When A1C (Ret.) BJ Lange enlisted into the Air Force Reserve on his 35th birthday, he didn’t expect he’d fall in love with being a medic about as much as he didn’t expect he’d be diagnosed with cancer, get retired, and discover Stand Up comedy as a means to fight depression. But, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program helped him serve in a different ways.
BJ Lange is no stranger to being in the limelight, but how did this retired E-3 go from hosting Spring Break to teaching comedy classes for the Air Force?
Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF
Like most military veterans, BJ attributes his interest to service to his military family and his years of volunteer service as a public affairs officer and aircrew in Civil Air Patrol (USAF Aux). Even with a flourishing Hollywood acting career underway, BJ felt he “needed to do it before he spent years wishing he had” so he enlisted in the Air Force Reserve with the 452 AMDS at March ARB, CA – a decision that likely saved his life and provided an unexpected avenue of continued service.
While on orders at Lackland AFB, TX in 2016 BJ was diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent chemotherapy, and recovery. He thought this was all over, unfortunately BJ’s MEB (Medical Evaluation Board) proved unsuccessful, and against BJ’s wishes, he was placed on TDRL (temporary medical retirement) in July of 2016. However, this was a blessing in disguise. Aside form likely saving BJ’s life, BJ was enrolled into the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2) a DoD congressionally mandated program (AF’s akin to Army’s AW2, USMC’s WWR, Navy Wounded Warrior Safe Harbor) for wounded, ill, and injured service members and their families.
Although apprehensive because he was not combat wounded and mainly dealing with invisible wounds, BJ attended his first AFW2 CARE event at JBLM in August of 2016 and soon discovered the camaraderie, service, and pride he had lost so that his healing could begin. He took to the adaptive sports getting him on the high performance track and soon found himself completing their mentor and ambassador programs to help others coming into the fold. Unfortunately, in July of 2017 just one year in remission, BJ’s cancer relapsed into his lymph nodes, and he had to undergo weeks of radiation therapy leading him to become very sick, but BJ didn’t let that stop him – even after doctors pulling his medical clearance which meant he couldn’t go to Air Force Trials at Nellis AFB the following year. This led to another very rough period of BJ’s life full of depression, anxiety, and physical pain.
Though BJ’s chances of competing at the next Warrior Games (and subsequent Invictus Games) looked low another door opened. BJ expressed his interest in teaching his one-true love, improvisation. Specifically applied improv. Dr. Aaron Moffett, PhD., resiliency program manager and sports psychologist for AFW2, jumped on the chance, and in July 2018 BJ, who had already begun teaching the Improv For Veterans Program at The Second City Hollywood, became the Air Force Wounded Warrior’s comedy coach teaching hundreds of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their caregivers how to use improv comedy as an applied resiliency tool. In July BJ will be teaching at Ramstein AB Germany as well as Scott AFB, IL in August.
Staff Sgt. Sahara Fales, USAF
“When fellow wounded warrior Maj. Stacie Shafran called to ask if I wanted to come to Warrior Games, I jumped at the chance to be there with my brothers and sisters” Lange said. Lange was asked to attend the 2019 Warrior Games in Tampa to use his hosting experience during competitions via Facebook Live and other social media outlets as well as co-hosting the Fisher House Family Program for athletes and their families with fellow Air Force Wounded Warrior 1Lt (Ret.) Rachel Francis. “I can’t think of a better way to use my talents then to help share the stories of my fellow wounded warriors and the program that has and continues to help me heal”. Lange hopes to be able to compete next year at Warrior Games and go onto Invictus Games although sharing laugh via improv comedy games is just fine with him as he embarks on one-year in remission from relapse.
The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.
“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.
“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”
The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.
That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.
The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.
Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.
“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”
The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.
Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.
The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.
The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.
Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.
The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.
As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.
The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.
The CIA’s drone and surveillance programs are starting to wear on al-Qaeda’s leadership. The latest trove of Osama bin Laden’s captured personal documents from the Director of National Intelligence included personal letters, al-Qaeda memos, and even a personal letter to the American people.
