Fighting fire with chainsaws - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

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Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

Fighting fire with chainsaws

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

The 6 wildest conspiracy theories about Osama Bin Laden’s death

In a daring, well-documented nighttime raid, 23 Navy SEALs landed in an al-Qaida compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. They were there to kill or capture the world’s most wanted man. The entire operation lasted only 40 minutes and ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.

Or did it? That’s what the deep state, reptile aliens or any number of conspiracy theory boogeymen would want you to believe, sheeple. The truth is out there.


Imagine instead believing that the bin Laden raid wasn’t a result of years of research, intelligence work and training. Since there were no photos released to the public, some believe the government isn’t telling the whole truth about the “alleged” death of bin Laden in 2011.

The U.S. government’s reluctance to release the photos of his body and the immediate burial at sea didn’t help quash these theories, either.

You don’t have to go far on the Internet to find alternate theories about bin Laden’s death. And if this author is mysteriously killed in the coming weeks, you can be sure one of these is true. Definitely.

Osama bin Laden died in December 2001

Some say the world’s most wanted terrorist was suffering from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic mutation that affects the proteins keeping the body’s tissue together. bin Laden, according to former State Department official Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, looked like a textbook case of the disorder. His tall frame, long limbs and long face all displayed classic symptoms.

The disease affects one in about 5,000 people and can cause sudden death and there is no definitive DNA test for it. Instead, doctors begin with judging the outward appearance of a suspected “Marfanoid” person — someone thin and often lanky, sometimes with spidery fingers and curved spines. Pieczenik claimed CIA doctors had treated OBL for Marfan, and the al-Qaida leader died just months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Other claims say he died at the same time, but of renal failure, not Marfan Syndrome.

He didn’t die — he got a vacation.

Like all great conspiracy theories, this one is fact mixed with a healthy dose of fiction — but the facts make it just believable enough to catch on. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the CIA flew Soviet-built weapons from Saudi Arabia to the Afghan Mujahideen during Operation Cyclone.

The conspiracy theory alleges that bin Laden became a CIA asset at this time. The CIA, partnering with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Agency, worked to build the mythos surrounding Osama bin Laden, so that fanatical terrorists would come to Afghanistan. Funded through the heroin trade, tacitly permitted by Pakistan, the CIA created a means to fight Islamic fundamentalism in one place.

The raid that killed bin Laden the terrorist was allegedly a means to let bin Laden the CIA asset retire. This is a theory backed by the Iranian regime.

Pakistan Captured bin Laden in 2006

This one comes from legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh alleges that Pakistan’s ISI captured the terrorist in 2006 and used him as leverage to operate in Afghanistan. The ISI then sold bin Laden to the U.S., but forced them to stage the raid that killed him.

According to Hersh, when Navy SEALs arrived in Abbottabad, they were met by an ISI officer who casually walked them to bin Laden’s bedroom. The SEALs then riddled him with bullets, tore his body apart, and dispersed them throughout the Hindu Kush, just because.

Hersh’s sources for this story are both dubious and anonymous.

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Pictured: No Arabs. Definitely no Arabs here.

Bin Laden Didn’t Even Live In Abbottabad

In the London Telegraph, Abbottabad resident Bashir Qureshi dismissed the idea that bin Laden and his family lived in the area. Though the raid blew out the windows on his house, he still dismissed the idea, saying “Nobody believes it. We’ve never seen any Arabs around here, he was not here.”

The Pakistani press didn’t help. Newspapers in the country allege the raid was set up so U.S. forces would have an excuse to enter Pakistan. Former ISI officials seconded that idea in Western media, noting that someone was killed and removed by the U.S. forces during the raid, but it wasn’t bin Laden. The real bin Laden was already dead, they said, and the U.S. knew it … they just didn’t know where he died.

