At first, the German army tested two types of flamethrowers — a Flammenwerfer (a large version) and the Kleinflammenwerfer (designed for portable use). Using pressurized air or nitrogen, the thrower managed to launch the stream of fire as far as 18 meters (the larger version shot twice as far).
The weapon consisted mainly of two triggers, one to shoot the fuel as the other ignited the propellant.
As American forces adopted the weapon, its popularity grew during the island hopping campaigns of WWII since the Japanese commonly use bunkers or “pillboxes” as defensive positions.
Although the flamethrower was a highly effective killing tool, the operator was at a total disadvantage as the supply tank only allowed the weapon to spread its deadly incendiary for about 10 seconds before running out of fuel — leaving the operator somewhat defenseless.
According to retired Marine Willie Woody, the average life expectancy of a flamethrower trooper on the battlefield was five minutes. Since the fuel tanks weren’t constructed of bulletproof materials, the tanks just made bigger targets.
If struck by a hot round in the right spot, the result could be a massive explosion.
A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft manned by Afghan pilots trained in the U.S. have conducted the first close air support missions by fixed-wing aircraft ever flown for the fledgling Afghan Air Force, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said Thursday.
“They are beginning to take their first strikes,” guided to targets by Afghan forward air controllers on the ground, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland said in a video briefing from Kabul to the Pentagon.
Cleveland did not say where or when the first A-29 strikes took place or describe the effectiveness of the missions, but U.S. and Afghan officials previously had said that combat missions by the turboprop aircraft were expected to begin in April.
Four of the A-29s arrived in Afghanistan in January and another four have since flown in to a military airfield near Hamid Karzai International Airport outside Kabul, according to Cleveland, the new deputy chief of staff for communications for the U.S. and NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
A U.S.-funded $427 million contract calls for a total of 20 A-29s to be delivered to Afghanistan by 2018.
Eight Afghan Air Force pilots completed training late last year on the A-29s with U.S. pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The A-29s, which were designed for close air support, carry a 20mm cannon below the fuselage, one 12.7mm machine gun under each wing and can also fire 70mm rockets and launch precision-guided bombs.
The A-29s began arriving in Afghanistan nearly five years after the Brazilian firm Embraer, and its U.S. partner Sierra Nevada Corp., won a Light Air Support competition with the A-29 against the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II, leading to contract disputes and delays in the program.
Last month, the A-29s working with Afghan tactical air controllers conducted live-fire training exercises outside Kabul. At a following ceremony called the “Rebirth of the Afghan Air Force,” Maj. Gen. Wahab Wardak, commander of the Afghan Air Force, said he expected the A-29s to begin conducting airstrikes in April.
Although Cleveland did not say where the first A-29 strikes were carried out, Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanikzai said last month that the aircraft would likely be used first in southwestern Helmand province, where the Afghan National Security Forces have been struggling to contain the Taliban in the region that is the center of Afghanistan’s opium trade.
“Helmand is not a rosy picture now,” said Cleveland.
Even so, he contradicted news reports that the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, former headquarters of British forces in the region, was about to fall. In February, 500 troops from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division were sent to Helmand as force protection for U.S. Special Operations troops advising and assisting the Afghans.
Cleveland said that the Afghan forces, backed by nearly daily U.S. airstrikes, were making progress against newly-emergent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, allied Afghan insurgents in eastern Nangarhar province.
“We do think that they are being contained more than they probably were last fall,” he said, but “we do think that they still pose a real threat. And based on their past performance, they’ve got the ability to catch fire very quickly. So we do want to continue to have constant pressure on them.”
A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.
Complete with sword room.
Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.
It took him 50 years to complete the project.
Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:
[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
Loveland Castle via Instagram
Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.
That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.
The Acting Secretary of the Army announced proposed changes to eligibility criteria at Arlington National Cemetery. This begins the process for the federal government to prepare for the public rulemaking process which includes public feedback to the proposed changes.
The nation’s premiere military cemetery is at a critical crossroads in its history. Nearly all of the 22 million living armed forces members and veterans are eligible for less than 95,000 remaining burial spaces within these hallowed grounds.
