Most fathers are happy to receive a tie or some other type of keepsake from their children for Father’s Day — especially once their children are grown.
For Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, he will have something far more valuable to see while he is forward deployed to Qatar this Father’s Day. He serves alongside his oldest son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, and both are members of Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.
“It’s a satisfying feeling with your children being in the military and seeing their accomplishments,” said Robert, who is the Base Defense Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge for Area Support Group-Qatar. “If anybody has an opportunity to do it, do it. If you could, give it a shot because it’s nice to have somebody around.”
The Scott’s family history of military service extends back to World War II. Robert’s father, and John’s grandfather, was drafted into the 114th Infantry Regiment for World War II service. Robert first enlisted in the Army in 1985 as a military police officer. After serving for six years in assignments in Panama, Korea, California and Missouri, he returned to civilian life and eventually became a police officer.
John, who is now the headquarters platoon sergeant and operations noncommissioned officer for Centurion Company, first enlisted at 17, while still a senior in high school, in 2006. This led to a fateful question John asked his father.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment.
(SGT Zach Mott)
“He was active duty long before I even joined, then he decided to get out,” John said. “When I joined, I can only remember me looking at him and saying, ‘don’t you miss it?'”
With that simple question, the ball began rolling and shortly thereafter Robert again found himself at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, this time training to become a 74 Delta: chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) specialist.
“He went in the Guard so I had him recruit me,” Robert said. “At the time, they had a little bonus program so it made him a little extra money.”
In addition to Robert and John’s military service, Robert’s second oldest daughter Jamie is a National Guard military intelligence officer and youngest son Robert is currently serving on active duty in Germany. Robert has four other children, one who manages a bar and restaurant in New Jersey, another who is a firefighter in New Jersey, one who recently finished high school and one more who is still in school. In total, their ages range from 32 to 15.
Robert, a Brick, New Jersey native, is proud of all of his children and happy to see that they’ve applied the discipline and structure that his military training instilled in him.
“He always had that military mentality that everything needs to be dress right dress, everything needs to be lined up perfectly. We grew up with it,” said John, a Toms River, New Jersey native. “Him being a cop didn’t help.”
This is the second time the Scott’s have been deployed at the same time. The first time, in 2008 to 2009, Robert was at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and John was at Camp Cropper, Iraq. While the two were separated by more than 300 miles then, they now have only about 300 feet between them.
“We would talk to home more than we were able to talk to each other,” Robert said of that 2008 to 2009 deployment. “This is kind of like we’re both at home. We’ll run into each other. The communication here is a lot better. It’s face-to-face. It’s good to see everything’s going good. I can tell by the way (he’s) looking at me that something’s up.”
John, who is also a police officer in New Jersey, likes to spend his off time, or “overtime” as he calls it, visiting with his dad in the BDOC, sharing a meal together at the dining facility, smoking cigars or doing typical father and son type games.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment
(SGT Zach Mott)
“The other day we were just talking and we just started tossing a roll of duct tape around, just catching back and forth,” Robert said. “If there was a ball there we probably would have picked it up and just started playing catch. We were both standing there throwing it back and forth to each other, he looks at me and he goes, ‘This turned out to be more fun than I thought.'”
Whether it’s the father-son relationship or the military rank structure, John remains deferential to his father when it comes to off duty activities.
“I don’t know, he outranks me so whatever he wants to do,” said John, who is on his fourth tour in the Central Command area of operations. Once to Iraq in 2008 to 2009, once to Afghanistan in 2009 to 2011, Qatar in 2014 to 2015 and again to Qatar now.
What the future holds for both remains open — and competitive. Robert said he wants to finish out his current contracted time of two years and see what options are available. John, who has 13 years of service, is looking for a broadening assignment as an instructor in the New Jersey Army National Guard next.
“He’s hoping I either die or retire because my brother was a retired sergeant first class,” Robert said. “I’m going to stay in. I’m going to drive him into the dirt. He’ll have to shoot for E-9 first.”
“He’ll retire, I’ll outrank him. Then I’ll rub it in his face,” John said.
The jokes continue and the smiles grow as father and son talk about the unique opportunity to serve together while deployed.
“How many other people get to go overseas with their father? I don’t hear much about it,” John said. “I’d say it’s a rare case. I get to have family support while deployed. I don’t have to reach back home to see what’s up.”
The F-15 Eagle, arguably the most successful fighter jet of the modern age, could be in for an early retirement with the US Air Force thanks to skyrocketing upgrade and refurbishment costs.
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Air Force and Air National Guard brass informed the panel that a plan was recently formed to retire and replace the F-15C/D variant of the Eagle far ahead of schedule by a matter of decades, though no decision had been made on that plan. While the Air Force did plan to keep the Eagle flying till 2040 through a $4 billion upgrade, it was recently determined that a further $8 billion would need to be invested in refurbishing the fuselages of these Eagles, driving up the costs of retaining the F-15C/D even higher than originally expected — presenting what seems to be the final nail the Eagle’s eventual coffin.
So, what will the Air Force likely do to replace this 40-year-old wonder jet?