The release shows a rising paranoia about drones, spies, and the various agencies tracking their movement. Al-Qaeda is still waging their brand of global jihad, but are wary about how they continue their operations.
In one memo, bin Laden warned kidnappers about tracking devices in ransom payments. Another letter discusses the wrongful execution of four accused spies. He also tells negotiators in Peshawar to only leave their homes on cloudy days, he tells operatives to be aware of infrared markers on their cars, and even worrying about Iranian dentists implanting tracking devices in their dental fillings.
The documents were seized in the May 2011 raid on OBL’s Abottabad compound when members of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six killed the terrorist leader and captured his “bookshelf.”
This second release has been translated to English and declassified, and reflects events between 2009 and 2011. Just days before the raid that killed him, bin Laden wrote about the ongoing “Arab Spring” revolutions in the Middle East. He urged more attacks against the U.S., but did not fully appreciate the battle space.
“He was somewhat out of touch with the (actual) capabilities of his organization,” an unnamed source told Business Insider. “Many of his best leaders are dead.”
Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.
The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)
Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.
He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.
Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.
Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.
But the event was canceled without explanation.
A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.
Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.
Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.
He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.
Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.
In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.
The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.
While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.
Since 2015, when images of a Russian nuclear torpedo first leaked on state television, the world has asked itself why Moscow would build a weapon that could end all life on Earth.
While all nuclear weapons can kill thousands in the blink of an eye and leave radiation poisoning the environment for years to come, Russia’s new doomsday device, called “Poseidon,” takes steps to maximize this effect.
If the US fired one of its Minutemen III nuclear weapons at a target, it would detonate in the air above the target and rely on the blast’s incredible downward pressure to crush it. The fireball from the nuke may not even touch the ground, and the only radiation would come from the bomb itself and any dust particles swept up in the explosion, Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit,” previously told Business Insider.
But Russia’s Poseidon is said to use a warhead many times as strong, perhaps even as strong as the largest bomb ever detonated. Additionally, it’s designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea and render it uninhabitable for decades.
In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.
Even in the mania at the height of the Cold War, nobody took seriously the idea of building such a world-ender, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider.
So why build one now?
A briefing slide captured from Russian state TV is said to be about the Poseidon nuclear torpedo.
Davis called the Poseidon a “third-strike vengeance weapon” — meaning Russia would attack a NATO member, the US would respond, and a devastated Russia would flip the switch on a hidden nuke that would lay waste to an entire US seaboard.
According to Davis, the Poseidon would give Russia a “coercive power” to discourage a NATO response to a Russian first strike.
Russia here would seek to not only reoccupy Eastern Europe “but coerce NATO to not act upon an Article 5 declaration and thus lose credibility,” he said, referring to the alliance’s key clause that guarantees a collective response to an attack on a member state.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it clear he seeks the collapse of NATO,” Davis continued. “If NATO doesn’t come to the aid of a member state, it’s pretty much finished as a defense alliance.”
Essentially, Russia could use the Poseidon as an insurance policy while it picks apart NATO. The US, for fear that its coastlines could become irradiated for decades by a stealthy underwater torpedo it has no defenses against, might seriously question how badly it needs to save Estonia from Moscow’s clutches.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin may calculate that NATO will blink first rather than risk escalation to a nuclear exchange,” Davis said. “Poseidon accentuates the risks to NATO in responding to any Russian threat greatly, dramatically increasing Russia’s coercive power.”
Davis also suggested the Poseidon would make a capable but heavy-handed naval weapon, which he said could most likely take out an entire carrier strike group in one shot.
But Russia has frequently engaged in nuclear saber-rattling when it feels encircled by NATO forces, and so far it has steered clear of confronting NATO with kinetic forces.
“Whether that will involve actual use or just the threat of use is the uncertainty,” Davis said.
While it’s hard to imagine a good reason for laying the kind of destruction the Poseidon promises, Davis warned that we shouldn’t assume the Russians think about nuclear warfare the same way the US does.
Ever since the F-35 Lighting II program started experiencing cost overruns – a nice way of saying it was hemorrhaging cash – much has been made of its excessive cost in both time and money. But the F-35 is hardly the most expensive Pentagon weapons system in the history of the Big Green Machine, it’s just that the F-35 is the first one to get the scrutiny that an internet-gifted public can give a Pentagon weapons program.
