According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.
“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.
Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.
Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.
The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.
In the opening days of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, ships and aircraft from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, intercepted the Iraqi Navy as it tried to flee into Iran. The resulting battle in the waters between the Shatt al-Arab waterway and Bubiyan Island was one of the most lopsided naval engagements in history, and the Iraqi Navy essentially ceased to exist.
Desert Storm did not go well for Iraq.
Operation Desert Storm kicked off in earnest on Jan. 17, 1991 as Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces refused to leave Kuwait, the neighbor it invaded just a few months earlier. When the deadline to leave passed, Coalition forces took action. One of those actions involved massive naval forces in the Persian Gulf. In the face of this overwhelming opposition, Iraq’s Navy decided to follow the example of Iraq’s Air Force.
They would immediately gear up, head out, and attempt to escape to Iran and away from certain death. Unlike the Air Force, the Navy never quite made it.
Iraq’s Air Force: Property of Iran.
Allied naval forces were actually the first to respond to Iraqi aggression. A joint American-Kuwaiti task force captured Iraqi oil platforms, took prisoners on outlying Iraqi islands, and intercepted an Iraqi attempt to reinforce its amphibious invasion of the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji – those reinforcements never arrived. Instead, the ships they were on were annihilated by Coalition ships.
Any remaining Iraqi Navy ships tried to escape to Iranian territorial waters in a mad dash to not die a fiery, terrible death. They were counting on the idea that small, fast, and highly maneuverable missile craft could make littoral waters too dangerous for heavy oceangoing ships.
Back when Battleships weren’t museums.
In the end, upwards of 140 Iraqi ships were either destroyed by Coalition forces or fled into the hands of the Iranian Navy. American and British ships, British Lynx helicopters, and Canadian CF-18 Hornets made short work of the aging flotilla, in what became known as the “Bubiyan Turkey Shoot.”
The only shot Iraq’s navy was able to fire in return was a Silkworm missile battery, from a land-based launcher, at the American battleship USS Missouri. The missile was destroyed by a Sea Dart missile from the UK’s HMS Gloucester, rendering it as effective as the rest of Iraq’s Navy.
Much of the current conversation about warfare in the veteran community revolves around our involvement in the Middle East which appears to be drawing to a close at the end of its second complete decade. Many veterans have been busy producing works that address the legacy of the Global War on Terrorism and how it has shaped our most recent generation of veterans. But Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis have turned their sights to the future to speculate on what might come next.
What they have produced is 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, a fast-paced thriller set in the year 2034, told from multiple perspectives as the world finds itself on the brink of a war the likes of which have not been seen since the rise of fascism in the mid-twentieth century. The novel attempts to merge present-day fact with an all too plausible future on a global scale. The effect is unsettling. It is wargames with literary flair and it wastes no time jumping into the action.
At the beginning of the novel, two seemingly minor occurrences kick off a chain reaction of events that quickly escalate to global proportions with dire consequences. Lines are drawn. Sides are taken. The United States finds itself enmeshed in its first conflict with a near-peer adversary in decades. As the conflict continues to grow, the numbers of casualties rapidly lose meaning demonstrating the sheer scale of the war. A few hundred sailors lost at sea in one chapter becomes thirty-seven ships sunk during battle in the next chapter which then becomes ten million civilians vaporized through the use of a nuclear warhead. The reader is engulfed by the catastrophic numbers and left feeling haunted.
What is immediately appealing about this novel is that it resists over-intellectualizing the politics at play. It is accessible and unpretentious in its approach. They accomplish this through the use of a vibrant cast of characters. Each one is fully realized with impressive brevity. The reader recognizes their motivations because they are the desires any person can relate to. Sarah Hunt, a Commodore with the United States Navy, laments the premature end of her military career due to a medical board’s unfavorable decision. A disgraced Brigadier General with the Quds Force of Iran meditates on the true meaning of a soldier’s death as he considers the scars left on his body and his soul from a career spent serving a government that does not appear to appreciate his sacrifice. Their plights are relatable. They are human. It is easy for the reader to feel they understand the characters and their individual struggles more so than the global conflict that consumes them. At the same time, Ackerman and Admiral Stavridis handle the narrative with such weight of authority that it feels as if the events have already occurred in history. It is clear they are writing from an informed perspective with extensive experience to back up their vision.