The Air Force had at first planned to replace the F-15 with the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but successive cuts to the Raptor program left the branch with only 187 fighters, a substantially lower quantity than the planned buy of around 700. This forced the decision to keep the Eagles in service longer, and thus, the aforementioned investment of over $4 billion was made towards upgrading all combat coded F-15C/Ds with new radars, networking systems, and avionics to keep these fighters in service up till around 2040, when it would be replaced with a newer sixth-generation fighter, also superseding the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor.
Once the F-15 gets pulled by the mid-2020s, the Air Force claims it already has a solution to replace what was once a bastion of American air power.
This solution comes in the form of enhancing F-16 Fighting Falcons with new radars from Northrop Grumman, and networking systems to take over the Eagle’s role in North American air defense, at least in the interim until the Air Force begins and completes its sixth-generation fighter project, which will bring about an even more capable air superiority fighter replacement for both the F-22 and the F-15.
The Air Force has already begun extending the lives of its F-16s till 2048, through a fleet-wide Service Life Extension Program that will add an extra 4,000 flight hours to its Fighting Falcons. Air Force leadership has also advocated buying more fighters, namely the F-35A Lightning II, faster, so that when the hammer does eventually drop on the Eagle, the branch’s fighter fleet won’t be left undersized and vulnerable.
Even with upgrades, however, the F-16 still has some very big boots to fill.
The F-15 was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, meaning it was built to excel at shooting other aircraft down; all other mission types, like performing air-to-ground strikes, were secondary to its main tasking. To perform in this role, the Eagle was given stellar range, sizable weapons carriage, fantastic speed (over two and a half times the speed of sound), and a high operational ceiling. Conversely, the F-16 was designed as a low-cost alternative to the F-15, able to operate in a variety of roles, though decidedly not as well as the F-15 could with the air-to-air mission. Its combat range, weapons load and speed fall short of the standard set by the Eagle. Regardless, the Air Force still believes that the F-16 will be the best interim solution until the 6th generation fighter is fielded.
The USAF’s most decorated F-16 pilot, Dan Hampton, doesn’t disagree with these plans. In an interview with The War Zone, Hampton argues that though the F-16 lacks the weapons payload that the F-15 possesses, advances in missile guidance and homing make carrying more air-to-air weaponry a moot point, as pilots would likely hit their mark with the first or second shot, instead of having to fire off a salvo of missiles. Hampton adds that the F-16’s versatility in being able to perform a diverse array of missions makes it more suitable for long-term upgrades to retain it over the Eagle. Whether or not this will actually work out the way the Air Force hopes it will is anybody’s guess.
An ISIS militant teaching a class on how to behead captured prisoners was nailed in the head by a British sniper attached to the elite Special Air Service from 1,000 meters away.
The International Business Times says the 20-person execution class scrambled as the instructor’s head was taken “clean off” by the round from an Israeli-made .338 caliber DAN rifle. The bullet is designed to “tumble” as it moves through a target’s body, inflicting massive damage.
“One minute he was standing there and the next his head had exploded,” a British military source told Express UK. “The commander remained standing upright for a couple of seconds before collapsing and that’s when panic set in. We later heard most of the recruits deserted. We got rid of 21 terrorists with one bullet.”
Express also reported that British SAS units are deployed in small numbers to combat Daesh terrorists to avoid an all-out ground war. The militants will either swarm to a location, making an airstrike a better defense or retreat using tunnels.
One tactic the SAS uses is setting “desert death traps” for jihadis by laying out dummies dressed as officers. The terrorist fighters are alerted by scouts and locals, take the bait, and are then gunned down by SAS snipers.
The U.S. military has for the third time raised the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran’s missile strike on an Iraqi air base earlier this month, AP reported citing a Pentagon spokesman.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell said on January 28 that 16 more service members were now diagnosed with brain injuries, bringing the total to 50.
Thirty-one of the 50 were treated and had returned to duty, Campbell added.
In its previous update last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members had suffered injuries.
Initially, President Donald Trump claimed that no Americans were harmed in Iran’s January 8 attack on the Ain Al-Asad air base in western Iraq.
Concussions can cause headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, and nausea.
The US Navy on Sept. 23 will christen the USS Tripoli (LHA-7), its latest America-class amphibious assault ship that will pack Osprey helicopters, F-35 fighters, and thousands of Marines for rapid deployment from sea to shore.
Lynne Mabus, the wife of former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, will break the ceremonial bottle of wine across the bow of the 844-foot warship during a ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Once it hits the fleet around 2018, the Tripoli will join the USS America (LHA-6) on the high seas, with the pair of ships packing unique capabilities among the expected total 11 ships of this class. Besides their power-plant and technology upgrades, the Tripoli and America will not have a well deck for launching small boats filled with Marines to the shore.
Instead, the ships are “optimized for aviation capability” — giving them larger hangar decks to store more aircraft, enhanced aircraft-maintenance facilities, more storage for onboard jet fuel, and more high-tech intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
“The idea is rapid mobility air assault,” Capt. Michael Baze told US Naval Institute News. “So the thinking with me and my Marines right now is, lighter companies, people that can move quickly via the (MV-22) Osprey and the (CH-53Es).”
The Tripoli will also be the first LHA “fully ready to integrate the entire future air combat element of the Marine Corps,” including the F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings.
