You might call it the Doomsday scramble, but it’s not exactly that. It’s when an Air Force bomber wing sends up its planes as quickly as they possibly can – before an inter-continental ballistic missile can hit its target.
Given that it takes an ICBM about 30 minutes, to arrive to its target – that is not a lot of time. In fact, it will get there faster than a pizza you ordered. So, it looks like a base would be doomed before it could get all of its bombers up. Well, you’d be wrong. During the Cold War, Strategic Air Command came up with what they called the “Minimum Interval Take-Off” – or MITO.
In essence, the MITO is a well-rehearsed mad dash to get the planes up. They take off at the rate of four a minute – one every fifteen seconds. This is done by a dance called the “elephant walk” – a specialized form of taxiing to the runway to get bombers (or transports or fighters) ready for a mad scramble.
This video below is from Global Thunder 17, an exercise that took place this past October. It starts with a lot of SUVs and pickups driving like crazy – that’s how the Air Force gets the crews to the planes – which are dispersed to make it harder for one nuke to kill the entire wing. Then the BUFFs taxi to the runway.
Then, one by one, the B-52H Stratofortress bombers take off. The goal is to have an incoming ICBM hit an empty base. So far, this has only been done in drills, but if that Doomsday moment ever comes, it looks as if the Air Force will be ready for it.
President Donald Trump announced on August 18 that he would elevate US Cyber Command to its own unified combatant command.
“I have directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations,” Trump said in a White House press statement.
“This new Unified Combatant Command will strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our Nation’s defense,” the statement said. “The elevation of United States Cyber Command demonstrates our increased resolve against cyberspace threats and will help reassure our allies and partners and deter our adversaries.”
This would be the US’ 10th unified combatant command, which are combat branches that operate regionally, such as Pacific Command, or world-wide, such as Special Operations Command, often in support of regional commands.
Cybercom will “help streamline command and control of time-sensitive cyberspace operations by consolidating them under a single commander with authorities commensurate with the importance of such operations,” the statement said.
Elevating Cyber Command will help secure funding for cyberspace operations, Trump said.
Trump also said that Defense Secretary James Mattis will study whether Cyber Command should split from the NSA altogether. But Mattis’ recommendations will be “announced at a later date.”
Two former senior US officials told Reuters on August 17 that it would be a 60-day study.
Help! My service member needs to lose weight to stay In…how do I help?
This is a question that all of us have either heard or asked ourselves at least once during our trials and tribulations as a military family.
Commit to holding them accountable while they’re in the process of dropping the weight. Participate WITH them. As a spouse, it’s crucial that we actively help them pursue their goals. When our loved one needs to lose weight, with that territory comes dedication to doing whatever is needed to help them succeed – their career is on the line!
This means removing processed foods from your shopping list, learning what “clean” ingredients to buy instead, encouraging them to be more physically active (any activity is better than none), and even sending them silly text messages or emails daily with emojis reminding them to drink more water.
Back in early 2016, my husband and I learned first-hand how important this is. It truly made a massive difference when we committed to getting healthy TOGETHER. I was much better at staying on schedule as we learned to eat more frequent meals and had to constantly stay on him at first to make sure he was remembering to eat. He was excellent at staying focused and not eating a bite of this or a taste of that. He really kept me in line when I appeared close to straying. Tiny bites off the kids plates can truly throw you off course!
2. Workout smarter, not harder
Most people actually perform their workouts in the wrong order! Maximize your time in the gym by always doing your HIIT and strength training (yoga included) BEFORE fat-burning cardio.
3. Encourage sleep
Support them in getting to bed earlier. Make sure they aren’t using their snooze button, instead just set the alarm 30 minutes later if that is what time they really intend to get up.
4. Remove inflammatory ingredients from cupboards
Cut out salt, gluten, cheese yogurt, soy protein, grains, artificial sweeteners, processed sugars, soda, alcohol, coffee caffeinated tea for a week. A simple 7 day detox from these ingredients, eating real food around the clock, throwing in natural detoxifying herbs, upping your water intake, and halting all workouts yields an average of 7-12 pounds of weight shed!!
5. Avoid Quick fixes
Keto, Whole 30, Intermittent Fasting, Juice Cleanses. They ALL work for a very brief moment in time, but the moment you reintroduce your old eating habits the weight comes back and even MORE will follow. Repeated “yo-yo dieting” actually slows the metabolism and causes our bodies to take a longer time losing the weight go-round…and there is always a next time, especially in a world where part of your job description is to meet weight standard requirements every six months.