The U.S. Captured bin Laden Well Before 2011

Another theory promoted by the Iranian regime says that the U.S. captured and held bin Laden for years before finally killing him. Fearful that forcing the world’s most wanted terrorist to face trial in the U.S. could result in a hung jury or worse, an acquittal, the United States decided to execute him and stage his death as an elaborate raid.

This theory alleges that killing Osama bin Laden was a stunt by the Obama Administration in order to secure an election victory — even though the presidential election was more than a year away at the time.

Fighting fire with chainsaws

Science!

Bin Laden Was Literally Kept on Ice

In keeping with the “bin Laden was already dead, the United States just confirmed it” line of thinking, this theory states that the United States had either captured bin Laden after the raid on Tora Bora or that he died of renal failure well before 2011. The U.S. then allegedly froze his body in liquid nitrogen to wait for an expedient time to announce the “victory.”

The expedient times listed by proponents of this conspiracy include not clashing with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and knocking an episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” off the air so President Obama could thumb his nose at Donald Trump.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The fascinating platforms of 10 First Ladies

While presidents certainly leave their mark on the Oval Office, less talked about is the important role played by their first ladies. Many served as the closest advisor to the sitting commander in chief, and we can only imagine the kind of conversations held within the walls of the White House.

Although an entire exhibit is dedicated to these fab females at the Smithsonian, we seem to know more about who wore what outfit at the inaugural ball and what China patterns were selected for state dinners than what platforms and advocacy issues these women championed.


Here are 10 interesting platforms of first ladies, according to Whitehouse.gov:

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1. Ellen Axson Wilson

Ellen Wilson was the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson and held the title of first lady from 1913 until she died in 1914. A champion of equality well before her time, Ellen worked to improve housing for black Americans in Washington, DC, a cause she was passionate about as a descendant of slave owners.

2. Edith Bolling Galt

After Ellen Wilson passed away, President Wilson married Edith Bolling Galt, who was first lady from 1915 to 1921. She is best known for stepping in to assist her husband after he suffered a severe stroke; Edith was often referred to as the “secret president.”

3. Lou Henry Hoover

First lady from 1929 to 1933, Lou Henry Hoover was a well-respected linguist and scholar. She was the first wife of a president to make national radio broadcasts. Lou was a fine horsewoman; she hunted, and preserved specimens with the skill of a taxidermist; she developed an enthusiasm for rocks, minerals, and mining. Her passion for the outdoors served her well; she was president of the Girl Scouts before her time as first lady.

4. Eleanor Roosevelt

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving first lady throughout her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office (1933-1945). She was a politician, diplomat and activist who later served as a United Nations spokeswoman.

Eleanor broke precedent by holding press conferences and traveled all over the country, giving lectures and radio broadcasts. She expressed her opinions candidly in a daily syndicated newspaper column, “My Day.”

Fighting fire with chainsaws

(Wikimedia Commons)

5. Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson

Thrust into the role of first lady as the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) after the assassination of President Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson broke ground for her role by interacting with Congress directly and advocating strongly for beautifying the nation’s cities and highways. She was a shrewd investor and manager.

6. Betty Ford

In her first year in the White House, 1974, Betty Ford had to undergo radical surgery for breast cancer. She was noted for raising breast cancer awareness and being a passionate supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. She was frank about her successful battle against dependency on drugs and alcohol. She helped establish the Betty Ford Center for treatment of alcohol abuse.

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7. Eleanor Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn, wife of the 39th President, Jimmy Carter, was first lady from 1977 to 1981. As first lady, she focused national attention on the performing arts, and programs to aid mental health, the community, and the elderly. Rosalynn served as honorary chairman of the President’s Commission on Mental Health in 1979, testifying before Congress about the importance of mental health care and treatment.

8. Nancy Reagan

From Broadway actress to first lady, Nancy Reagan is remembered for her advocacy for decreasing drug and alcohol abuse, especially among young people. She spent many hours visiting veterans, the elderly, and the emotionally and physically disabled. With a lifelong interest in the arts, she used the White House as a showcase for talented young performers in the PBS television series “In Performance at the White House.”

