The one thing that seems to be a constant in Saigon is the delicious smell of food cooking – from the street vendors, open air cafes, coffee shops, and bakeries – it was that way in the late 60’s and remains so today. The first time I came to the city I remember walking to the headquarters with an officer I’d served with in Ban Me Thuot and stopping at a small coffee shop for a coffee and croissant – both were delicious and the whole event seemed surreal given what was going on in the rest of the country at the time.
This time, when I arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon the first thing I saw were customs officials wearing what I remember as North Vietnamese Army uniforms – a bit of a flashback. Stepping out of the terminal I breathed deeply of the humid tropical air – a familiar scent that almost seemed comforting. Driving through the city on the way to the hotel I noticed the beautiful French inspired architecture which added a touch of grace to the cityscape.
In 1969 Saigon was a multi-faced city, bustling with the business of war. The people were pursuing their livelihood as best they could, while hip deep in the middle of a war zone. They were trying as hard as they could to make life tolerable and better for their families. Today, later generations of those families are doing that same thing, less the war, making life better and succeeding on a grand scale.
Revisiting Saigon and Vietnam after forty some years reaffirmed my faith in humanity – it doesn’t matter who won or lost, doesn’t matter who is in power – it’s all about the people. The Vietnamese people have always been entrepreneurs, caring for their families and their country and have made it a powerhouse in Southeast Asia. It gladdened my heart and closed a circle for me in a most positive way.
This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.
As the new Congress begins, it will soon discuss the comprehensive reports to the U.S. Senate on the disinformation campaign of half-truths, outright fabrications and misleading posts made by agents of the Russian government on social media in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
There are already indications that Cyber Command conducted operations against Russian disinformation on social media, including warning specific Russians not to interfere with the 2018 elections. However, low-level cyberwarfare is not necessarily the best way. European countries, especially the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have confronted Russian disinformation campaigns for decades. Their experience may offer useful lessons as the U.S. joins the battle.
The Baltic Sea region of northern Europe. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are in light green in the center, west of Russia in blue.
Beginning in 1940 and continuing until they declared independence in the early 1990s, the Baltic countries were subjected to systematic Russian gaslighting designed to make people doubt their national history, culture and economic development.
The Soviets rewrote history books to falsely emphasize Russian protection of the Baltic people from invading hordes in the Middle Ages, and to convey the impression that the cultural evolution of the three countries was enabled by their allegiance and close ties to Russia. Even their national anthems were rewritten to pay homage to Soviet influence.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the independence of the Baltic countries, the Russian Federation has continued to deliver disinformation to the region, making extensive use of Russian-language social media. Some themes characterize the Baltic people as ungrateful for Soviet investment and aid after World War II. Another common message criticizes Baltic historians for “falsification of history” when really they are describing the real nature of the Soviet occupation.
A massive Russian attack
After independence, and as the internet grew, Estonia led the way in applying technology to accelerate economic development. The country created systems for a wide range of government and commercial services, including voting, banking and filing tax returns electronically. Today, Estonia’s innovative e-residency system is being adopted in many other countries.
These advances made the Baltics a prime target for cyberattacks. In the spring of 2007, the Russians struck. When Estonia moved a monument memorializing Soviet soldiers from downtown Tallinn, the country’s capital, to a military cemetery a couple of miles away, it provoked the ire of ethnic Russians living in Estonia as well as the Russian government.
The relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn sparked a Russian cyberattack on Estonia in 2007.
(Photo by Keith Ruffles)
For three weeks, Estonian government, financial and media computer systems were bombarded with enormous amounts of internet traffic in a “distributed denial of service” attack. In these situations, an attacker sends overwhelming amounts of data to the targeted internet servers, clogging them up with traffic and either slowing them down or knocking them offline entirely. Despite concerns about the first “cyber war,” however, these attacks resulted in little damage. Although Estonia was cut off from the global internet temporarily, the country’s economy suffered no lasting harm.
These attacks could have severely damaged the country’s financial system or power grid. But Estonia was prepared. The country’s history with Russian disinformation had led Estonia to expect Russian attacks on computer and information systems. In anticipation, the government spearheaded partnerships with banks, internet service providers and other organizations to coordinate responses to cyberattacks. In 2006, Estonia was one of the first countries to create a Computer Emergency Response Team to manage security incidents.
The Baltic response
After the 2007 attack, the Baltic countries upped their game even more. For example, Estonia created the Cyber Defense League, an army of volunteer specialists in information technology. These experts focus onsharing threat information, preparing society for responding to cyber incidents and participating in international cyber defense activities.