A planned Southern Expansion project will add 37 acres of additional burial space for the nation’s veterans. Southern Expansion includes the area nearest the Air Force Memorial and a part of the former grounds of the Navy Annex. However, expansion alone will not keep Arlington National Cemetery open to new interments well into the future. Without changes to eligibility, Arlington National Cemetery will be full for first burials by the mid-2050s.
Columbarium Courts 10 and 11 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, July 20, 2018.
(Photo by Ms. Elizabeth Fraser)
“The hard reality is we are running out of space. To keep Arlington National Cemetery open and active well into the future means we have to make some tough decisions that restrict the eligibility,” said Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery Karen Durham-Aguilera.
The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Secretary of the Army to establish revised eligibility criteria to keep the cemetery functioning as an active burial ground well into the future, defined as 150 years.
The Secretary established imperatives to recognize the individual’s sacriﬁce, service and impact to the nation’s security. The proposed eligibility criteria honors commitment to military service and is equitable across branches and eras of service. Additionally, any change should be easily understood, fair and consistent with Arlington National Cemetery’s mission.
Years of outreach have guided the decision-making process. Arlington National Cemetery and its stakeholders — military and veteran service organizations, military, government leaders, Congress, veterans, military service members and their family members — have been working this issue very closely.
Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
“This has been a very lengthy and deliberate process that has been done in the public domain,” said former Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery Katharine Kelley. “We have a Federal Advisory Committee at Arlington National Cemetery, an independent body mandated by Congress to look at very substantive issues related to the cemetery, and they have looked at the question of eligibility for many years,” said Kelley.
The cemetery has maintained an active and ongoing dialogue with military and veteran service organizations over two and a half years of thoughtful deliberation and public outreach. Additionally, the cemetery has conducted public surveys that garnered input and feedback from these important stakeholders, as well the active duty component who serves today.
The cemetery received more than 250,000 responses to these national surveys, and the results offered a compelling look at the opinions and attitudes of veterans, family members and active duty populations. Ninety-five percent of respondents want Arlington to not only remain open, but remain open and active well into the future.
“We’ve made extensive efforts to listen and gather input as part of this process, and that feedback we have received has been part of the Secretary’s deliberations and part of our discussions going forward,” said Kelley.
Now that the Secretary has established the proposed criteria, once cleared, the Department of the Army will publish a draft rule in the Federal Register for public comment, adjudicate public comments and publish the final rule. Federal rulemaking is a deliberative process and is expected to take a minimum of nine months.
“This is a lengthy process, but it’s another opportunity to have a say in what the future of Arlington National Cemetery should be for our nation,” said Durham-Aguilera.
An officer salutes as members of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard take the casket of a Sailor killed during the Vietnam War to his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)
In addition to preserving 1,000 gravesites for current and future Medal of Honor recipients, the proposed revised eligibility criteria for those who honorably serve the nation are as follows:
For below-ground interment:
Killed in Action, to include repatriated remains of service members
Award recipients of the Silver Star and above who also served in combat
Recipients of the Purple Heart
Combat-related service deaths while conducting uniquely military activities
Former Prisoners of War
Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States
Veterans with combat service who also served out of uniform as a government oﬃcial and made signiﬁcant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service
For above-ground inurnment:
World War II-era veterans, to include legislated active duty designees
Retirees from the armed forces who are eligible to receive retired pay but are not otherwise eligible for interment
Veterans who have served a minimum of two years on active duty and who have served in combat
Veterans without combat service who also served out of uniform as a government oﬃcial and made signiﬁcant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service
Eventual implementation of revised eligibility will not affect previously scheduled services at Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, the proposed revisions will not affect veterans’ burial beneﬁts or veteran eligibility at Department of Veterans Affairs 137 national cemeteries and 115 state veterans cemeteries.
Arlington National Cemetery will continue to actively engage stakeholders in the important decisions impacting the future of the cemetery.
Bob DeFord really wanted to fly one of the iconic Spitfire airplanes that saved England from Nazi invasion during the Battle of Britain, but the things can sell for millions of dollars at auction, even in rough condition.
So instead he worked with a small group of friends for eight years and created a full-scale Spitfire Mk. IX, the plane that gave British pilots a better chance against the feared Focke-Wulf 190.
