First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93 - We Are The Mighty
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First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Retired Navy Rear Adm. (Lower Half) Richard Lyon, the first SEAL in the Navy Reserve to reach flag rank, passed away Feb. 3. He was 93.


According to a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Lyon, a veteran of the World War II-era Underwater Demolition Teams — the forerunners to the SEALs — served 41 years in the Navy Reserve and also saw action during the Korean War.

Lyon is believed to have been among the first troops to land on the Japanese mainland as Tokyo surrendered.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

In 1951, Lyon was recalled to active duty for the Korean War and worked on destroying enemy mines and later would help destroy enemy tunnels and railways – part of the evolution of the UDTs into the SEALs.

“He was one of the most impressive men I’ve ever met,” Doug Allred, a former officer in Underwater Demolition Team 11, told the Union-Tribune. “It was 1961 and he was a reservist. This old man shows up at our unit and asked if he could go out with us.

“By golly, we were swimming and diving and doing all these hard things and he was destroying all of us young guys.”

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Retired Rear Adm. Dick Lyon, the first Bullfrog, left, passes the Bullfrog trophy to Capt. Pete Wikul, the 13th Bullfrog, during the passing of the Bullfrog ceremony. The title Bullfrog recognizes the UDT/SEAL operator with the greatest amount of cumulative service. Wikul retired after 39 years and 4 months of Navy service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua T. Rodriguez)

After the Korean War, Lyon returned to the reserves, and built a very successful civilian carer, being promoted to Rear Adm. (Lower Half) in 1975. In 1978, he was recalled to active duty to serve as deputy chief of the Navy Reserve.

In 1983, he retired from the Navy Reserve, ending a 41-year career. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of Oceanside, California.

The cause of death was reported as renal failure. The family has asked that donations be made to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Articles

The Air Force wants to replace ‘terps with tech

As anyone who’s ever deployed with a unit that required an interpreter knows, language barriers make a tough mission tougher. And considering how the U.S. military has treated the locals hired to do interpretation for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a wonder we’re able to recruit ‘terps’ at all.


First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
“He says: ‘So… this is the guy we kill when you leave yeah’?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

So it makes sense the Pentagon would have a need for something that provides real-time translation to the boots on the ground. It should come to no surprise to anyone who regularly shops around on FedBizOpps.gov (the U.S. government’s business opportunities site with a name as legit as any Cash4Gold site), to see the Air Force Research Laboratory posting a need for what it calls “human language technologies.”

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Meanwhile, the Navy continues to pursue its strange obsession with dolphin language . (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho RELEASED)

The Air Force wants to conduct research and development in “automatic speech recognition, machine translation, natural language processing, information extraction, information retrieval, text-to-speech synthesis, and other speech and language processing technologies.” Maybe the military should just ask Skype how they made theirs.

The Air Force’s mind-blowing rationale is that “much of the information needed to effectively understand, anticipate, manage, and operate in the global environment is found in foreign language speech, text, videos, and images” and the military is especially interested in “lesser spoken languages that have high military interest but lack sufficient linguists and automated language processing capabilities.”

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Basically, everything we want to know for via signals intelligence and human intelligence is another language and we don’t have enough people who will help us translate it and the Air Force will spend $10 million over a five-year span to develop the technology to do it without human help.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

A World War II vet wants cards for his birthday – here’s how to send him one

World War II veteran Recil Troxtel turns 93 years old on April 17, 2019. He stares longingly out the window for much of the day, excited for the mail to arrive. When it finally does, he hops up in the hopes that there might be a personal letter or two, just for him.

With his birthday coming up, all he really wants is more mail. His fellow veterans and members of the military community are sure to step up and drop their friend Recil a line – right?


He sits here in his chair looking out the window every day,” his daughter, Liz Anderson told KSWO, an Oklahoma ABC affiliate. “When the mail is here, he’s like the mail is here, we better go get the mail.”

Unfortunately, there’s not often anything in there for Recil. Now, the soon-to-be 93-year-old Oklahoma man is undergoing cancer treatment. His days of watching for the mail may be short, so maybe we shouldn’t wait for April 17th to roll around. Maybe we should send out greetings, letters, and good wishes to Recil right away. Send them to:

Recil Troxtel
2684 North Highway 81
Marlow, Oklahoma 73055


First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

“I don’t get mail anymore,” Recil said. That’s about to change, buddy.

It’s exciting when he gets it because he will sit there and hold it,” his daughter said. “Sometimes he won’t open it for an hour or two. Other times, he has a knife in his pocket, and he rips that knife out and rips that letter open to see what it is.

His family tells KSWO that he didn’t always enjoy the mail, but he’s at an age now where receiving something doesn’t mean he’s getting a bill. It’s more likely a personal message.

Articles

Female sailor recognized for bravery during Iranian detention incident

In the fallout from an embarrassing international incident in which two Navy riverine boats strayed into Iranian waters during a transit to Bahrain and were briefly captured, some half-dozen sailors have faced punishments, but one was recognized with a prestigious award for quick actions in the face of danger, Military.com has learned.


A Navy petty officer second class, the only female sailor among the 10 who were detained, received the Navy Commendation Medal on Aug. 3 in recognition of her efforts to summon help under the noses of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard members who captured the crews.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Picture released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016.

The number two gunner aboard the second riverine boat, she managed to activate an emergency position-indicating radio beacon, used to signal distress at sea, while in a position of surrender and at gunpoint.

A Navy spokesman, Lt. Loren Terry, said the sailor had asked not to be identified and had declined interviews.

Service commendation medals are presented for heroic service or meritorious achievement.

In a recommendation within the riverine command investigation released to reporters at the end of June, investigating officers found the riverine gunner should be recognized for “her extraordinary courage in activating an emergency beacon while kneeling, bound, and guarded at Iranian gunpoint, at risk to her own safety.”

While one of the guards ultimately noticed the beacon and turned it off, help was not far off.

The Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy, which had been monitoring the journey of the riverine boats, notified Task Force 56.7, the parent unit in Bahrain, when the boats appeared to enter Iranian waters.

The investigation found the crews of the Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio should also receive recognition for their efforts to track the captured boat crews and provide assistance for their safe return.

None of the riverine crew members involved in the incident has spoken publicly about the experience. They were returned to U.S. custody following a 15-hour period of detention, during which their captors filmed them and took photographs later used for propaganda purposes by the Iranian media.

Photos indicate the female gunner was made to wear a headscarf while detained.

A military source with knowledge of planning said the Navy’s administrative personnel actions regarding the Jan. 12 riverine incident were nearing completion.

In all, three officers were removed from their posts and four officers were sent to admiral’s mast, with two receiving letters of reprimand for disobeying a superior officer and dereliction of duty, according to a statement this week from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and first reported by Navy Times.

One of the officers was found not guilty of dereliction of duty, and a fourth officer still awaits completion of “accountability actions.”

Two enlisted sailors received letters of reprimand for dereliction of duty, according to the statement.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in June the Navy plans to implement better predeployment training and training on rules of engagement for sailors, as well as enhanced equipment checks and unit oversight.

Articles

Here’s how the Nazis helped Israel during the first wars against Arab states

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Israeli Bf 109 variant during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. (Photo: IDF archives)


In 1948, the state of Israel was a new nation without a unified military and without sufficient weapons.

The one thing it did not lack was enemies. Surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel almost immediately, precipitating the War of Independence. The fledgling military that would eventually become the Israeli Defense Forces was desperate for weapons.

So desperate they were willing to use arms once destined for the soldiers of the Third Reich.

One of the little known facts of 1948 Arab-Israeli war is Nazi weapons armed Jewish freedom fighters, many of whom had faced the same armaments in the hands of their German oppressors during World War II and the Holocaust.

Before independence, both Great Britain and the United States embargoed weapons sales to the Yishuv, the Jewish settlers who lived in Palestine under the control of the British Mandate.

Thanks to one of the most unlikely arms deals in history, the Israeli government circumvented the embargo. The deal was part of Operation Balak, named after the biblical king of the Moabites whose name meant “he who lays waste to an enemy.”

The deal included hundreds of MG34 general purpose machine guns, which first saw action when the Germans fought in the Spanish Civil War. There were thousands of Karabiner 98 bolt-action rifles – the basic infantrymen’s weapon of the Wehrmacht.

The young Israeli Air Force even flew Czech-built Avia S-199 fighter planes, which was really the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. In fact, the Israeli pilots even called the planes “Messerschmitts.”

Even the MP-40 submachine gun – a weapons favored by Waffen-SS troops during World War II – was in the hands of the various Jewish militias that Ben-Gurion ordered absorbed into the early IDF.

Make no mistake – Israelis were happy to have the weapons, even if some the firearms still had Nazi proof marks.

“The feeling in those crucial days in Israel was that any way it could defend itself against the Arab armies attacking the young state was justified,” said Uzi Eilam, a senior research fellow with the Israel-based Institute for National Security Studies and a retired brigadier general in the IDF.

The genesis of what might qualify as the world’s most ironic arms deal is a decision made by one of the Third Reich’s leading strongmen and an unrepentant anti-Semite: Hermann Göring.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Hermann Goering, Nazi, commander of the German Luftwaffe, and facilitator of Israel’s independence.

In 1938, Göring was in charge of administering the Nazi’s Four Year Plan, a program of economic development and increased arms production in violation of the Versailles Treaty. At the same time, Hitler’s goal of taking European territory without firing a shot was moving along briskly, including the annexation of part of Czechoslovakia under the terms of the Munich Agreement – the infamous treaty that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said granted “peace for our time.”

What it really did was place Czech heavy-industry under Nazi control. Göring later ordered the Skoda works transformed into weapons production plants – the Hermann Göring Werke complex that became one of the leading arms production plants for the Reich.

The plant made thousands of rifles and machine guns for German use throughout World War II. After World War II when Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Red Army, the Soviets captured the German weapons and the plants.

By 1947, Jewish political leaders knew independence could only be achieved through warfare. Surprisingly, Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia was open to a deal.

“The Czech government agreed because they had a huge surplus of German weapons, some of which had been produced in Czechoslovakia during the war, and because they got paid – in dollars,” said Martin van Creveld, an Israeli military historian and theorist. “By the summer of 1948, the IDF had enough (weapons) to arm all its troops, so no more imports were needed.”

Czechoslovakia sold the weapons to Israel with Joseph Stalin’s blessing, no less, probably in the hope that the deal might persuade the new Israeli government to lean toward a close relationship with the U.S.S.R. That didn’t happen, and eventually the Soviet Union adopted a staunchly pro-Arab foreign policy.

Eventually, Israel would eventually acquire weapons from other sources, including British Sten guns, French 65-millimeter howitzers and other leftovers from World War II.

But Nazi weapons stayed in Israel’s arsenals. The Israelis dubbed the Karabiner 98 bolt-action rifle the P-18. Re-chambered in Israeli arsenals for the 7.62 x 51 millimeter NATO round, it saw active service during the 1956 Suez Crisis before designated a weapon for reservists by the IDF.

Many of those German rifles remained in use through the 1970s.

popular

62 glaring technical errors in ‘The Hurt Locker’

The Hurt Locker is a classic American war film, an Academy Award winner, and an entertaining tour de force that wowed civilian audiences when it hit theaters in 2008.


Keyword: civilian audiences. For many military viewers, the film was rife with glaring technical errors. From just about every angle — dialogue, storylines, and uniforms — the problems with the movie made it very hard for soldiers to watch without cringing nearly every minute. Of course, it’s Hollywood, and they can’t get everything right.

But it’s still fun to look back and see just how many things were wrong. We watched it and compiled a massive listing of everything (with some extra help from some real-live Army EOD techs we talked to). Maybe this could be a fun drinking game. Or, as you’ll see by how many problems there are, a very dangerous drinking game. On second thought, let’s put the beer down.