Internationally, Estonia gained approval in 2008 to establish NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn. Its comprehensive research into global cyber activities helps identify best practices in cyber defense and training for NATO members.
In 2014, Riga, the capital of neighboring Latvia, became home to another NATO organization combating Russian influence, the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence. It publishes reports on Russian disinformation activities, such as the May 2018 study of the “Virtual Russian World in the Baltics.” That report analyzes Russian social media activities targeting Baltic nations with a “toxic mix of disinformation and propaganda.” It also provides insight into identifying and detecting Russian disinformation campaigns.
The Baltic countries also rely on a European Union agency formed in 2015 to combat Russian disinformation campaigns directed against the EU. The agency identifies disinformation efforts and publicizes accurate information that the Russians are seeking to undermine. A new effort will issue rapid alerts to the public when potential disinformation is directed against the 2019 European Parliament elections.
Will the ‘Baltic model’ work in the US?
Because of their political acknowledgment of threats and actions taken by their governments to fight disinformation, a 2018 study rated Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the three European Union members best at responding to Russian disinformation.
A similar approach may work in the U.S., though it would require far more collaboration than has existed so far. But backed by the new government motivation to strike back when provoked, the methods used in the Baltic states and across Europe could provide a powerful new deterrent against Russian influence in the West.
The first man on the moon held an American flag. In the not-too-distant future, astronauts on the moon may be holding fuel pumps.
The future for American commercial space activity is bright. Space entrepreneurs are already planning travel to Mars, and they are looking to the moon as the perfect location for a way station to refuel and restock Mars-bound rockets. As much as this sounds like the plot of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it is coming closer to reality sooner than you may have ever thought possible.
A privately funded American space industry is the reason. This industry is making progress in leaps and bounds. The global space economy is approaching $350 billion and is expected to become a multitrillion-dollar industry. There are more than 800 operational American satellites in orbit, and by 2024 that number could exceed 15,000. Thanks to public-private partnerships, for the first time in seven years American rockets will soon carry NASA astronauts into space. Long dormant, Cape Canaveral is now bustling with activity. America is leading in space once again.
Space tourism may only be a year away. Tickets for human flights into lower earth orbit have already sold for $250,000 each. Earth-based mining companies may soon face stiff competition from the mining of gold, silver, platinum and rare earths on asteroids and even other planets. A race is already developing to create the technology that will bring those crucial resources back to earth.
Competition is already fierce, with Russia and China challenging the United States for leadership, and about 70 other countries working their way into space. But today’s space race is different. It is driven by innovative companies that are finding new solutions to get to space faster, cheaper and more effectively.
As these companies advance new ideas for space commerce and nontraditional approaches to space travel, they seek the legitimacy and stability that comes with government support and approval. They yearn for a government that acts as a facilitator, not just a regulator. Government must create frameworks that enable, rather than stifle, industry.
Unfortunately, our system for regulating private space exploration and commerce has not kept up with this rapidly changing industry. For example, when it comes to licensing cameras in space, we review small, high school science-project satellites the same as billion-dollar national defense assets, leaving too little time and too few resources for crucial national security needs.
On May 24, 2018, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive 2, which will make important strides toward modernizing our outdated space policies. These changes include creating a new office, the Space Policy Advancing Commercial Enterprise Administration, within my office to oversee coordination of the department’s commercial space activities, establishing a “one-stop shop” to work on behalf of the budding private space sector.
This will be a major change. At my department alone, there are six bureaus involved in the space industry. A unified departmental office for business needs will enable better coordination of space-related activities. To this end, I have directed all Commerce Department bureaus with space responsibilities to assign a liaison to the new Space Administration team, including the International Trade Administration, Bureau of Industry and Security, National Telecommunications and Information Administration and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
When companies seek guidance on launching satellites, the Space Administration will be able to address an array of space activities, including remote sensing, economic development, data-purchase policies, GPS, spectrum policy, trade promotion, standards and technology and space-traffic management. The new office will also enable the department to manage its growing responsibilities in space.
The department will take on a greater role when it comes to regulation and promotion of space activity. But as the agency charged with promoting job creation and economic growth, we will not engage only in oversight, but will support American companies so they can compete and lead on a level playing field.
Collectively, these efforts will unshackle American industry and ensure American leadership in space. This is essential to technological innovation, economic growth, jobs and national security. But, perhaps more important, it is rejuvenating the American passion for space exploration.