It’s important to take a few moments to learn the reason for following a system that can be implemented and sustainable for life. Protein, Fats, and Carbs (PFC) are necessary macronutrients, and eating them together every 3 hours is ideal (a balanced shake will work when on the go) in order to create and maintain homeostasis within the body. It will release stored fat much faster this way! Be as strict or as relaxed as needed, but follow the guideline of PFC/3 as best you can year-round for better health and stable blood sugar.
For FREE downloadable recipes, sample meal plans, and step-by-step guides and supplement recommendations to assist with weight loss visit zp8withmary.com From there you may also reach out through email if interested in a FREE 30 minute health evaluation with Mary, a Certified Nutrition Coach through the International Board of Nutrition Fitness Coaching (IBNFC). Her nutrition programs, based on blood-sugar stabilization and macro-nutrient balance, are designed to permanently end dieting.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
A trailer dropped today for a Sonic the Hedgehog film and honestly I don’t know how to feel about it.
The Lego film proved that anything is on the table with regards to nostalgia and storytelling. There’s no reason not to make a Sonic the Hedgehog film — 9/10 90’s kids agree that game was radical — and yet…I just don’t know if these guys can pull this one off.
Check out the trailer — and then let’s discuss.
Sonic The Hedgehog (2019) – Official Trailer – Paramount Pictures
Now, the best thing they did was use Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise in this trailer. Coolio was both a firefighter and a crack addict and this song evokes that exact combination. It always has. It always will. When Gangsta’s Paradise plays, sh** is about to go down (which reminds me: who else was today old when they learned that there’s an entire Sonic fetish subculture? Don’t look into it at work).
The film is a live-action adventure comedy about Sonic and his new human friend Tom Wachowski (played by Cyclops James Marsden, the hero gets Jody’d in every film he’s in) as they take on Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik.
In the trailer, our fast friend captures the attention of the U.S. military when he causes an energy surge that knocks out power across the entire Pacific Northwest. They team up with Dr. Robotnik to track down the little fella, presumably unaware that Robotnik is one of the most notorious 90s villains out there.
Given that their country’s humor is so steeped in subtle and sophisticated irony, Russian officials’ frequent inability to get a joke can be pretty mind-blowing.
And it appears that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter just had a good laugh at Moscow’s expense.
Speaking this weekend, the 91-year-old Carter said he had offered to provide Russia with accurate maps of Syria so its pilots could actually target Islamic State positions in the country — rather than U.S.-backed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
Carter, who was among a group of prominent former global leaders who met Putin this past spring, said the Russian president had provided him with an email address.
“I sent him a message on Thursday [October 15] asking him if he wanted a copy of our map so he could bomb accurately in Syria,” Carter said.
He added that the next day the Russian Embassy “called down and told me they would like very much to have the map. So in the future, if Russia doesn’t bomb the right places, you’ll know it’s not Putin’s fault but it’s my fault.”
The maps Carter spoke of are publicly available on the Carter Center’s website, which on October 8 published a report saying that the vast majority of Russian airstrikes in Syria were not hitting Islamic State targets.
In the video of Carter’s remarks posted in YouTube, it is clear that the 39th U.S. president, who is known to have a playful sense of humor, was just having a little fun.
WATCH: Jimmy Carter Jokes About Offering Maps To Putin
But it appears that Moscow didn’t pick up on the joke. The Interfax news agency flashed the following: RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY CONFIRMS THAT EX-U.S. PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER HANDED MAPS INDICATING ISLAMIC STATE’S CURRENT LOCATIONS IN SYRIA TO RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON
Russian news sites followed up with stories citing Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying that “it was with a big thanks that we accepted this gesture by the former U.S.president who obviously is sincerely calling for joint efforts in the fight against terror and is concerned about the fate of the Syrian people.”
Zakharova added that she hoped that another Carter — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter — would continue this spirit of cooperation.
Perhaps Zakharova was joining in on the joke. But history suggests otherwise.
The Foreign Ministry is far from the only part of official Russia that has trouble understanding contemporary humor.
Back in May, prosecutors in Rostov questioned the organizer of a local spelling bee about whether he has any connections to so-called “grammar Nazis.”
Grammar Nazi, of course, is a slang term for somebody who habitually — and often annoyingly — corrects other people’s grammar. In recent years, it has developed into a satirical Internet meme, which uses imagery that vaguely resembles swastikas.
But prosecutors in Rostov didn’t get the joke. They interrogated spelling bee organizer Aleksei Pavlovsky, asking him whether he believed people who make spelling and grammatical mistakes should be exterminated.
A military judge at the Guantanamo Bay detention center ruled Nov. 1 that a senior legal official in charge of the defense for terrorism suspects should be held in contempt of court in a dispute that has disrupted court proceedings at the base.