With the B-21 Raider bomber coming into production soon, it might be a good idea to look back and see the most expensive airframes ever created by the U.S. Air Force. For reference, although the development of the F-35 topped $1.5 trillion, the cost per plane is a relatively minuscule $115 million.
The only caveat to this list are the Presidential planes, commonly referred to as Air Force One. Each of those cost $600 million apiece and would sit at number two on this list, but since they’re a specialty item with only two models in service I opted to make room for others.
Northrop Grumman’s tactical airborne early warning airframe has been in service since the Navy of the 1960s. An upgraded version, the Advanced Hawkeye, flies with the same mission but upgraded avionics, comms, and sensors. This advanced version comes with an advanced price tag, 2 million apiece.
The Kestrel is the only helicopter on this list and is actually no longer in service. At 1 million apiece, it was intended to replace the Marines’ Marine One helicopter for moving the President around (among other missions), but the cost of developing it ballooned out of control quickly and the program was canceled. The models were all sold to Canada for spare parts.
This anti-submarine aircraft is just ten years old and comes with the capability to support early warning systems and surface warfare as well. It can even defend itself in air combat when necessary. All those bells and whistles come at a price though – 6 million.
C-17 Globemaster III
The Globemaster III is Boeing’s air cargo masterpiece. At almost 25 years old, there is no more reliable and maintenance friendly airframe in the Air Force that is also capable of the kind of heavy lifting the U.S. military asks of it. Over the course of its life, a single C-17 will run upwards of 8 million.
Second only in technological advancement to its younger sibling, the F-35, the F-22 Raptor still manages to edge the Lightning II out in many areas, including price tag. At 0 million per aircraft, its radar cross section is that of a steel marble. The F-22 didn’t really need to go out of production (some will even argue the U.S. should restart the program), it’s just that the F-35 is a more versatile, fifth-generation fighter.
At the time of its production, it was estimated to cost 7 million apiece, which would already have made it the most expensive aircraft ever built. But tacking on its much-needed upgrades and refits less than a decade later puts the per unit cost of a B-2 bomber at a whopping .1 billion each.
One of the greatest tragedies of war is when a troop falls and is lost amidst the chaos of combat — the troop’s body, for whatever reason, cannot be properly identified. To pay homage to these unknown troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Anonymous troops who have fallen in some of America’s greatest wars are interred within a tomb to honor those unaccounted for.
Every year, approximately four million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to these men and women. Most gather in solemn awe as they watch the proceedings at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.
Highly-trained Tomb Sentinels protect every inch of the hallowed ground, 24 hours a day. Although the site is rich with history and tradition, there are many facts about the Tomb that most don’t know.
The first soldier chosen for the special tomb
In March of 1921, Congress approved a plan to return an unknown soldier from the first World War, burying him with full honors in a tomb at the memorial amphitheater in Arlington.
On Memorial Day of that same year, four American troops were exhumed from cemeteries in France. The deceased were placed in four identical caskets and placed in front of Army sergeant and World War I veteran, Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and given the distinct opportunity of choosing the first unknown soldier to be buried.
At the chapel, Younger paced around the caskets, holding roses. The coffin upon which he placed the roses was his choice. He made his selection and the casket sent back home aboard USS Olympia and buried at Arlington. The others remained in France and were transported to the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and laid to rest.
The second soldier chosen
After the end of World War II, it was time to begin the selection process anew in order to honor those who fell. Unfortunately, the Korean war had also reared its ugly head, postponing the process. It wasn’t until 1958 that proceedings resumed.
On May 15, 1958, four unknown heroes were placed in identical caskets before Master Sgt. Ned Lyle, a Distinguished Service Cross recipient who had proved his valor in Korea. It was up to him to select the soldier to be entombed and represent those lost in the Korean War.
The decorated master sergeant placed a wreath atop his selection, followed by an honorary hand salute.
The third soldier chosen
The third unknown soldier, who would symbolize those lost in World War II, was selected aboard the USS Canberra just 11 days later. Hospital corpsman and Medal of Honor-recipient William R. Charette made the final selection.
