The National Football League has been plagued by questions of patriotism in the last few years. But whether or not the NFL kneels or stands this year, it’s important to remember that some of the players and coaches have served, too.
1. George Halas
Halas was instrumental in the creation of the NFL and responsible for founding the team that went on to be the Chicago Bears in 1920. Nicknamed “Papa Bear,” Halas coached the Bears for 40 seasons, leading them to six NFL titles. Halas served in the Navy during World War I and returned to Navy service from 1942-1945.
2. Ralph Wilson, Jr.
Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2009, Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills following his service in the Navy during World War II. He was also instrumental in the merger between the AFL and the NFL in 1970.
3. Kevin Greene
Greene retired from the NFL in 1999 and ranks third among all-time sack leaders. He led the NFL twice in that category with an impressive career playing for the Steelers, Rams, Panthers, and 49ers, with five appearances in the Pro Bowl. Greene was a member of ROTC at Auburn and served 16 years in the Army Reserves.
4. Alejandro Villanueva Martínez
Villanueva is an offensive tackle for the Steelers. A veteran Army Ranger, Villanueva was a captain in the Army, served in Afghanistan, and was decorated with a Bronze Star.
5. Tom Landry
Hall of Famer Tom Landry was a coaching phenom for the Dallas Cowboys. He led his team to two Super Bowl titles and had 20 straight winning seasons. Equally impressive was Landry’s service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-17 co-pilot flew 30 missions and survived a crash in Belgium. He passed away in 2000 at age 75 as a legend and a hero.
6. Dick “Night Train” Lane
The Hall of Famer had an incredible 68 career interceptions during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. For nine straight years (1954-1963), Lane earned first or second-team All-NFL honors. He played in seven Pro Bowls and during his rookie season, had an unprecedented 14 interceptions – a record that still stands today. Lane served in the Army during both World War II and the Korean War.
7. Roger Staubach
Staubach, nicknamed “Captain America,” won the 1963 Heisman Trophy during his time as quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation, Staubach served his commitment in the Navy, which included a tour in Vietnam. Following his service, Staubach joined the Cowboys and played in Dallas for all 11 seasons of his professional football career. During his tenure, the Cowboys won two of their five Super Bowl appearances.
The list of NFL greats who served their country continues with inspiring men like Pat Tillman, George McAfee, Mike Anderson, and so many more. But for every big name in the NFL, there are countless men that gave up their football dreams to serve their country.
You may not have heard of Jack Ankerson, but he only played three NFL exhibition games in 1964 before Uncle Sam called him up to serve his time. By the time his commitment was done, so was his chance to play in the NFL. But Jack, like so many others who chose service above self, is everything that’s right with America and the sports we love to watch.
Whether they’re a hometown hero or a household name, we salute all of our football playing and football-loving veterans.
Every day, countless Americans walk into their local grocery stores and purchase the foods they believe to be healthy based on the packaging and labels. In the fitness world, “trap foods” are those that might seem healthy, but aren’t very good for you in reality.
Many food distribution companies trap you into thinking that if you buy their colorful products, you’re getting the most nutrition possible, meeting your health goals. Keep an eye out for these foods that look healthy on the surface, but are packing lots of nutritional heft on the inside.
Who doesn’t enjoy a tasty sushi dinner, filled with delicious slices of epic-looking fish? I think we all do. Unfortunately, this type of cuisine can have a surprising number of calories — rolls range from 400 to 900 calories each. Since we tend to order a few rolls at a time, you’re looking at eating 1,000 or more calories in a single sitting.
On the flip side, sushi is a reliable food source if you’re trying to bulk up.
Looks freakin’ delicious, right? Well, unless you put a yogurt parfait together at home with fresh ingredients, you can’t guarantee that it’s not loaded with tons of corn syrup and sugar — which are the last things you want while dieting. Instead of buying something prepackaged, you can make your own by purchasing unsweetened Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. That’s all it takes!
Although the addictive dip contains oodles of healthy and delicious avocados, store-bought varieties are often loaded with sodium. Additionally, this Hispanic treat is so good when garnished with a little lime and cilantro that we tend to overeat.
