“The Fighting Season,” is a six-part documentary from actor and veteran supporter Ricky Schroder and DirecTV. But it’s not just another war documentary.
The series culls out many of the hard-to-explain details of deployment in Afghanistan — the frustrations and setbacks and small victories. And in so doing, it gets it right.
“The Fighting Season” drops the viewer into the war without injecting any pretense or agendas. The film captures the nuance of asymmetric war, how soldiers suss out the difference between friendly locals and insurgents. It shows how the bad guys build an ambush against a backdrop of relative calm.
The infantry platoon talks about how happy they are that the Afghan National Police didn’t accidentally shoot them when the American platoon approaches the Afghan base in the dark. An American security team is in open disagreement with their colonel about how to complete their mission. The American’s sense of progress takes a major step backward as an Afghan National Police sentry allows a vehicle with an armed passenger right through their checkpoint in Kabul.
And the documentary feels like Afghanistan. It’s gritty and unpolished. The soldiers smoke, dip, and cuss. They forget to wear eye protection.
It feels like being back on the FOB and at the outpost.
“The Fighting Season” will debut on Audience Network Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
In lieu of a traditional advertising campaign, DirecTV is pursuing a social media campaign using the hashtag #TheFightingSeason. For every post with the hashtag, they’ll donate $1 to Operation Gratitude.
Summer’s officially here, the BBQ is hot, the beer is cold, and it’s time to party. Old Glory is still soaring from when we honored Memorial Day, but now we have a holiday where the only requirement is to celebrate.
It’s the 4th of July.
If you’re gonna have an epic party, you need an epic playlist. These tunes will light some fireworks in your soul. Enjoy.
9. Team America World Police — “America F*#k Yeah!”
I LOVE THIS SONG EVERY TIME I HEAR IT.
8. Tom Petty — “American Girl”
A good party playlist should rise and fall. Tom Petty and his ode to the American Girl can keep things calm for a few.
7. Bruce Springsteen — “Born in the USA”
This is a classic and cannot be omitted. Let it happen.
6. Lenny Kravitz — “American Woman”
This makes every woman, including yours truly, want to lose some layers and show off her moves. You’re welcome.
5. Iced Earth “Declaration Day”
Sometimes you just need to say it with metal: “Freedom is not free.”
4. Katy Perry — “Firework”
This song is catchy as hell and you know it.
3. Brad Paisley — “American Saturday Night”
You had me at French kissing and a cooler of cold Coronas.
Not only was Houston’s voice absolute perfection, when she recorded this song, she donated the proceeds of the single to benefit the veterans of the Persian Gulf War. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, she re-released it, this time donating her profits to the firefighters and victims of the attacks.
For those of you who are out there continuing to fight for the freedoms we cherish, you have our gratitude. Stay safe.
Recently, the United States Navy celebrated the 98th anniversary of the commissioning of its very first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1).
CV-1 was named after American aeronautics engineer, Astronomer, aviation pioneer, bolometer, and physicist, Samuel Piermont Langley (the same guy whose name is on a NASA research center, an Air Force base, a mountain, three other ships — two of which are USN ships — and a slew of schools, buildings, labs, and a unit of solar radiation measurement). The USS Langley was converted from the Proteus-class collier USS Jupiter (AC-3), which itself was commissioned in April or 1913.
As the Langley, she had a full-load displacement of 13,900 long tons, a length of 542ft, beam of 65ft 5in, draft of 24ft, and 3 boilers. This was also the United States Navy’s first tubro-electric-powered ship. She was commanded by Commander Kenneth Whiting, upon commissioning.
The USS Langley saw service as both an aircarft carrier and a seaplane tender. In the seaplane tender role, she was commissioned as AV-3 on 11 April 1937. She served as AV-3 until 27 February 1942, when she was struck by Japanese bombers. She now rests on the seafloor near Cilacap Harbor, Java, Indonesia.
The USS Langley was the first step in what would help the Navy — and the United States — project global reach and force. A unique feature of the Langley (among all USN aircraft carriers) was its carrier pigeon house. USN carriers (and signals) have come a long way since then.
