Hornets for a one-and-a-half hour flight and return to Oceana where it will be officially stricken from the inventory, stripped of all its usable parts and be scrapped.

Becker said the F/A-18C aircraft has served admirably for over 30 years and highlighted its history in naval aviation.

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Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

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Navy Lt. Andrew Jalali prepares for the official final active-duty flight of the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

During the last year, VFA-106 has transferred over 50 F/A-18 Hornets to various Navy Reserve and US Marine aviation commands, as well as being placed in preservation for future use if needed.

Both the F/A-18A and F/A-18C Hornet variants have been replaced by the updated F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. VFA-106 is the Navy’s East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, which trains naval aviators to fly the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNAVY on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two men arrested for voluntarily shooting each other while wearing bulletproof vests

Two men in Rogers, Arkansas, were arrested for taking turns shooting each other while the other wore a bulletproof vest, law-enforcement officials said.

Charles Ferris, 50, and his neighbor, 36-year-old Christopher Hicks were drinking on the deck of Ferris’ house on March 31, 2019, when they came up with the idea to shoot each other in the chest with a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, Arkansas Deputy Dorian Hendrix of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in an April 1, 2019 affidavit of probable cause.

According to the affidavit, Ferris had a bulletproof vest on and told Hicks to shoot him. The bullet hit the top left of Ferris’ chest, and it hurt but did not penetrate the vest, the affidavit said.


Hicks then put on the vest, and Ferris “unloaded the clip” — the rest of the five rounds in the gun’s magazine — at his neighbor’s back, Hendrix said. Ferris had been “pissed” about getting shot and the wound hurting, the deputy said.

None of the bullets penetrated the vest while Hicks was wearing it, the affidavit said.

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Map showing the approximate location of Charles Ferris’ house, where he and his neighbor Christopher Hicks shot each other while wearing a bulletproof vest.

(Google Maps)

Law-enforcement authorities were called to hospital shortly before 11 p.m. on March 31, 2019, after Ferris was admitted with gunshot wounds, the affidavit said.

Ferris initially refused to disclose the truth about the shootings, Hendrix said. Instead, he gave an elaborate tale about being shot while trying to protect a man he called an “asset,” who he said paid him 0 to keep safe.

Hendrix later got the truth out of Ferris’ wife, Leslie Ferris, whose identity Charles Ferris initially refused to reveal because “he said he didn’t want her to know he had been in a gun fight,” the affidavit said. However, she was the one who took Charles to hospital on March 31, 2019, after he complained of a pain in his chest, Hendrix said.

Charles Ferris also later admitted to inventing the story about the “asset” to protect Hicks, according to the affidavit.

Both men were arrested over aggravated assault, a Class D felony. Both were freed on ,000 bail on April 2, 2019, the New York Post reported, and ordered not to speak to each other, the affidavit said.

Prosecutors have yet to file a formal charge against either of them. They are due in court on May 13, 2019.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This German anti-aircraft tank has never seen combat

Germany has developed a lot of powerful guns and tanks over the years, but one of its most lethal anti-aircraft systems has never seen combat. Despite that, Germany keeps them around — and hands them down to NATO allies.


The system in question is known as the Flakpanzer Gepard (Flakpanzer is translated as “anti-aircraft tank,” but the technical term is “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun,” or SPAAG). In a sense, it’s a product of the Cold War. Today, the United States and its allies have become used to fighting under friendly skies, but in the Cold War, air superiority wasn’t a given. In fact, NATO forces were outnumbered.

 

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The Gepard, pictured here with German Leopard 1 main battle tanks, was intended to protect tanks from enemy air strikes. (DOD photo by SSGT David Nolan)

Sure, the planes belonging to NATO allies could win in a one-on-one fight, no problem. The problem was, however, the fight wouldn’t be one-on-one. Instead, it would look more like six F-15s facing roughly eight MiG-23 Flogger fighters escorting a dozen Su-22 Fitter attack planes. If these forces were to collide, the Floggers and six to eight Fitters might be shot down, but that would still leave a half dozen attack places en route to NATO ground forces. Considering that each Fitter carries about five and a half tons of bombs, that NATO ground unit could be in for a world of hurt.

The Flakpanzer Gepard was Germany’s answer to making sure those surviving Fitters enjoyed a hot reception and were either shot down or forced to abort their attack. To do that, it has a pair of 35mm autocannons that are radar-guided. In terms of mobility, the Gepard has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go 342 miles on a tank of gas.

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The Gepard has been handed down to a number of countries, including Romania. (US Army photo by: Spc. Caitlyn Byrne)

Germany, Belgium, and Chile acquired and retired the Gepard. The Netherlands acquired several as well, and they’re still ready for use. Romania, Poland, Brazil, and Jordan have all acquired second-hand versions of this vehicle.

Articles

Army to deploy Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe

To address the potential Russian threat, the Army will start rotating Armored Brigade Combat Teams to Europe, starting next year.


According to a report by the Army Times, the first unit to handle a rotation will come from the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado. The European rotation will join Armored Brigade Combat Team rotations in South Korea and Kuwait.

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(PHC D. W. HOLMES II, U.S. Navy)

The Army also announced that a brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart in Georgia, will be converted from an Infantry Brigade Combat Team to an Armored Brigade Combat Team.

An Armored Brigade Combat Team with the 1st Armored Division will also be moved from training duties to the active rotation. The deployments to Europe, South Korea, and Kuwait are for nine months.

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A U.S. Army Bradley during a training exercise. (Photo by Private 1st Class James Dutkavich)

At present, there are only nine Armored Brigade Combat Teams in the Active Army, with five more in the National Guard. The conversion of the 3rd Infantry Division’s brigade will make it ten active Armored Brigade Combat Teams.

The only U.S. Army unit permanently deployed to Europe is the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker unit. Earlier this year, the Army received the first M1296 Dragoon, a Stryker modified with the Mk 46 Bushmaster II 30mm chain gun.

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The first prototype Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle outfitted with a 30mm cannon was delivered Thursday to the Army. (Photo Credit: Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems)

An Armored Brigade Combat Team has three battalions, each with two companies of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and two companied of mechanized infantry that each have 14 M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

The brigade also has a reconnaissance squadron with three troops of 12 M3A3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles each.

The Army had to withdraw its Armored Brigade Combat Teams from Europe five years ago due to budget cuts caused by sequestration. A 2015 Army Times report outlined that the cuts reduced the number of brigade combat teams from 45 in 2012 to 30.

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