Two unknowns were presented to Charette — one from the Pacific theater, the other from the European. The selected casket was returned to Arlington and the other was given an honorable burial at sea.
The unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were placed into the tomb at the same time.
The final soldier chosen
The Unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was selected by Medal of Honor-recipient Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a military ceremony at Pearl Harbor in 1984. The Unknown arrived at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984.
President Ronald Reagan presided over the funeral and awarded the Unknown with the Medal of Honor.
In 1998, the body was exhumed and the DNA was tested. The body was later be identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in Vietnam, 1972.
The white-marble sarcophagus’ design
The sarcophagus is built using seven rectangular pieces of white marble and weighs 79 tons. The west-facing panel reads, “here rests, in honored glory, an American soldier, known but to God.” The north and south-facing panels display six inverted wreaths, signifying the major campaigns of World War I.
On the east-facing are three Greek figures, representing peace, victory, and valor.
The Tomb Sentinels
In April 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24 hours day. The guard changes every 30 minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.
Those who wish to become a Sentinel are hand-picked and undergo strict training. 60 percent of the hopefuls will not graduate the rigorous program.
During the Cold War, America developed a single air-to-air nuke that could devastate entire bomber fleets in mid-air. Thankfully, it was only ever fired in testing.
In today’s world, nuclear weapons are seen primarily as strategic weapons, rather than tactical, as the second and third order effects of a nuclear detonation are quite possibly further reaching than the first. Even the use of a low-yield nuclear weapon is now seen as perhaps the most egregious violation of international norms a nation can undertake, as leveraging a single weapon could bring about a cascade of nuclear attacks that could end life as we know it. But then, it wasn’t always this way.
There was a time when nuclear weapons were held in a similar regard to other conventional ordnance — when the tactical applications of nuclear weapon systems were the primary consideration for development. Long before the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, the United States and its Soviet competitors established a variety of nuclear weapons that, in hindsight, seem more like the musings of a Bond villain than a defense program.
Some of these weapons, like the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition, were little more than miniaturized nuclear bombs that could be smuggled into a target zone via Special Operations troops in a backpack. Others, like the McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie Rocket, were designed for even more dramatic uses: Namely, destroying an entire fleet of Soviet bombers in mid-air with a single weapon.
DAYTON, Ohio – McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie Rocket on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The threat of Soviet nuclear bombers
In 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first successful nuclear weapons test, codenamed RDS-1. The 22-kiloton test was more powerful than the 15-kiloton weapon the United States had dropped just a few years prior on Hiroshima, and in an instant, America’s concerns about the Soviet Union were significantly amplified. Almost immediately, President Truman announced the development of a new, even more powerful atom bomb — a “super bomb” as it was called at the time, which is now commonly known as a hydrogen bomb. Of course, Soviet efforts to develop their own super bomb mirrored America’s, raising the stakes on the burgeoning Cold War ever higher.
With the first operational intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) still years away, the understanding at the time was that any hydrogen bomb attack would have to come by way of heavy bomber — with development already underway for what would become the Soviet Tu-95. This new heavy payload bomber was designed by upscaling the previous Soviet Tu-4, which had been based largely on America’s B-29 Superfortress; widely considered the most advanced bomber of World War II.
The Tupolev Tu-95 Bear first flew in 1952 and remains in service to this day. (WikiMedia Commons)
Aware that the Soviet Union’s atomic arsenal could eventually be brought to bear with heavy payload bombers prompted the United States to invest heavily in aircraft and weapons systems that could intercept inbound bombers before they could reach American shores. The driving need to monitor, deter, and potentially intercept Soviet nuclear bombers led to the development of a number of weapons and aircraft in the United States, but few were quite so far-reaching as the McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie program.
AIR-2A Genie 2 (USAF Photo)
The world’s first nuclear air-to-air weapon
The U.S. Air Force had its sights set squarely on neutering the Soviet Union’s nuclear bomber threat, but the vast majority of air-to-air weapon systems at the time were based on machine guns and cannons. America knew that stopping a fleet of Soviet bombers before they reached the United States would require far more effective weapons systems than were readily available at the time, and the first air-to-air missiles were still in their relative infancy. As a result, rockets became an area of increasing focus.