Since the commissioning of the USS Langley as the first aircraft carrier, the United States Navy has fielded 80 total carriers. There are currently 11 in service. Both of these numbers vastly outcounts every other nation’s number of aircraft carriers. With a current global total of 44 active carriers (some of those are arguable), America owns 25% of those. But the strategic value of those 11 carriers is much more than 25% of that global total.
The first purpose-built aircraft carrier to be commissioned ever, anywhere, was the Japanese Hōshō, which was commissioned two days after Christmas, 1922.
China became the third country to land a probe on the Moon on Jan. 2, 2019. But, more importantly, it became the first to do so on the far side of the moon, often called the dark side. The ability to land on the far side of the moon is a technical achievement in its own right, one that neither Russia nor the United States has pursued.
The probe, Chang’e 4, is symbolic of the growth of the Chinese space program and the capabilities it has amassed, significant for China and for relations among the great power across the world. The consequences extend to the United States as the Trump administration considers global competition in space as well as the future of space exploration.
Like the U.S. and Russia, the People’s Republic of China first engaged in space activities during the development of ballistic missiles in the 1950s. While they did benefit from some assistance from the Soviet Union, China developed its space program largely on its own. Far from smooth sailing, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution disrupted this early programs.
The Chinese launched their first satellite in 1970. Following this, an early human spaceflight program was put on hold to focus on commercial satellite applications. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping articulated China’s space policy noting that, as a developing country, China would not take part in a space race. Instead, China’s space efforts have focused on both launch vehicles and satellites — including communications, remote sensing, and meteorology.
This does not mean the Chinese were not concerned about the global power space efforts can generate. In 1992, they concluded that having a space station would be a major sign and source of prestige in the 21st century. As such, a human spaceflight program was re-established leading to the development of the Shenzhou spacecraft. The first Chinese astronaut, or taikonaut, Yang Liwei, was launched in 2003. In total, six Shenzhou missions have carried 12 taikonauts into low earth orbit, including two to China’s first space station, Tiangong-1.
In addition to human spaceflight, the Chinese have also undertaken scientific missions like Chang’e 4. Its first lunar mission, Chang’e 1, orbited the moon in October 2007 and a rover landed on the moon in 2013. China’s future plans include a new space station, a lunar base and possible sample return missions from Mars.
Chang’e 1 spacecraft.
A new space race?
The most notable feature of the Chinese space program, especially compared to the early American and Russian programs, is its slow and steady pace. Because of the secrecy that surrounds many aspects of the Chinese space program, its exact capabilities are unknown. However, the program is likely on par with its counterparts.
In terms of military applications, China has also demonstrated significant skills. In 2007, it undertook an anti-satellite test, launching a ground-based missile to destroy a failed weather satellite. While successful, the test created a cloud of orbital debris that continues to threaten other satellites. The movie “Gravity” illustrated the dangers space debris poses to both satellites and humans. In its 2018 report on the Chinese military, the Department of Defense reported that China’s military space program “continues to mature rapidly.”
Despite its capabilities, the U.S., unlike other countries, has not engaged in any substantial cooperation with China because of national security concerns. In fact, a 2011 law bans official contact with Chinese space officials. Does this signal a new space race between the U.S. and China?
Regardless, China’s abilities in space are growing to the extent that is reflected in popular culture. In Andy Weir’s 2011 novel “The Martian” and its later film version, NASA turns to China to help rescue its stranded astronaut. While competition can lead to advances in technology, as the first space race demonstrated, a greater global capacity for space exploration can also be beneficial not only for saving stranded astronauts but increasing knowledge about the universe where we all live. Even if China’s rise heralds a new space race, not all consequences will be negative.
More than nine years after the Battle of Kamdesh claimed eight lives and left 27 injured, a soldier killed there received a posthumous medal upgrade Dec. 15, 2018, to the nation’s second highest honor, the Distinguished Service Cross.
Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos, 27, had been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions at Combat Outpost Keating, the location of the assault by Taliban insurgents that led to one of the bloodiest battles of the war in Afghanistan.”
The Distinguished Service Cross was presented here to Gallegos’ son, MacAidan Justin Gallegos,14, who lives in the area with his stepfather and mother, Amanda Marr. Marr and Gallegos were divorced at the time of his death.