Traditionally, we eat the dip with high-calorie corn chips, flatbread, or tortillas, further adding to the calorie count.
Various ‘fruit juices’
Don’t get fooled by the labels while walking down the fruit-juice aisle. The packaging on these products is particularly deceptive. They do their best to make the juice appear light and airy by showing off delicious, ripe fruits but, in reality, they’re loaded with processed sugars.
Pay particular attention to the labels that advertise “cocktail juice.” Those are loaded with sugar and will break your diet in a heartbeat.
When put on display, deli meats look like a beautiful buffet of perfectly rolled and stacked bite-sized snacks. From a glance, the meat looks fresh and healthy. In reality, however, it’s quite the opposite. Deli meats are often packaged and, in order to stay good for many lunches to come, they’re crammed with sodium to extend shelf life.
Well, here’s your sobering thought for the day: The War on Terror has officially turned seventeen years old today, which also happens to be the minimum age required to enlist in the armed services. Take that as you will — it’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s simply a thing.
For troops in earlier wars, the circumstances were a little more straightforward. We declared war against our enemies (or the enemies of our allies) and the resulting conflict ended when one side conceded or declared victory. A war against an insurgency, however, is inherently different. There isn’t a clear opposition over which to declare victory.
But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, an entire generation of kids that learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center from history books instead from live television — in much the same way as we learned of the events of the American Cold War — is now capable of raising their right hand and taking an oath of enlistment.
You know those troops are going to get mocked relentlessly — or just make all the senior NCOs depressed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The official rules of enlistment state that someone must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, must be 17 years of age with parents’ consent or 18 without, must have a high school diploma (with very few exceptions), and must pass a physical medical exam.
While it’s not uncommon to receive a high school diploma at the age of 16, it’s unlikely that such an early achiever would apply their child-prodigy skills by enlisting as a young private when nearly any university would snatch them up in a heartbeat. However, if an applicant is from one of the seven states that 16-year-olds to test for a GED, can manage to swing a slot reserved for GED-holders, and they pass the ASVAB, well, they’ll officially be the first post-9/11 baby to serve in the post-9/11 military.
They’ll get their chance again, if the war on terror doesn’t end within the next two years…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
It’s a fairly tough pill to swallow — a kid enlisting to serve in a war they were born into — but it’s not the only significant milestone. There are some troops who have enlisted and served into retirement, all in support of the Global War on Terror.
That’s right, troops who opted into the early retirement system that allowed troops who’ve served for over 15 years to take an early exit could have started and ended their career fighting the same insurgency. The program ended last December, but a handful of troops who enlisted right after 9/11 managed to squeeze into that “early out.”
There’s no word yet when the first post-9/11 baby will fill in the ranks, but I’m sure there will be plenty of pomp and circumstance around their enlistment. We’ll just have to wait and see.
The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of John Young, who died Jan. 5 following complications from pneumonia at the age of 87. Young is the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times:
Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.
John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.
Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country. His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft — with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’ He flew as Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.
I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking…’
John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity. He was in every way the ‘astronaut’s astronaut.’ We will miss him.
For more information about Young’s NASA career, visit:
US President Donald Trump called for expanded cooperation with Russia on July 9, as a cease-fire brokered by the two powers and Jordan for southern Syria came into effect.
The cease-fire covering three war-torn provinces in southern Syria is the first tangible outcome following months of strategy and diplomacy between the new Trump administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Moscow.
Trump tweeted that the cease-fire, which came into effect at noon July 9, “will save lives.”
“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” he posted on Twitter shortly after the agreement came into effect.
A resident and local opposition activist in Daraa, near the Jordanian border, reported an uneasy calm hours into the truce.
“There’s still a lot of anxiety,” said Ahmad al-Masalmeh. “We’ve entered the cease-fire but there are no mechanisms to enforce it. That’s what concerns people.”
Six years of fighting and siege have devastated Daraa, one of the first cities to see large protests against President Bashar Assad in 2011.
It remains contested by US-backed rebels and Syrian government forces supported by Russia and Iran. Large swaths of the city have been reduced to rubble by government artillery and Russian air power.