Air Force Col. Vance Spath issued the ruling against Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Baker at a hearing at the US base in Cuba.
Spath said Baker should be confined to his quarters for 21 days and fined $1,000 for releasing three defense lawyers in a terrorism case without the judge’s authorization. A senior Pentagon legal official known as the convening authority must uphold the ruling before it becomes official and Baker is expected to challenge it.
Baker was led out of the courtroom to the shock of colleagues.
“It’s incredibly outrageous. It’s disgusting,” said Michel Paradis, a lawyer with the Pentagon’s Military Commission Defense Organization. “This Air Force colonel without any legal authority is arresting the chief defense counsel and sending him to the brig over what is, in essence, an administration authority dispute.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, said that the judge acted under rules allowing him to ensure military commission proceedings are “conducted in a fair and orderly manner” and that the convening authority was expected to decide on the sentence in the coming days.
The dispute arose during the pretrial phase in the case of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi and alleged senior member of al-Qaeda who is accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 crew members. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
October 12, 2000, suicide terrorists exploded a small boat alongside the USS Cole—a Navy Destroyer—as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Photo form FBI.
Baker excused three defense attorneys assigned by the Pentagon to defend al-Nashiri on ethical issues that arose out of what they said was a breach of the attorney-client privilege. Officials have not disclosed the details of the allege breach, saying the information is classified.
The decision by the Marine general disrupted proceedings at the base scheduled for this week because the remaining defense lawyer said he lacked the experience necessary to carry on. Spath had declined to postpone the hearing.
Lawyers for the Military Commission Defense Organization have asked a judge in Washington to issue an emergency order halting the hearing this week until the issue is resolved.
“These are dangerous times. Godzilla is out there hurting people and we don’t know why,” announces Coach Taylor Kyle Chandler. While both Godzilla and King Kong are normally good guys (albeit dangerous and destructive good guys), we’re going to see what has prompted The Zill to attack in the latest trailer.
“There’s something provoking him that we’re not seeing here,” observes Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown. When two heroes clash, there’s always a reason. The trailer hints at a war while lore suggests an ancient evil. Check it out to get your first glimpse at the latest monster-clash.
These are hard times. Watch the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer. Treat yourself.
“Legends collide in Godzilla vs. Kong as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home, and with them is Jia, a young orphaned girl with whom he has formed a unique and powerful bond. But they unexpectedly find themselves in the path of an enraged Godzilla, cutting a swath of destruction across the globe. The epic clash between the two titans—instigated by unseen forces—is only the beginning of the mystery that lies deep within the core of the Earth.”
– Warner Bros. Pictures official statement
In 2017, we saw an adolescent Kong in Kong: Skull Island where he was about 104 feet — his largest height to date. Now, he’s Godzilla-sized (almost 400 feet) and ready to throw some punches.
Remember, Skull Island took place in the 70s. According to producer Mary Parent (a producer in both the Kong and Pacific Rim franchises), Kong has had time to grow. “Kong’s god on the island, but the devils live below us,” said John C. Reilly’s Skull Island character. “You don’t want to wake up the big one.”
“There was a war and they’re the last ones standing,”
If you need a refresher, here’s a quick one-liner since the 2014 Godzilla reboot (spoilers for recent Godzilla and Kong films ahead):
Godzilla (2014 film): Godzilla, a prehistoric alpha predator, battles a nuclear-reactor fed MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and its mate, a bigger wingless MUTO. After defeating them, Godzilla returns to the sea.
Kong: Skull Island (2017 film): In 1973, a U.S. government-operated mission to search for primeval creatures on Skull Island reveals Kong, the last of his kind, who protects the island from predators including T-Rex and Skullcrawlers, subterranean reptilian creatures. The team dissolves when one faction tries to kill Kong while the other recognizes his intelligence and good nature. A Skullcrawler awakens, but Kong destroys him while the survivors flee, leaving Kong behind.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019 film): Terrorists awaken “Titans” like Rodan and the three-headed “Monster Zero” in order to destroy humans and heal the earth from their destruction. “Monster Zero” turns out to be King Ghidorah, a prehistoric alien seeking to terraform Earth. He awakens other Titans around the planet. Meanwhile, Mothra — one of Godzilla’s traditional allies — emerges and helps Godzilla defeat Ghidorah through her sacrifice. The remaining Titans then bow to Godzilla, while the end credits show the Titans helping to heal the planet and ancient cave paintings of Godzilla and Kong in battle.
The next chapter will debut in theaters and on HBO Max on March 26, 2021. The trailer makes it pretty hard not to watch.