“A couple weeks ago, when I heard the news that Justin’s Distinguished Service Cross had finally been approved, I knew that one of the great discrepancies in the long narrative of the battle of Combat Outpost Keating had finally been corrected,” Maj. Stoney Portis said during the ceremony. Portis was Gallegos’ commander at the time of the battle.
Distinguished visitors bow their heads during the invocation at Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)
Called “a day for heroes” because of the number of heroic acts during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle, COP Keating was all but overrun when, just before dawn, Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
With what the citation calls “extraordinary heroism,” Gallegos, a team leader for Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, maneuvered “under heavy sniper and rocket-propelled grenade fire to reinforce a [High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle] battle position that was critical to the Outpost’s defense,” the citation states.
“While under heavy fire for nearly an hour, Staff Sergeant Gallegos continued to suppress the oncoming enemy with the crew-served weapon. Once the weapon’s ammunition was exhausted, he engaged the enemy with his M4 carbine to allow fellow soldiers in a nearby truck to evacuate from their position,” it states.
As they attempted to join the unit defending the outpost, Gallegos retrieved and moved a wounded soldier to safety while under fire, then exposed himself again to ongoing machine-gun fire while trying to provide suppression and cover so the rest of his team could move to his position.
“During this final act, Staff Sergeant Gallegos paid the ultimate sacrifice,” the citation states. “Staff Sergeant Gallegos’ actions enabled a section of soldiers to regroup and provide necessary security to stave off enemy forces from the west side of the camp. His actions played a critical role in the defense of Combat Outpost Keating, and Troop B’s subsequent counterattack against a numerically superior Taliban force.”
Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska listen during Staff Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos’s Distinguished Service Cross ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Dec. 15, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal A. Jenkins)
Medals of Honor have been awarded to two soldiers who fought at Keating, while 37 have received Army Commendation Medals with combat “V” device for valor, 18 were awarded Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, and nine received Silver Star Medals.
Upgrading Gallegos’ medal was not a quick or easy process, requiring a literal act of Congress. The order for the upgrade was included in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Dec. 15, 2018’s ceremony marked the end of that journey, Marr said, shining a spotlight on Gallegos’ heroic actions.
“We never really know what we’re going to do in any situation that’s like that, but I would’ve known that Justin would’ve been that person,” Marr said. “When I was notified, even, of his death, I knew that it had to be something extraordinary … there was not another explanation. Justin didn’t die — he just fought hard. So I just knew.”
Medal of Honor recipients Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and Staff Sgt. Clint Romesha were in attendance at the medal ceremony, as was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who presented a flag to MacAidan Gallegos and a handful of veterans of the unit.
Gallegos’ other medals and commendations include the Silver Star; Bronze Star; three Purple Hearts; two Army Commendation Medals; two Army Achievement Medals; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star; the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; the Army Service Ribbon; two Overseas Service Ribbons; the NATO Medal; and the Combat Action Badge.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.
Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.
Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.
Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.
This stone is, truly, timeless.
The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.
(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)
Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.
In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.
The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.
For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.
Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..
Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.
If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.
In other words, the tobacco industry takes advantage of young troops’ willingness to serve their country, targets them when they’re most vulnerable, and then locks them in to a destructive addiction that not only threatens their mission, but their lives.
It’s not every day that the mild-mannered janitor at your school turns out to be a bad ass Medal of Honor recipient. But that was exactly the case for thousands of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.
The story starts in Italy in 1943. Pvt. William Crawford was serving as a scout in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, as it fought its way up the Italian peninsula.
After landing at Salerno, Crawford’s unit was advancing against stiff German resistance. Just four days after the landings, I Company launched an attack against Hill 424. Once his platoon gained the crest, they became pinned down by intense German machine gun fire.
Ignoring the hail of bullets, Crawford advanced on the German position and silenced it with a hand grenade.
When his platoon was once again pinned down, Crawford didn’t hesitate to charge forward, this time to destroy two machine gun emplacements.
He first attacked the machine gun to the left and destroyed it and the crew with a hand grenade. He then worked his way to the next machine gun under intense fire. When he was in range he again tossed a hand grenade that sent the crew running.