They portray the United States as a nation that has not learned from its mistakes. A nation that is too comfortable in its own opulence. The military is stymied by bureaucracy and betrays an over-dependence on technology to the point that these tools become obsolete through the use of cyber-attacks by the Chinese government before the halfway point of the novel. The Americans are burdened by their history and stifled by their own legacies. Readers are inundated with the names and trophies of past victories from bygone eras the country still clings to despite new threats bearing down on the nation. Many of the service members hold legitimate credentials but lack actual combat experience. The leadership is more concerned with what the public thinks rather than how to best retaliate. “Jesus! What will the country say?” exclaims the president after a large military defeat at sea which reveals her greatest fear: what others think of her. The novel makes a convincing argument that despite all the advancements of technology in the modern era it is still the men and women who control those devices that will decide the fate of our future.
What makes this thriller so powerful is that it is written from the inside of the characters’ lives. They come from diverse backgrounds and many represent powers greater than themselves that have malicious intentions in the global theater. Yet we are drawn to them because we understand their motivations as individuals. We are invited into their interior lives and through that landscape we are offered a glimpse at their humanity. And it is through their humanity that they become fully realized on the page. Regardless of their allegiances, readers find themselves wanting each character to fulfill their desires. Admiral Stavridis and Ackerman succeed by rendering a fully engrossing picture of a reality that is subtle yet poignant and might be just beyond the horizon.
A software fix designed to make the state-of-the-art F-35 helmet easier to use for Navy and Marine Corps pilots landing on ships at night is still falling short of the mark, the program executive officer for the Joint Strike Fighter program said Monday.
One discovery made as the F-35C Navy carrier variant and F-35B Marine Corps “jump jet” variant wrapped up ship testing this year was that the symbology on the pricey helmet was still too bright and distracting for pilots landing on carriers or amphibious ships in the lowest light conditions, Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan told reporters.
While testers were hopeful at the time the problem was solved, Bogdan said officials are not yet satisfied.
“The symbology on the helmet, even when turned down as low as it can, is still a little too bright,” he said. “We want to turn down that symbology so that it’s not so bright that they can’t see through it to see the lights, but if you turn it down too much, then you start not being able to see the stuff you do want to see. We have an issue there, there’s no doubt.”
Bogdan said the military plans on pursuing a hardware fix for the helmet, which is designed to stream real-time information onto the visor and allow the pilots to “see through” the plane by projecting images from cameras mounted around the aircraft. But before that fix is finalized, he said, pilots of the F-35 B and C variants will make operational changes to mitigate the glare from the helmet. These may include adjusting the light scheme on the aircraft, altering how pilots communicate during night flights, and perhaps changing the way they use the helmet during these flights, he said.
“We’re thinking in the short term we need to make some operational changes, and in the long term we’ll look for some hardware changes,” Bogdan said.
The window for making such adjustments is rapidly closing. The first F-35B squadron is expected to move forward to its new permanent base in Japan in January ahead of a 2018 shipboard deployment in the Pacific. The F-35C is also expected to deploy aboard a carrier for the first time in 2018.
Awh yeah! It’s Army-Navy Game time, folks! You’d think troops would hate the game, but we f*cking love it! Any other day of the year and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single troop who’d actively give a damn about a bunch of academy soon-to-be butter bars who finally show up for some sports PT. But nope! It’s about branch pride this weekend!
Even the Marines full-heartedly accept they’re apart of the Navy for one afternoon. That entirely depends on if they win, of course. Vegas odds put the Midshipmen at a slightly better chance of winning after the Army went on that five-game losing streak, but they’ve come back from worse odds.
If Navy does win, they get the Commander-in-Chief Trophy back at Annapolis. If Army wins, they retain the trophy because the wins are spread out like it’s a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” style match-up since Army already lost to Air Force… Wait a second…
That was almost six weeks ago? Huh. Even when the Army is having a sh*tty year, we all kind of forget about the Air Force Academy… Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
For everyone crying out “but what about your pro-mask seals?” I’d like to politely ask you when was the last time you saw anyone actually carry a pro-mask with them out on patrol in an accessible position and not in the bottom of a ruck (or in the vehicle) for any reason other than the TOCroach LT randomly tagging along.
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via @CollegeGameDay Twitter)
Go Army, Beat Navy!
It’s technically a photo from last year but since it’s still relevant and I’ve held onto it since then, so it makes it in. Bite me.
The Pentagon says a military raid last month killed the head of the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan.
In a statement May 7, the Pentagon confirmed the death of Abdul Haseeb Logari. At the time of the raid officials said they thought Logari had been killed, but were not certain.
U.S. officials said Logari was among several high-ranking Islamic State in Afghanistan leaders who died in the April 27 raid. It was carried out by Afghan Special Security Forces in partnership with U.S. forces.
On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.
Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.
As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.
When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.
By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.
What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.
After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.
Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.
Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.
As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.
But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.
The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.
In a tactical situation, the last thing a Soldier wants to do is give away his position to the enemy.