Here we go (with timestamps):

The movie starts off by introducing us to soldiers of Delta Co., with no further specifics on the exact unit. Army EOD companies aren’t called by phonetic names like “Alpha,” “Charlie,” and “Delta.” They are numbered, usually with a number in the 700s.

:30 U.S. Army soldiers are wearing the digital ACU (Army Combat Uniform) that wasn’t used until at least Feb. 2005. The setting is Baghdad in 2004. Thirty seconds in and already a really big one. Great start.

1:00 Multiple soldiers are seen with sleeves rolled up over their elbows. This is totally against Army regs, but soldiers are seen throughout the film like this.

4:20 The wagon carrying the explosives to blow the IED in place breaks down. Instead of using the claw on the robot to pick up the charges, Staff Sgt. Thompson suits up and goes to hand carry it. Not even the dumbest EOD tech would do this.

 

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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5:39 No reticle pattern is seen when Sgt. Sanborn looks through his scope, which is a Trijicon ACOG sight.

6:30 An Iraqi man gets extremely close to a soldier standing security. Moments before this, the street was bustling with onlookers and there were other soldiers and Iraqi security forces around. Now it’s totally empty, which begs the question: Why are only three soldiers left guarding this bomb?

10:28 Sgt. Sanborn seen with cuffed sleeves.

10:45 Sgt. Sanborn’s collar is popped. That’s not the style around here, man.

11:05 Sgt. 1st Class James’ dog tags are hanging out of his shirt. He’s supposed to be a staff non-commissioned officer, not a private just disregarding the regulations.

12:00 This is Baghdad 2004, when the insurgency is really starting to get rough, and we have a single Humvee rolling through Baghdad all alone. Seems a bit far-fetched, although an EOD tech did tell us it’s possible.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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13:40 Sgt. 1st Class James is wearing an old green Battle Dress Uniform camouflage helmet and body armor. Every other soldier wears the matching ACU gear (although this is still incorrect for the time period). He also has both his sleeves rolled up past his elbows.

13:45 Sgt. Sanborn is wearing silver designer sunglasses. Glasses are required to be brown or black, and non-reflective.

14:40 A bunch of soldiers just abandon their Humvee in the middle of Baghdad? And it’s still running? What the hell?

15:28 James greets other soldiers with “morning, boys” to which one responds “Sir.” Soldiers only say “sir” or “ma’am” to officers, not enlisted ranks. There’s also a soldier seen wearing shoulder armor, which wasn’t introduced until 2007/2008.

15:45 A soldier asks James if he wants to talk to an informant who apparently knows the location of the IED and more details about it. But he doesn’t care to talk to him. Why would an EOD tech ignore having more information about what he’s dealing with?

18:15 James pops a smoke grenade to “create a diversion.” Smoke grenades are to cover movement, not to create a diversion. If no one was looking at you before, they are certainly looking at you now.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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18:22 I know he’s supposed to be a “rebel” but when fellow soldiers are screaming frantically over the radio and asking you what is going on, you should probably answer.

18:38 He finally responds over the radio.

18:55 Seven to eight soldiers are all standing around this Humvee in the middle of the street, not providing any security or looking for potential threats.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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18:56 A soldier in the turret is not even covering his sector of fire and doesn’t even have the .50 caliber pointed down the main alleyway.

19:05 Another soldier is seen wearing designer sunglasses.

19:06 An Iraqi-driven car just drives right through a bunch of soldiers who don’t attempt to stop it, fire warning shots, or do anything other than jump out of the way.

19:19 The car doesn’t stop for seven soldiers pointing M-16 rifles at him, but it does stop because James points his pistol at him. Makes sense.

20:30 James fires shots around the car, hits and destroys the windshield, then points his gun at the Iraqi’s head and tells him to get back. You would think he would want to search this guy or his car before sending him right back into seven soldiers who could be potentially blown up by a vehicle-born improvised explosive device (VBIED).

24:40 Yes, ok. Let’s just pull up on the big red wires holding together six bombs (and does this even make sense from an enemy perspective? Why would you daisy-chain all these huge bombs to potentially kill one guy? One bomb is gonna do it).

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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27:14 Spc. Eldridge is seen playing “Gears of War” on an Xbox 360. The Xbox didn’t come out until 2005, and “Gears of War” didn’t come out until 2006. But the setting is supposed to be Baghdad in 2004.

29:02 A soldier is seen walking by with sleeves rolled up over his elbows and with a white or silver watch. Very tactical.

29:59 Oh, of course! Another soldier with rolled-up sleeves.

31:39 Five soldiers just stand out in the middle of street and open fire on an enemy sniper. Instead of, you know, getting behind some cover first.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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32:31 James uses a single fire extinguisher to put out a car that is fully engulfed in flames. He’s like Rambo with unlimited ammo here. And why are you sticking around a car that is probably rigged with explosives that is on fire?!!?!

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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34:50 James puts on a headset that is supposedly a radio. It doesn’t have a microphone or is even connected in any way to a radio. It’s basically a big set of ear muffs (and no, it’s not connected to a throat mic). Also, he’s defusing bombs that could be set off by, well, radios. Most EOD techs won’t even wear radios while they are working on bombs.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Voltage Pictures

36:26 Another scope view, but with no reticle pattern.

40:05 Scope view, no reticle pattern.

40:11 Sanborn waves at Iraqis with his left hand. This is a sign of disrespect in the Arab world, since the left hand is associated with dirtiness.

42:59 Sanborn punches James in the face. He would be court-martialed or at least receive an Article 15 for this. Or, maybe, James could react in some way, shape, or form?

43:30 A full-bird colonel is walking around Baghdad with his eye protection dangling off his body armor, instead of on his face. If anyone is going to be wearing eyepro (and setting an example for junior troops), it’s this guy.