About 60,000 US soldiers will have their monthly Basic Allowance for Housing payments revoked if they don’t update their personnel files with documents proving they qualify for the benefit.
The mandate to update the documents, first reported Aug. 30 by the site US Army WTF Moments, will be released in an official message “soon,” Army officials said.
That message will direct soldiers to update their documentation in the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System, service officials told Military.com on Aug. 31.
“An ALARACT addressing the required documentation that should be loaded into iPERMS for BAH and the timeline for required actions is being drafted,” Army Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army manpower and reserve affairs spokesman, said in an email to Military.com.
“Currently, we have around 60,000 soldiers who are missing documentation in iPERMS,” he added.
Whether a service member qualifies for BAH is based on paygrade and if he or she has dependents.
For those who qualify to live outside the barracks, the allowance amount is based on paygrade, dependents, and duty station zip code.
Dual military couples are both given a BAH payment at the “without dependents rate,” unless they have children. In that case, one of the members receives the “with dependents rate,” while the other does not.
Documents that show eligibility and should be in iPERMS can include birth, adoption, and marriage certificates.
Soldiers will be given 60 days from the release of the ALARACT message to upload their missing documentation, Taylor said.
After the 60 days, their with-dependents rate BAH payments will be reduced or, in the case of soldiers who do not otherwise qualify for BAH, eliminated.
They will be notified of the need to update by both email and by their unit, he said.
If soldiers still have not updated their documents within 90 days of the initial deadline, they will be referred to the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) under suspicion of BAH fraud, USAWTFM reported.
Taylor, whose initial response didn’t mention such a referral, said the iPERMS document requirement has been in place since 2013.
“Since 2013, there has been a Secretary of the Army directive mandating that key supporting documents are to be stored in the interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System (iPERMS),” he said in the email.
“Loading KSD in iPERMS allows the Army to improve on its business processes and ensure all Soldiers are receiving the correct payments for their entitlements to include BAH,” he wrote.
The Pentagon is preparing for its first-ever full financial audit, which is to begin this fall. White House officials hope to have the audit completed by mid-2019.
Meanwhile, BAH payments and rates remain a point of contention on Capitol Hill as some lawmakers look to find cost savings by changing who can qualify for the higher with-dependents rates.
Lawmakers ultimately scrapped a 2016 proposal that would have severely limited the amount of housing allowance available to dual-military married couples and service members sharing off-base housing with other troops.
A proposal in the 2018 authorization bill, which is still under negotiation between the House and Senate, would focus reductions only on dual-military couples, bumping both members down to a “without dependent” housing rate regardless of whether the couple has children.
No one wants to be a buzz kill. That’s the soft social put down we use to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation or even harder — a self-reflection about alcohol. A topic that has a longstanding relationship with the military community in both good ways and bad.
In InDependent’s bold new series “Wellness Unfiltered” they’re going there, into the harder to uncomfortable spaces military wellness typically shies away from in hopes to support the community and stand together to face tough topics.
Justine Evirs, a social entrepreneur, Navy veteran and Navy spouse is not what you would picture as the face of someone struggling with alcohol. In fact, that’s exactly the reason Evirs decided to step up. “There’s no representation here, not as a veteran, as a woman or minority,” she said candidly. “I’m not homeless. I am a mother, a recognized leader and for a long time didn’t see myself as having any issue until I became more familiar with the four stages of alcoholism,” Evirs said, who in the series breaks down the four stages through her own story and provides educational resources and facts.
On the other microphone is Kimberly Bacso of InDependent who explains the goal of the four-part series is to, “present a non-victimizing approach to give the community the tools we need to both destigmatize and recognize what this looks like.”
“Through this exposure we can now be there for each other, even in simple ways like providing attractive non-alcoholic options at gatherings,” Bacso said. InDependent’s approach to wellness as a wider, holistic standpoint really lends itself to tackling and supporting spouses in this space.
Not having a true picture of what healthy drinking looks like was one component of the larger issue for Evirs, who explained she spent years in stages one and two. “There are different stages and different types of alcoholics. With this conversation, my hope is that we can start asking ourselves why we’re drinking — is it to manage stress? And further, to look at our current drinking relationship from a longevity standpoint — will this be ok in five to 10 years?”
In case you’re curious, the lines between stages are not DUIs, arrests or an unmanageable life. The changes are subtle, and depending on the social company you keep, can go unrecognized or become “normalized” through a skewed perception.
Fear was definitely an inhibitor for Evirs, who admits she feared not only the stigma of this label for herself but the impact it may have on her husband’s career also. “Addiction leads to loneliness, something we already have enough of as military spouses,” Evirs said.