9. Laura Lane Bush

Laura Bush was first lady from 2001 to 2009, advocating for historic education reform and the well-being of women and families worldwide. A former teacher and librarian, she focused on advancing education and promoting global literacy. After the Sept. 11 attacks, she was an outspoken supporter of the women of Afghanistan.

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First Lady Michelle ObamaFirst Lady Michelle Obama

10. Michelle Obama

A lawyer, writer and the wife of the 44th President, Barack Obama, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama was the first African-American first lady of the U.S. She is an advocate for healthy families, service members and their families, higher education, and international adolescent girls’ education. In 2011, she helped launch Joining Forces with Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities.

The biographies of the First Ladies were pulled from WhiteHouse.gov.

Articles

Judge rules that Army vet is genderless

Fighting fire with chainsaws


Last week an Oregon judge ruled that Jamie Shupe, an Army vet, can legally be considered “nonbinary.”

Up to that point, Shupe considered himself female, although he doesn’t identify with either sex.

“It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined,” Shupe said.

Shupe was male at birth, but he started transitioning to a female in 2013, more than a decade after retiring from the military as a sergeant first class.

“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” said civil rights attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who filed the petition, according to CNN.

“The law just says, ‘change.’ Historically, people have asked for a gender change from male to female and the other way around, but Jamie is the first to ask for the gender of “nonbinary,” Perriguey said.

It’s unclear what the ruling will have nationally, but it certainly has the potential to complicate the Pentagon’s already-challenging gender integration efforts. Special operators are just now adjusting to the idea of having females in their ranks. Are they ready for nonbinaries?

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new ‘unlimited range’ missile just embarrassed the Russian military

A Russian cruise missile that the country touted as having “practically unlimited” range appears to be falling short, sources with knowledge of a US intelligence report told CNBC.

The cruise missile, which Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled at a Russian Federal Assembly in March 2018, only flew for around two minutes and traveled 22 miles before it lost control and crashed, CNBC reported May 21, 2018. Another missile test reportedly lasted just four seconds with a distance of five miles.


Russia tested the missile four times between November 2017, and February 2018, at the behest of senior officials, even though engineers voiced doubt over the program, according to CNBC’s sources.

Putin previously touted a new generation of weapons in a presentation that displayed missile trajectories going from Russia to the US. In addition to the cruise missile, Putin teased unmanned underwater drones purportedly capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic glide vehicle.

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graphic showingu00a0an ICBM payload in space.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin said in a speech. “You have failed to contain Russia.”

Russia’s cruise missile capabilities may have missed the mark, but sources said it succeeded in other aspects. The hypersonic glide vehicle, which is believed to be able to travel five times the speed of sound, would render US countermeasures useless and could become operational by 2020, according to CNBC.

“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” US Air Force General John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2018.

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

Articles

5 differences between Army and Marine Corps infantry

The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps infantrymen pride themselves on being some of the biggest badasses on every block they roll into. They have more similarities than differences, but they’re unique forces. Here are 5 ways you can tell Marine and Army infantry apart:


Note: For this comparison we are predominantly pulling from the Army’s Infantry and Rifle Platoon and Squad field manual and the Marine Corps’ Introduction to Rifle Platoon Operations and Marine Rifle Squad. Not every unit in each branch works as described in doctrine. Every infantry unit will have its own idiosyncrasies and units commonly change small details to deal with battlefield realities.

1. Platoon Organization

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Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Artur Shvartsberg

Army and Marine Corps rifle platoons share many elements. They are both organized into larger companies, both contain subordinate squads organized into fire teams, and both employ the rifleman as their primary asset. The Army platoon has a radiotelephone operator and a medic. The Marine platoon has a radio transmitter operator and a corpsman who fulfill the same functions.