I can still remember when President John F. Kennedy declared that America would put a man on the moon and when Neil Armstrong took that first step on the lunar landscape. Glued to televisions, Americans were filled with excitement and national pride during the Apollo missions.
In April 2018, I felt that same passion as I visited the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs with Vice President Mike Pence. “As we push human exploration deeper into space, we will unleash the boundless potential of America’s pioneering commercial space companies,” the vice president told the crowd.
This is a very special time in space history — there is a convergence of technology, capital, and political will. The United States must seize this moment.
We know COVID-19 has ruined a lot of your plans, but sports fans everywhere are feeling it a little extra right now with tonight being the NFL Draft. While you might be able to take the draft out of Vegas (and into the NFL Commissioner’s basement…), can you ever fully take the excitement out of the draft?
We say no, no you can’t.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 NFL Draft: How and when to watch it, the draft order, top picks, a little history and of course, your military tie in for this year’s festivities.
ProFootball Hall of Fame
The NFL was founded in Canton, OH in 1920. For those first magical years, players could sign with any team that wanted them. As you can imagine, this led to quite a disparity of level of play — the best players kept going to the best teams, leaving the other teams scrounging for talent.
The league owners adopted a plan for a college player draft on May 19, 1935. Proposed by the Eagles and owner and future NFL commissioner Bert Bell, the plan called for teams to select players in inverse order of their finish the previous season. The first draft had nine rounds and was increased to 10 in 1937. It was expanded to 20 rounds in 1939. Adding a twist to the procedure in 1938 and 1939, only the five teams that finished lowest in the previous season were permitted to make selections in the second and fourth rounds.
1940s: The NFL faced competition in drafting for the first time when the All-America Football Conference came onto the pro football scene in the latter part of the decade. The NFL also added a bonus selection – the first pick overall – in 1947.
1950s: The idea of the bonus pick, which began in 1947, ran full cycle and was abandoned after the 1958 draft. By that time, each team in the league had been awarded the first overall pick in the annual draft, and teams resumed picking in reverse order of league standing.
1960s: The draft became the battleground for a war between the National Football League and American Football League. The rival leagues held separate drafts through 1966 before holding joint drafts from 1967-1969. When the leagues merged at the end of the decade, the draft rivalry was over, and a new rivalry, the Super Bowl, had begun.
1970s: The NFL, drafting as one unified league, eventually reduced the number of rounds to 12. The fierce competition for top talent saw the number one overall pick being secured through trades four times during the decade.
1980s: The NFL again fended off competition from a potential rival as the United States Football League attempted to tap into the talent pool in the mid-1980s. Perhaps the highlight of the decade, draft wise, came in 1983 when a rare group of college quarterbacks dominated the first round of that year’s draft.
1990s: Many of the decade’s elite teams, like so many franchises before them, have built through the draft. There may be no greater example than the Dallas Cowboys, who used multiple picks to go from a 1-15 team in 1989 to winning three Super Bowls in the 1990s.
2000s: In back-to-back drafts in the 2000s, an NFL team made trades in order to select three players in the first round. In 2000, the Jets drafted in the number 12th, 13th, and 27th spots of the first round. One year later, the St. Louis Rams had the 12th, 20th, and 29th overall picks of round number one.
2010s: The St. Louis Rams selected quarterback Sam Bradford with their first overall pick. This set the trend as other teams used their first overall pick to also select quarterbacks as the face of their franchise including Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston and Jared Goff.
Fast forward to 2020 and it’s a new decade with a whole new sort of feel. Tonight’s draft will be done completely virtually. Teams will draft online and picks will be announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at his home. For anyone who’s ever done a fantasy football draft online, it’s going to look a lot like that. Only a few small differences: we doubt anyone will miss their pick because they’re getting kids a snack and also, there will be 58 camera crews at the presumed top 58 picks’ homes to catch their reactions.
The format remains the same: time allotted to select picks will be: 10 minutes in Round 1, seven minutes in Rounds 2 and 3, and five minutes in Rounds 4 through 7.
When to watch
The draft starts tonight, April 23 at 8:00 pm eastern with Round 1. Rounds 2 and 3 are tomorrow, Friday, April 24 starting at 7:00 pm eastern. Rounds 4 through 7 will be held on Saturday, April 25 starting at 12:00 pm eastern.