With its aviation-focused capability to deploy Marines, the Tripoli and America allow more standoff from potential hotspot areas.
“I don’t have to worry about force protection for my ship as much because I don’t have to get two and three miles off the beach to deploy my Marines” on small boats, Baze said. “The truth is, I’m over 100 miles right now — we could deploy the Marines from here.”
This will be the third Navy ship to bear the name Tripoli, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Derna, in which US Marines defeated the Barbary pirates in Libya. The victory is also memorialized in the “Marines’ Hymn” with the line “from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”
The Tripoli will be able to hit a speed of about 20 knots, with an approximate displacement of 45,000 tons.
Insurgents posing as friendly militia members lured a U.S. and Afghan team to a meeting in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a shootout and a coalition airstrike on the compound, the U.S. military said Jan. 12.
U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said the insurgents baited the team, inviting an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member, and an interpreter to a security shura meeting Jan. 11.
Once the meeting was over, the Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire, killing the militia leader and wounding the American service member and the interpreter. The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack but overstated the casualties, the U.S. military said.
The Taliban said the attack was carried out by two insurgents disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.
In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.
Gresback said that after the wounded were moved to safety, a coalition airstrike targeted the compound, killing 10 insurgents.
The mission was in Mohmand Valley, in Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.
According to Gresback, local Afghans began moving back to Mohmand Valley earlier last summer after being forced from their homes in 2015 when the Islamic State group affiliate began to take hold in the southeastern portion of Nangarhar.
The U.S.-led coalition, working with the Afghan forces, has waged a persistent campaign against the IS group.
Those who aspire to one day become a U.S. Air Force aviator must first meet several requirements, including height, before they are considered for pilot training. For those who fall outside of the Air Force’s height requirements, height waivers are available.
“Don’t automatically assume you don’t qualify because of your height,” said Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander. “We have an incredibly thorough process for determining whether you can safely operate our assigned aircraft. Don’t let a number on a website stop you from pursuing a career with the best Air Force in the world.”
The current height requirement to become an Air Force pilot is a standing height of 5 feet, 4 inches to 6 feet, 5 inches and a sitting height of 34-40 inches. These standard height requirements have been used for years to ensure candidates will safely fit into an operational aircraft and each of the prerequisite training aircraft. “We’re rewriting these rules to better capture the fact that no two people are the exact same, even if they are the same overall height,” Wills said.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Nick Harris (left) and Capt. Jessica Wallander, instructor pilots with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., stand side-by-side to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
“Height restrictions are an operational limitation, not a medical one, but the majority of our aircraft can accommodate pilots from across the height spectrum,” Wills said. “The bottom line is that the vast majority of the folks who are below 5 feet, 4 inches and have applied for a waiver in the past five years have been approved.”
The waiver process begins at each of the commissioning sources for pilot candidates, whether the U.S. Air Force Academy, Officer Training School or Reserve Officer Training Corps. For those who do not meet the standard height requirements, anthropometric measurements are completed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, or at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“We have a great process in place to evaluate and accommodate those who fall outside our published standards,” Wills said. “If an applicant is over 5 feet, 2 inches tall, historically they have a greater than 95% chance of qualifying for service as a pilot. Applicants as short as 4 feet, 11 inches have received waivers in the past five years.”
Anthropometric measurements include sitting eye height, buttocks to knee length and arm span. The anthropometric device at Wright Patterson AFB is the only device accepted by the Air Force when determining waiver eligibility. A specialty team conducts the measurements at U.S. Air Force Academy.
Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, Nineteenth Air Force commander, stands side-by-side with a Nineteenth Air Force pilot to illustrate the varying standing heights of Air Force pilots to dispel the myth that there is one height standard for all Air Force pilots.
(US Air Force photo)
Waiver packages are then coordinated through a partnership between the Air Education Training Command surgeon general and Nineteenth Air Force officials, who are responsible for all of the Air Force’s initial flying training.
“As part of the waiver process, we have a team of experts who objectively determine if a candidate’s measurements are acceptable,” said Col. Gianna Zeh, AETC surgeon general. “Let us make the determination if your measures are truly an eliminating issue.”
The pilot waiver system is in place to determine whether pilot applicants of all sizes can safely operate assigned aircraft and applicants who are significantly taller or shorter than average may require special screening.
“Some people may still not qualify,” Wills said. “But, the Air Force is doing everything that we can to make a career in aviation an option for as many people as possible. The waiver process is another example of how we can expand the pool of eligible pilot candidates.”
During the 2016 election, Russian-linked bots and trolls on social media attempted to inflame relations among Americans by spreading fake news and highlighting vulnerable racial and political divisions. They bought ads on Twitter and shared posts on Facebook, concealing their identities while pretending to be real Americans.
But the Kremlin has another, more conspicuous way of spreading propaganda and trolling the West that doesn’t normally get as much attention.
In the last few years, Russia has used official government Twitter accounts to undermine the West and hit back against criticism, often with tantalizing and meme-filled rhetoric. The Twitter accounts of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and its Embassy in the UK, both of which tweet in English, have been particularly active.
On March 6, 2018 for example, after UK Prime Minister Theresa May slammed Russia for planting fake stories and Photoshopping images on social media “in an attempt to sow discord in the West,” Russia’s MFA tweeted a satirical response.