Later during the intense fighting in Italy, the Germans captured Crawford. His status was listed as missing, presumed dead.
When his Medal of Honor was approved in 1944, it was presented to his father, posthumously.
However, Crawford had in fact survived and in 1945 was liberated from a German POW camp by advancing Allied forces.
Crawford was discharged after the war and returned home before marrying in 1946. He decided to reenlist in 1947 and served another 20 years before retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1967.
His next career move would prove fateful. He took a position as a janitor at the Air Force Academy in his home state of Colorado.
Despite his courage in combat, Crawford had always been rather mild-mannered and didn’t care much to talk about himself. As such, the cadets at the Academy paid him no mind, assuming he was just any other janitor.
Crawford carried on his duties until 1976 when one cadet, James Moschgat, noticed a picture in a history book about World War II.
Moschgat couldn’t believe what he was seeing and showed the picture to his roommate saying, “I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”
The next day Moschgat and his roommate confronted Crawford to ask if it was truly him that was talked about in the book. According to Moschgat’s account Crawford simply looked at the picture and replied, “Yep, that’s me.”
Astonished by what they had just learned, they quickly asked why he had never mentioned it before. Crawford’s reply once again showed his humility. He simply said, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”
Word quickly spread around campus that there was a Medal of Honor recipient in their midst.
The story could have easily ended here with a known recipient of the Medal of Honor working as a janitor at the Air Force Academy. Most people would have never heard the story.
However, the cadets weren’t done.
They eventually found out that because of the circumstances, mainly that Crawford was a POW at the time, he had never had a formal ceremony to present him with his medal.
So, when the Class of 1984 reached graduation they invited Crawford as their special guest. And they had a special surprise in store for him. President Ronald Reagan was giving the commencement speech at the Academy that year.
On June 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs released finalized plans to provide emergency mental health coverage to former service members with other-than-honorable administrative discharges.
“Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” Secretary David Shulkin, who is also a physician, said in a VA news release. “We want these former service members to know there is someplace they can turn if they are facing a mental health emergency — whether it means urgent care at a VA emergency department, a Vet Center, or through the Veterans Crisis Line.”
This is the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on this group of former service members who are in mental health distress, the release stated.
Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration medical centers will be prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need.
Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential, or outpatient care, the release stated.
During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine whether the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.
Since Shulkin announced his intent in March to expand coverage to service members with OTH administrative discharges, the VA has worked with key internal and external stakeholders, including members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and community partners on the issue, the release stated.
Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
The CIA has released a trove of unclassified files related to unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. Comprising more than 700 documents dating back to 1976, the CIA files reveal information about worldwide sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs, which is the government term for UFOs.
The cache of documents is available for download at The Black Vault, an online archive that for years has been publishing declassified government UFO files, along with other declassified documents.
The Black Vault’s founder, John Greenewald Jr., has been filing Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests with the CIA since 1996 — when he was only 15 years old — to gain access to the full sweep of the intelligence agency’s secret UFO files. The CIA ultimately compiled what it claimed was the sum total of its declassified UFO files onto a CD-ROM. Greenewald received a copy and posted it all online.
“Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings,” Greenewald said in a statement posted on his website.
An online clearinghouse for US government records, The Black Vault has reportedly filed some 10,000 FOIA requests to amass a total of 2.2 million pages of material for its archives. Those records cover a broad range of topics, spanning the gamut from the CIA’s UFO files to military programs, law enforcement investigations, and political correspondence. The site even includes a repository of US government documents related to cloning and mind control.
The CIA allegedly opened up its complete UFO archive last year, adding to the number Greenewald had already collected. The Black Vault’s online archive now includes all the CIA UFO files Greenewald has amassed over his years of research. Despite the mountain of material now available for free public download, Greenewald has speculated that there’s still more the CIA has not yet declassified.
“Although the CIA claims this is their ‘entire’ collection, there may be no way to entirely verify that,” Greenewald wrote in a post on The Black Vault’s website. “Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings.”
A 2009 CIA response to one of Greenewald’s FOIA requests stated that there were still classified documents related to UAPs that could not be publicly released. In the letter, the CIA cited the need to protect its intelligence collection methods and the identity of its personnel.