43:45 A colonel praising a sergeant first class for being a “wild man” and operating like he did is highly unlikely. Instead, a colonel would probably be jumping on him for not only his insane behavior, but his out-of-regs appearance, to include sleeves, not wearing a helmet, and not having eye-pro.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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44:55 As James smokes a cigarette on the forward operating base, “left, right, left, right” cadence can be heard in the background. Who the hell is calling marching cadence on a FOB in Iraq?

46:55 Oh, now there’s a colonel with rolled-up sleeves.

48:25 The team does a controlled detonation. James is exposed, as is Sanborn. None of them wear earplugs or even plug their ears with their fingers. James is actually wearing iPod headphones. Just to let you know: The big boom is freaking loud.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Voltage Pictures

49:00 James drives away from the team. They aren’t on the FOB, so where the hell are their weapons?

49:45 The two soldiers discuss “accidentally” blowing up James as he goes close to the controlled det site and how all that would be left would be his helmet. Luckily, James isn’t wearing his helmet. Because really, why would he?

50:43 Again, you’re in the middle of Iraq, and rolling in just one Humvee.

51:20 They see armed men so they pull over and then Sanborn and James both get out from behind cover and start walking forward yelling for them to put their guns down. Wouldn’t you want them to do that part before you expose yourself?

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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55:48 The Brit contractor gets handed the Barrett to try and find the enemy sniper. On this ledge, with the kickback from the gun, he would be guaranteed to be pushed back and fall right on his back after firing.

57:54 The Brit gets shot while manning the Barrett. The enemy sniper uses a Dragunov, which has a maximum effective range of 800m. He’s shooting from more than 850 meters away (according to James, who calls the range later in this scene).

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Voltage Pictures

57:55 After the Brit is shot while manning the Barrett, Sanborn and James go up and get in the exact same spot. That seems like a bright idea. Further, why are two soldiers who would be unfamiliar with this weapon jumping on it, instead of another contractor?

58:15 How does an EOD guy just get up and get behind a complicated sniper rifle anyway? It’s not a video game.

1:01:00 An insurgent takes up a laying down on the side firing position with zero cover. LOL/WTF?

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
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1:02:00 Sanborn hits this same insurgent after he starts running away. Not only does he hit a moving target, but he hits him in the head. At 850 meters. It’s quite obvious that Sanborn got his sniper training uploaded directly to his brain via The Matrix.

1:07:40 Eldridge takes out an enemy insurgent by firing half of his magazine in rapid succession. What happened to well-aimed shots?

1:08 The team gets drunk together in their room and fights each other. This is a big fraternization no-no? Also, U.S. troops are not allowed to drink or have alcohol in Iraq or Afghanistan, and one alcohol-related incident could mean an EOD tech loses their badge (and gets kicked completely out of the job).

1:14:37 The team stumbles around the FOB drunk. That’s not abnormal or anything, and an officer, senior enlisted leader, or even fellow soldiers wouldn’t find that weird or get them in trouble. Nothing to see here, move along.

1:16:50 The team heads outside the wire again. Why is Eldridge basically the only soldier ever wearing his eye protection?

1:17:00 An EOD team is clearing buildings now?

1:29:45 James asks a Pfc. about a merchant. The Pfc. addresses a Sgt. 1st Class as “man.”

1:31:33 James dons a hoodie, carries only a pistol, and hijacks the merchant’s truck, telling him to drive outside the base. This is quite possibly the biggest WTF of the entire movie. At this point, every soldier watching this movie is face-palming.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Voltage Pictures

1:32:25 Did I mention that James has now jumped over an Iraqi compound wall, all alone in the middle of Baghdad? With just a pistol.

1:34:53 James starts running through a busy Iraqi neighborhood. He puts on his hoodie to be less conspicuous. As if his camouflage pants don’t give it away.

1:35:00 After a tense exchange at the front gate to the FOB, James is searched and then the soldiers guarding the gate just let him back in. He’s shown at his room a short time later, so I guess he’s not getting in trouble for going outside the wire without authorization.

1:41:00 The team decides to leave the blast site and go search for the bomber in the dark. They have night-vision goggle mounts on their helmets, but they don’t use NVG’s. Their natural night vision must be superhuman.

1:50:06 If the guy has a bomb on him, it would probably be a good idea for the seven soldiers standing out in the middle of the road to take cover behind something.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Voltage Pictures

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX’s new ‘Endeavour’ spaceship just made history by docking to the International Space Station with 2 NASA astronauts inside

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have once again helped make history for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, by docking to a football field-size laboratory above Earth.

After careening into space on Saturday atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the astronauts’ spaceship — a Crew Dragon capsule they later named “Endeavour” — disconnected from its launcher and entered orbit. The ship then completed a series of engine burns to catch up to the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the planet’s surface while traveling 17,500 mph.


On Sunday morning, Behnken and Hurley finally caught up to their target. Endeavour flew below the 0 billion orbiting laboratory, later pulling up to a stopping point about 220 meters in front of the space station.

The two men then spent a few minutes manually controlling the ship’s thrusters through touchscreens while connected to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though as expected.

Behnken and Hurley then turned Endeavour’s autopilot back on, and the spacecraft ever-so-carefully flew itself toward a docking port called Node 2, located at the forward end of the space station.

The ship’s docking mechanism connected to the node at 10:16 a.m. ET while flying over northern China and Mongolia. Latches on the ship then tightly sealed Endeavour to the ISS, allowing the crews to begin a roughly two-hour-long hatch-opening procedure.

‘A new chapter in human space exploration’

SpaceX’s docking at the ISS is thefirst by a privately developed spaceship with a crew on board.

The last time an American spaceship attached to the space station was July 2011 — the flight of space shuttle Atlantis, a mission that Hurley flew on.

“It’s been a real honor to be a super-small part of this nine-year endeavor, since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Hurley said shortly after docking. “We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor, and at Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated.”

Hurley then thanked NASA’s staff, after which the ISS commander and astronaut Chris Cassidy rang a ceremonial bell while welcoming Behnken and Hurley.

NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where US mission control for the ISS is based, then chimed in with its own congratulations.