This was one of several examples of official Russian government tweets aimed at sparking controversy among Moscow’s adversaries.
In a report published in November 2017, the watchdog group Freedom House noted that in few places is “the hypocritical link between state propaganda and legal restrictions on the media stronger than in Russia.” This gives Russia monopoly over the flow of information within its borders. Increasingly, the report says, Russia has used similar information manipulation tactics abroad.
Here are 10 other times Russia has used its official Twitter accounts to troll Western leaders and the media:
1. The Russian Embassy in the UK reacted to former President Barack Obama expelling diplomats and closing Russian compounds in December 2016 in retaliation for meddling in the US election.
2. Stories of Russian hacking and election interference became more widespread in the US, and the Russian Embassy was at it again.
3. Theresa May said Belgium was meddling in its general election — and Russia was happy they weren’t being accused this time.
7. Amid fears of spying, England said its football team would travel in Russia with a surveillance team. The Russian Embassy shot back with a zinger about England’s football team.
8. Critics alleged that President Donald Trump is a Russian pawn, and the Russian Embassy shared a meme from The Great Gatsby.
9. The British member of parliament leading the UK investigation into Russian election meddling talked about fake news, and the Russian Embassy egged him on with some #ThursdayThoughts.
10. On March 7, 2018, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert sent a series of tweets that condemned Russia’s military involvement in Syria, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a low blow.
Whether she’d posted a personal-best time or suffered a collision on the track, Emily Sweeney would flash her trademark smile to fans, media, or anyone who watched her compete. Even when sliding during frigid winter storms in challenging conditions, the New York National Guard Soldier kept smiling.
But for six months during the winter and spring of 2014, that bright-eyed grin couldn’t hide bitter disappointment.
A charismatic Olympic hopeful, Sweeney had entered the 2013 World Cup season as a favorite to make the 2014 Winter Games. When Sweeney lost the final spot on the 2014 U.S. Luge Team, missing the Olympics for the second time, she shut herself off from the sport to which she had dedicated most of her life.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted for so long and it’s something that’s very tangible for me,” said Sweeney, who in December, finally qualified to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
For Sweeney, the road to PyeongChang could be described as anything but easy.
Tough matchup hits close to home
Photos and murals of past Olympians adorn the walls of the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. Medals of previous Olympic greats in bobsled, figure skating, and luge sit encased in the facility’s trophy room.
Some former Olympic competitors still work at the facility, including former silver medalist Gordy Sheer, Team USA’s director of marketing and sponsorship. Sweeney, like other Olympic hopefuls, spent much of her youth here.
As a seven year old, Emily idolized her older sister, Megan, who competed in the luge program at the junior levels. She later joined the USA Luge program herself, after participating in a “slider search” in Rhode Island at age 10. Her sister remained a hero to her.
“I wouldn’t be here or be the person I am today without her,” Emily said. “I was really pushed by Megan from early on because I saw the potential of what I could be through her and that was really inspiring to me.”
After she turned 16, Sweeney showcased tremendous speed on luge tracks across the globe. And she demonstrated enormous potential in the sport in her first year competing.
During the 2009 World Cup season, Sweeney began competing at a higher level. She built her luge resume by nabbing Norton Junior World Champion honors and earning bronze medals at the Junior World Cup in Winterberg, Germany and a gold medal at Park City, Utah.
And during the 2009 season, Emily began to beat her older sister and some of her national team peers during practice runs and some competitions. During one World Cup competition in Park City, Utah, she called her parents with concerns about competing with her sister and hero.
“She was very upset,” said Sweeney’s mother, Sue. “She was worried that she was going to beat Megan in the race and it would be the end of Megan’s (Olympic bid).”
Dreams of the Olympics, of course, had always been on her sister’s mind, and her own as well.
“I’ve always wanted that moment of walking in on opening ceremonies,” said Sweeney. “That is the epitome of what I want … to walk in with my whole team and have ‘USA’ on our backs.”
Later that year, during the final World Cup competition in Lillehammer, the final two spots for the 2010 Olympic team came down to two competitors. Both wore the name “Sweeney” on their uniforms.
Jarred by the prospect of beating her idol, the sisters made a pact to leave everything on the floor on their next competition.
Emily went on to lose to her sister in a race off at the Olympiacenter in Norway, falling by two tenths of a second. Due to a medical waiver, another team member took the final spot for the 2010 Vancouver team, while Emily remained on stand-by as an Olympic alternate. Emily still traveled to British Columbia to cheer on her sister from the stands.
“Going to the Olympics and watching her was difficult,” Emily said. “I’m glad I went, I’m glad I supported her. I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But it was tough standing on the other side of the track watching my dream happen.”
After she missed a shot at Vancouver, Emily would make a life decision that would set the foundation for life after luge.
An athlete and a soldier
Jack Sweeney, Emily’s grandfather, had long been an inspiration in Emily’s life. While she would prepare meals for him, he’d relay stories to her about his days in the Navy. Emily said her grandfather instilled in her a sense of pride for her country and also inspired her to join the Army National Guard.