To make recognition worse, Evirs explains that the disease remains largely self-diagnosed. Fear, shame and an unhealthy media portrayal of healthy drinking patterns have shrouded this taboo topic for far too long.
What we love about the series is how it comes across as authentic and is hosted within the safe space of InDependent’s blog and Facebook community. “The series is embedded with links where anyone can find resources as well as the entire four-part conversation well after we’ve streamed them live,” Bacso said.
So, what’s the takeaway here no matter where you identify at any stage of the spectrum? Empowerment and the forward motion of the entire military community. “Even if this is not you, I’m willing to bet you know someone who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol,” Evirs said.
Here’s to an informed and healthy future. In part two, Evirs explains how perspective has changed how she views the “bonding” that is associated with drinking. Are we really connecting over our talents and who we are as people, or is it the drinks?
We’re looking forward to connecting to a changing culture, no matter what is in your hands.
The U.S. Navy and Boeing announced on Sept. 19, 2019, the first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. The drone is set to be the first carrier-launched autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be integrated in a Carrier Air Wing.
The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and sporting the civilian registration N234MQ, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots operating from their ground control station. The aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-planned route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station, according to the official statement.
Capt. Chad Reed, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, stated: “Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”
The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight Sept. 19 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.
This first test asset is being used for early development before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an USD $ 805 million contract awarded in August 2018 in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program, which aims to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as rapidly as possible.
According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month. Testing of this first development asset will continue over the next years to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development, ahead of the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and in support of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.
The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first operational carrier-based UAV, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to operate from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tested both alone (2013) and alongside manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the strain on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that currently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them available for operational taskings.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Recruited as a child soldier into Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Lal Mohammed accompanied his elder teenage brother, Bakht e Ali and their father, Taweez Khan, into the training and indoctrination for a promised life of religious glory. They lived for almost two years as members of the Wilayet e Khorasan, or Islamic State Khorasan Province, in Eastern Afghanistan.
“I was nine years old when I was with them. Now I am 12. They used to show us videos on how to fight and carry out suicide bombings,” Mohammad said.
His older brother was around 16 when he joined the militant group.
Islamic State, known regionally as ISKP, emerged in the region in early 2015. Most originally belonged to the Pakistani Taliban, which had been displaced from their stronghold in Pakistan’s tribal areas by a military operation.
Across the border in Afghanistan, 15 years of war had left vast swathes of territory without government. The age-old Pashtun tradition of welcoming guests helped them find shelter in the homes of local Shinwari tribesmen, who had been refugees during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and were eager to return the favor.
Eastern Afghanistan, particularly Nangarhar province, became an IS stronghold.
Later, many of those who provided shelter had to flee with their families, often leaving their belongings behind.
“When Daesh (ISKP) came to our area, most people already sympathized with them,” Ali said. “Our tribal elders and religious clerics started backing them. Daesh commanders started sitting with us in our homes. They would show us videos of the infidels oppressing Muslims.”
The militants told the locals their police and army were puppets of infidels and they needed to rise up in jihad, a holy war. Some of the locals, like Khan and his sons, joined their ranks.
Life with ISKP
Life with ISKP for the boys was regimented. They woke up before dawn to offer morning prayers, followed by religious lessons focused on jihad, then daily chores, and, finally, weapons training.
Ali recalled around 100 to 150 kids who lived and trained with them, including some who were under 10 years old, like his brother, Mohammad.
I saw it with my own eyes. They used to tell these young kids that if they carried out suicide bombings, all their troubles would be over and they would go straight to paradise. They were so good at indoctrination that any child who listened to them for a month would not listen to anyone else.
All the children’s needs, clothing, weapons, food, were taken care of. Khan, their father, received a salary from ISKP.
The two brothers remember their training to be very disciplined. The ultimate goal was to make them suicide bombers.
One day, they took the younger brother on a mission. “Daesh fighters told me we were going to be in a firefight, and that they would stay behind and open fire from the check post. I should go forward and explode my suicide vest,” Mohammad said.
ISKP lost that fight and had to retreat. He came back alive.
The militants focused on molding young minds by showing videos and playing militant music to increase the boys’ sense of affiliation with IS. The brothers said the idea of being part of something bigger than themselves, a battle between good and evil, felt good.
‘We wanted to slaughter someone’
Militants punished anyone who did not follow their fundamentalist brand of sharia. “We’ve seen torture. We’ve seen it happening to our own friends or relatives,” Ali recalled.
He also recalled how normal it was to kill someone.
We saw a lot of people get slaughtered. We also wanted to slaughter someone because we were told that this would bring us holy rewards from God. People who disagreed with Daesh were slaughtered.