In 1954, one such rocket program, under the banner of Douglas Aircraft, began playing with the idea of a rocket that was armed with a nuclear weapon. In theory, the premise was rather straightforward: Rockets had proven to be an effective weapon for intercept aircraft to leverage, and in fact, a nuclear tipped air-to-air weapon could be developed as a fairly simple package, as the massive blast radius would eliminate the need for any sort of guidance system.
By 1955, development was officially underway on what would come to be called the McDonnell Douglas Air-2A Genie. This new nuclear rocket carried a 1.5 kiloton W25 nuclear warhead and was propelled through the air by a solid-fuel Thiokol SR49-TC-1 rocket engine. The engine would fire for just two seconds, propelling the rocket up to Mach 3.3. The fuse mechanism did not begin until the engine itself had burned out, giving the weapon a total of about 12 second of flight time prior to detonation — giving the launching aircraft just enough time to turn tail and get out of dodge before the massive 1,000 foot blast radius erupted from the warhead.
Because of the Genie’s short flight time and massive blast radius, it would be nearly impossible for a bomber to get out of the way fast enough to avoid utter destruction, and in fact, a single Genie could be used to engage and destroy an entire fleet of Soviet bombers approaching the United States in a formation.
A Convair F-106 of the California Air National Guard fires an inert version of the Genie (USAF Photo)
Production on the Genie, which was dubbed the MB-1 Genie in service, continued until 1963, with a total of around 3,150 built. A fleet of 268 U.S. Air Force F-89 Scorpion interceptors were modified to be able to carry the nuclear rocket on hard points, and over time, the weapons were even modified to include longer burning rocket engines to give the F-89 more time to escape the fury of the rocket’s detonation.
Testing the Genie over American troops
Although the Genie would remain in service until the decidedly recently past of 1985, only one Genie was ever actually fired and detonated.
Operation Plumbbob (yes, that’s really how it’s spelled) was a series of nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site between May 28 and October 7 of 1957, and would go on to be considered by many to be the most controversial series of nuclear tests conducted by the United States. A total of 27 nuclear detonations and 29 total explosions were carried out under the supervision of twenty-one different laboratories and government agencies — one them being the test fire and detonation of a Genie nuclear rocket.
An F-89 Scorpion firing the live Genie used in the Plumbbob John test. (USAF photo)
Firing a live Genie from beneath an F-89J was a dangerous undertaking to begin with. In order to escape the blast radius of the weapon, the F-89’s pilot, Captain Eric William Hutchison, would have to immediately execute a high-G turn, placing the rocket behind the aircraft. While Hutchison and his radar operator, Captain Alfred C. Barbee, would need nerves of steel to complete the test, they wouldn’t be the only people putting their lives on the line for the Genie’s only test detonation. Five U.S. Air Force officers also volunteered to stand at ground level, directly beneath where the nuclear weapon would detonate in the skies, to prove that the Genie could be utilized without causing any harm to those on the ground below.
Estimates of the altitude in which the Genie detonated vary from source to source, with some claiming an attitude as low as 10,000 feet and others claiming an altitude as high as 20,000. The five volunteer officers stood below utterly unprotected, wearing only their summer uniforms.
The only live test ever of a Genie rocket, on 19 July 1957. Fired from a US Air Force F-89J over Yucca Flats, Nevada Test Site (USAF Photo)
“I was busy behind the camera. Then I could see the flash go off out of the corner of my eye. There was this huge, doughnut-shaped cloud in the sky where the blast went off.” -George Yoshitake, U. S. army cameraman
The five men were exposed to negligible amounts of radiation, and seemed to prove that the Genie could be used above ground troops with little risk.
You can actually watch footage of that very test below:
The Genie remained in service until the mid-1980s, though by then, American concerns about Soviet bombers dropping hydrogen bombs on American soil had given way to the ICBM age. By 1974, the Soviet Union had their R-36 series of nuclear missiles in service, each of which could cover nearly ten thousand miles and carry a positively massive25 megaton –or 25,000 kiloton– nuclear warhead.