The Marine Corps rifle platoon contains three rifle squads. Each squad is led by a sergeant who has three fire teams working for him, each led by a corporal. The fire team leader typically carries the M203 grenade launcher slung under his M16. Operating under him are the automatic rifleman, assistant automatic rifleman, and rifleman.

The Army platoons contain smaller squads. An Army rifle squad leader is typically a sergeant or staff sergeant who leads two four-man fire teams. Each Army fire team consists of a team leader, an automatic rifleman, a grenadier, and a rifleman. Note that the Army squad is using a dedicated grenadier in place of an assistant automatic rifleman. Typically, one rifleman in each squad will be a squad designated marksman, a specially trained shooter who engages targets at long range. Also, the Army has an additional squad in each platoon, the infantry weapons squad. This squad has teams dedicated to the M240B machine gun and the Javelin missile system.

Both Marine Corps and Army infantry platoons operate under company and battalion commanders who may add capabilities such as rockets or mortars when needed.

2. Weapons

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Photo: US Navy Mass Communications Petty Officer 2nd Class Kim Smith

The Army typically gets new weapons before the Marine Corps. It moved to the M4 before the Marine Corps did, and soldiers are more likely than Marines to have the newest weapons add-ons like optical sights, lasers, and hand grips. Marines will get all the fancy add-ons. They just typically get them a few years later.

When the Army needs a rocket or missile launched, they can use SMAWs, AT-4s, or Javelins. For the Marine Corps, SMAW is the more common weapons system (they can call heavier weapons like the Javelin and TOW from the Weapons Company in the battalion).

The Army is quickly adopting the M320 as its primary grenade launcher while the Marine Corps is using the M203. The M320 can be fired as a stand-alone weapon. Either the M320 or M203 can be mounted under an M16 or M4.

3. Fires support

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Photo: US Marine Corps

Obviously, infantry units aren’t on their own on the battlefield. Marine and Army rifle units call for assistance from other assets when they get bogged down in a fight. Both the Marine Corps and the Army companies can get mortar, heavy machine gun, and missile/rocket support from their battalion when it isn’t available in the company. For stronger assets such as artillery and close air support, the services differ.

Marines in an Marine Expeditionary Unit, an air-ground task force of about 2,200 Marines, will typically have artillery, air, and naval assets within the MEU. Soldiers in a brigade combat team would typically have artillery support ready to go but would need to call outside the BCT for air or naval support. Air support would come from an Army combat aviation brigade or the Navy or Air Force. Receiving naval fire support is rare for the Army.

4. Different specialties

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Photo: US Navy Phan Shannon Garcia

While all Marines train for amphibious warfare, few soldiers do. Instead, most soldiers pick or are assigned a terrain or warfare specialty such as airborne, Ranger, mountain, or mechanized infantry. Ranger is by far the hardest of these specialties to earn, and many rangers will go on to serve in Ranger Regiment.

The Marine Corps categorizes its infantry by weapons systems and tactics rather than the specialties above. Marine infantry can enter the service as a rifleman (0311), machine gunner (0331), mortarman (0341), assaultman (0351), or antitank missileman (0352). Soldiers can only enter the Army as a standard infantryman (11-B) or an indirect fire infantryman (mortarman, 11-C).

5. Elite

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Army Rangers conduct a mission in Afghanistan. (Photo: US Army)

Marines who want to push themselves beyond the standard infantry units can compete to become scout snipers, reconnaissance, or Force Recon Marines. Scout snipers provide accurate long-range fire to back up other infantrymen on the ground. Reconnaissance Marines and Force Recon Marines seek out enemy forces and report their locations, numbers, and activities to commanders. Force Recon operates deeper in enemy territory than standard reconnaissance and also specializes in certain direct combat missions like seizing oil platforms or anti-piracy.