Khan said, “Sometimes, they would tie people’s hands and feet, and then slaughter them. Sometimes they would hang a man from a tree and just leave him there to die. Sometimes they would just beat someone up with batons ’til he died,” he said.
Escaping from the militants
Not everyone was happy with the militants, but if someone tried to escape, ISKP militants usually went after them to punish or kill them.
Despite that danger, and the promises of heaven and glorious rewards from God, the father and sons said the atrocities became too much for them to handle.
Khan described a growing sense of alienation from the group, which he started seeing as foreigners oppressing his countrymen.
“These men from TTP (Pakistani Taliban) started working here as IS. They started taking land and trees from the locals as spoils of war,” he said. “They used to kidnap Afghanis to get ransom,” he added.
Eventually, Khan decided to take his sons, and some other men under his command, and escape to a government-controlled area. They surrendered to local police. He now works with the police.
“Even now, if IS finds out we are here, they will find us and kill us,” Ali said.
Meanwhile, they have no idea of the fate of dozens of other child soldiers who were living with ISKP.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Taliban have also trained and deployed scores of children for military operations and used them to plant homemade bombs.
The United Nations has documented the use of child soldiers by Afghan police.
In December last year, the Afghan government signed an initiative called the Child Protection Policy, with the aim of protecting children in conflict zones, including barring its security forces from using children in armed conflict.
But for children like Ali and Mohammad, there is no effective program to de-radicalize and re-integrate them into society. Now, Bakht e Ali works as a security guard, while Lal Mohammad stays at home and has not joined school again.
Kelly Johnson wasn’t the first man to build an airplane, nor was he the first to push the limits of what an airplane could do, but few men have played a more vital role in shaping mankind’s ascent into the skies.
According to the latest expert estimates, human beings just like you and I have been walking on earth for over 200,000 years. That figure gets even tougher to wrap your head around when you consider that a mere 200 years ago, mankind had yet to develop matches or typewriters. A century ago, we didn’t have antibiotics or movies with sound. These, along with countless other advancements, played a roll in a technological revolution that continues to this day, like a snowball rolling down hill, enveloping everything in its path.
Of course, mankind didn’t come by these incredible advancements by accident (most often, anyway) and behind each groundbreaking technology is a man or woman, dedicated to solving the problems of their day, and to getting out in front of those coming tomorrow. Nowhere is this human-driven rapid advancement of technology more prevalent than in one of our species most recent civilization-altering breakthroughs: aviation.
Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson with famed aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. (Lockheed Martin)
In 1903, the Wright Brothers first took flight in Kitty Hawk. Less than forty years later, the first B-29 took to the skies with a pressurized cabin and a wingspan that stretched further than the length of Orville Wright’s entire first flight. A mere 19 years after that, Yuri Gagarin flew in space.
There’s no doubt that countless hands, hearts, and minds played vital roles in our rapid progression from the steam engine to the SpaceX Starship, but even amid this sea of engineers and aviation pioneers, some names stick out. Because while millions may have helped mankind reach the sky, some men’s contributions stand head and shoulders above the rest; Men, like Kelly Johnson.
Forged in the fires of World War II
Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson was born in 1910, seven years after the Wright Brothers changed the world in Kitty Hawk. The son of Swedish immigrants, Johnson would win his first prize for aircraft design at the age of 13. By the time he was 22 years old, he was working as an engineer at the legendary aviation firm Lockheed.
At 28, Kelly Johnson’s role at Lockheed would bring him to London, where the island nation was preparing for the onslaught of Nazi Luftwaffe fighters and bombers that were to come just three years later in the Battle of Britain. The British were unconvinced that such a young man could produce an aircraft that could turn the tides of an air war, but the fruit of Kelly Johnson’s labor, dubbed the P-38 Lightning, would go on to become one of the most iconic airframes of the entire war.
Steve Hinton flies “Glacier Girl,” a P-38 Lightning dug out from 268 feet of ice in eastern Greenland in 1992. The aircraft was part of a heritage flight during an air show at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)
At the start of the fighting in Europe, many Allied air units were still operating bi-planes. By the end of World War II, Kelly Johnson and his team delivered the United States its first ever operational jet-powered fighter, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. Johnson had been tasked with building an aircraft around the new Halford H.1B turbojet engine that could compete with Germany’s Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe. In just an astonishing 143 days, Kelly had gone from the drawing board to delivering the first operational P-80s.
Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star (WikiMedia Commons)
The original Skunk Works
It was during World War II that Kelly Johnson and fellow engineer Ben Rich first established what was to become the legendary Lockheed Skunk Works. Today, the Skunk Works name is synonymous with some of the most advanced aircraft ever to take to the skies, but its earliest iteration was nothing more than a walled-off portion of a factory in which Johnson and his team experimented with new technologies for the P-38, developing the first 400 mile-per-hour fighter in the world for their trouble, in the XP-38.