DeFord’s creation isn’t a perfect replica. The wings and some other parts are wood where the true Mk. IXs are metal, and the engine is an Allison V-1710 instead of the Merlin 60.
But for what amounts to a flying model, DeFord’s piece is amazingly accurate. The distinct Spitfire wings are properly shaped and a rear-view mirror, improvised from a soup ladle and a car mirror, sits over the cockpit in a nearly picture-perfect imitation of the real thing.
The rear-view mirror cost DeFord an estimated $12 — not bad when original mirrors from World War II sell for $300.
There are even stand-ins for the four 20mm cannons that gave the Spitfire its deadly punch.
DeFord tells his story in the video below. Cut to 3:09 to see the bird in flight:
PRAGUE — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking about the contentious Belarusian presidential election and the ensuing police crackdown against peaceful protesters, says that “we want good outcomes for the Belarusian people, and we’ll take actions consistent with that.”
Pompeo, who earlier condemned the conduct of the election that handed authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth-straight term by a landslide, said in a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL in Prague on August 12 that “we’ve watched the violence and the aftermath, peaceful protesters being treated in ways that are inconsistent with how they should be treated.”
The August 9 vote, which the opposition has called “rigged,” has resulted in three-straight evenings of mass protests marred by police violence and thousands of detentions.
Pompeo said that the United States had not yet settled on the appropriate response, but would work with Washington’s European partners to determine what action to take.
Asked whether the election and its aftermath would affect the future of U.S.-Belarus relations, including the promised delivery of U.S. oil, Pompeo said: “We’re going to have to work through that…we were incredibly troubled by the election and deeply disappointed that it wasn’t more free and more fair.”
U.S. Troops In Afghanistan
Pompeo, who was in Prague at the start of a five-day trip to Europe that will also take him to Slovenia, Austria, and Poland, discussed a number of other issues, including allegations that Russia was involved in offering Taliban militants bounties to attack U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; expectations that Washington will seek to extend the UN arms embargo against Iran; and the effect violence against protesters in the United States might have on Washington’s image abroad.
The U.S. secretary of state declined to comment on whether he believed U.S. intelligence reports that reportedly said Russia had offered money to the Taliban and their proxies in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers, saying he never commented on U.S. intelligence matters.
“What we’ve said is this: If the Russians are offering money to kill Americans or for that matter, other Westerners as well, there will be an enormous price to pay,” Pompeo said. “That’s what I shared with [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov. I know our military has talked to their senior leaders as well. We won’t brook that. We won’t tolerate that.”
Regarding the prospect of resistance among European allies to U.S. efforts to extend the expiring arms embargo on Iran indefinitely, Pompeo said it “makes no sense for any European country to support the Iranians being able to have arms.”
“I think they recognize it for exactly what it is,” he said of the U.S. proposal, a draft resolution of which is reportedly currently being floated in the 15-member Security Council. “And I hope that they will vote that way at the United Nations. I hope they will see.”
“The resolution that we’re going to present is simply asking for a rollover of the extension of the arms embargo,” Pompeo said. “It’s that straightforward.”
Asked specifically about the prospect that Iranian allies Russia and China could veto such a proposal, the U.S. secretary of state said: “We’re going to make it come back. We have the right to do it under 2231 and we’re going to do it.”
UN Resolution 2231 was passed unanimously by the United Nations in 2015, endorsing the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
The United States withdrew from the deal, which offered sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for security guarantees aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in 2018.
Russian Media Pressure
Pompeo also discussed recent efforts by Russia to target foreign media operating there, which the secretary of state earlier warned would “impose new burdensome requirements” on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice Of America.
In an August 10 statement, Pompeo said that the two U.S.-funded media outlets already faced “significant and undue restrictions” in Russia, and that a recent draft order by Russia’s state media regulator requiring all media registered as “foreign agents” to label their content as such or face fines of up to 5 million rubles (,000) had left Washington “deeply concerned.”
In Prague, home of RFE/RL’s headquarters, on August 12, Pompeo said that he believed that “we think we can put real pressure and convince them that the right thing to do is to allow press freedom.”