“Endeavour this is Houston. Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station,” said Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in the control room, calling the crew’s flight a “historic ride” and a “magnificent moment in spaceflight history.”

“You have opened up a new chapter in human space exploration,” he added.

An historic 110-day test mission begins in earnest

After docking, the crews of Endeavour and the ISS prepared to open their hatches, which they did at 1:02 p.m. ET. After about 20 minutes of safety checks, Behnken and Hurley soared through Endeavour’s hatch and into the waiting arms of commander Cassidy, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.

The crews then grabbed a mic to talk to mission control in Houston, where NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Brian Babin of Texas awaited a chance to speak.

“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” Bridenstine said.

“It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business,” Hurley responded. “We’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”

Bridenstine also asked if the two astronauts got any sleep: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so,” Behnken said.

Cruz asked about the handling of the Crew Dragon: “It flew just like it was supposed to,” Hurley said.

The junior senator also asked the astronauts what Americans could learn about coming together from their test mission, called Demo-2, during a “tough week” for the country — a reference to protests that have erupted across the US in response to a white police officer’s killing of George Floyd, a black man. Hurley spoke about SpaceX and NASA working together through years of sacrifice to restore the US’ ability to launch people into orbit.

“This is just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months,” Hurley said.

Sen. Babin asked what it was like to rocket to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

“We were surprised a little bit at how smooth things were off the pad. The space shuttle was a pretty rough ride heading into orbit with the solid rocket boosters,” Behnken said. But he noted the shuttle was “a lot smoother” after its boosters fell off than Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon was for the duration of that flight.

“Dragon was huffin’ and puffin’ all the way into orbit. We were definitely driving and riding a dragon all the way up. So it was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the space shuttle was,” Behnken said, adding that SpaceX’s launch system was “a little bit more alive.”

The successful docking means Behnken and Hurley have a home in space for up to the next 110 days. When their stay ends, the astronauts will climb back into the Endeavour, disembark from the ISS, and careen back to Earth.

The overarching goal of the test mission is to show SpaceX’s ship is safe to fly people.

If NASA determines it is, then the agency can fully staff the space station with astronaut crews and maximize its ability to perform research.

SpaceX, meanwhile, will gain the ability to fly private astronauts to space — even including Tom Cruise, who hopes to film a movie aboard his planned stay on the ISS.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

www.youtube.com

Watch the ongoing Demo-2 mission live on NASA TV:

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


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Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

“No one left behind” is a phrase inextricably linked with our military culture. The concept is a pillar that supports the platform of what it means to serve, analogous to “defending those who can’t defend themselves” and “protecting our freedom.” Like all military axioms, no one left behind means many different things, depending on the service member or veteran you ask. 

The most prominent examples of this are in the Medal of Honor citations of U.S. troops braving enemy fire to bring a wounded comrade to safety without regard for their own well-being. Not as thoroughly illustrated in Hollywood, however, are veterans who are determined to bring home the remains of U.S. troops lost in foreign wars, or those working to help other veterans with challenges in employment, physical disabilities, and mental health. All of it can be traced back to “no one left behind.”

The time has come for the U.S. to embody this core principle yet again.

Close to 18,000 Afghans (and their 53,000 family members) who provided assistance to the U.S. as interpreters, security guards, contractors and more, now face a future that is uncertain at best. These people who fought alongside our men and women in uniform are running out of time, as the U.S. Department of Defense now estimates its withdrawal from Afghanistan is 95% complete as of July 12th.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Photo courtesy of DVIDS

One man with a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject is General Joseph Votel (Retired). The former commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM) was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11, conducting a rare combat jump with his fellow Rangers on Objective Rhino, near Kandahar.

“I was in the first wave of troops, October of 2001,” General Votel told Sandboxx News. “And I think between 2001 and 2019 — when I actually left service — I’d been to Afghanistan for some part of every year, sometimes just a few days and sometimes for a whole year.”

General Votel’s extensive time spent in theater, dating back to the very beginning of U.S. operations there, makes him as qualified as any expert one could find on the war-torn country and its looming humanitarian crisis.

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Then- deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-82, Gen. Votel cuts a ribbon at the groundbreaking of a new public works building in Panjsher Province March 27, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Dinneen)

These thousands of Afghans who aided or sympathized with U.S.-led forces in the 20-year war against the Taliban have been imperiled as the American presence dwindles. The slow trickle of departing troops turned to a hasty exit at the beginning of May, and the U.S. has assumed a much more defensive posture. As a result, the Taliban has seized territory at an alarming rate and now control over half of the districts in the country. There was already plenty of support for their strict interpretation (and enforcement) of Sharia in more conservative, rural areas, but they are now are closing in on major cities that have been more secular and progressive in terms of things like women’s rights.

“I’ve invested a lot of time in this like many have, and I feel like I got to know the Afghan people. I certainly got to know their story quite well. I feel sad that we are not leaving them in a better position,” General Votel said.

The Taliban are determined to improve their image with the U.S. government and avoid any entanglements that would prolong the withdrawal. Multiple Taliban spokesmen have been dismissive of human rights abuses in territories they’ve re-captured, and recently stated that Afghans who worked with the U.S. will not be harmed if they “show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”

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Taliban religious police beating an Afghan woman for removing her burka in public, in August of 2001, shortly before the Taliban was removed from power (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan/ Wikimedia Commons)

Many Afghans put little stock in the statement from Taliban leadership, and have no intention to stay and find out if they keep their word. There are countless stories of retaliation against these Afghans that the Taliban has past referred to as “traitors” and “slaves.” Whether all of the more recent violence has been sanctioned by the Taliban or not, those who fear further reprisals without the U.S. presence do so justifiably.

“These interpreters and others that helped us, they did this at their own personal risk. We recognized this and we set up programs. The Special Immigrant Visa program, SIV program… is specifically designed to give those who’ve spent time with us a leg up in the immigration process — to come to the United States and have an opportunity to become a citizen, because we knew that their jobs — what they were doing for us –would put them in danger down the line.”