Joining the military sparked a change in Emily. She often took a leadership role during basic combat trainng at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She did the same during her advanced individual training there, where she learned to be a military policeman. She even graduated with honors from the Army’s military police school.
Once in the Army, Emily also opted to join the World Class Athlete Program.
“I thought it was a great avenue of opportunity,” Emily said of her decision to join the Army. “I knew I wanted to continue being an athlete, but I didn’t want to only be an athlete. I wanted something else to pursue beyond my athletic career.”
After joining the Guard, Emily became more of a leader for USA Luge as well, not only competing for the program, but also helping the program identify and recruit talented youth to the sport during talent searches.
Sochi slips away
Around Thanksgiving 2013, Sweeney knew it. Her parents, as they checked at the World Cup standings online also knew: Emily would not be competing at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
A season that began with promise, instead led to complications with her sled, dealing with minor injuries and slower finish times on the World Cup circuit.
After her final races had finished for 2013, Sweeney sat in her hotel room. Her boyfriend, Italian luge team member Dominik Fischnaller, brought her a cup of her favorite ice cream.
And then for six months, Sweeney walked away from the sport to which she had dedicated a great chunk of her childhood. Instead of weight training and spending hours on the track, Sweeney removed herself from any luge or exercise activities. Instead, she retreated to her home in Lake Placid and contemplated her future in the sport.
“I went from being an Olympic hopeful, training at 100 percent,” Emily said, “to just stopping everything.
“I was really at a point where I said, ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point of doing this if I’m not getting the results I’m wanting?’ It took a while, I closed myself off.”
She began working as a waitress and hostess at local restaurants. And while she’d visit her ailing grandfather in neighboring Saranac Lake, she mostly cut herself off from family and dealt with struggles the best way she knew: internally.
“We lost her for a while,” Sue said. “It was tough. She didn’t even watch the (2014 Winter) Games.”
“Emily had to refine her sliding and her motivation,” Megan said. “It took her a long time. But I think that’s normal when you have a dream and become so disappointed … It was very, very tough because she knows she’s good.”
The Army gets her rolling
In May 2014, Emily remained withdrawn from the luge community. It would be just the wakeup call she needed to get back on track with her sport.
She received orders to attend Warrior Leader Course (now the Basic Leader Course) that spring at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During the month-long course, she took tests on her leadership skills, land navigation and various drills to prepare to become a noncommissioned officer .
After giving up her strict luge-related training routine and regular exercising, Emily had lost muscle mass. She’d dropped 20 pounds from her 5-foot-5-inch frame. As a result, for the first time since enlisting in the Guard, she failed to score a 300 on her Army Physical Fitness Test.
“(WLC) kind of pulled me out,” said Sweeney. “It gave me a schedule that I had to adhere to again. I kind of got back into the military mode and then after that I got back into my training.”
Shortly after graduating WLC, Sweeney resumed luge-related activities. She began lifting weights again, and changed her routine, and began working out at JEKL gym in Plainville, Connecticut. There Sweeney took part in grueling gymnastics-based training to strengthen her core muscles using various gymnastics apparatus pieces including rings, the high bar and parallel bars.
“It definitely put me in my place pretty quickly,” Sweeney said.
The old Emily had returned, away from the luge track too. She began reconnecting with friends. She spoke with family members more often.
And that familiar smile came back.
“Everybody always kids her about her smile — she always has a big smile on her face,” said her mother, Sue. “But it’s true — it’s part of who she is. Once you start to see her smile coming back, you know she’s starting to feel much more like herself.”
In December 2015, during World Cup competition on their home track in Lake Placid, Sweeney and teammates Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher swept the field. It marked the first time the U.S. women knocked out the dominant German team.
“We’re more of a force to be reckoned with now,” Sweeney said.
During a fall, Sweeney suffered injury to her wrist that required surgery in 2016, proving to be a minor setback. But she bounced back to stellar marks in 2017.
“The (wrist) injury really didn’t worry me,” USA Luge coach Bill Tavares said. “For her it was all mental. When I knew that she was mentally strong coming into this year then there was no worry on my part.”
Hitting her stride
The 4,242-foot luge course in Winterberg, Germany presents a daunting challenge to competitive lugers. Those who accept its challenge must enter the course’s labyrinth in near-perfect form. In November, Sweeney and her USA teammates traveled to Winterberg to face the mighty German team that built an Olympic juggernaut on this course.
At the track’s midpoint, a turn drops competitors into the labyrinth where sled speeds multiply.
After placing second earlier in the World Cup competition at on this track, mishaps on one of her runs sent Sweeney tumbling out of contention and she thought she missed her chance to clinch an Olympic berth.
But then she bounced back later that day to take her first World Cup gold in the sprint race, upsetting 2014 Olympic champion, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, on her home course. Instead, her shot at an Olympic berth would have to wait.
When dealing with the difficult highs and lows of competing against the best in the world, she turned to Grandpa Sweeney. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.
“He’s probably a big part of her personality,” Sue said. “He’s always been one of her best friends. And she’s looked to him for advice.”
As Sweeney begins final preparations for the Winter Games, she will do so with a heavy heart. Jack Sweeney passed away at age 88 on Jan. 3. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.