The ZH2 hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle promises to provide that important element of stealth, said Kevin Centeck. team lead, Non-Primary Power Systems, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center at the 2017 Washington Auto Show here Thursday.
The ZH2 is basically a modified Chevy Colorado, fitted with a hydrogen fuel cell and electric drive, he said. It was put together fairly quickly, from May to September, and will be tested by Soldiers in field conditions later this year.
Charley Freese, executive director of General Motor’s Global Fuel Cell Activities, explained the ZH2 is stealthy because its drive system does not produce smoke, noise, odor or thermal signature. GM developed the vehicle and the associated technologies.
The vehicle provides a number of other advantages for Soldiers:
The ZH2 produces high torque and comes equipped with 37-inch tires that enable it to negotiate rough and steep terrain.
The hydrogen fuel cell can produce two gallons per hour of potable water.
When the vehicle isn’t moving, it can generate 25 kilowatts of continuous power or 50 kW of peak power. There are 120 and 240-volt outlets located in the trunk.
The vehicle is equipped with a winch on the front bumper.
Dr. Paul D. Rogers, director of TARDEC, said the Army got a good deal in testing this vehicle, leveraging some $2.2 billion in GM research money spent in fuel cell research over the last several decades. The Army is always eager to leverage innovation in new technology, he added.
While GM developed the technology and produced the demonstrator, the Army’s role will be to test and evaluate the vehicle in real-world field conditions over the next near.
How it works
Electricity drives the vehicle, Centeck said. But the electricity doesn’t come from storage batteries like those found in electric cars today. Instead, the electricity is generated from highly compressed hydrogen that is stored in the vehicle by an electrochemical reaction.
As one of the two elements that make water (the other being oxygen), there’s plenty of hydrogen in the world. But hydrogen isn’t exactly free, Centeck pointed out. It takes a lot of electricity to separate the strong bond between hydrogen and oxygen.
That electricity could come from the grid or it could come from renewables like wind or solar, Centeck said.
Existing fuels like gasoline, propane, and natural gas can also be used to extract hydrogen, he said. The Army and GM are comparing the costs and benefits for each approach and haven’t yet settled on which approach to use.
Christopher Colquitt, GM’s project manager for the ZH2, said that the cost of producing hydrogen isn’t the only complicating factor; another is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.
Most gas stations aren’t equipped with hydrogen pumps, Colquitt pointed out, but California and some other places in the world are in the process of building those fueling stations. For field testing purposes, the Army plans to store the hydrogen fuel in an ISO container.
Another cost involves the hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system itself. Fuel cell stacks under the hood convert hydrogen and air into useable electricity. They are composed of stacks of plates and membranes coated with platinum.
In the ZH2 demonstrator, there are about 80 grams of platinum, costing thousands of dollars, he said. But within the last few months, GM developers have managed to whittle that amount of platinum down to just 10 grams needed to produce a working vehicle, he said.
The modern-day gas and diesel combustion engine took a century to refine. Now, GM is attempting to do that similar refining with hydrogen fuel cells in just a matter of months, he said. It’s a huge undertaking.
By refining the design, Colquitt explained, he means lowering cost and providing durability, reliability and high performance. Refining doesn’t just mean using less platinum, he explained. A lot of other science went into the project, including the design of advanced pumps, sensors, compressors that work with the fuel cell technology.
Colquitt said the ZH2’s performance is impressive for such a rapidly-produced vehicle. For instance, the fuel cell produces 80 to 90 kilowatts of power and, when a buffer battery is added, nearly 130 kilowatts. The vehicle also instantly produces 236 foot-pounds of torque through the motor to the transfer case.
The range on one fill-up is about 150 miles, since this is a demonstrator, he said. If GM were actually fielding these vehicles, the range would be much greater.
Not ready for consumers
Colquitt said hydrogen fuel cell technology hasn’t yet yielded vehicles for consumers, but GM is working on doing just that in the near future, depending on a number of factors, mainly the availability of fueling stations.
The Army is no stranger to the technology, he said. GM’s Equinox vehicles, powered by hydrogen fuel cells, are being used on several installations. The difference is that the ZH2 is the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle to go tactical, he said.
The value of having the Army test the vehicle is that it will be driven off-road aggressively by Soldiers, who will provide their unvarnished feedback, Colquitt said. Besides collecting subjective feedback from the Soldiers, he said, the vehicle contains data loggers that will yield objective data as well.
Testers will put the vehicle through its paces this year at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Benning, Georgia; Quantico Marine Base, North Carolina; and, GM’s own Proving Grounds in Michigan.
It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the U.S. Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.