“We’ve condemned it. We’ve also imposed enormous sanctions on Russia for other elements of their malign activity,” Pompeo said. “We hope that the rest of the world will join us in this. We hope that those nations that value the freedom of press, who want independent reporters to be able to ask questions, even if sometimes leaders don’t like them, will join with us.”
Asked whether the recent handling of protests against social injustice in the United States, which has included the use of police force against civilians and journalists, had harmed Washington’s image and weakened its moral authority in scolding authoritarian regimes, Pompeo called the question “insulting.”
He said that the “difference between the United States and these authoritarian regimes couldn’t be more clear.”
“We have the rule of law, we have the freedom of press, every one of those people gets due process. When we have peaceful protesters, we create the space for them to say their mind, to speak their piece,” he said.
“Contrast that with what happens in an authoritarian regime. To even begin to compare them, to somehow suggest that America’s moral authority is challenged by the amazing work that our police forces, our law enforcement people do all across America — I, frankly, just find the question itself incomprehensible and insulting.”
Mexican legislators proposed ending cooperation with the US on immigration, counterterrorism, and fighting organized crime “as long as President Donald Trump does not act with the respect that migrants deserve.”
The proposal was made on June 20, 2018, by the Mexican Congress’ Permanent Commission, which meets while Congress is in recess, and asks the executive branch to “consider the possibility of withdrawing from any bilateral cooperation scheme” with the US on those issues.
Mexican legislators called on their US counterparts to “end the inhumane and criminal action of separating migrant families, taking into account the best interests of the children and giving priority to the respect of human rights.”
It also called on the international community and human-rights defense groups to condemn the detention and separation of children and to end the policy and asked Mexican representatives to international bodies to use diplomatic means to halt the policy. (Trump rescinded the policy on June 20, 2018, in the face of domestic backlash.)
While announcing the proposal, Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, a senator for the conservative National Action Party, said the US “is a partner, allied in diverse causes and a friend that doesn’t deserve a government like that of Donald Trump,” adding that Mexico would not support a country that “systematically violates human rights and that doesn’t have respect for the life and dignity of people.”
Cordero said Trump “incentivizes and defends a discourse of hate inside and outside of his country,” encouraging racists groups and generating stereotypes of minorities, and that the US president has started a “trade war” through tariffs and rejected international cooperation, citing the US’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Other Mexican officials have criticized Trump’s immigration policy. Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who has developed a close relationship with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, condemned the separation policy as “cruel and inhumane” on June 19, 2018.
On June 20, 2018, Videgaray welcomed Trump’s decision to end the policy as “good news” but said the Mexican government would continue to provide consular protection to children in vulnerable situations.
Victor Manuel Giorgana — the president of the foreign-relations committee in Mexico’s lower house and a member of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party — said Trump had not done enough to protect migrant children and that Trump only backed down in order further his political agenda, namely securing funding for a border wall.
“The situation didn’t change in any way, except that [the children] are not separated,” he told newspaper Milenio, adding that those children would still be held in “inhumane” conditions.
The senate commission’s proposal is not the first of its kind.
In that resolution, senators urged Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to suspend bilateral cooperation with the US “on matters of migration and the fight against transnational organized crime as long as President Donald Trump does not conduct himself with the civility and the respect that the people of Mexico deserve.”
US officials have also warned of the deleterious effects Trump’s harsh comments and hardline policies would have on relations with countries in the region — specifically on security cooperation.
“In jeopardizing counternarcotics collaboration, President Trump risks cutting off his nose to spite his face,” Rebecca Bill Chavez, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, said in February 2018.
“A deterioration in our defense cooperation, it threatens stability and security of our hemisphere in areas from illicit trafficking to migration and natural-disaster-related humanitarian crises to destabilizing crime and violence,” she added.
Mexican officials have expressed disdain for Trump and his policies, and the US president has been the target of protests around Mexico — though Trump has little influence on Mexican domestic politics, and many there are more critical of their own government for its failings.