Soldiers who want to go on to a harder challenge have their own options. The easiest of the elite ranks to join is the airborne which requires you to complete a three-week course in parachuting. Much harder is Ranger regiment which requires its members either graduate Ranger School or get selected from Ranger Assessment and Selection Program. Finally, infantry soldiers can compete for Special Forces selection. If selected, they will leave infantry behind and choose a special forces job such as weapons sergeant or medical sergeant. Infantrymen can also become a sniper by being selected for and graduating sniper school.

Lists

The ’76 most American things that have ever happened

The “Meanwhile, in America” meme takes the cliché phrasing from film, television, and literature “meanwhile, in…” and applies it to the United States, often pointing out examples of American excess, ignorance, or laziness. It’s been turned into some of the most popular pictures and gifs all over the web, including sites like Reddit and Tumblr.


The phrase “meanwhile, in…” is a popularly used storytelling device that takes the audience away from the center of action in the story at that moment, to somewhere else completely. This phrase has been popularized on the Web with an image macro that takes a photo that captures a common stereotype of any country in the world, and makes fun of them.

These are used often for comedic purposes and occasionally to interrupt someone who has, according to “knowyourmeme,” gone on a huge tangent in an online conversation. The use of the meme implies a sense of boredom among all the other readers. People who post one of these memes are then celebrated as bringing the conversation back to where it should be, or for just finding a hilarious way to use the meme.

You really just take any picture that exemplifies that country, in this case America, and put the “Meanwhile, in America” words on it.

But it takes a little more than just finding a photo of fat people in this; the entire photo really has to “work” for the “Meanwhile, in America” meme. You have to find one that if sent independently of any words or captions, would make whoever you were sending it to lose all faith in not only their peers and their country, but humanity in general.

What are the funniest America memes? These are the best “Meanwhile, in America” memes and jokes. From the morbidly obese exercising laziness, to negligent parents, to enormous guns and overall American ridiculousness, here are the greatest examples of how to use, and the best ways to use, the phrase “Meanwhile, in America” online. By the end, we bet you’lll be chanting “USA! USA!” (Or not.)

The ’76 Most American Things That Have Ever Happened

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the weapon NASA will use to fight Earth-ending asteroids

It has nothing to do with oil-rig workers, but it has a lot to do with America’s biggest nuclear weapon; NASA has a plan to deflect asteroids that could end all life on earth. It starts with an enormous, experimental, developing launch vehicle and ends with a massive six-shooter of America’s largest nuclear weapons.

The “Cradle,” as it is called, is out to target any near-Earth object that might get too close. And the first test could come in 2029.


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Behold the quintessential devil in these matters, the asteroid Apophis.

On Friday, Apr. 13, 2029, the 1,100-foot asteroid Apophis is going to pass just 19,000 miles away from the Earth. That may not seem very close, but in terms of space stuff, that’s a hair’s breadth away, uncomfortably close. Scientists are pretty sure it won’t hit Earth, but it will be close enough to knock out some satellites. What the close call does bring into question is this: what if there are other near-Earth objects out there that definitely will hit Earth?

That’s where NASA started wargaming with the cosmos. Assuming the asteroid has a mass of a million kilograms and was headed directly for Earth’s center mass, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided to figure out what it would take to deflect – not destroy – such a mass.

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That’s where nukes come in to play, specifically these B83 nuclear weapons.

Anywhere from two to five years before the projected impact, NASA would send a probe to the asteroid’s surface to read the effects of a possible impact with the another object, test its possible trajectory, and determine the best method of rerouting the celestial projectile from Earth. When the best course of action was determined, the U.S. would launch a series of missiles aboard one of its spiffy new Ares V rockets. There would be three kinds: kinetic, nuclear and solar.

The solar option would be fired into the asteroid’s orbit with a parabolic collector membrane that would focus the sun’s energy onto the object, acting as a kind of thruster to disrupt its path or destroy it into smaller, less destructive versions of itself. The kinetic war head would have an inert warhead on it, and would be designed to literally push the object away using force. The nuclear option would send the largest warhead America has, a 1.2 megaton device in a B83 warhead that can produce a mushroom cloud taller than Mount Everest. They would be detonated close to the object but not right on it or into it.