Olympian at last
Sweeney learned that she had reached the pinnacle of her career unceremoniously — not by an announcement on the track, or from posting a career-best time — but in a text.
Dec. 14, after having dinner with her parents and returning to the Lake Placid training facility, Sweeney received a message from her mother, Sue.
“See you in PyeongChang,” the text read.
Sweeney’s mother had been tracking the Nation’s Cup live stream on her phone. The Nation’s Cup was a pre-qualifying event for the World Cup later that week. Had Raychel Germaine qualified for the World Cup, she could have potentially knocked Emily out of Olympic competition. But she didn’t, and the final Olympic women’s luge slot went to Emily.
“It was just a peaceful moment,” Sweeney said, “I was stunned.”
She received congratulations from Fischnaller, her boyfriend of eight years. Then came a flood of 30 messages and well wishes from family, friends and teammates.
“I’m really happy for her,” teammate Summer Britcher said. “I know how hard she works. I’m very happy that she’s met this goal and I’m really excited to compete alongside her in (32) days.”
Sweeney will join 2014 Bronze medalist Hamlin and Britcher on the USA roster in PyeongChang in February. The impact of reaching her dream did not hit her until after finishing World Cup competition in the women’s sprint race Dec. 16, Sue Sweeney said.
A heavy snow blanketed Lake Placid’s Mount Van Hoevenberg Dec. 16, and athletes faced a wind chill so bitter that exposed fingers and toes could feel like frozen blocks of ice. During the women’s sprint race, Sweeney posted an efficient run in these slick conditions, but a mishap at turn seven hurt her final time, eventually knocking her out of sprint qualification. Unfazed, she posted a better time in her second run.
The weight of realizing her Olympic dream began to creep in. Still clad in her helmet and orange and blue leotard, Sweeney waved to her 80 supporters, family and friends. And once more she flashed her wide grin.
“Emily’s missed two Olympic teams very narrowly,” Sheer said. “In 2014 … that was a real tough one for her. It takes a certain type of person to be able to bounce back from something like that and to be able to keep fighting and I give her all the credit in the world.”
Then after 15 minutes of speaking with local and national media members, Sweeney locked arms with her older sister, rosy-cheeked from the stinging wind chill. Standing amid swirling snowflakes, Megan whispered into her younger sister’s ear:
“I’m so proud of you,” Megan said.
Next stop: South Korea
When Emily dons the USA colors at PyeongChang next month, she knows he will be representing more than herself. She will also represent WCAP, the National Guard and the U.S. Army. Sweeney, who currently ranks eighth in the International Luge Federation women’s singles, will join fellow WCAP athletes Matt Mortensen in men’s doubles and singles competitor Taylor Morris.
At 24, the Olympics will wrap Sweeney’s fourteenth year in the sport and she plans to bring home a medal for her team.
“Going to the Olympics isn’t enough for me,” Sweeney said “I want to go to the Olympics and do something. So it’s not over — the work isn’t over.”
It’s an inevitability for every veteran once they’re out and making friends in the civilian world. Eventually, you’ll hear about one of your of new friend’s grandiose plan to go out into nature for the weekend to go camping with family and friends.
In my personal opinion, one of the weirdest questions civilians ask with the best of intentions is, “when you were in the Army, did you guys ever go camping?” This question is met with laughter — sorry, can’t help it.
Of course we went out into the middle of f*ckin’ nowhere and set up a camp, but it’s hard to describe the amount of suck that comes with being in the field without sounding like you’re conjuring up some kind of story to scare the civilians.
But, despite all the obvious drawbacks of being in the field, civilian camping just doesn’t hold a candle up against our experiences. They might have comfortable sleeping bags and marshmallows and heated blankets, but here’s where they can’t compete:
On the other hand, if they believe that it’s not going to rain in the field… they’re an idiot.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
1. You only take what you need
It’s kind of hard to feel like you’re going out to test your survival skills when most civilian campers pack enough gear to qualify their tent as a three-star resort.
When you’re getting ready to go to the field, your platoon will give you a specific packing list… which will immediately get tossed aside in favor of bringing the essentials. You know someone’s got experience when they decide to scrap the four different versions of wet weather gear in favor of a single rain poncho to save a bit more room for more changes of uniform.
It may seem like busy work, but it’s actually very valuable for the next reason…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo)
2. You’re doing something at all hours of the day
Shy of hunting or fishing trips, which are usually just called hunting or fishing trips, you’re not really doing much when you go camping. Yeah, you might go hiking during the day and sit by a bonfire, roasting marshmallows at night, but that’s about it.
In the field, you’re actually trying to accomplish something. Even if it’s something lame, like protecting an area from the fictional Atropian militia, at least you have an agenda that your platoon is sticking to.
You learn valuable things in the field, like creating an impromptu shelter, immediate casualty care, and how to clear a room using live ammunition. Only two of those skills are taught by the Boy Scouts.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Scott Walters, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division)
3. You actually learn things
While there are countless books and instructional videos on how to go out into the wilderness and become “one with nature.” Most people, however, opt to forego scavenging up some edible flora in favor of the vacuum-sealed trail mix in their pocket.
Troops, on the other hand, have their platoon sergeant, who is usually a wellspring of information on the subject of survival. They’re out to teach troops how to do things. You come back having learned something.