While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.
From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.
Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:
1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!
Far from it.
In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.
In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.
Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?
2. He’s definitely not a team player
This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.
Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.
Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.
3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic
Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.
It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.
At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.
Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.
4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways
Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.
The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.
With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.
OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.
Twists and turns, bumps and bruises, the occasional crash. For many Veterans, the sport of bobsled is a metaphor for life.
Army Veteran Will Castillo’s story began on April 27, 2007. Castillo – then a staff sergeant – was riding along with Spc. Eddie Tamez and Pfc. David Kirkpatrick on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, when their Humvee struck an improvised explosive device (IED).
The aftermath was a blur. When Castillo awoke, his sister and mother were by his bedside.
“I could hardly talk I was so heavily medicated,” he said. “I was just trying to survive.”
He was 27 years old, and his injuries had cost him his left leg – but he was alive. Tamez and Kirkpatrick did not survive.
Castillo spent the next two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering and learning to navigate life with one leg. Visitors came by to give him hugs, handshakes and well wishes. The Director of Homeland Security even offered him a job.
In 2009, he was discharged from Walter Reed, and he moved to Orlando to start anew. But life wasn’t good.
“I had survivor’s guilt. I thought about my guys, what had I done wrong. I was depressed. I was suicidal.”
His marriage crumbled, and his mental health deteriorated.
“All the struggles I was going through. I was Baker Acted,” Castillo said, referring to the Florida law that allows for emergency or involuntary commitment for mental health treatment.
He recovered, remarried and again tried to rebuild. But his struggles continued and, in 2015, he divorced for the second time.
In 2017, Castillo returned to Walter Reed for a follow-up operation to his injured leg. His life took an unexpected turn.
“A friend of mine was there and said to me, ‘You should try bobsled.’ I was extremely overweight, but I figured it would be something to keep me busy.”
Army Veteran Will Castillo displays his gold medal from the Empire State Winter Games para bobsled competition. Castillo is one of the world’s top ranked sledders in the sport. (Courtesy photo)
His first attempt was skeleton, a sport where the slider rides face down and head-first on a small sled down an ice track at speeds of more than 80 mph.
“It was terrifying,” he said. “I was 260 pounds. I was crashing into the walls. Those little sleds are not made for that weight.”
After a year at skeleton, he switched to monobob, a one-person bobsled that looks like a rocket on ice skates. He knew instantly he’d found his sport.
“Everything just slowed down, I was able to see everything. There was danger, but I did it. There’s no disability on that ice. For that one minute, it’s awesome.”
Veterans like Castillo are dominating the sport in the United States, thanks in large part to camps like the ones at Lake Placid. From 2015 to 2020, VA’s Adaptive Sports Grant had funded 16 camps for Veterans at Lake Placid and Park City, Utah, the only two bobsled track sites in the country.
Thanks to the VA grant, Veterans’ only cost to attend is travel to and from the camp.
Camps are typically five days and allow Veterans to stay on site at the Olympic Training Center. Once there, Veterans receive training from strength and conditioning experts, physical therapists and sports psychologists. After completing initial training, they head to the ice track where they learn the fundamentals of para-bobsled and skeleton.
“With bobsled, things are pretty expensive,” Seevers said. “To get the ice time and the bobsleds is a lot. Each of the bobsleds is ,000. For us to rent the sleds and pay for track time is typically between ,500 and ,000, dependent on the number of Veterans sliding.”
Veterans among world’s elite
At the 2019-2020 Para World Cup competition, all five U.S. team members were Veterans. They finished the season ranked 7th, 16th, 18th, 21st and 24th in the world.
Castillo is the number one ranked para-bobsledder in the U.S. and will pilot USA 1, the name of the monobob designated for Team USA’s top slider, in upcoming competitions. It’s an opportunity he humbly accepts.
“It all starts with VA and those camps,” he said. “Then you really have to put the work in and you start seeing the rewards. You get to put that uniform on again (and) represent the USA with integrity and honor.”
Para bobsled and para skeleton are relatively new sports with the first international competitions having taken place in 2013. Still, neither sport is recognized as Paralympic eligible. But that may soon be changing.
Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is hoping her success can help the sport and other Veterans advance to the pinnacle of international competition.
Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is one of the United States’ top para bobsledders. Athletes are hoping the sport will become one of the newest Paralympic competitions. (Courtesy photo)
“I always liked winter sports, even though I don’t like the cold,” she said. “I’d watch the Olympics on TV and bobsled and skeleton were sports I always loved.”
In 1995, Frazier-Kim was injured in a training accident in the Marine Corps. In January 2019, after years of complications, pain and suffering, doctors at Ft. Sam Houston amputated her right leg above the knee.