In truth, it was the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction that would come to replace the Genie as a nuclear deterrent. America now knew they had no hope of intercepting the full breadth of Soviet nuclear missiles as they careened toward the United States, so the nation opted to leverage a good offense as the best form of defense; developing America’s nuclear triad to ensure its ability to respond. In other words, Mutually Assured Destruction promised exactly what the name suggested: If the Soviets launched a nuclear attack, America would as well. There would be no winners in such an apocalyptic exhchange, and that alone has served as a powerful deterrent for nuclear aggression ever since.
Hollywood might often showcase submarines hunting down and attacking other submarines in a variety of movies and TV shows, but it’s actually been a very rare event in history.
In fact, the only time a submarine has ever been known for successfully hunting down and destroying an enemy submarine while underwater was in February 1945, with the destruction of the U-864, a German Type IX U-boat off the coast of Norway by a Royal Navy sub.
Towards the end of the war in Europe, U-864 under the command of Ralf-Reimar Wolfram, was sent out on a secret transport mission as part of Operation Caesar to smuggle jet engine components and schematics, bottles of mercury for constructing explosives, advisors and engineers to Japan undetected by Allied warships prowling around for U-boats.
The faltering German higher command had hoped that even if they were unsuccessful in their theater of war, the Japanese military could benefit from the advanced technology they sent over, continuing the war effort and eventually affording Germany a chance to get back in the fight.
In December 1944, the U-864 left its submarine pen in Kiel, Germany, for a trip to occupied-Norway where it would be refitted with a new snorkel before departing on its mission. The problematic refit and damage sustained from accidentally running aground pushed its deployment back until January of the next year.
Unbeknownst to the German navy, Allied forces were already aware of Operation Caesar, having cracked the Enigma code which was used by the German military to encrypt its classified communications. As a response to Caesar, the Royal Air Force and Navy bombed a number of submarine pens in Norway, including one where U-864 was temporarily housed in for repairs.
The U-864 eventually deployed on Operation Caesar, slipping away undetected by nearby Allied warships. However, a monkey wrench was thrown into the covert mission’s gears when the Royal Navy – unwilling to take unnecessary chances – tasked the HMS Venturer to hunt down and kill the U-864 before it could make a dash for the open oceans.
Venturer was commanded by Lt. Jimmy Launders, a highly-respected and brilliantly-minded tactician. Within days of reaching the U-864’s last suspected position, Launders “spotted” his quarry, thanks to noises emanating from the German warship’s engines.
Wolfram, unaware of the Venturer’s presence, had ordered his sub to turn around and head for port when it began experiencing engine troubles which created considerable noise – something he feared would easily give away their position. But by then, it was too late.
Launders began tracking the U-864 using a hydrophone instead of his sonar, as the “pings” from the sonar system would have likely alerted his prey to his existence. After a lengthy tracking phase, Launders fired off a spread of four torpedoes — half of his entire armament — and awaited the fruits of his efforts.
Wolfram’s bridge crew realized they were under attack when the noise from the inbound torpedoes reached the ears of their own hydrophone operators. Ordering the U-864 to take evasive maneuvers, Wolfram and his crew powered their submarine up in an attempt to speed out of the area.
Out of the four torpedoes launched by the Venturer, one hit its mark directly, fracturing the U-boat’s pressure hull and immediately sending it and its entire crew to the bottom. Launders and the crew of the Venturer had just effected the first and only submarine vs. submarine kill in history — a feat that has never been matched to this very day.
The wreck of the U-864 was discovered in 2003 by the Norwegian Navy, near where the Royal Navy had earlier reported a possible kill. Its cargo of mercury has since been exposed to the sea, severely contaminating the area around the shipwreck.
In the years since its rediscovery, the U-864 has been buried under thousands of pounds of rocks and artificial debris in order to stop the spread of its chemical cargo. It will remain there for decades to come while the metal of the destroyed submarine slowly disintegrates away.