…the operative word here being “special.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Leynard Kyle Plazo)
4. You’re with your platoon
Civilians pick their camping buddies based almost entirely around who will be the most fun to have around for an entire weekend — which makes a whole lot of sense when the goal is to have a good time.
The platoon, however, is structured in a way that ensures everyone has a specific purpose for being there — whether it’s the platoon sergeant who leads the unit, the medic who takes care of any medical issues, or the privates who do most of the manual labor. Everyone’s useful in their own special way!
I’d still take this any day over roasting marshmallows outside of a cabin.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ammon W. Carter, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Combat Camera)
5. You’re objectively more of a badass
When civilians pack up their campsite and return to work the following Monday, their coworkers will usually respond to camping stories with an, “oh man, that sounds like fun! I should go next time!” They’ll regale friends with funny stories and re-tell some choice jokes.
Tell them about your time spent in the field and you’ll get a different response. How does getting stuck in the rain for an entire week, eating nothing but MREs and stale mermite eggs, getting lost in the middle of f*ckin’ nowhere for a few hours because our Lt. thought he saw the land nav marker, having to sleep in a half-shelter that was poorly made at 0400 out of a poncho, and getting bit and stung by god knows how many bugs sound to you? It might not have been the best of times, but your story will certainly turn some heads.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un didn’t really “understand” President Donald Trump until he gave him a copy of the president’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” for his birthday in 2017.
In a recent interview with TMZ, Rodman said, “I think [Kim] didn’t realize who Donald Trump was at that time, I guess, until he started to read the book and started to get to understand him.”
Rodman, who considers Kim a friend and has made a number of visits to North Korea, said he believes the North Korean leader has had “a change of heart” when it comes to both Trump and the American people. The former NBA player didn’t take full credit for this, but still feels his efforts at basketball diplomacy with North Korea played a significant role in the recent warming of relations.
“I don’t want to take all the credit. I don’t want to sit there and say, ‘I did this, I did that.’ That’s not my intention,” Rodman said. “My intention was to go over and be a sports ambassador to North Korea so people understand how the people are in North Korea. I think that has resonated to this whole point now.”
Trump is set to meet with Kim at some point in the near future to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program, though a location and date have not yet been announced. Rodman is seemingly very pleased with this development.
“I’m not the president. I’m just one person. I’m just one person and I’m so happy that things are going well,” Rodman said.
In 2017 North Korea conducted a series of long-range missile tests as part of its broader ambition to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the mainland US. This led to a war of words between Trump and Kim as well as harsh economic sanctions to be leveled against Pyongyang by the international community.
But the tide has turned in 2018 as North and South Korea have rekindled relations. Kim recently traveled to South Korea for a historic summit with President Moon Jae-in, in which the two leaders vowed to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and work toward formally ending the Korean War.
Moon, as well as a number of Republican lawmakers back in the US, have given Trump a great deal of credit for these developments and have suggested the president should win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in pressuring North Korea.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Belarus’s Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich rolled her eyes when the creators of Chernobyl approached her for permission to use material from her book “Voices From Chernobyl” for the hit HBO miniseries.
“I told my agent, ‘Galya, they’re going to make another film…’ I was far from convinced. The only thing that convinced me, maybe, was the fee,” Alexievich explained in a recent interview with RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service.
However, the five-part miniseries about the tragic accident at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant has raked in rave reviews from critics and viewers alike, and Alexievich is no exception.
“It really impressed me. It is a very strong film. There is something there in the aesthetics that touches the modern consciousness. There is a dose of fear. There is reasoning. There is beauty. That is something that has always worried me about evil, when it’s not out in the open, when so much is confusing.”
And she said that her fellow Belarusians, hard hit by the nuclear fallout scattered into the air when Reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, have now had their eyes pried open to the real scale of the tragedy, Alexievich said.
“We are now witnessing a new phenomenon that Belarusians, who suffered greatly and thought they knew a lot about the tragedy, have completely changed their perception about Chernobyl and are interpreting this tragedy in a whole new way. The authors accomplished this, even though they are from a completely different world — not from Belarus, not from our region,” she explained.
Alexievich said the film has especially struck a chord with young Belarusians.
“It’s no accident that a lot of young people have watched this film. They say that they watch it together in clubs and discuss it. They are different. For them, questions about the environment, especially in the West, it is through that lens that they understand life.”
Alexievich also praised the selection of Johan Renck as director.
“The director is a Swede by nationality. And in the Swedish consciousness there is a deep awareness of the environment,” she said.
Meanwhile, Alexievich’s book has, in turn, received high praise from Craig Mazin, the writer and producer of Chernobyl, who tweeted on June 13, 2019: “I drew historical fact and scientific information from many sources, but Ms. Alexievich’s “Voices From Chernoby”l was where I always turned to find beauty and sorrow.”
From the vintage Soviet furniture and trash bins to the period clothing, Chernobyl has been praised for staying incredibly accurate to detail, even using real dialogue, much of it recorded in Alexievich’s oral history of the disaster, “Voices From Chernobyl.”
“There is a lot of my text in the reactions of the people. For example, when people stand on the bridge and admire the fire. Those are the first impressions following the accident. The world’s, as well. The director even admitted that all of this was created from the book. I have a contract with them and author’s rights of ownership,” Alexievich explained.