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This graphic, daunting enough, illustrates what is probably best-case scenario for SIV applicants in light of the backlog (Government Accountability Office/ State Department)

The sheer volume of SIV applications coupled with staffing issues and lack of a central database has created an enormous backlog at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that could take several years to sort through. An outbreak of COVID-19 killed one and infected 114 staffers at the embassy last month, grinding operations to a halt. Further complicating the issue, many SIV applicants do not live in Kabul. Transportation and communication would already be an issue, particularly in rural areas, even without Taliban militants’ ever-increasing presence.

“It’s really important, I think, for us to follow up on that, follow through on our promises and, and do the right thing for these people. It’s literally a life and death situation for many of them,” General Votel explained.

Operation Allies Refuge, announced earlier this week, will begin the massive task of evacuating all SIV applicants out of Afghanistan by the end of the month. When asked at Wednesday’s briefing, DOD Press Secretary John Kirby was non-committal about potential locations for the soon-to-be displaced Afghans while their pending immigration is processed. There is precedent, and therefore hope, for such a large undertaking. CONUS installations have not been ruled out, such as in 1999 when the U.S. airlifted 20,000 Kosovo refugees to Fort Dix, NJ. International U.S. assets like Guam seem more likely, as that is where 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to in 1975.

Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, General Votel has a personal connection to that operation as well. Many Vietnamese Hmong ended up immigrating to that area, and the connection to the present-day crisis is not lost on him:

“They have integrated so well and they have become a very integrated, important and contributing part of our community right here. And whenever you see Hmong, and the different influence they have in here, it makes you think of America doing the right thing, even in the wake of a disaster like Vietnam was,” he said.

“We did the right thing. We stood by people that stood by us, that were going to be persecuted because of their association and support to us. And we brought them to our country and then made them part of our society.”

While the U.S. government has acknowledged the problem and is putting things in motion to get these Afghans to safety, General Votel said that the American people can also help. No One Left Behind is a non-profit at the forefront of the issue, one that Votel supports himself. They have already raised over $1 million dollars for their cause of evacuating our Afghan allies from Kabul, and now the General is helping to spread the word far and wide.

While Americans can certainly offer their financial support to No One Left Behind, General Votel was just as quick to mention the importance of people using their “time and talent” to help. He says one of the best ways Americans can help right now is to be aware of the problem, make others aware of it, and especially, put pressure on Congress and keep the plight of the Afghans in the public eye and a high-priority for President Biden’s administration.

General Votel’s own experience with interpreters, in particular, speaks to why ensuring the safety of these Afghans is not only a question of American morality and doing the right thing, but also crucial to the safety of U.S. troops and the security of the American people. What interpreters provide troops on the ground is invaluable, and is not just translation of the language (though it is certainly that, as well).

“What I deeply valued was the cultural aspects that I really picked up from them… They understand the country. They understand things that are just so difficult for us as Americans to appreciate that they can share that with us, and they give us an understanding of the society and how things there work.”

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More than just assets, interpreters are comrades to our troops on the ground. Mohammad Nadir (center) was an interpreter for three years, obtained his Special Immigrant Visa, and still enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as an 0311 in 2017 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Quezada)

The estimated cost of approximately $699 million to execute Operation Allies Refuge is a relatively small price to pay for a mission that will enhance security and save American lives in the future. However, General Votel emphasized to Sandboxx News more than once that there’s also the moral obligation that the United States has to the Afghan people who helped us.

“They become comrades. They begin to appreciate our values, as well, and are really good representatives for our country. So they’re just so much more than somebody that translates words from one language into another.”

  • To learn more about No One Left Behind, visit nooneleft.org.
  • To donate, click here.
  • To Tweet your U.S. Senators, click here.
  • To e-mail your U.S. Senators, click here.

This article by Tory Rich was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

CIA director doesn’t trust Taliban during peace talks

In a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 29, 2019, CIA Director Gina Haspel was asked point blank if she trusts the Taliban to uphold promises they made to work with the Afghan government and never allow the country to again be a safe haven for terrorists.

“If there were an eventual peace agreement, a very robust monitoring regime would be critical,” she responded. “We would still need the capability to act in our national interest if we needed to.”


The peace talks, which began Jan. 21, 2019, are focused on settling the terms for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said that significant progress has been made during the negotiations, according to the Associated Press.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

On Jan. 30, 2019, the Taliban said in a recorded statement to AP that it had no intentions of creating a monopoly on Afghan institutions.

“After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman said in the statement.

Other major concessions to the US include promises that the group would not allow terrorist groups to plan attacks from Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But Haspel’s comments Jan. 29, 2019, reflect a troubling concern that a complete withdrawal of the 22,000 troops in the US-led coalition will allow the Taliban to regain control — a concern shared by former US ambassador Ryan Crocker.

“You will simply see the Taliban move in and retake the country,” Crocker told Foreign Policy. Even as the peace talks began, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a devastating attack against Afghan forces, giving credence to the concerns over the group’s sincerity.

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

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These veterans made a gun safety device that unlocks with a fingerprint

Two Air Force vets made a breakthrough in gun safety. They created an accessory that keeps pistols from firing in the wrong hands.


Dubbed the “Guardian,” it uses fingerprint technology to unlock a gun’s trigger by the owner. It attaches to most pistols without modifying the weapon and remains in place during use, making it quick and convenient to handle while serving its purpose.

It’s similar to unlocking your mobile phone. After authentication via fingerprint, the Guardian unlocks allowing the slide to snap forward granting access to the handgun trigger:

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Unlocking the Guardian. Courtesy of Veri-Fire

Skylar Gerrond and Matt Barido set out to solve two problems with the Guardian: safety and immediate protection. The best practice with children at home requires firearms be locked away with bullets stored in a different location. But this could defeat the purpose of having a firearm ready at a moment’s notice. To remedy this problem, some owners hide the weapon in an easy to access location, which can jeopardize safety. The Guardian solves both problems.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
Image: Veri-Fire Indiegogo

“That’s the dilemma that drives people to taking the worse course of action — a loaded handgun, not secured at all, in a ‘safe place’ where [they think the] kids doesn’t know about it,” said Gerrond in an interview with The Blaze. “We wanted something that never actually left the handgun. The slide retracts forward in front of trigger guard, allowing access for you to physically insert finger into trigger well.”