The truce also covers the Quneitra and Sweida provinces, where the government and the rebels are also fighting Islamic State militants, who are not included in the agreement.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict through a network of on-the-ground activists, reported calm across the three provinces as dusk fell July 9.
The cease-fire agreement followed weeks of secretive talks between the US, Russia, and Jordan in Amman to address the buildup of Iranian-backed forces, in support of the Syrian government, near the Jordanian and Israeli borders.
Israel has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran, which is a close ally of the Syrian government, to set up a permanent presence in Syria. It has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of “game-changing” weapons bound forHezbollah in Lebanon.
It has also struck Syrian military installations on several occasions this year after shells landed inside the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said July 9 that Israel would welcome a “genuine cease-fire” in southern Syria so long as it doesn’t enable Iran and its proxies to develop a military presence along the border.
The Trump administration also ordered airstrikes against the Syrian government and Iranian-backed militias, in a break with Obama administration policy. The strikes, including one on a government air base in central Syria, drew only muted responses from Moscow.
No cease-fire has lasted long in the six-year-old Syrian war, and no mechanisms have been publicly set out to monitor or enforce this latest endeavor.
It was announced July 6 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg after a meeting between Trump, Putin, and their top diplomats.
The Syrian government maintains it is fighting a war against terrorist groups. The Al-Qaeda-linked Levant Liberation Committee is one of the most effective factions fighting alongside rebels in Daraa.
Being a patient at the VA can be one hell of an emotional experience. Every time we set foot inside the facility, we arrive with low expectations but we still hope for the best possible outcome. Although some VA hospitals do provide some excellent service to our nation’s finest, more than one branch has created a negative impression upon the veteran community.
In fact, many veterans decide to prolong seeking treatment as long as possible due to the lack of quality service that has been marketed in the news and other media outlets.
Having witnessed undedicated Veterans Affairs workers for ourselves, adverse situations could be avoided if specific sentences were kept at a minimum.
It can be difficult enough to get a VA appointment with all the long lines and lack of staff. We understand that sh*t happens and some schedules have to be rearranged. But one of the things that frustrates veterans the most is making their way to a location just to learn that their appointment has been canceled and “someone” tried contacting them.
“Your claim was unfortunately denied.”
Getting denied for compensation sucks! Especially when it’s for an ailment you proved you have time-and-time again. In our experience, vets usually get turned down by a panel of civilians that they’ve never met. They’re being judged solely on what is written on a piece of paper by a third-party who have very little actual knowledge about the condition.
“We couldn’t find anything wrong with you, so you’re free to go.”
What the f*ck?
That’s usually the first thing that enters a veteran’s mind. It’s no secret that the VA tends to issue a long list of mental health medications the first few visits. Since veterans only get to see a VA doc every few weeks or months, in our perspective, they’re not exactly getting treatment that is in-depth enough for a proper diagnosis.
“There are no appointments available for at least eight weeks.”
It’s common to be told that you can’t see a doctor for another few weeks. In the civil sector, seeing your family physician might only take a few hours to a few days for a time slot to open up. Many vets are already stressed out enough, and waiting weeks or months for treatment — while knowing what will happen or where we’re going to be in that time — troubles us.
“The current hold time is approximately 90 minutes… or more.”
No words can lower the frustration of hearing that time-and-time again. We’re accustomed to the “hurry up and wait” scenario, but when it comes to medical treatment, we expect to be seen relatively close to our appointment time.
Waiting for hours and hours to be seen even though we made an appointment just sucks.
“You just need to get 18 different signatures from 20 other departments — then we can sign you off.”
Yes, we know that “18 different signatures from 20 other departments” doesn’t make complete sense.
The point is, making something overly complicated feels like a tactical decision meant to discourage follow-up — and it works. Many vets just give up and don’t seek the treatment they need.
In 2015, a cup of coffee in New York City averaged $1.70; in 2019, that price jumped to $1.97. Besides inflation, coffee has undergone quite the transformation since its first wash of national popularity in the 1960s — known as the first-wave coffee movement.