How to watch/listen
Here’s how you can watch the 2020 NFL Draft on TV and on live stream:
ESPN and NFL Network will simulcast all rounds. ABC will have its own prime-time telecast for Rounds 1-3 tonight and tomorrow, but will simulcast with ESPN and NFL Network on Saturday for the final rounds on Saturday. According to CBS, the draft telecasts will originate from ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut, studios and a majority of the analysts and reporters will contribute from at-home studios.
Thursday, April 23 (8-11:30 p.m. ET)
Round 1: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
Friday, April 24 (7-11:30 p.m. ET)
Rounds 2-3: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
Saturday, April 25 (12-7 p.m. ET)
Rounds 4-7: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
SiriusXM, Westwood One, and ESPN Radio will have draft coverage.
Note: Compensatory picks are marked with an asterisk (*)
1. Cincinnati 2. Washington 3. Detroit 4. NY Giants 5. Miami 6. LA Chargers 7. Carolina 8. Arizona 9. Jacksonville 10. Cleveland 11. NY Jets 12. Las Vegas 13. San Francisco f/IND 14. Tampa Bay 15. Denver 16. Atlanta 17. Dallas 18. Miami f/PIT 19. Las Vegas f/CHI 20. Jacksonville f/LAR 21. Philadelphia 22. Minnesota f/BUF 23. New England 24. New Orleans 25. Minnesota 26. Miami f/HOU 27. Seattle 28. Baltimore 29. Tennessee 30. Green Bay 31. San Francisco 32. Kansas City
33. Cincinnati 34. Indianapolis f/WAS 35. Detroit 36. NY Giants 37. LA Chargers 38. Carolina 39. Miami 40. Houston f/ARI 41. Cleveland 42. Jacksonville 43. Chicago f/LV 44. Indianapolis 45. Tampa Bay 46. Denver 47. Atlanta 48. NY Jets 49. Pittsburgh 50. Chicago 51. Dallas 52. LA Rams 53. Philadelphia 54. Buffalo 55. Baltimore f/NE via ATL 56. Miami f/NO 57. LA Rams f/HOU 58. Minnesota 59. Seattle 60. Baltimore 61. Tennessee 62. Green Bay 63. Kansas City f/SF 64. Seattle f/KC
65. Cincinnati 66. Washington 67. Detroit 68. NY Jets f/NYG 69. Carolina 70. Miami 71. LA Chargers 72. Arizona 73. Jacksonville 74. Cleveland 75. Indianapolis 76. Tampa Bay 77. Denver 78. Atlanta 79. NY Jets 80. Las Vegas 81. Las Vegas f/CHI 82. Dallas 83. Denver f/PIT 84. LA Rams 85. Detroit f/PHI 86. Buffalo 87. New England 88. New Orleans 89. Minnesota 90. Houston 91. Las Vegas f/SEA via HOU 92. Baltimore 93. Tennessee 94. Green Bay 95. Denver f/SF 96. Kansas City 97. Cleveland f/HOU* 98. New England* 99. NY Giants* 100. New England* 101. Seattle* 102. Pittsburgh* 103. Philadelphia* 104. LA Rams* 105. Minnesota* 106. Baltimore*
107. Cincinnati 108. Washington 109. Detroit 110. NY Giants 111. Houston f/MIA 112. LA Chargers 113. Carolina 114. Arizona 115. Cleveland 116. Jacksonville 117. Tampa Bay 118. Denver 119. Atlanta 120. NY Jets 121. Las Vegas 122. Indianapolis 123. Dallas 124. Pittsburgh 125. New England f/CHI 126. LA Rams 127. Philadelphia 128. Buffalo 129. Baltimore f/NE 130. New Orleans 131. Arizona f/HOU 132. Minnesota 133. Seattle 134. Baltimore 135. Pittsburgh f/TEN via MIA 136. Green Bay 137. Jacksonville f/SF via DEN 138. Kansas City 139. New England f/TB* 140. Jacksonville f/CHI* 141. Miami* 142. Washington* 143. Atlanta f/BAL* 144. Seattle* 145. Philadelphia* 146. Philadelphia*
147. Cincinnati 148. Carolina f/WAS 149. Detroit 150. NY Giants 151. LA Chargers 152. Carolina 153. Miami 154. Miami f/JAC via PIT 155. Minnesota f/CLE via BUF 156. San Francisco f/DEN 157. Jacksonville f/ATL via BAL 158. NY Jets 159. Las Vegas 160. Indianapolis 161. Tampa Bay 162. Washington f/PIT via SEA 163. Chicago 164. Dallas 165. Jacksonville f/LAR 166. Detroit f/PHI 167. Buffalo 168. Philadelphia f/NE 169. New Orleans 170. Baltimore f/MIN 171. Houston 172. New England f/SEA via DET 173. Miami f/BAL via LAR 174. Tennessee 175. Green Bay 176. San Francisco 177. Kansas City 178. Denver* 179. Dallas*
180. Cincinnati 181. Denver f/WAS 182. Detroit 183. NY Giants 184. Carolina 185. Miami 186. LA Chargers 187. Cleveland f/ARI 188. Buffalo f/CLE 189. Jacksonville 190. Philadelphia f/ATL 191. NY Jets 192. Green Bay f/LV 193. Indianapolis 194. Tampa Bay 195. New England f/DEN 196. Chicago 197. Indianapolis f/DAL via MIA 198. Pittsburgh 199. LA Rams 200. Chicago f/PHI 201. Minnesota f/BUF 202. Arizona f/NE 203. New Orleans 204. New England f/HOU 205. Minnesota 206. Jacksonville f/SEA 207. Buffalo f/BAL via NE 208. Green Bay f/TEN 209. Green Bay 210. San Francisco 211. NY Jets f/KC 212. New England* 213. New England* 214. Seattle*
215. Cincinnati 216. Washington 217. San Francisco f/DET 218. NY Giants 219. Minnesota f/MIA 220. LA Chargers 221. Carolina 222. Arizona 223. Jacksonville 224. Tennessee f/CLE 225. Baltimore f/NYJ 226. Chicago f/LV 227. Miami f/IND 228. Atlanta f/TB via PHI 229. Washington f/DEN 230. New England f/ATL 231. Dallas 232. Pittsburgh 233. Chicago 234. LA Rams 235. Detroit f/PHI via NE 236. Green Bay f/BUF via CLE 237. Tennessee f/NE via DEN 238. NY Giants f/NO 239. Buffalo f/MIN 240. Houston 241. Tampa Bay f/SEA via NE 242. Green Bay f/BAL 243. Tennessee 244. Cleveland f/GB 245. San Francisco 246. Miami f/KC 247. NY Giants* 248. Houston* 249. Minnesota* 250. Houston* 251. Miami* 252. Denver* 253. Minnesota* 254. Denver* 255. NY Giants
Who to watch
Our fave guy? None other than military brat and Auburn superstar Derrick Brown.
Have some fun and win Super Bowl tickets!
As the first-ever Official Casino Sponsor of the National Football League, Caesars Entertainment is proud to introduce the all-new NFL Draft Pick’em Online Game. From now through the start of the NFL Draft—Thursday, April 23— contestants will compete to win Super Bowl LV tickets, trips to Las Vegas to see a Raiders game and more by competing against other participants to correctly predict first round picks.