The Guardian’s target price will be $199 when it becomes available. The creators are still in the prototype phase and are using Indiegogo to fund its development.

Watch how it works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYC0laRqHXA

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new nationally recognized day for women veterans almost snuck by us

There are many nationally recognized days on the calendar that sneak by without much notice if you aren’t paying attention. But here’s one that’s worth being rallied around, especially in the military community.


On Feb. 19, 2019, Vet Girls RISE founded National Vet Girls Rock Day. It’s a time set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the many veteran women who have served in the United States Military. Other reasons this organization established this day is for the women to bond, share resources, build relationships, and most of all bring awareness to existing needs among women veterans.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

1st Lt. Megan Juliana(left), 1st Lt. Christel Carmody, 2nd Lt. Rebecca Fry, attendees of the inaugural 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Sisters-in-Arms meeting flash big smiles during the event on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 21, 2014. The program aims at allowing female soldiers from across the brigade to meet each other and learn a little about the different positions female “Warhorse” soldiers fill.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jarrad Spinner, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 10 percent of veterans are female. Although that may seem like a small percentage, the approximate number is around two million.

Women veterans serve as single service members and in dual-military homes. Apart from their male counterparts, they face their own set of challenges during their time in. They push themselves physically, carry and birth children, and come home after working to care for and nurture their families. All while staying true to their commitment to our country and ultimately being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect our freedom.

Being that it’s only a year into having an actual date on the calendar, many women veterans don’t even know this day exists in their honor.

Crystal Falch, a veteran Petty Officer Second Class, served in the Navy for 10 years. Vet Girls ROCK Day snuck by her as well. She was happy to receive a friend’s text acknowledging her. Falch’s response was, “Awe, thank you! I had no idea today was my day.”

“It’s humbling because most of us don’t do it for the glory or the praise,” Falch said. “We do it for the country. And of course we like all the side benefits, like getting college paid for and getting to see the world. I appreciate it!”

As the public is becoming aware of this nationally recognized day some businesses, like Severance Brewing, are giving discounts to women veterans.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

Senior Airman Brittany Grimes, 90th Security Forces Squadron remote display alarm monitor, and Senior Airman Amber Mitchell, 890th Missile Security Forces Squadron response force leader, pose for a photo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 13, 2018. Both are defenders assigned to the 90th Security Forces Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Carter)

VGR believes in the power of camaraderie, knowledge, and alliance. With that as a backbone, they suggest using this day to connect with other veterans. They offer VGR meetups at different restaurants across the country, and you can also follow them on Facebook for updated information.

Every opportunity should be taken to thank a service member, and to commemorate their dedication to our country. This day is definitely worth putting on the calendar as a reminder to stop and reflect specifically on women veterans for their contribution to our country.

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17 photos that show how great-grandpa got ready for WWI

Basic training sucks, but it follows a predictable pattern. A bunch of kids show up, someone shaves their heads, and they learn to shoot rifles.


But it turns out that training can be so, so much better than that. In World War I, it included mascots, tarantulas, and snowmen.

Check out these 18 photos to learn about what it was like to prepare for war 100 years ago:

1. If the old photos in the National Archives are any indication, almost no one made it to a training camp without a train ride.

 

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
New York recruits heading to training write messages on the sides of their train. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

2. Inprocessing and uniform issue would look about the same as in the modern military. Everyone learns to wear the uniform properly and how to shave well enough to satisfy the cadre.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

3. Training camps were often tent cities or rushed construction, so pests and sanitation problems were constant.

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A U.S. Marine at Marine Corps Training Activity San Juan, Cuba, shows off the tarantula he found. Tarantulas commonly crawled into the Marines’ boots at night. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

 

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Looking for more patriotic content, from sea to shining sea—and beyond? Military service members and veterans can get a FREE FOX Nation subscription until for a year! Sign up for your free subscription here!

4. Unsurprisingly, training camps included a lot of trench warfare. America was a late entrant to the war and knew the kind of combat it would face.

 

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Soldiers make their way through training trenches in Camp Fuston at Fort Riley, Kansas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

5. Somehow, even training units had mascots in the Great War. This small monkey was commonly fed from a bottle.

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A World War I soldier plays with the unit mascot at Camp Wadsworth near Spartansburg, South Carolina. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

6. Seriously. Unit mascots were everywhere. One training company even boasted three mascots including a bear and a monkey.

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A World War I soldier lets the regimental mascot climb on him. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

7. Troops in camp built a snowman of the German kaiser in New York.

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Troops at Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, pose with their snowman of the kaiser. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

8. A lot of things were named for the enemy in the camps, including these bayonet targets.

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93

9. This grave is for another dummy named kaiser. He was interred after the unit dug trenches in training.

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Soldiers in a training camp at Plattsburg, New York, show off the grave they created for a dummy of the German kaiser during training on trench construction. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

10. World War I saw a deluge of new technologies that affected warfare. These shavers were preparing for a class in aerial photography.

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Soldiers training at the U.S. Army School of Aerial Photography in New York shave before their class. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

11. Uniform maintenance was often up to the individual soldier, so learning to mend shirts was as important as learning to shoot photos from planes.

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Soldiers from the 56th Infantry Regiment mend their own clothes at Camp McArthur near Waco, Texas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

12. Local organizations showed their support for the troops through donations and morale events.

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Soldiers training at Camp Lewis, Washington, grab apples from the Seattle Auto-Mobile Club of Seattle. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

13. Some were better than others. Free apples are fine, but free tobacco is divine.

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A thirty-car train carrying 11 million sacks of tobacco leaves Durham, North Carolina, en route to France where it will be rationed to troops. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

14. Nothing is better than payday, even if the pay is a couple of dollars.

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Troops are paid at Camp Devens, Massachusetts. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

15. Someone get these men some smart phones or something. Three-person newspaper reading is not suitable entertainment for our troops.