The idea is to turn its surface into an expanding plasma to generate a force to deflect the asteroid.

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There’s the boom.

The reason NASA can’t just outright destroy a near-Earth object was the discussion of a report from NASA and was explored in the early stages of developing this planetary defense.

“The Hollywood scenario solution of shooting several intercontinental ballistic missiles at the incoming rock is fraught with danger. It probably would not be sufficient to prevent impact, raising the additional hazard of radioactive materials from the blast being introduced into the atmosphere,” the report reads.

Hence, the plan is to give it a little push instead.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force successfully flies HH-60W for first time

The 413th Flight Test Squadron successfully conducted the first Air Force-piloted flight of the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter July 11, 2019. The test took place at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach.

The unit embedded Air Force personnel with the contractor, Sikorsky, to provide early warfighter involvement and operationally relevant developmental testing.

The aircraft, based on the Army’s UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, is modified to perform missions locating and rescuing downed pilots in hostile territory. The Air Force is contracted to purchase 113 HH-60W aircraft to replace its aging fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.


“Our entire team has been focused on bringing together a lot of moving parts to get here today,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Dirkes, 413th FLTS operations officer. “We are really excited to be a part of recapitalizing a vital component of our warfighting strategy,”

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HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin)

The purpose of the test flight was to collect level flight performance data the Air Force requires to move the program into the production and deployment phase of the defense acquisition process.

According to Dirkes, the crew performed an instrumentation and telemetry checkout with the control room, gathered basic engine start data and flew referred gross weight level flight speed sweeps between 40 knots and maximum horizontal speed.

“Performance testing requires extremely precise aircraft control, and our test pilot maintained tolerances of plus or minus one knot of airspeed, 20 feet of altitude and less than 100 feet per minute vertical speed, flying by hand,” Dirkes explained.

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HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin)

The flight also served as a method for the test pilot to complete the required qualifications to fly the aircraft. Maj. Andrew Fama, a 413th FLTS test pilot, was the first Air Force pilot to fly the aircraft.

“I’m honored to be the first Air Force pilot to fly the ‘Whiskey’ and very excited to deliver a new aircraft to my rescue brothers and sisters,” Fama said.

Sikorsky pilots have been flying the aircraft for about a month; however, this milestone marks the beginning of integrated government and contractor flight test operations.

There are six aircraft dedicated to the developmental test program. The 413th’s HH-60W operations are scheduled to begin at Eglin AFB Auxiliary Field #3, also known as Duke Field, Florida, this fall.

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

Articles

NORAD prepares to track Santa

We all know Santa’s making a list, checking it twice… probably with some help from the NSA. Meanwhile, North American Aerospace Defense Command is also making a list and checking it twice to ensure their considerable assets are ready to help ensure that Santa accomplishes his mission safely.


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An F-35 and F-16 fly side by side. These are some of the assets NORAD has available to ensure that Santa can carry out his Christmas Eve mission safely. (US Air Force photo by Jim Hazeltine)

This long-running tradition started by accident during the height of the Cold War. But it’s stuck around, even in the post-9/11 era. According to a 2008 Air Force release, the accident occurred in 1955, when NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense command, or CONAD, got a call from a kid. A newspaper had misprinted a phone number to allow kids to track jolly old St. Nick. Instead of the local Sears store, they got the operations hotline for CONAD.

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Col. Harry Shoup, the operations officer at NORAD on Dec. 24, 1955, answered a child’s wrong-number call and began the tradition of NORAD tracking Santa.(Courtesy photo from USAF.mil)

Colonel Harry Shoup was the director of operations on that Christmas Eve. Tracking Santa had not been something he’d prepared for or had been briefed to do. But when each kid called, he provided them Santa’s position, saving Christmas for the kids by assuring them that Santa was safe and on the job. The next year, CONAD did it again, and did so the year after that. When NORAD took over for CONAD in 1958, they assumed that Christmas Eve duty – and tradition – as well. In 2015, a DOD release noted that over 1500 volunteers helped carry out the mission.