“With the NFL Draft no longer taking place in Las Vegas due to COVID-19, we still wanted to offer everyone a fun and interactive way to be a part of the action while they’re at home,” said Caesars Entertainment Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Holdren. “The all-new NFL Draft Pick’em online game is the perfect blend of entertainment to enhance the experience of seeing the next generation of NFL stars selected by their teams.”
How to play? Visit Caesars.com/DraftPickEm and attempt to pick the perfect first round Draft from a pool of 100 prospects for a chance to win:
1st Place – Two tickets to Super Bowl LV, plus ,500 for travel accommodations
2nd – 4th Places – Two tickets to a 2020 Las Vegas Raiders home game and a two-night hotel stay
Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.
I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.
I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.
I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.
It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.
In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.
In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’
I was blown away.
Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.
The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.
A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.
Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.
I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.
I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.
Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.
As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.
When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.
On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.
Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’
On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.
He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.
He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’
You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.
‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’
I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.
I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.
Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.
I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’
I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’
I can still hear his scream.
Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.
1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.
I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.
The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.
As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.
Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)
I never lost hope.
‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.
Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.
There he was.
My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.
All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’
On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.
I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.
I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.
The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.
I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.
One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’
Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.
This was it.
I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.
But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’
They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’
We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.
It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.
As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.
I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?
Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’
‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.
‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.
‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.
‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’
‘Yes,’ he answered.
I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’
‘But I will miss him,’ he said.
It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.
My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.
On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.
There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.
I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.
Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.
There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.
Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.
Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’
I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.
When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.
In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.
I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.
Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.
One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.
So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.
I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?
Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.
I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.
I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.
I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.