The Mexican government has also worked to counter Trump through economic policy. Legislators have called on the government there to cut purchases of US corn, a $2.5 billion industry. More recently, in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Mexican government levied $3 billion in tariffs on US pork, steel, cheese, and other goods.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Multiple US residents are reportedly detained in China’s prison-like detention camps for Muslims, where inmates have to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping in exchange for meals.
“A few” American residents or citizens are being detained in those camps, CNN cited unnamed State Department sources as saying.
It comes after Sam Brownback, the US’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters on March 28, 2019, that a man in California had emailed him to say that his 75-year-old father, who has legal residency in the US, had disappeared after traveling to Xinjiang, a region on China’s western frontier.
China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who mainly live in Xinjiang.
Beijing is accused of detaining at least 1 million Uighurs in prison-like centers, where inmates are required to memorize Chinese Communist Party doctrines and shout patriotic phrases like “Long live Xi Jinping!” to receive small amounts of rice for meals, according to recent testimonies reported by The Telegraph.
China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Those who refuse to do so are reportedly electrocuted with a cattle prod, The Telegraph reported. Past detainees have also described being shackled to a chair, strung up, deprived of sleep, and being psychologically tortured.
China refers to these camps as “boarding schools” and “free vocational training” as part of its counterterror measures. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on March 29, 2019, “the overall situation is stable” in Xinjiang, according to CNN.
Geng added in response to Brownback’s comments that Beijing “is firmly opposed to the US attempt to use the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
Referring to the unnamed California man who emailed him, Brownback said: “He’s not been able to reach him [his father] for months … doesn’t know whether — where he is and whether he’s still alive.” He added that this account has not yet been verified.
“This gentleman that I just was reading the email about has legal status in the United States,” he added. “He’s not a U.S. citizen, but he had legal status being here, traveled back to Xinjiang after being here with his son in California, and then has not been heard from since.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Brownback added that this man is “an intellectual” and has “a number of chronic illnesses,” and that it’s not clear whether he is receiving any treatment. Scholars and activists have warned of Beijing’s efforts to eradicate Uighur culture.
Many Uighurs in Xinjiang have actively cut off communications with relatives living abroad for fear of China’s retribution. Talking to people outside China — regardless of the content of the conversation — can get Uighurs arrested and imprisoned.
Relatives of Uighurs in Xinjiang have previously told Business Insider of their anguish at being blocked by their families on social media and messaging apps.
The US government has repeatedly criticized China over the Xinjiang crackdown, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with several Uighurs and describing Beijing’s actions as a sort of “shameful hypocrisy” late March 2019.
Democratic and Republican members of Congress have for months called on the Trump administration to punish Beijing for its actions towards Uighurs in the form of sanctions against those involved. The White House has yet to respond to those requests.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nearly 20 years after America was born, an Irish architect named James Hoban began laying down the first piece of stone for what would become The White House during an elaborate Freemason ceremony.
Less than 24 hours later, the first piece of stone that was laid down vanished and no one appeared to know its whereabouts. Since then, the search for the stone continues as various participants have attempted to locate the historic piece of foundation.
Although the formation of the Freemason’s fraternity is a fiercely guarded secret, their history dates back to 1390 when they were first referenced in a Regius Poem.
A commonly accepted theory is the group emerged from the stonemasons guild amid the middle ages.
In the late 1940s during President Harry Truman’s administration, the White House underwent major renovations as crew members brought in metal detectors in hopes to locate the stone by picking up its metallic minerals and many believed they may have discovered its location.
President Harry Truman — Freemason
When Truman got wind of the search, he ordered them to halt the exploration immediately, which caught everyone off guard. In response, Truman then sent pieces of the White House to several various Freemason locations throughout the country.
Watch the History Channel‘s video to see how many have tried to unlock the mystery.
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating (fill in the blank). No, seriously this is a quiz. We’re guessing you were likely too drunk to remember what one of your most loved holidays is actually about… aside from celebrating tequila and tacos with your favorite group of friends. This year, with Corona (not the beer) in the way, it’s looking more like “Cinco de solo”. But fear not, we’re here to ensure your celebration is just as awesome with these handy at home hacks.