As much as our favorite drink has transformed, the efforts made to source and sell coffee have also drastically transformed, eventually bumping into its fair share of problems. While it currently boasts one of the biggest markets globally, the method in which coffee is sourced often skirts the questions about morality. Conflict along the coffee belt has been a recurring issue within the past few years, but that wasn’t always the case. In order to understand the extent of coffee conflict, we must first understand the waves of coffee and how they have changed the shape of the market.
Back in the 1960s, Maxwell House and Folgers earned their place in our pantries as a morning beverage readily available for the American masses. These two companies, in combination with other “gourmet” brands, represented the face of the first wave of coffee, in which coffee was treated as a daily commodity rather than a specialty trade. These were the days of no-nonsense, pre-ground beans and a good, old-fashioned percolator drip. The grounds weren’t single-roast, imported beans that capitalized on flavor through specialized processing — and the brands weren’t interested in marketing themselves as such. Likewise, consumers weren’t invested in where their grounds were being sourced from.
The second wave gets a little more complex, but experts commonly refer to it as the “Starbucks” wave, and for good reason. Whereas the first wave seemed to be exclusive to the domestic realm, the second featured a heavy focus on intense mobilization of cafe culture, as well as the specialty beverages and passionate baristas that came along with it.
With the introduction of predominantly West Coast coffee chains, brands like Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, and Tim Hortons used espresso-based specialty beverages to lure in crowds. Ironically, the emphasis wasn’t on the coffee but the supplementary elements of the drink, as well as the cafe’s ambiance. It’s here that companies began publishing roasts and origins, which created an awareness of sourcing without a heavy emphasis on it.
Aptly nicknamed the “hipster boom,” the third wave of coffee carved its place into existence as the movement that mobilized coffee on its own terms. No longer about the syrup or milky beverages, cafes like Blue Bottle and La Colombe shifted their focus to the beans, roast, flavor profile, and origin of the individual cup of coffee. The hallmark of this wave remains the manner in which coffee is regarded. Like wine or cheese, the third wave considers coffee an artisanal good that requires knowhow to hone in on the drinker’s preferences.
Rather than percolators or espresso barges, the third-wave movement revitalized manual methods like pour over and French press, controlling every aspect of the brewing process to best manifest each roast’s specific characteristics. And while this seems like an ideal scenario for coffee lovers, the third wave struggles to balance its morality with its dedication to sophistication and flavor. Of all the waves, the third is correlated with the most paltry, having been sourced primarily by strife-ridden communities.
The first and second waves vaguely alluded to the origin of their beans. They were predominantly Colombian or Arabica beans with a selection that grew to include Indonesian and Vietnamese coffee. The origins of these beans weren’t obscure, but they were never highlighted the way they are now.
The third wave doesn’t share its predecessors’ inclination for simplicity — on the contrary, it places a heavy emphasis on exoticism. This makes sense considering that coffee is now treated as an artisanal good, and as with any business, the forces of supply and demand are at work. Quality plays an important role, however, it’s less about overall flavor than it is about rarity. “Rarity” in this context is defined as how difficult something is to source rather than how obscure it is. Inevitably, the rarest beans remain engrossed in the throes of conflict. In 2016, Blue Bottle paid 3 a pound for coffee imported from a war-plagued Yemen.
The process of roasting a batch of high-quality, single-origin coffee beans in a large industrial roaster; the toasted beans are in the cooling cycle.
Before we can delve into the main connection between the third wave and coffee conflict, it’s important we understand exactly how those bags of beans end up on the shelves of our local cafes. Whereas first-wave coffee was sourced privately by equitable firms and sold wholesale to companies like Maxwell House and Folgers, the third wave engages coffee sourcing with intense vigor. With consumers willing to pay higher prices, the more direct their relationship with their coffee can be. The third wave actively removes the middleman and encourages cafes to source the coffee themselves, providing associates with a direct relationship with the farmers.
To the naked eye, this seems beneficial for both parties. Cafes get their specialty products, and farmers facing dismal conditions sell their beans for what seems like a pretty penny. But the latter isn’t necessarily true. With bigger companies entering the fray, the division of money can get staggered, leaving farmers with fractions of what their crop is worth. For farmers growing what’s deemed as a differentiated or specialized crop, money will be consistent. For farmers growing a common bean, it’s trickier. Despite the coffee industry being valued at billion, growers across the globe are struggling to rally the proper funds to cover the cost of production.