XP-38 (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Later, Kelly’s secretive team again came through with the P-80, and again with the design and production of the C-130 Hercules, which remains in service for the U.S. and a number of other Air Forces around the world today. Then, in 1955, they received yet another seemingly impossible assignment: The United States needed an aircraft that could fly so high it could avoid being shot down, or potentially even detected.
Soviet Radar and intercept fighters of the era were limited to altitudes below 65,000 feet, and the highest any American aircraft could reach was just 48,000. In order to continue keeping tabs on the Soviets, the Air Force solicited requests for an airplane that could fly at an astonishing 70,000 feet with a long 1,500 mile fuel range.
Clarence L. Kelly Johnson, chief designer at Lockheeds secret Skunk Works facility, initially designed the U-2 around the F-104 Starfighter fuselage. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Kelly Johnson’s Skunk Works responded with a design that they claimed could fly as high as 73,000 feet with a range of 1,600 miles, based on the Lockheed XF-104 Starfighter, a slender and supersonic intercept fighter. The Air Force rejected his design… but it caught the attention of America’s secretive spy agency, the CIA.
President Eisenhower wanted eyes on the Soviet nuclear program, and Johnson’s unusual aircraft design with long slender wings and no retractable landing gear seemed like it could do the job, despite its shortcomings. Johnson and his team were given a contract to design and build their high-flying spy plane, and in just eight months, they delivered the U-2 Dragon Lady.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
In order to test this incredible new aircraft, Kelly Johnson needed a remote air strip, far from the prying eyes of the American public. He chose a dry lake bed in Nevada for the job, and it proved particularly well suited for testing classified aircraft. Eventually, that little airstrip and accompanying hangars and office buildings would come to be known popularly as Area 51.
Taking spy planes to the next level
The U-2 may have been an immense success, but just as aviation advancements were coming quickly, so too were air defenses. In 1960, Soviet surface-to-air missiles finally managed to get a piece of a CIA operated U-2 flown by pilot Gary Powers. The aircraft was flying at 70,000 feet, higher than the Americans thought could be spotted or targeted by Soviet radar, when it was struck by an SA-2 Guideline missile. Powers had to ride the Dragon Lady down from 70,000 feet to 30,000 feet before he could safely eject, and as the secretive spy plane plummeted to the ground, Kelly Johnson and his team at Skunk Works were already developing a platform to replace it.
With spy satellites still more than a decade away, the United States needed a new aircraft it could rely on to keep tabs on the Soviets. It would need to not only fly higher than the U-2, but faster–much faster, so even if it was detected, no missile could reach it.
SR-71 Blackbird (NASA)
Johnson and his team designed a twin-engine aircraft with astonishing capabilities in the A-12, which then led to the operational SR-71 Blackbird — an aircraft that retains the title of fastest operational plane in history to this very day. Lockheed’s SR-71 could sustain speeds in excess of Mach 3.2, flying at altitudes higher than 78,000 feet. During its 43 years in service, the SR-71 had over 4,000 missiles fired at it from ground assets and other aircraft. Not a single one ever found its target.
Another aviation revolution
Kelly Johnson and the team at Skunk Works were on the cutting edge of speed and power, but as the Cold War raged on, it was Johnson and his team that recognized how the battle space was shifting. For years, the United States had focused on developing aircraft that could fly ever faster and ever higher, but with the advent of computer-aided engineering, yet another technological leap was within Lockheed’s grasp.
Johnson and his team needed to develop an aircraft that could defeat detection from not only enemy radar, but also other common forms of detection and targeting, like infrared. Using the most advanced computers available at the time, Skunk Works first developed an unusual angular design they dubbed “the hopeless diamond,” as it seemed unlikely that such a shape could ever produce aerodynamic lift.
Undaunted, development continued and by 1976, they had built a flyable prototype. The aircraft was called Have Blue, and it would lead to the first operational stealth aircraft ever in service to any nation, the legendary F-117 Nighthawk.
Have Blue flying in testing (WikiMedia Commons)
The F-117, or “stealth fighter” as it would come to be known, played a vital role in America’s combat operations over Iraq in Desert Storm and elsewhere, but this program produced more than battlefield engagements. The technology developed for the F-117 directly led to America’s premier stealth fighters of today: the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The latter of those two is expected to serve as the backbone of America’s air superiority strategy for decades to come.
Kelly Johnson (Lockheed Martin)
“The damn Swede can actually see air.”