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Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) personnel conduct training in preparation for Santa tracking operations at their headquarters in Rome, N.Y. on Dec. 11, 2016. Pictured from front to back, are: Sgt. Thomas Vance of the Royal Canadian Air Force, a member of EADS Canadian Detachment; and Master Sgt. Michelle Gagnon, Master Sgt. Lena Kryczkowski (standing) and Master Sgt. Shane Reid, all members of the New York Air National Guard’s 224th Air Defense Squadron. (DOD photo)

The official web site, www.NORADSanta.org, includes videos, games, music, and a gift shop. There is also a Facebook page for that in this era of social media. And yes, there are apps for tracking Santa on Windows phones, Android phones, and iPhones. NORAD says that starting at 2:01 AM Eastern Standard Time on Dec. 24, they will have video of Santa making preparations for his mission. At 6 AM EST that day, live phone operators will be available at 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com. And check out this video of the history of how NORAD got started.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines just delivered the latest new uniform changes

Good news, Marines. On Nov. 27, 2017, MARADMIN 644/17 was signed and with it comes a few changes to your uniforms and seabags.


The first, and perhaps most widely applicable change, is that watch caps, combat utility gloves, and inserts are to be placed on the minimum requirement list for seabags. This means that each and every Marine needs to keep these handy.

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Marines assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embark aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julio Rivera)

In addition to putting a few more required items in the Marine seabag, MARADMIN 644/17 includes a few changes to the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform. One of these changes is yet another something for which your commanding officer can get on your ass. The document will:

Authorize commanders to direct the MCCUU blouse be tucked into the MCCUU trousers in a neat manner, when doing so will enable Marines to deploy and employ mission critical equipment.

The justification for this change is that by tucking in the MCCUU blouse, Marines will be able to more easily deploy military police belts, duty belts, or pistol belts, expanding that tactical toolbox just a tiny bit further.

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The changes outlined in MARADMIN 644/17. (Screenshot via Marine Times)

Read Also: 5 ways US military combat uniforms have changed since Vietnam

MARADMIN 644/17 is also helping unmanned aircraft operators get a little more credit. Starting now, both enlisted and officers who pilot drones can wear the unmanned aircraft systems breast insignia on Marine Corps uniforms. Recognizing the troops behind the controls of unmanned aircraft is becoming more important as drone warfare becomes more prevalent. In fact, the US Air Force recently updated their awards to ensure that drone pilots would get their just honors.

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The Unmanned Aircraft Systems insignia.

Finally, the document also mandates that combat instructors at the School of Infantry East/West and The Basic School should have an additional pair of hot weather Marine Corps Combat Boots. Expect a slight bump to supplementary allowances to get these boots in your bag.

For more information on uniform requirement changes and additions, check out the official document here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why it’s illegal to use weather modification in warfare

Despite how ridiculous some rules and laws may seem, they only have to exist because someone actually did something so ridiculous. That’s why it’s still legal to rain death from above, just as long as that death isn’t actual rain. In this case, the United States is the perpetrator, seeding the clouds in Vietnam to keep the North Vietnamese from infiltrating the South.


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“This weather is crazy, as if it’s happening to us on purpose!”

The idea is actually a pretty great one. Instead of bombing the Ho Chi Minh Trail into submission, they would simply render it unusable. With Operation Popeye, the United States Air Force seeded the clouds over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in an effort to make the Vietnamese monsoon season last longer, keep the trail muddy and treacherous, and prevent the North from moving men and material into South Vietnam.

From Thailand, the United States used C-130 and F-4C aircraft armed with lead iodide and silver iodide to spread into clouds above the trail. The chemicals condensed the water in those clouds, forming precipitation in the form of rain. They wanted to stop up the dirt roads used by enemy trucks and men, cause landslides, wash out river crossings, and keep the roads impassable.