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A father, son, and uncle share a newspaper on a visitor’s day during training camp. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

16. Once the troops were properly trained, they were shipped off to England and France. Their bags, on the other hand, were shipped home.

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Soldiers finished with stateside training pose next to the large pile of luggage destined for their homes as they ship overseas. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

17. Again, trains everywhere back then. Everywhere.

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Engineers ready to ship out write motivational messages on the side of their train car just before they leave the Atlanta, Georgia, area for France. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)

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The Army experimented with bio weapons on conscientious objectors

Ask around Fort Detrick and you’ll probably learn more about Operation Whitecoat — an Army program that exposed human participants to infectious pathogens. But outside the base, the experiments are virtually unheard of, according to Randy Larsen, a former Air Force pilot turned documentary filmmaker.


“I found there are very few people who have ever heard of Whitecoat, which is why there’s a good reason to tell the story,” Larsen said.

Larsen himself became fascinated with the program — which recruited more than 2,300 noncombatant conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church — after a friend suggested it as a documentary topic.

What he anticipated would be a five- to six-month hobby project eventually turned into a 20-month film production, culminating in an eponymously named documentary on the operation and its volunteers.

Operation Whitecoat (2017) Trailer from Randall Larsen on Vimeo.

 

The film “Operation Whitecoat” made its debut in Frederick on May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the agency that conducted the tests from 1954 to 1973. But Larsen will also hold two public screenings on June 3 at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Pike.

Gary Swanson and Ken Jones, two Whitecoat participants who attended the screening on May 30, said outreach to the church was especially important. Despite the huge role played by Seventh-day Adventists, knowledge of the project has faded among church members.

“It’s very little-known, I’ve found that to be true,” Swanson said. “Even in the church, it doesn’t come up very often.”

First SEAL to reach the rank of admiral dies at 93
United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

A lasting legacy

Despite the relative obscurity of Operation Whitecoat, civilians around the country — and around the world — can thank the program for the development of several widely used vaccines. Tularemia, yellow fever, and hepatitis vaccines were all tested on participants in the project, Larsen said.

“That’s why I found it interesting to see that the yellow fever outbreak was a front-page story today,” he added at the May 30 screening, pointing out a USA Today article on the spread of the disease in Brazil. “Because the vaccine was developed here at Fort Detrick with the Whitecoat program.”

To research for his documentary, Larsen interviewed participants all across the country and dug deep into the documentation of the program.

Letters between military and church leaders indicate that the Army considered the program a viable alternative to battlefield service for church members, whose religious beliefs urge against combat.

“The general consensus is that it is just not morally responsible to bear arms,” said Swanson, who later worked in publishing for the Adventist church. “That the taking of life is not the business of a Christian.”

There is, however, strong scriptural support for serving one’s country in a peaceful capacity, he added. As a result, most church members served the U.S. either as medics or as Whitecoat volunteers once the program became an option.

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Operation Whitecoat consent letter

While both Swanson and Jones participated in the program, their experiences were slightly different. Jones, 83, served from 1954 to 1955 and then worked as a corpsman for the program until September 1958.

As one of the inaugural volunteers, he distinctly remembers walking across a catwalk at Fort Detrick — then called Camp Detrick — to the “Eight Ball,” where participants were exposed to the pathogens.

He and the other men in his group were dosed with Q fever, a relatively common bacterial disease with flu-like symptoms. None of them got sick, Jones said, but the experiment did help researchers adjust the dose for future volunteers.

“It’s like this — when you start your car, you take little steps to get there,” he explained. “You don’t take one big step and just jump in. Well, the amount they gave us, they knew we handled it OK. Now, the next three that came up, they did get sick.”

Swanson served later, and was part of an even lesser-known aspect of the program — one that benefited scientists at NASA. He reported for service in October 1969, and was part of an experiment to determine how well astronauts could function should they became sick while on a mission.

In his study, teams of five men were exposed to sandfly fever and then trained on a simulated spacecraft console. Eight hours a day, three days a week, the teams pretended to operate the consoles, even while some of them developed nausea and fevers of up to 104 degrees.

“You had to keep calibrated and you had to keep it set,” Swanson said. “When you saw it going wrong, you had to figure out how to fix it. And we were told it was part of a study underwritten by NASA to anticipate astronauts’ ability to operate sophisticated equipment if they were sick.”

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Operation Whitecoat helped improve the use of gas masks and biohazard suits

Beyond the benefit to NASA, USAMRIID still attributes the development of essential safety gear — including gas masks and biohazard suits — to Operation Whitecoat.

The program even played a small role in the Camp David Accords. In 1977, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Egypt killed thousands of residents and animals. The vaccine for the disease — tested by Whitecoat volunteers — was a major bargaining chip for both Egypt and Israel when leaders met with President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

“That was such a little-known piece of history that the people at USAMRIID didn’t even know about it,” Larsen said.

Ethical implications

Larsen and researchers at USAMRIID also tout the program as the harbinger of stringent standards for human testing. Operation Whitecoat set a precedent for informed consent — the policy of clearly educating human test subjects on the details and risks of research experiments — and served as a foil to other horrific experiments conducting on unknowing subjects, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and human radiation exposure by the Atomic Energy Commission.

“It’s a story that all Americans can be proud of,” Larsen said. “The fact is, Operation Whitecoat is one of the highest standards of ethical research out there.”

One of the most striking details of the project, he added, is that military leaders and researchers at USAMRIID exposed themselves to the pathogens before subjecting their participants. Both Jones and Swanson said that it was strong leadership that prevented real fear among the volunteers.

“I’ve thought about this many times, and I can’t give you an answer on what went through my mind as I went across that catwalk,” Jones said. “I was 21 years old. We felt like we had good leadership. We trusted what they were telling us, and we followed.”

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