In a report released earlier this summer, the Department of Defense Inspector General has determined that the Army’s finances are a world-class mess. Reportedly, the service made $2.8 trillion in adjustments to make their books balance just in one quarter of 2015 in spite of the fact that the entire defense budget for that fiscal year was $585 billion.
According to Reuters, the Army’s books are so jumbled that they may be impossible to audit – and the Army is facing a September 30, 2017 deadline to be ready for one. The harsh IG report concluded the Army “materially misstated” its financial statements for 2015.
Making the task of squaring the Army’s books harder is the fact that over 16,000 documents have vanished from the Army’s computer system. The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), the Pentagon’s primary agency responsible for accounting services, routinely changed numbers without justification at the end of the year, something employees of that agency referred to as the “grand plug.”
“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” DOD critic and retired analyst Franklin Spinney told Reuters.
The Army has taken issue with the IG report, claiming that the total discrepancies total just under $62.5 billion. An Army spokesman said, “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” that and that the Army “remains committed to asserting audit readiness” and that steps are being taken to root out the problems.
What do you get when you combine a ’90s childhood with military training? The best damn generation of soldiers, that’s what. Written by an elder millennial, this is the completely unbiased reasoning behind that statement.
Raised with an abundance of empathetic statements like “get out of the house and don’t return until the streetlights are on” gave future service members eighteen years to prepare for the nuances of military life. What exactly did an eight-year-old do with a 12-hour Saturday? They figured it out, and not with GPS, cell phones or viral videos to stream.
Military life aims to sharpen core human skills like navigation, an awareness of terrain, and stamina. ’90’s kids roamed in the back 40, hopped fences, dug foxholes (just for fun) and played the rudimentary version of land navigation-hide and go seek. Yes, the last generation outside became the last generation with an abundance of experience honing this primal skillset. Weekends were for pushing the limits of both physical boundaries, the body, and the mind. Getting lost made you better made you distinctly aware of how important it was to pay attention, because no one was coming to find you until well after dark.
Nicknames were so brutal, you longed for the days where the military would rebrand you into something (hopefully) better. Feelings were completely unacceptable in the ’90’s. The closer you became to a human Terminator, the emotionless badass who knew and did everything right, the better chance you stood at surviving childhood without the need for therapy.
If you’ve ever wondered why your current Staff Sergeant lacks empathy or seemingly takes joy in the majestic poems of correction spewing from his mouth, it’s because that was affection that was displayed. The harsher the nickname, the greater the chance some sort of affection was behind its origination.
’90’s kids firmly believe in coming in first. Competition flows through their veins, and the flashbacks to being pointed at and laughed off the dodgeball courts in gym class ensures they will do everything in their power to crush you and anyone else standing in their way. Participation ribbons did not exist, and even if the rare ones did, it would have been too embarrassing to ever admit they owned any. Trying is failing unless of course, you win.
Not only will they do whatever it takes to win, they will wait…patiently plotting, as dial-up internet taught them to. While newer generations become disgusted with anything less than instantaneous results or satisfaction, service members with ’90’s childhoods are the last to be taught patience through the agonizing experiences of rewinding videotapes, gluing their fingers together (for fun), or waiting until the show aired on prime time. The enemy can hide, but they are trained to wait.
Generation Y (elder millennials) was raised in a deeply patriotic time. G.I. Joe’s appeal hadn’t faded within the early years of this crop, instilling the message that military service was something to not just admire, but aspire to. Their grandparents remembered the Depression and World War II. Their parents lived through or served in Vietnam or the Gulf War. At every turn, the sacrifice of serving was remembered and valued.
If a history of roaming free or honing early marksmanship skills via NERF or BB guns hadn’t tipped the scales in Uncle Sam’s favor, witnessing 9/11 through their innocent eyes did. American flags flew abundantly in yards, while many awaited the day they became eligible to enlist, to do their part and keep their hometowns safe.
’90’s culture still reigns king with sitcoms and music, which has yet to go out of style. This space in time produced a “fly” crop of service members if you ask us.
Specialist Michael Fitzmaurice was stationed in the area near Khe Sanh on March 23, 1971. The base had just been re-activated to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. That night in March, the American base was attacked by North Vietnamese regular army sappers, who expected to overrun the Americans.