We were worth it.
He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.
Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’
A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.
I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.
Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.
Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.
Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.
Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.
We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.
Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.
DARPA is on track to unveil a working prototype of its “Tern” drone system in 2018 that could eventually give the Navy and Marines persistent surveillance and strike targeting “virtually anywhere in the world.”
If it’s implemented, the Tern program would see fully-autonomous drones on small-deck ships throughout the world that can take off and land vertically. Once in flight, they transition to wing-borne flight at medium altitude and become the eyes and ears for its ship for long periods of time.
Among the things the Navy wants is a drone that can provide surveillance capability and strike targets, but with greater range than a traditional helicopter. It also would likely be used to gather signals intelligence from foreign adversaries — one of the main missions for US submarine forces.
Tern, short for Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a joint program between the Office of Naval Research and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research and development arm. The agency just funded a second Tern test vehicle for the next year that’s being built by Northrup Grumman.
If all goes to plan, Tern will move to ground-based testing in early 2018, before being tested at sea later in the year.
“We’re making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing,” Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement.
“As we keep pressing into uncharted territory—no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before—we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships.”
Tern isn’t the only drone program DARPA is working on. The agency has also been working on something called “upward falling payloads,” a program that would station drones in water-tight containers around the world’s oceans until they are called to the surface.
Here’s a concept video of how Tern is supposed to operate:
Each year 32 young students from the United States are selected as Rhodes Scholars. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)
According to the trust, Singh is a senior at the Air Force Academy, where he is pursuing a bachelors’ degree in mechanical engineering. Singh‘s research addresses questions of policy, ethics, and the management of military assets and nuclear weapons.
The Air Force’s version of the F-35 Lightning II, the F-35A, has officially been deployed to the Middle East. In the air, the F-35A is supposed to be the most capable variant of the plane, and it has been sent to a base used to generate sorties against ISIS. The base is also well-positioned to support potential U.S. operations in Iran or across the Middle East.
The planes have been sent to the 4th Fighter Wing at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates. The base is too far from Syria for warplanes to reach it without aerial refueling, so it may seem like an odd place from which to attack ISIS. But with the help of aerial tankers, planes like the F-22 and F-35 can take off from there, refuel in the air, and then hit targets across Iraq and Syria before heading from home.
And the F-35A has all the stealth features and sensors of the other F-35 variants without any of the airframe compromises made by the Marine Corps and Navy to help their versions take off from carriers and amphibious assault ships.
So, while the Marine Corps’ F-35B has already made its first combat sortie against the Taliban, and the Navy is focusing on incorporating the F-35C into its own carrier fleet and those of allies, the F-35A could become a frontline and regular attacker against elements of ISIS and other terror groups when they rear their ugly heads for attacks or training.
U.S. Air Force’s F-35A Lightning II arrives for first Middle East deployment
And Al Dhafra is well positioned for potential future fights as well. The base is less than 200 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, an important trade chokepoint highly susceptible to Iranian interference. And the Iranian capital of Tehran is actually closer to Al Dhafra than Syria is. F-35As and F-22s would be key to defeating Russia-provided air defenses in Iran if America went to war with that country.
Of course, the Air Force has not said exactly what it plans to do with the F-35As at Al Dhafra. The F-35A was declared combat-ready by the flying service in 2016, but the Air Force has focused on improving the plane’s capabilities and commanders’ understanding of it rather than rushing it into combat.
And that makes a lot of sense. The F-35 is famously the most expensive weapons program in history, partially due to just how ambitious the program was from the outset. Its most advanced stealth capabilities, both the passive elements like its coating and physical design as well as its active protections like electronic warfare capabilities, are aimed at advanced adversaries like China.
It’s just not fiscally prudent to spend a lot of expensive F-35 flight hours over Syria where less-advanced airplanes can safely perform. But some stick time there could help season pilots in their planes, allowing them to be more effective in a future fight.
But still, don’t expect to see too many details of too many F-35A missions in combat anytime soon. Even if the Air Force sends them into combat in the coming days, the service will likely want to play the cards close to the chest to prevent Russian air defenses from getting too good of a look at the plane. The more chances that S-400s and similar systems get to look at the F-35, the better their operators will become at tracking and targeting them.
And if the F-35A is flown against Russia or China, we’ll want those operators caught as flat-footed as possible.
If you haven’t heard about the planned Area 51 raid yet, then shut up. You have definitely heard about this crap. (And if you really haven’t, then I am so sorry. Basically, 1.6 million people have signed up for a Facebook event to rush Area 51 en masse because “They can’t kill all of us.”)
Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus, Young Thug, & Mason Ramsey – Old Town Road (Area 51 Video)
Now, this raid will almost certainly never happen. Most of the people who are “going” probably just find the idea funny. But that begs the question of, “If a bunch of as-holes attempted to Naruto-run onto Area 51, what would happen? What would they see?”
Well, they would honestly find nothing and wouldn’t get inside any facilities because the Air Force isn’t likely to conduct any sensitive outdoor tests while a bunch of civilians are rushing the fences. They’re gonna button up the base and try to protect their secrets without having to kill civilians by the thousands.
But if they did somehow get past a bunch of blast doors or the Air Force left sensitive equipment out, the runners would most likely find the same sort of experiments that Area 51 became famous for during the Cold War. No, not alien biopsies. The actual experiments that the Air Force did at Area 51, many of which are now public knowledge: aircraft testing and experimentation.
It’s easy to forget almost 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union that, when America wasn’t the only superpower, it took a lot of work and quite a bit of secrecy to stay ahead of them. The Soviet Union had a decent spying apparatus and a robust research and development industry of its own.
And the U.S. and the Soviet Union both knew that aircraft would be important in a potential war. That’s why we worked so hard to steal each other’s aircraft and radar prototypes and more. We wanted to know what their radar could detect, and we wanted our radar to be able to detect all of their aircraft and missiles. And, we wanted to develop aircraft that could outmaneuver and fight the enemy even if it was outnumbered.
So, scientists needed to work on radar, stealth technologies, and on aircraft designs and engines. All of those benefit from having lots of open space, but aircraft designs and engines require literally hundreds of square miles to adequately test an aircraft. So, the Air Force needed a big, secret base to test their new goodies in.
The dry lake bed at Groom Lake was near the center of Area 51. The area is valuable for weapons testing and pilot instruction, but probably doesn’t host aliens.
(Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0)
And guess where many of those projects went? An old Army Air Force training area at Groom Lake in Nevada known as Area 51. It’s fairly common for old training areas to be re-purposed when the government goes shopping for an area to do some classified crap. In general, and in Area 51 in particular, these are areas where civilians already don’t live or work, where the few residents nearby are already used to loud and weird noises, and where a few light shows will be ignored.
And the Air Force went to extreme lengths to keep Area 51 secret. Nothing was allowed to leave the base, and you needed a security clearance to even get on the base. Even once you were on the base, if something was being tested that you weren’t cleared to see, you had to go sit in a building with the windows covered until the test was over.
We know all of this from court cases. People who worked at the base came down with weird cancers and material poisonings and so forth from all the weird chemicals used on the base. The military wouldn’t admit that the base existed for years before it finally said, “Yeah, it existed.” Then decades later, “Yeah, we played with planes there.”
But there are still all those rumors about aliens, right?
Well, yeah, there are rumors. But believing in aliens at Area 51 is literally insane. It requires that you believe that the government can keep massive, reality-changing secrets to itself for decades and generations of workers. And that there was either only one alien crash ever or that each crash was successfully controlled by the government. And that the government wants to keep all this secret in the first place.
So, what would the raiders find if they actually get into the testing range? Maybe aliens. But, way more likely, they’ll find some hypersonic missile prototypes, and maybe a B-21 Raider airfoil with some radars pointed at it. There’s a slight chance that they find a Stealth Hawk or some other piece of custom kit like that. But that’s only if you can find the good stuff on the 575 square mile base.
I mean, that stuff would be pretty cool to see. But is it really worth risking being shot by U.S. Airmen? Sure, they probably won’t hit you with the first round, but those dudes have A-10s. You’re not getting through that, not even if you run like Naruto.
Let’s face it, troops often need to move fast and take all their gear with them. At a time when combat loads can weigh as much as 200 pounds, according to a report from the Modern War Institute, that can be tricky.
But some countries are trying to help troops take the load off.
According to information from General Dynamics, there are some lightweight vehicles that could help troops make those fast moves. While they are officially called the Family of Light Tactical Vehicles, they are called “Flyers” by the troops.
There are two versions of the Flyer in this family: the Flyer 60, and the Flyer 72. While both of them use a 195-horsepower engine, and both are capable of fording 30 inches of water without preparation, there are some big differences.