In total, Kelly Johnson had a hand in the design and development of some 40 aircraft for commercial and military purposes, with seemingly countless awards and credits to his name for his engineering prowess. The man had a genuine affection for his work, to the degree that he turned down the presidency of Lockheed on three separate occasions to retain his role within the Skunk Works he helped to found.
Kelly’s boss at Lockheed, Hall Hibbard, once exclaimed, “The damn Swede can actually see air,” as he tried to understand how one man managed to play such a pivotal role in so many aircraft, and in turn, in how the Cold War unfolded. Finally, Kelly retired in 1975, but remained a senior advisor to Skunk Works for years thereafter.
He passed away in 1990 at age 80, just one year before the United States, with all its incredible military technology, would emerge the victor of the Cold War.
Military relief organizations typically focus on their own service members and families. But on June 4, 2021, many of those organizations went all-in for wounded Airmen, instead.
In 2019, the Air Force saw unprecedented suicide numbers within their active duty force. It prompted a branch-wide stand down to address the alarming losses and opened an even deeper discussion on suicide prevention. The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program saw success with their intense efforts that year but it was short lived. Known for their Warrior Care events and adaptive sports, much had to be put on hold the following year due to a global pandemic. COVID-19 quickly created increased isolation and caused negative mental health symptoms to skyrocket.
The Inspire Up Foundation, founded by four military spouses each affiliated with a different branch of service, wanted to help. Their primary mission is to serve the military and first responder communities. Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse and CFO of the organization, said they had to do something. “We’re well-known for our Spark and Inspire boxes we give away so we thought this was a unique opportunity to create a warrior box just for them,” she explained.
Manfre said they brought the idea to their primary sponsor and partner, Caliber Home Loans. The goal was to create 500 boxes for Airmen identified as at-risk and the company immediately donated $7,500 to the cause.
“Caliber believes strongly in stepping forward to support our military and veterans. Being a veteran Air Force spouse myself, this project really hits home. I’m thankful we could step forward to kickstart this endeavor to uplift Airmen in need,” Brittany Boccher, National Director of Military Community Engagement for Caliber Home Loans stated in the press release.
Knowing they’d need more to fill those boxes, the networking began.
“I just finished reading Once a Warrior, written by Jake Wood. The book was an incredible journey through his Marine Corps service and his season of finding purpose outside his uniform,” Manfre explained. “I just couldn’t help but think this was the book these wounded Airmen needed to read. So, I emailed Jake and asked if he or his publishing company could help us with our project and they immediately said yes.”
Black Rifle Coffee company was approached next, known for their ongoing support of the military community. Manfre said the company immediately offered enough coffee for half of the boxes and gave the rest well below cost. The remaining funding was used to create a special warrior coffee mug and custom journal, a practice studies have linked to support healing.
The collaborating wasn’t done yet. Manfre said they had everything shipped to AFW2 headquarters in San Antonio, Texas — a city the Green Beret Foundation also calls home, too. “I called their executive director and asked if they’d be willing to host us to assemble and fill the boxes,” Manfre said. “He [Brent Cooper] said yes without hesitation. It didn’t matter that these weren’t soldiers or special forces, they were in.”
In the press release for the project, Cooper said they were proud to host. “Suicide is not exclusive to one branch of the military. Our service members and veterans continue to battle mental health every day and it’s critical for organizations to come together to accelerate the impact of reducing the suicide statistics,” he shared. “We are more than happy to be able to provide the workspace needed to the Inspire Up Foundation, one of GBF’s force multipliers, and work together to continue the fight against veteran suicide.”
On the day of the event, the building was filled with smiling volunteers from all walks of the military life. Samantha Gomolka, Army spouse and COO of the Inspire Up Foundation, said it was overwhelming. “The joy was palpable and it was so beautiful to see,” she explained. “Beyond immediately serving these wounded warriors, we want the world to know that taking care of our service members doesn’t stop when they take off the uniform. They deserve and need our support always.”
Maria Reed, Army Spouse and CEO of the Inspire Up Foundation, echoed that sentiment. “I get emotional talking about it but our warriors here at home need us just as much as those deployed do. Don’t forget them,” she implored through tears.
Also present for the event were local Air Force spouses like Verenice Castillo, CEO of the Military Spouse Advocacy Network, veteran special forces soldiers and the AFW2 Wellness and Resiliency team. It only took the group three hours to assemble and fill 500 boxes.
“We all just want this project to just be the beginning. Our military community was already hurting before this pandemic made it worse,” Manfre said. “It’s not even about a free box filled with nice things. It’s the gesture and the way we hope to show them they are loved and seen. As a therapist, I know the value of community and connection. For many, it makes a life or death difference.”