Online publication of The Black Vault’s UFO archive comes ahead of a June deadline for the Pentagon to release all of its UFO files to Congress — a provision attached to the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed in December.
The mandate requires the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to compile an unclassified report on UAPs for congressional intelligence and armed services committees. In an addition to the unclassified portions, the report will include a classified annex — a provision that likely means any explosive information will remain hidden from public view.
While many of Greenewald’s CIA files mention the terms UFO or UAP in passing or out of context, there are, buried within the reams of photocopied pages, some interesting clues about the US government’s longstanding interest in the matter. For example, an April 1976 report cites a request by an unknown CIA official (the name is redacted) for the CIA’s assistant deputy director for science and technology to “see if he knew of any official UFO program and also to answer some of the questions posed by [name redacted].”
Regarding UFO research, the CIA document says that the assistant deputy director for science and technology “feels that the efforts of independent researchers…are vital for further research in this area.”
“At the present time, there are offices and personnel within the agency who are monitoring the UFO phenomena, but again, this is not currently on an official basis,” the 1976 CIA document states, adding: “Any information which might indicate a threat potential would be of interest, as would specific indications of foreign developments or applications of UFO research.”
A Sept. 23, 1976, document includes the subject line: “To immediate director – with personal request to investigate UFO sighted in Morocco.” Another file recounts Russian news reports about UFO sightings at the time of a “mysterious blast” in the Russian town of Sasovo in 1991. According to the CIA document, which includes an English translation of the Russian news report, some residents of Sasovo observed a “fiery sphere” in the sky prior to a “highly powerful explosion” that ripped off roofs and broke windows.
In April, the Department of Defense released three videos — one from 2004 and two from 2015 — taken by US Navy pilots showing what the military defines as UAPs.
The revelation of these unexplained aerial encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, lawmakers in Washington are more concerned that these events could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting advanced new weapons into action — including over US soil.
A group of US senators has drafted an order for the director of national intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among US agencies. The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”
The report also calls for the director of national intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”
US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts are back in the Baltics, practicing for rough landings on improvised runways as a part of Saber Strike 18, the annual exercise where NATO and partner forces work to improve their ability to operate across Europe and with NATO’s forward-deployed battle groups.
In early June 2018, A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, practiced landing and taking off from a rural highway in Latvia and an abandoned runway in Estonia.
During the Cold War, highways were considered an option for fixed-wing aircraft, as standard airstrips were likely to be targeted first in the event of conflict. But the A-10s only recently resumed the exercise.
“The requirement that we’ve been tasked with to be able to force project into battle spaces where the assumption is that the enemy is going to immediately try to destroy or limit capabilities on known airfields,” said Air Force Maj. David Dennis, the detachment director of operations for the 107th Fighter Squadron.
“So the A-10 has been tasked with being able to forward deploy into areas a little bit more austere,” he added, “whether they’re old airfields, riverbeds, old highways, whatever the case may be, so we continue to provide close air support to the guys on the ground.”
The 107th Fighter Squadron is currently deployed to Latvia. Working with members of the 321st Special Tactics Squadron’s combat controllers, the 107th’s A-10s carried out landings and takeoffs from an abandoned runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, on June 7, 2018.
The exercise is part of Saber Strike 18, the latest version of a US Army Europe-led training exercise involving NATO countries and partner forces. This year’s iteration focuses on improving land- and air-operational capabilities, with the additional goal of training with NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)
NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups have been deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland over the past two years and are made up of units from various NATO member countries. They are still on station in those four countries and now number over 4,500 personnel in total.
“We’re landing on Estonian soil, so we have Estonian defense forces here, providing security. We have local fire departments on standby, in case there is some sort of incident,” Dennis said. “So it involves a host of people.”
Austere-landing exercises contribute to the goal of providing close air support. “So day five, day six, day ten of the war, the assumption is that the airfields that the Air Force has been operating out of are probably compromised in some manner,” Dennis said.
A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge, Michigan, practice landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18, June 7, 2018.
“So in order to continue to force project, and to continue to drop bombs and protect the troops on the ground, we’re going to have to find other suitable means with which we can continue our combat operations,” Dennis added. “So they would literally truck in the bombs, the bullets, all the things they need to, to austere environments, like an old airfield, a highway, whatever have you, so that we can continue to operate and ultimately save lives on the ground.”