Not all tacos are created equal. They come soft, hard, and even puffy (we’re being totally appropriate here). It’s time to step up your taco game and step out of your comfort zone. Considering the fact that there’s literally nothing else to spend your money on, go big and get multiple styles to create a taco spread that’ll make your homies seriously jealous.
Do the salsa
We’re not talking about the dance… although, why not? Another crucial component of your feast is getting the delicious dip just right. And you’ve got options. Tomatillo, poblano, ancho are all words you need to get familiar with if you’re going to go all in. Feeling fruity? (again, completely appropriate) Try going for a pineapple-mango combination. Whatever you do, don’t you dare cheap out on a jar of pre-made tomato sauce masquerading as salsa.
Should you cut the cheese?
Good question. Research has shown us that this is a highly debated topic that is actually dependent upon what you’re stuffing your taco with. Queso fresco, cotija, queso de Oaxaca, or your standard-issue cheddar all have variations of saltiness, creaminess, and melt factor. One could even go as bold to say “no cheese” and bank heavy on your flavor profile.
Friends don’t let friends…
Friends don’t let friends drink solo on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, this applies even to social distancing parties. In case you live under a rock, there are plenty of apps for you to connect virtually and make it work. Do us a solid and let us know how you got creative with distance drinking games.
Step up your game bro
The stocks may be down, but alcohol sales sure are solid. By now you’ve likely demolished that “emergency stash” and shifted way into the realm of stay-at-home-mom level drink making. Now is your time to shine cupcake. With your designated set of friends, take the time to get creative and conjure up some amazing cocktail recipes for everyone to tray and vote on this holiday. Try setting some ground rules and a pre-set shopping list for everyone to grab beforehand. Take turns making each other’s cocktails and vote on the best.
Make it weird
If it were normal again, this day would be full of crazy taco creations to try at restaurants all across the land. Doing something “weird” is even better when it’s in the privacy of your own home. Cue the next few suggestions: radishes, nopales, fruit, kimchi, and the dessert taco. What we’re saying is- make it a competition between friends and make your best “take”, then deliver one to each of your friends and facetime everyone at dinner time to vote on who did the best.
Whatever you do, do it with as much humor and delicious new methods as humanly possible. It’s a heavy world out there and at least for 24 glorious hours, we can all have a little fun celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire. Cheers.
It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.
The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.
Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)
The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.
A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.
The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.
Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.
After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.
It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.
Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.
That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.
He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.
This was the home that American flag had been brought into.
Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.
Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.
He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.
He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.
He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.
The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.
Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.
Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.
The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.
This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)
There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.
Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.
Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.
With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.
The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.
An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.
A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.
Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.
The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.
Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.
That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
New findings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic reveal millions of women are leaving the workforce after struggling to maintain jobs with increased responsibilities at home.
One in four women are contemplating downshifting or leaving their careers altogether, according to the Women in the Workplace study, with 2.2 million less women in the workplace compared to 2019 data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Top challenges cited in the study include burnout, childcare and/or homeschooling responsibilities, mental health, and financial insecurity. Advocates recommend companies focus on key areas to make work more sustainable — an attribute the first female deputy director of the Air National Guard sought when she left active duty.
Maj. Gen. Dawne Deskins, says she transitioned from the Air Force after 10 years of active-duty service to find the stability needed to support a growing family.
“I had been in the Air Force for about 10 years, loved it. I loved the amount of responsibility I had; loved the people who worked with me, served with me, but at that point I also had a family — I had gotten married and had two children, and I really needed something that would allow me more stability because I was having trouble with the work-family balance,” she said.
The ANG was the solution. Deskins says she was able to join a Guard unit, stay in one place, and keep her children close to extended family members “in a very stable environment.”
“It filled the need that I had and it allowed me to continue to serve,” she added.
Deskins initially joined the Air Force to pay for college. She was commissioned through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Cornell University in Ithica, New York. Her plan was to serve four years and then move onto her next goal, but her 18-year-old self didn’t account for the possibility that she would find everything she was looking for within the military culture.
“I go back to the people and the professionalism of the people, and that having an organization that is focused on something that is bigger than the individual. Guard members specifically are very focused on being part of a team and being part of something greater and that real sense of service to the community, as well as to the entire country,” Deskins explained.