As farmers struggle to maintain a profit and, in turn, make a living off their trade, the future of coffee remains volatile. This is especially problematic when you account for the conditions of most of these farmers. Residents of Sudan have been facing a deeply violent civil war, Yemeni farmers have been dealing with crippling government oppression, and farmers in the Republic of Congo stand to lose their lives while active explosives litter their farmland. The latter is hardly an isolated incident — Colombia, Burma, Ethiopia, and Vietnam all feature obscured remnants of war, literally making coffee-growing the riskiest enterprise in the country. But there is an upside.
Pour-over coffee brewing and a deeper understanding of each roast’s origin is a hallmark of the third-wave coffee movement.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)
The third wave is comprised of a hyper-aware generation of consumers that take pride in knowing how their coffee is processed and where their coffee is coming from. As such, the global approach to sourcing coffee has offered cafe patrons an easy way to engage with the origin of their beans. This usually splits the consumers into two groups: those who consider buying conflict coffee a great atrocity, and those who see their purchase as a positive impact on an ailing community. Neither are right. This hyper-awareness of farming conditions is slowly growing into what will become the fourth wave of coffee.
The fourth wave builds upon the principles of its predecessor — they share their affinity for manually processed coffee as well as quality beans and roasts. The major difference remains the issue of sustainability. Consumers swimming in this wave not only pride themselves on the awareness of the conditions of farmers but also the climate impact of sourcing particular roasts. While it doesn’t solve the moral complication of buying from the conflict community, it puts farmers’ narratives front and center, allowing consumers to make educated purchases.
As consumers of the market, it’s easy to look past the method that brings us these goods. The onus is on both the company and the consumer to be responsible and make responsible decisions for how we source our coffee.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe
It was a day like any other day. Dwight Johnson was on his way to the nearby corner store to get some food for his infant son. When he walked in the store that day in April 1971, he accidentally walked in on the store being robbed. That’s when the storekeeper shot him to death.
While he was in Vietnam, he seemed impervious to bullets. Dwight Hal Johnson wasn’t gunned down until he left his home to go to the nearby liquor store at the wrong time.
President Lyndon Johnson puts the Medal of Honor around the neck of Sgt. Dwight H. Johnson.
In 1968, Army tank driver Spc. Dwight Johnson was part of a reaction force near Dak To, in Vietnam’s Kontum Province. With his platoon in the middle of fierce combat with North Vietnamese regulars, Johnson’s tank threw a track. It would not move. With friendly forces to his rear, and a heavily entrenched enemy coming at him, a regular person might have told Johnson not to leave the safety of the tank and just wait. That wasn’t Dwight Johnson’s style.
Since Johnson was unable to drive the tank, he figured it was time to stop being a driver. He grabbed his pistol and hopped out of it. He cleared away some of the enemy from the perimeter, and then hopped back into the tank, somehow not getting hit by the hail of enemy gunfire and rockets. He had just run out of ammo.
He tossed his pistol down and grabbed a submachine gun. Returning to his former position, he began to take out more of the oncoming enemy fighters. Unconcerned with the situation being a well-planned and well-placed ambush, he stayed put, killing the enemy until he ran out of ammo again. After he used the stock of his rifle to kill one more, he moved to his platoon sergeant’s tank, carried a wounded crewman to a nearby armored personnel carrier, then went back to the tank to get a pistol so he could fight his way back to his own tank. Again.
Instead of hopping in, however, he mounted the .50-cal on the back of the tank, using the heavy machine gun to force the enemy back and put an end to the ambush while protecting his wounded comrades in arms. For most of the time he was engaged in close quarters combat, vastly outnumbered by an often-unseen enemy, Spc. Johnson was carrying only a Colt .45 pistol to defend himself.
Having grown up in some of Detroit’s rough neighborhoods gave Dwight Johnson an edge in keeping his cool under fire. Johnson never quit, never left anyone behind and fought an enemy who outnumbered him ten to one while restoring American dominance to a situation that got out of hand. Sadly, it was those same mean streets that would do him in just a few years after coming home from Vietnam.