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
The A-10, introduced in the 1970s, was a key component of the NATO’s frontline defense during the Cold War. It served as the main antitank platform and was equipped with heavy armaments, like the AGM-65 Maverick missile and a 30 mm Gatling gun, and was heavily armored itself in order withstand ground fire.
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
A-10 pilots were given a coloring book to help train them to recognize Soviet tanks. The book, filled with deadpan humor and titled “What you always wanted to know about the T-62 but were afraid to ask,” color-coded sections on Soviet vehicles to instruct pilots on which parts to target and which to avoid.
“The point of the article is to highlight for newly assigned pilots the improved vulnerabilities of the tank from a side or rear attack,” Andy Bush, a retired A-10 pilot, told War is Boring in 2014. Bush said he had “no idea who wrote it or where.”
Cold War planners were not optimistic about the A-10’s chances in a war. In the 1980s, the Air Force planned to put 68 A-10s at each of six forward operating bases in West Germany. Their estimates assumed a 7% loss rate for each 100 flights, meaning each forward operating base would lose at least 10 A-10s every 24 hours. At that rate, the roughly 700-plane A-10 fleet would be shot down in less than two weeks.
US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alex Goulette, crew chief assigned to 127th Wing maintenance squadron in Selfridge, Michigan, and Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, communicate with A-10 pilots about landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
Current tensions with Russia are far from the level seen between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War. But the austere-landing exercise and other drills are meant to keep pilots and aircrews sharp and reassure allies.
A US Air Force A-10 practices landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
“Why did we choose Haapsalu over other areas? Inside the country of Estonia, essentially inside the Baltic region … it’s part of reassuring our NATO alliances,” Dennis said. “We continue to force-project airplanes, not just the A-10 but other NATO assets, all throughout the Baltic region. So what we have done is we’ve analyzed different areas, not just inside of Estonia, but also in Latvia and Lithuania as well, that are suitable landing sites.”
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
There are three important training objectives, Dennis said.
“The first is, trust the pilots right? So the larger Air Force in a whole needs to trust that the A-10 pilot group is capable of executing this in a very important mission set.”
“The next thing is the pilot trusting the airplane. As you operate this these sort of austere environments, the pilot has to have confidence that he or she can actually land in these environments, and execute the operation safely.”
“And the third, and I think equally as important, is we exercise the Special Tactics Squadrons, and other people that are involved in controlling us, and keep them proficient and current.”
Even in a training situation, landing on rough surfaces poses risks. “The airplanes can blow tires. The concrete isn’t as well grooved. In this case, the concrete is not even nearly the same as it would in a normal airfield,” Dennis said. “So there’s a lot of challenges that, physically, the airplane will face when … the rubber actually meets the concrete.”
US Air Force Master Sgt. Wolfram Stumpf, public affairs assigned to the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, records an A-10 Thunderbolt practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
“There’s a lot of detailed planning that goes into ensuring that all of these areas have been properly looked at,” Dennis added. “The Special Tactics Squadrons have a very methodical way with which they come and analyze and basically evaluate these landing surfaces.”
US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks the runway for foreign-object debris after A-10 landed in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.
The A-10, however, is the best plane for this kind of job. “The reason the A-10 does this is because it was designed to do this,” Dennis said. “In the design phase of the actual airplane, [there] was the consideration for this type of environment. So landing gear all the way up to the high-bypass engines, that sit above the airplane, all of that is specifically designed so the airplane is not just survivable, but can operate in these austere environments.”
US Air National Guard photos by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When astronauts first saw Earth from afar in the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 — the US’s second manned mission to the moon — they described a cognitive shift in awareness after seeing our planet “hanging in the void.”
This state of mental clarity, called the “overview effect,” occurs when you are flung so far away from Earth that you become totally overwhelmed and awed by the fragility and unity of life on our blue globe. It’s the uncanny sense of understanding the “big picture,” and of feeling connected yet bigger than the intricate processes bubbling on Earth.