“(My doctor) asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I want to make Team USA. And he said, ‘We’ll get you there.'”
In November 2018, in anticipation of her surgery, she was sent for physical therapy to get her into shape.
“I changed from a mom body to an athletic body.”
After the surgery, she continued physical therapy with her therapist, an ex-football player.
“He worked me out like I was on the football team. I was working out like a beast, doing balancing exercises, strength training, and someone there knew Kim Seevers.”
Like Castillo, Frazier-Kim says she was invited to one of the camps at Lake Placid. She completed her first camp in October 2019.
In less than a year, Frazier-Kim has become one of the top female sliders in the sport. Para bobsled is gender neutral with men and women competing together.
“There’s nothing like it. It’s the most exhilarating feeling. The excitement, the adrenaline rush, you’re going so fast. It’s crazy,” she said.
But her rapid success did not come without bumps and bruises along the way.
“Your legs and shoulders are hitting the sides of the bobsled. It’s not for everyone,” she said. “You have to think about every curve while you’re being slapped back and forth.”
Despite the challenges, she says her goal now is simple – to be the best.
“I plan on doing it for as long as I can – as long as my body can take it. And being a Marine, I don’t know any other way.”
You don’t see too many planes flying over Walt Disney World, but that will change on April 6 when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels make two flybys over the Magic Kingdom.
This isn’t the first time the performance squadron has graced the skies above Mickey’s place. The Blues did a flyby back in 2015, when six F/A-18 Hornets flew right over Main Street and performed a Delta Break in which they split into six different directions. The two planned flybys on April 6 will happen between 9:30 a.m.-10 a.m., according to the Disney Parks blog.
The Blue Angels are set to perform at the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida. They practice at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on April 6 and April 7 and have performances on April 8 and April 9.
While they are based in Pensacola, the Blue Angels are making their first Florida appearance of the year. Their Air Force counterparts, the Thunderbirds, have already made two of their three planned air show appearances for 2017 ,having just performed at the Melbourne Air Space Show the weekend of April 1.
A highlight of that was the transportation of 87-year-old Buzz Aldrin, who can now say he’s walked on the moon and flown in a Thunderbird. They earlier performed at the TICO Warbird Airshow in Titusville, Florida, and had their own flyby of an American icon, when they took to the skies over Daytona International Speedway ahead of the Daytona 500.
The Thunderbirds finish their Florida schedule for 2017 with a stop up in the Panhandle for the Gulf Coast Salute at Tyndall Air Force Base on April 22-23.
The Blue Angels will make three more stops in the state stretching into November: the mid-summer Pensacola Beach Air Show on July 8, a two-day performance at Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Nov. 4-5 and the Homecoming Air Show at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Nov. 11-12. Air shows held at military bases are free.
The Sun ‘n Fun will also feature the French Air Force’s Patrouille de France Jet Demonstration Team, which this year is making its first U.S. appearances in 30 years.
A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued an injured hiker at Deception Pass State Park on Oct. 21.
The SAR crew took off from NAS Whidbey Island around 5 p.m. Due to the injured hiker’s location and surrounding terrain, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue was unable to reach the man.
Upon arrival, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Siedler, a search and rescue medical technician, hoisted down to the scene and prepared the injured man for immediate extraction. The patient was transported to Island Hospital where he was delivered to a higher level of care.
This was the 35th rescue of 2017 for NAS Whidbey Island SAR, which has also conducted seven searches and 15 Medical Evacuation missions this year, totaling 64 lives delivered to a higher level of care.
The Navy SAR unit operates three MH-60S helicopters from NAS Whidbey Island as search and rescue/medical evacuation platforms for the EA-18G aircraft as well as other squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation.
The US Marine Corps’ recent proof of concept for the F-35B short takeoff, vertical landing variant aboard the USS America produced “the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world,” according to one F-35 test pilot.
Indeed the America is the US’s newest amphibious assault ship, designed for waging war on beaches and coastal zones with the F-35’s revolutionary technologies in mind.
Both the America-class and the F-35 programs have faced criticisms, sometimes harshly, for their departure from traditional warfare roles, among other things. But lately these programs seem to be shaping up nicely.
The America abandons well decks, or the space to launch landing vessels to take beaches, in favor of increased hangar space to haul and maintain more aircraft. In its most plane-heavy configuration, the America can carry 20 F-35Bs.
In the video below, the Marines placed 12 F-35Bs on the America to prove a concept that’s been literally decades in the making, and thereby creating a ship that’s not even technically classified as an aircraft carrier, yet one of the biggest and deadliest ships in the world.