He struggled with regular life when he returned home, as most veterans did and still do. He struggled with debt and depression until he walked into the Open Pantry Market on April 30, 1971, just one mile from his home. There are conflicting reports of what happened next – some say Johnson had a gun at his side and was robbing the store, other sources say that Johnson was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While we can’t be sure what motivated the store owner to open fire, we can say he shot one of America’s heroes four times, killing him. Dwight Hal Johnson was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Tim, and O.V. speak with Army veteran and fitness expert Jennifer Campbell on what veterans can do during their busy day to stay in shape — especially when going to morning PT isn’t an option.
“Veterans have a 70 percent higher chance of developing obesity than the general public,” Jennifer Campbell says.
The reason for this statistic is due to the dramatic change in a veteran’s daily habit. The majority of the veteran community have been known to cease fire on their work out plans, which creates a negativity jolt the body’s system.
In this episode, we talk on a wide-range of topics including:
[2:00] The daily regiment of a fitness instructor to maintain a healthy lifestyle while still staying “loose.”
[2:40] Information about “Merging Vets & Players,” the growing fitness organization that connects troops and professional athletes.
[4:50] Some positive traits of working out versus taking certain medications.
[6:20] What “Overtraining Syndrome” consists of and how to avoid it.
[10:00] How structured dieting and workouts are necessary for those looking to get into the fitness industry.
[11:40] How to properly test your genetic makeup.
[13:25] If you want to cheat on your diet — a.k.a. cheat days — here’s how to do it the right way.
[18:20] What you can learn about yourself from your genetic markers.
[19:20] Important tips how to stay in shape while working in an office space setting.
[23:20] Some dietary buzz words that freak everyone out.
[30:25] How we can stay looking young using our new health and fitness tools.
[34:45] What type of alcohol we should be drinking if you’re trying to stay in shape.
In 2007, China fired a missile that flew 537 miles above the earth and smashed one of its weather satellites, causing thousands of pieces of debris to drift endlessly through Earth’s orbit.
Just a year later, the US Navy responded by shooting down a satellite in danger of falling out of earth’s orbit at 133 miles and traveling at 17,000 mph with an SM-3 missile, which the US military fields hundreds of.
Since then, Russia has completed at least five anti-satellite missile tests.
Though US astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 left behind a plaque on the moon in 1969 with the inscription “We came in peace for all mankind,” in the intervening decades, space has become militarized as major superpowers now rely on satellite communications.
“Space is not a sanctuary, it is a war fighting domain,” US Air Force Brigadier General Mark Baird said at the Defense One Tech Summit last week.
The US military relies on space-based operations for everything including communications, coordination, navigation, and surveillance, Peter Singer, a senior fellow at non-partisan think tank New America and the author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” told Business Insider.
Even civilian systems like the stock market are reliant on satellites because GPS systems “time-stamp” stock trades, according to Singer.
“If you were an adversary attacking the US, you’d start by attacking satellites,” said Singer. “The first shots in a war between the US and China or Russia, no one would likely hear.”
China and Russia also rely on space systems for numerous functions, but the US is more heavily dependent. Chinese and Russian jets still use analogue systems in their older jets and tanks and boats, and could operate better without satellites.
In that way, the US’s strength in space assets has become a dragging liability.
New defenses emerging
Nimbus B1 Satellite. (Image from NASA.)
While the concept of a space-based conflict terrifies Baird, he said a range of growing technologies and possibilities also has him excited.
In response to the growing space threat, the House of Representatives passed a National Defense Authorization Act with money set aside for a proposed sixth military branch, the Space Corps. While the Space Corps seems unlikely to make it through the Senate, the Senate version of the NDAA does set aside extra money for increased space operations.
But even with a dedicated military branch, there is just no protecting satellites, which sit defenseless in geosynchronous or predictable orbits above earth.
Instead, companies and the military are leveraging shrinking processors and cameras to develop constellations of small satellites that can be easily launched, thus ending a reliance on large satellites that cost billions. The US would then be able to quickly replace downed satellites with smaller, cheaper ones that would simultaneously create more, lower-value targets for adversaries to find and destroy.