In a Vimeo video by Planetary Collective called “Overview,” David Beaver, co-founder of the Overview Institute, recounts the sentiments from one of the astronauts on the Apollo mission: “When we originally went to the moon, our total focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking about looking back at the Earth. But now that we’ve done it, that may well have been the most important reason we went.”
Seeing cameras turn around in a live feed of Earth for the first time — even for viewers at home — was absolutely life-changing. The iconic “Earthrise” image was snapped by astronaut Bill Anders.
Until that point, no human eyes had ever seen our blue marble from space.
“It was quite a shock, I don’t think any of us had any expectations about how it would give us such a different perspective. I think the focus had been: we’re going to the stars, we’re going to other planets,” author and philosopher David Loy said in the Planetary Collective video. “And suddenly we look back at ourselves and it seems to imply a new kind of self-awareness.”
NASA astronaut Ron Garan explains this incredible feeling in his book, The Orbital Perspective. After clamping into an end of a robotic arm on the International Space Station in 2008, he flew through a “Windshield Wiper” maneuver that flung him in an arc over the space station and back:
As I approached the top of this arc, it was as if time stood still, and I was flooded with both emotion and awareness. But as I looked down at the Earth — this stunning, fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us, and that has protected all life from the harshness of space — a sadness came over me, and I was hit in the gut with an undeniable, sobering contradiction.
In spite of the overwhelming beauty of this scene, serious inequity exists on the apparent paradise we have been given. I couldn’t help thinking of the nearly one billion people who don’t have clean water to drink, the countless number who go to bed hungry every night, the social injustice, conflicts, and poverty that remain pervasive across the planet.
Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective — something I’ve come to call the orbital perspective. Part of this is the realization that we are all traveling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible.
Author Frank White first coined the term, the “overview effect,” when he was flying in an airplane across the country in the 1970s. After looking out the window, he thought, “Anyone living in a space settlement … will always have an overview. They will see things that we know, but that we don’t experience, which is that the Earth is one system,” he says in the Vimeo video. “We’re all part of that system, and there is a certain unity and coherence to it all.”
He later wrote a book about it in 1998.
While this effect is usually relegated to astronauts and cosmonauts, civilians may too be able to experience this effect — that is if space tourism plans ever get off the ground.
A company called World View is slated to start floating people to stratospheric heights in a balloon in 2016. And Virgin Galactic, despite recent road blocks, may eventually zip wealthy customers 62 miles above Earth for a view of a lifetime.
To get more perspective on the overview effect from astronauts and writers, check out the full Vimeo video here:
Although the event was catastrophic, only two ships were beyond repair — USS Oklahoma and Arizona. The Oklahoma was eventually refloated to the surface, but the battle damage was too overwhelming to repair and return to service.
However, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.
Talks of constructing a permanent memorial started as early as 1943, but it wasn’t until several years later that the effort would take shape. After the creation of Pacific War Memorial Commission, plans of how to commemorate the ship’s memory began rolling in.
Admiral Arthur Radford ordered a flag to be installed on the wreck site and have a colors ceremony conducted every day.
In 1950, requests for additional funds were denied by the government, as their top priority was to focus on the war efforts in Korea.
In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower inked Public Law 85-344 allowing the PWMC to raise $500,000 for the memorial construction. But after two years of fundraising, only $155,000 in total proceeds had been collected — they needed a lot of help.
Little did they know, they were about to get it.
Tom Parker read about the PWMC’s struggling endeavor and came up with a genius plan. Parker just happened to be Elvis Presley’s manager and was looking for ways to get his client back on top after being drafted by the Army in 1957 — Elvis was discharged from service in 1960.
Reportedly, Parker approached Elvis to perform at a benefit to help boost the memorial campaign — and his music and acting careers.
Elvis, who was not only patriotic but loved the idea of performing for a cause, agreed to help with the campaign. The PWMC agreed to Parker’s plan, and a performance date was set — March 25, 1961.
Although the performance brought in $60,000 in revenue, the campaign was still well short of its goal. But from the publicity of Elvis’ show, donations from outside sources rolled in, and the PWMC finally raise the $500,000 they needed.
On May 30, 1962, the USS Arizona Memorial officially opened thanks to Elvis and the PWMC.