Let’s take a look at the Flyer 60 first. According to GD, the Flyer 60 has a top speed of 70 miles per hour and can travel up to 350 miles. It can carry up to four passengers, plus a gunner, or can be used to hold five litters. It can carry up to 3,000 pounds of cargo, and has a turret for a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, or a remote weapon system.
Its rear doors also hold swing mounts for 7.62mm machine guns or 5.56mm machine guns. It can be transported inside a V-22, CH-47, C-130, or C-17.
The Flyer 72, though, can do more. About a foot wider than the Flyer 60 (72 inches wide to 60 inches wide), the Flyer 72 can carry up to nine troops. It has a top speed of 95 miles per hour, can go as far as 500 miles, and can be carried in a CH-47, C-130, or C-17. While it can’t be hauled by the V-22 Osprey, it does have more firepower options for its turret, adding the GAU-19, a three-barreled Gatling gun (bringing .50-caliber BRRRRRT!) and a 30mm cannon to the M2, 7.62mm machine gun, the 40mm automatic grenade launcher, and the remote weapon system.
These vehicles, though, aren’t street legal. But it’s nice to know that troops have them available as options when they have to move fast to an objective.
The VH-92 was selected to replace the VH-3 Sea King as the new Marine One. But this isn’t the first time the Sea King has been supplanted by a variant of the S-92 — in fact, Canada already did the same thing with its fleet of 28 maritime combat helicopters.
Sikorsky S-92s in Canadian service that were modified for anti-submarine warfare are known as CH-148 Cyclones. These aircraft operate primarily from Canada’s force of 12 Halifax-class frigates, which are equipped with RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles, RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 57mm gun, and 324mm torpedo tubes.
The CH-148 has been through a long RD cycle and has cost more than twice as much as originally planned.
(Photo by Gerry Metzler)
These versatile helicopters are designed to hunt down submarines using the Mk 46 anti-submarine torpedo, but they also handle search and rescue, tactical transport, and surveillance missions.
The CH-148s are nearing the end of production. Canada has accepted 15 aircraft to date in an interim configuration, and begins accepting aircraft in a final production configuration in June 2018. Initial operational capability is slated to be achieved later in 2018. This much-anticipated helicopter is the result of an extremely long research and development program — the first helicopter that was delivered from the program was seven years behind schedule. To date, the program’s total cost has ballooned to over twice its original size.
The CH-148 will also handle search-and-rescue missions, like this S-92 does for the Irish Coast Guard.
(Photo by Riatsnapper)
The CH-148 has a crew of four. In the anti-submarine warfare mode, it packs two Mk 46s. These torpedoes have a top speed of 45 knots and a maximum range of just under seven miles. As a tactical transport, it can haul 22 troops – roughly two squads of grunts. The helicopter has a top speed of 190 miles per hour and can go just under 280 miles without refueling.
You can learn more about this helicopter in the video below.
Mattis referenced Henry Kissinger in his statement, quoting the former secretary of state as saying: we are “faced with two problems: first, how to reduce regional chaos; second, how to create a coherent world order based on agreed-upon principles that are necessary for the operation of the entire system.”
Mattis noted that Kissinger’s generation learned they must prevent “hostile states” from achieving dominance.
“And they understood that while there is no way to guarantee peace, the surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one,” said Mattis.
In order to achieve that goal, Mattis said President Donald Trump has requested a $639.1 billion “topline” for the fiscal year 2018 budget, $64.6 billion of which will go towards Overseas Contingency Operations.
The budget request is $52 billion over the cap placed by the National Defense Budget Control Act, passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011.
The Fiscal Year 2018 budget has five priorities: “restoring and improving warfighter readiness, increasing capacity and lethality, reforming how the Department does business, keeping faith with Service members and their families, and supporting Overseas Contingency Operations.”
Readiness has been a major priority for the armed forces. Military leaders have warned that each of their respective services are suffering from readiness shortfalls, mostly due to a lack of funding. The Army is low on manpower, the Navy is struggling to maintain ships and aircraft, the Marine Corps is undermanned, under-trained and poorly equipped, and the Air Force is small and aging, the vice Joint Chiefs of Staff warned the committee in February.
Mattis noted that sustained warfare abroad has contributed to the readiness problem. Combined with a lack of funding, the forces have been stretched to their limits.
“I am keenly aware members of this committee understand the responsibility each of us has to ensuring our military is ready to fight today and in the future,” said Mattis’s statement. “I need your help to inform your fellow members of Congress about the reality facing our military — and the need for Congress as a whole to pass a budget on time.”
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