For example, the massive Stratolaunch airplane, founded by billionaire Paul Allen, could one day fly high in the atmosphere and launch three rockets, each carrying multiple small satellites into orbit.
Additionally, reusable rockets from companies like SpaceX could save the US time and money on launches, making it less damaging when a satellite is lost.
Stratolaunch Systems Corporation
The space debris problem
While replacing large satellites with smaller ones works as a quick fix, it comes with major environmental concerns.
Space debris from destroyed satellites clutters the domain and makes it harder for sensors and trackers to operate. In a worst-case scenario, the debris could potentially get into a very fast orbit around the earth and end up smashing holes into existing space systems.
“I worry about anti-satellite business from the orbital debris mitigation point of view,” Dr. Bhavya Lal, a research staff member at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, said at the Defense One Tech Summit.
According to Lal, the Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 added approximately 3,000 pieces of debris to the more than half a million pieces “bigger than a marble” in Earth’s orbit.
With enough high-velocity debris flying around, the entire upper atmosphere of Earth could become unsuitable for satellites, possibly resetting technology back decades before the proliferation of space systems.
1986 DIA illustration of the IS system attacking a target. (Ronald C. Wittmann via Wikimedia Commons)
Like all conflicts between major powers, space combat doesn’t happen because it is deterred.
The US’s anti-satellite tests have demonstrated that it too can down another nation’s satellites, to say nothing of the US’s ability to counter any serious attack with its formidable nuclear forces.
However, new technologies like Stratolaunch and others show that the US can can survive an initial space attack and get a new cluster of critical satellites up within a matter of hours if needed.
For the US, the world’s most powerful country, commanding forces is mainly about deterring aggression rather than fighting wars.
It’s always appreciated when civilians go out of their way to thank a veteran, but when veterans look out for each other — even if they’ve never met — great things can happen. A Vietnam-era sailor could welcome in a Post 9/11-era soldier with open arms. A Desert Storm Marine could go out of their way to aid a Korean War airman. Veterans of all eras are family to all other veterans.
The bond is something that comes from shared experience; serving in the military is unique, both as a life event and as a professional move. Other veterans understand that and can help navigate anything from benefits to healing to hooking a brother up.
Civilians have gotten better about not asking the “have you killed anyone” question but it’s never not awkward.
Getting out and using your GI Bill can be an abrupt transition. One moment every detail of your life is dictated to you by Uncle Sam and the next you’re surrounded by college kids who’re asking if your time in was like Call of Duty. Finding a veteran friend in college makes it at least a little smoother.
In the great unknown of civilian life, vets will stick together as close as if they served together.
Even if they’re not a veteran, they still have the same sense of humor as us.
(Bath Township Police Department)
There are countless veterans who hung up their green uniforms and put on a blue one. Chances are good that the police officer who pulled you over for speeding might also be a veteran. If you play your cards right, they may let you off the hook with just a warning.
Don’t ever assume you can play the veteran card at every opportunity, though. If you pull the “well, actually officer, I’m a veteran” move, they still might just thank you for your service and hand you the ticket. You’ve got to be subtle and let the officer figure it out that you’re a veteran or else they’ll stare at you like the entitled fool you’re being.
Don’t ruin your friendship with a vet bouncer when a drunk civilian friend opens their mouth.
Security guards or bouncers
Another common job for the gym rat grunts is to work security, and if you’re lucky they just might be working at your favorite bar or club. They won’t help you out if you’re trespassing but they could probably let you slide through if you’re, say, at a concert or waiting in a long line.
If you’ve got a light sprinkling of veteran on you (like a memorial band, “veteran” on your driver’s license, or a shirt that only vets would understand), then they can even slip you into the club without paying a cover.
…or so I’ve been told.
Personal fitness trainers
Getting back into shape is a chore most veterans still keep up with. If they’re looking for someone to help give the right push, they can get a personal fitness trainer at a gym. Finding another veteran who became a trainer makes working out so much easier because you can both speak the same language.