Some have suggested that the character of Ulana Khomyuk, a Belarusian nuclear physicist bent on uncovering the truth behind the disaster, is based on Alexievich, although Chernobyl’s creators have said the figure is inspired by a composite of scientists involved in the disaster. Alexievich isn’t convinced the character is based on her either.
“I don’t think they wrote Khomyuk with me in mind. [Eimuntas] Nekrosis (the late Lithuanian theater director) before his death put on a play based on [my] The Boys In Zinc. I was supposedly the main figure, but she was absolutely not like me.”
Alexievich says having a female protagonist like Khomyuk simply made sense, juxtaposing her against Valery Legasov, who was instrumental in the cleanup after the disaster.
“In the film, there is a need for a leading figure, a woman — maybe because they took from my view of life, this sense of femininity, the world of the woman. For me, this is very important. In all my books there are many women heroes, not only in the work The Unwomanly Face Of War. This relationship with the living. A woman is extremely capable of detecting the connection of things. Therefore, it was probably necessary to have a woman, not only Legasov. If there had been two men, there would be no story. They introduced a woman and with a man and a woman you get two perspectives. It is very interesting.”
Asked about some of the inaccuracies in the series that critics have seized on, Alexievich is dismissive.
“First of all, it is a feature film, and the author is entitled to his interpretation and understanding of things. But they say, ‘This minister was fat, old, and now he’s young.’ Or the opposite. Or the windows weren’t like that. If you want to think like that, then if we look at the famous film Battleship Potemkin by Eisenstein, where the baby carriage flies down the steps, then some sailor named Zhalyaznyak would say that that type of revolution never happened. God forbid if the truth about Chernobyl or the gulag system had been in the hands of such people.”
Alexievich noted even Russian media were full of praise for the series, at least at first.
“In the beginning, Russian media was very positive about the series and then probably there was some yelling in the Kremlin and they suddenly became very patriotic. Then there was news they are launching their own series about Chernobyl, about how ‘our’ agents pursue some American spy at the power plant. My God, when I read all this I thought that 30 years have passed and has really nothing changed in the consciousness?”
Despite those initial doubts, Alexievich is convinced that HBO has created a classic with a strong message that she feels needs to be heard.
“Most importantly, I would like that people watch it and think about the type of world we’ve entered with such dangers. And there are more and more. Artificial intelligence, robots. It’s a whole new world.”
2. “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
In the now famous speech that has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube, McRaven gave University of Texas’ graduating class advice on how to change the world.
His first tip: Make your bed.
McRaven explains the mantra, which later became the title of a #1 New York Times bestselling book, will help people start each day by accomplishing a task — then one more, and another. It also helps emphasize the importance of the “little things.”
“And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made,” he said. “And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
4. “Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up a ‘sugar cookie.'”
In Navy SEAL training, sailors who failed at basic tasks had to perform extra training at the end of each day. These SEAL hopefuls had to jump into the surf then roll around until completely covered with sand — earning the nickname ‘sugar cookie.’
During his UT commencement speech in 2014, McRaven said that many who became frustrated that their hard work didn’t pay off often quit. The lesson, he said, was that the true test is how one recovers from failure.
McRaven, then head of US Special Operations Command, in Afghanistan in 2013.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann)
6. “The great [leaders] know how to fail.”
McRaven addressed cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point during a ceremony for its seniors who had 500 days left until graduation. His speech, called “A Sailor’s Perspective on the Army,” detailed leadership lessons he learned from Army officers during his 37 years in service.
McRaven reenlists a Navy SEAL in November 2013 at Camp McCloskey in Afghanistan during a Thanksgiving visit.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann)
7. “If you want to be a SEAL, you must do two things: Listen to your parents and be nice to the other kids.”
McRaven gave this piece of advice to a young boy who wrote the SEAL asking if the Navy’s most elite commandos were quieter than ninjas.
8. “It’s not just about holding people accountable, it’s making sure the people around you understand that their effort is worthwhile.”
During a speech at UT’s Moody College of Communications in February 2017, McRaven talked about the connection between leadership and communication.
McRaven presents a flag to a family member of a deceased US Navy SEAL during a ceremony in Ft. Pierce, Florida in 2012.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Ginther)
9. “You may be in charge, but it’s never about you and you can’t forget that.”
During his speech at Moody College, McRaven said leaders always need to be aware of the impacts their decisions make on their subordinates.
McRaven speaks to service members at Joint Base San Antonio in Lackland, Texas in January 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ave Young)
10. “There is nothing more important to a democracy than an active and engaged press.”
After his speech at Moody College, McRaven published his thoughts about the American press and President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks against the institution.
McRaven salutes at his 2014 retirement ceremony.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Harp)
11. “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well.”
McRaven authored a blistering rebuke of President Trump’s move to revoke the security clearnace of John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director who has been a harsh critic of Trump.
In the Washington Post op-ed, McRaven defended Brennan as a “man of unparalleled integrity” and said it would be “an honor” to have his own security clearance revoked along with Brennan’s.
Trump responded by calling McRaven a “Hillary Clinton fan.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.