The 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron contributed to the 2,602 cloud seeding missions flown during Popeye.

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That’s a lot of rain.

“I never even imagined that’s what that group was doing,” recalls Brian Heckman, a former Air Force pilot, “until we got over there and showed up for the briefing and then they told us what the project was all about. We just went around looking for clouds to seed.”

And so Popeye continued with gusto, even though Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird had no knowledge of the program and even testified to the “fact” that there were no such programs in Vietnam before Congress. The public didn’t find out about the program until the release of The Pentagon Papers, published by the New York Times and other newspapers in 1971. That’s how the Environmental Modification Convention came to pass in 1977.

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Chemtrails were still totally legal.

Its full name was actually the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, restricting “widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury.” It basically says that any manipulation of weather (aka “environmental modification”) as a means of destruction in wartime is strictly prohibited.

The United States was an early signatory to this agreement.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Washington tried to burn New York to the ground

America’s favorite Revolutionary War hero and first president had a little wish to, uh, checks notes, burn the city of New York to the ground and watch the flames dance in the tear-filled eyes of his enemies. Wait, can that be right?


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Yup. Gen. George Washington himself wanted to burn one of America’s most populous and wealthy cities to the mud. But it wasn’t because he wanted the future city that would be named after him to have no rival in the Big Apple, it was actually a decent military strategy at the time (but would be a war crime now).

The proposed destruction was set for 1776 when Washington felt he could not hold the city. The Patriots had predicted that the British military, relying as it did on roads and ships, would sail down the Hudson and split the colonies. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were all east of the river and would be isolated.

And, controlling New York Harbor would give the British a perfect staging ground for joint army-navy operations against New Jersey and the rebel capital in Philadelphia.

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Washington moved the bulk of his forces from Boston to New York just in time for the Battle of Brooklyn in August of 1776. But, the Patriot forces still weren’t strong enough to beat back the British when the British were able to bring their full numbers and logistics advantage to bear.

The Battle of Long Island started Aug. 27, 1776, and was a catastrophe for America, and it nearly ended the war. Washington’s forces were outflanked multiple times, and it took a series of careful withdrawals for Washington to keep his men together and organized. He ended the main maneuvers with his back to the East River and the British arrayed in front of him in strength.

Washington was trapped with the bulk of his troops; easy pickings for the Redcoats. But a storm rolled in and made August 28-29 bad for fighting, and the British commander elected to wait. Washington managed to put together a small flotilla and escape on the water overnight. Washington himself floated out on the last boat, covered only by the mist as the sun slowly burned it off.

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The fog finally cleared and the British found themselves facing an empty battlefield. The Continental Army had escaped.

But New York was now open to the British, and they took it. Washington had asked for permission to burn it to prevent Britain from using it as “warm and comfortable barracks” in the winter of 1776-77, but it was too late. The Redcoats marched in.

Luckily for Washington, New York burned anyway. On the night of Sept. 19, a fire began in Harlem that would consume about a quarter of the city before it was successfully extinguished. It wasn’t as extensive as Washington may have wished, but it was more than enough to piss off the Brits.

The British suspected that Patriot agents were behind the fire. It wasn’t yet illegal to burn a civilian city to prevent its occupation by enemy forces, but it was still frowned upon. And the Redcoats wanted their justice.

British forces captured 100 suspects and hanged one, Nathaniel Hale, as a spy. It would turn out that Hale really was a spy for Washington, so they weren’t too far off the mark.

It can’t be known for sure that the city was burned by Washington’s agents or because of his wishes, but it did serve his purposes.

But, it didn’t stop the British advance. Washington’s men suffered a series of smaller defeats and lost two key forts in New York. But this series of failures is what led Washington to set out on Christmas 1776 to attack the Hessians at the battle of Trenton, salvaging Patriot morale right before thousands of enlistments expired.