Most trainers need to break everything down Barney-style to the people who only ever go to the gym once a year. It’s even worse when the civilian gets offended by “verbal motivation.” Just clicking back to NCO mode will benefit both of you.
Let’s be realistic. Not every veteran gets out and becomes millionaire beer tasters, bikini model judges, or woodsmen. Some end up in the service industry to help pay the never ending stream of bills. Finding another veteran when your usual clientele raise hell and demand to speak to the manager makes life so much easier.
Spark up a normal human conversation with them. Be friendly. They may even let you use their discount or toss you a free meal.
Many years out and even the old-timers can hang with the young troops.
Back in the barracks, it was a 24/7 party. Booze flowed freely and our tip top shape bodies were able to make the hangovers less severe. Fast forward many years down the line and the same vets will frequent their local bars.
Spark up a conversation with a vet and you’ll quickly make a friend. Chances are that the other vet will buy your next round just for being a brother.
If there’s any one person you want to have on your side immediately is the person hiring you for a position. If they notice on your resume that you’re also a veteran and can back up whatever you wrote on it, you’re golden.
The civilian workplace is very much a “good ‘ol boy” system that relies on who you know rather than what you know. Getting that leg up on everyone else is going to take you far.
Despite these many successful tests, the two weapons aren’t currently operational, Bob Freeman, a spokesman for the Office of Naval Research, told Business Insider, notwithstanding CNN’s recent story claiming that the laser aboard the Ponce is “ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew.”
The laser aboard the Ponce is “not the final product,” Freeman said. It is a low-energy laser that has been tested to shoot down drones. If the Ponce is threatened, they’ll still use conventional weapons.
So questions remain about when the weapons will be operational, how they will be used, and which will be used more.
“They both have unique capabilities,” but, Freeman said, “it seems to me you have less options with rail guns.”
Lasers have more capabilities in that they can be set to different energy levels, giving the operators the option to deter or take out targets.
For example, if a US ship perceives an aircraft as a threat, “you can put [the laser] on low-power and scintillate the cockpit” and make the pilot turn around, Freeman said. He wasn’t exactly sure what the enemy pilot would experience but said he or she would see the laser and probably wouldn’t be injured.
Or, if needed, the operators could turn the energy levels up and destroy the enemy target, either by melting precision holes through the craft or “cutting across” it, he said.
High-energy lasers, he added, are “still in development.”
But for larger targets, such as enemy ships, rail guns would probably be the best weapon.
“It packs a punch … and can go through steel walls,” Freeman said.
Once they are both operational, the US military will use them along with conventional weapons, and it’ll take years of evolution for one to make the other, or even conventional weapons, obsolete, Freeman said.
“They both have challenges to go through,” he told Business Insider, including where to get the power needed to fuel them. But they also offer other benefits in addition to their lethality: They’re cheaper and can even be safer for sailors, as they don’t require stores of ammunition that can explode.
As for exact tactics regarding how and when to use rail guns and lasers, the Navy and other branches employing them will decide once they’re operational, Freeman said.
Unexploded ordnance, often called “UXO,” has long been a problem after wars. In World War II, the Allies dropped almost 1.6 million tons of bombs on Germany – the equivalent of 6.4 million 500-pound bombs. Every major city was hit.
The problem is that not all the bombs exploded — not surprising when so many were dropped. These have been hanging around – and even now, 72 years after V-E Day, some of them still turn up.
And in Hanover, Germany, on May 7, 2017, three of those UXOs were found by construction crews, according to the BBC.
With so many people affected, the city decided to throw a big UXO party. Numerous events were set up, including screenings of films for kids, sporting events, and museum tours. There were also efforts made to provide food and other essential supplies to the evacuees while the Allied bombs were secured.
There’s no doubt about it, UXO can still kill, even after decades under ground. The BBC reported that in 2010, three German EOD techs were killed while trying to defuse a World War II leftover. In 2012, a construction worker was killed when his equipment hit an old bomb. Old World War II ordnance has sometimes been discovered during training exercises, notably in the Baltic Sea.
In the United States, most of the UXO is from the Civil War. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a number of cannonball left over from that conflict were unearthed.