Deskins made history when she was named the first woman to serve as the deputy director for the ANG and the first non-pilot for the position. In her role, she assists Lt. Gen. Michael Loh, ANG Director, in formulating, developing, and coordinating all policies, plans, and programs affecting more than 107,700 ANG members and civilians in more than 1,800 units, according to her official biography.
After being sworn in in 2020, she outlined the ANG’s main priorities:
1) Maximizing warfighter access to limited ANG resource while minimizing manpower costs
2) Collaborating and working on change as part of the total force with the Air Force
3) Empowering airmen to make the right choices by getting at the layers that get between our airmen and senior leaders
4) Developing future leaders
And she expanded the list to include a personal priority surrounding diversity and inclusion.
“I think certainly we are focused on this priority as a Department of Defense right now. I also think it is an area that the Guard has always been on the leading edge of, in how we recruit and retain a diverse workforce, but at the end of the day we work better, we perform better, when we have people who think differently in our force,” Deskins said.
She has been on the receiving end of that leading edge too. Thirty-six years after she first entered the military, Deskins reflects on the mentors who helped her work to this point in her career today — those she describes as “great, strong male leaders” who she credits with wanting to build a force that would one day provide opportunity to other women, like their own.
The New York native encourages others to seek out ways to build formal and informal mentor relationships, starting with being receptive to input from others.
“I’ll tell you, I try to learn from everything that I do. You can learn more from your failures than your successes, and so I would always sit down with my supervisors and be open to getting feedback. That is the number one thing I would recommend,” Deskins said.
When most people retire from the military, they look forward to spending more time with family, relaxing, and maybe pursuing their hobbies.
Neall Ellis isn’t most people.
After a successful career in both the Rhodesian and South African militaries, Ellis became bored with civilian life. Rather than sit back and relax, he decided to pursue the only hobby he knew — kicking ass.
With plenty of strife and a need for fighters throughout the African continent, Ellis decided to become a mercenary. He wasn’t going to be just any mercenary though. Ellis recruited a team and procured an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.
Ellis’ mercenary work eventually brought him to Sierra Leone, which was in the midst of a civil war in the late 1990s. The government of Sierra Leone, backed by the British, was attempting to quell a rebellion by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
Ellis saw things differently. Though the rebels were attacking at night, and he had no night vision devices, he proposed that he and his crew fly out to meet them and try to drive them off. To his crew, this sounded foolish and none would agree to fly the mission. Unperturbed, Ellis, piloting his helicopter alone, flew against the rebel onslaught.
In the dead of night, with no crew and no night vision, Ellis fought off the rebel advance. When the rebels came again, Ellis once again flew alone and turned them back from Freetown. Only when his helicopter broke down and he was unable to fly did the rebels finally take the city.
But Ellis wasn’t done fighting. Even though the government of Sierra Leone had lost the capital and could no longer pay him or his crew, they kept flying.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Ellis told them, “I have not been paid for 20 months. I do it because I don’t know what else to do. I enjoy the excitement. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
His staunch defense of Freetown had also drawn the ire of the RUF. His actions had so angered the RUF that they sent him a message: “If we ever catch you, we will cut out your heart and eat it.”
Ellis’ response was epic.
Ellis loaded up his bird and flew out to deliver a message of his own.
Arriving over the rebel camp they proceeded to drop thousands of leaflets, with a picture of their helicopter and the words “RUF: this time we’ve dropped leaflets. Next time it will be a half-inch Gatling machine gun, or 57mm rockets, or 23mm guns, or 30mm grenades, or ALL OF THEM!”
And he meant it. Although heavily outnumbered, Ellis kept fighting the rebels.
Eventually, his efforts drew the attention of the British, who decided not only to return to Sierra Leone, but also to provide support to Ellis and work in conjunction with him.
His vast knowledge of the country made him a valuable asset to the British and he actively participated in operations.
In September 2000, Ellis flew his helicopter in support of Operation Barras, a rescue mission of several soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured. He would also flew missions with the British SAS.
Ellis and his crew would stay in Sierra Leone until the defeat of the RUF in 2002.
Ellis’ reputation earned him a trip to Iraq working with the British during the invasion in 2003.