They just didn’t count on a 21-year-old from the Dakotas being there. They should have – and they should have brought more sappers.
Operation Lam Son 719 was an effort by the South Vietnamese to invade Laos to be able to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam’s “secret” supply line into the South. It did not go well for the ARVN forces or the Americans who were there to evacuate wounded and cover their retreat. By March 25, 1971, the ARVN were in full retreat. Two days before the end of Lam Son, however, the North Vietnamese tried to hit the Army’s base at Khe Sanh with a force of sappers. Luckily the Army was able to repel the surprise attack and turn the NVA around.
Among those Army troops stationed at Khe Sanh that day was Michael J. Fitzmaurice, a soldier from the Dakotas who was about to take it to the Communists like a badass American from the Great North.
This is a shoot of Fitzmaurice receiving the Medal of Honor from President Nixon, so you can probably imagine what’s about to happen.
Fitzmaurice was manning a bunker that day with three other members of his unit, unaware the base had been infiltrated by NVA sappers. What he did notice was three explosive charges tossed in their bunker from out of nowhere. He quickly tossed two of them out of the bunker and then threw his body, flak vest first, over the last explosive. The blast severely wounded Fitzmaurice and partially blinded him, but his fellow soldiers were still alive. But Fitzmaurice didn’t stop there. He also didn’t stay there.
He left the bunker and began taking down enemy troops with his rifle, one after another, until another grenade hit him and disabled that rifle. Still undeterred, he stopped an enemy soldier with his bare hands, killed him, took his weapon, and began fighting on. With that weapon in hand, he went back to the bunker and started taking down the attackers one by one, refusing to be evacuated.
For saving his buddies and taking down the enemy in the most conspicuous manner possible, he was rightfully awarded the Medal of Honor.
As a prior butter bar, I want you to know that I have no regrets about my career choice.
Sure, when I signed up for the military, I thought I was going to get to do a little less paperwork and a little more single handedly saving the entire world from terrorism for all time with my bravery, but hey, we all have our roles to play. Mine was to ensure my people were able to conduct mission ops — and deep down, I know that’s important, too.
I was very calculated about which branch I would serve in (Air Force, duh — I’m not a masochist) and how I would earn my commission (on the beaches of Southern California, like a BAMF). We trained on Fridays, and I was super into it (ROTC nerd to an extreme level) so I also attended optional Saturday morning training, which meant I missed out on the collegiate Thirsty Thursday, Friday night parties, and Saturday night shenanigans (because I was tired from all that training, bro).
So it really wasn’t until active duty that I realized how much lieutenants could party.
When we were at intel school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, we set up a “pub crawl” where everyone served signature drinks from their dorm rooms — everything from a shot of Jeremiah Weed to a game of flip cup to Vodka mixed with Airborne tablets (“to help our immune systems.”)
My first Gin and Tonic was consumed in the SCIF while cramming for the Navy test (does one really need to be sober to learn about boats? I mean ships…).
In Korea, the pilots partied so hard I started carrying a sharpie with me so I could make a tic-mark on my palm to track my drinks. Most nights left me waking up with a bar code across my palm.
But beyond the drinking, the butter bars in the office are more likely to liven up the office with pranks and jokes — and let’s not forget who keeps the snack bar full.
Butter bars have it great. They have enough training under their belts to feel confident about testing themselves but not enough experience for any serious responsibility. It’s a carefree time. The good ones acknowledge their shortcomings and learn quickly. The crappy ones… well, you can read some of their stories in the comments on this post (and add your own — it’s hilarious!).
The point is, butter bars are precious. They’re bright eyed and ready for a good time. They don’t know that the sh*t is about to get real. Look out for them. Show them the way.
3. They’re the future brass
Four-stars have to start somewhere, right? Their experiences as CGOs will have an effect on their leadership style down the road, so help them out. Teach them the mission. Remind them of what’s important. Show them the value of mutual respect.
They’ll remember it later and we’ll all be better for it.
And for all you 0-1s out there, work hard before you play hard. You might be at the bottom of the officer ranks now, but you’ve still got men and women who rely on you.