‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the vet who needs his stocking stuffed:
~ .50 cal bottle openers to start the round (and the reminiscing) off right ~
Sometimes getting things rolling is the easy part. Like many entrepreneurs with a good idea, former SEAL Eli Crane found out that success, especially when it comes in a rush, can be a much more difficult hurdle to clear.
In Nov. 2014, Crane, along with his wife and co-founder, Jen, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank to pitch for investment in their boot-strapped company, Bottle Breacher. They went into it boasting a homemade (but sturdy) garage manufacturing set-up and $500k in sales of their flagship product, a bottle opener fashioned from recycled, authentic decommissioned .50 caliber bullet shells.
Impressed by their story (and all a’flutter with the patriotic warm’n’fuzzies), Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary went halvsies on a $150k capital investment for 10% equity each. The Cranes had aced the most public version of an entrepreneurial rite of passage. Happy days all the way to the bank, right?
Well, yeah, but also some rough weeks ahead as the instant publicity they received from their appearance flooded their fulfillment queue with some 20,000 orders, drastically overmatching their output capacity. Bottle Breacher was in for a brutal bout of growing pains.
Happily, the same grit that got Crane through BUD/S on his second try – along with the smarts that led him to switch to business after 5 overseas deployments – came together in a massive Bottle Breacher systems overhaul. In just over a month, the Cranes identified and busted through their production bottleneck (yeah, sorry) and caught up on all their outstanding orders.
And that was good news because Crane is a genius at product iteration and the production backlog had also made it impossible for him to release a bunch of his newest designs. These days, Bottle Breacher sells Freedom Frags, Breacher BBQ Tools, Wine Bottle Breachers, Whiskey Bullets and much, much more in their quest to be the #1 supplier of patriotic party ammunition to a grateful and thirsty nation.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
The MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are the two main drones in the United States arsenal. Both have become known as the bane of terrorists’ existence.
Well, okay, more accurately they are the means by which terrorists meet the end of their existence.
So, what’s it like to fly one of these? WATM got the chance to try at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo held at National Harbor, Maryland, and the experience was eye-opening. We took the controls of an MQ-9 Reaper simulator, and it proved more difficult than we imagined.
The controls at the simulator in the General Atomics booth were surprisingly responsive. It took a little getting used to, we were able to make turns reasonably well. The landing was a slightly different story. In fact, we’re confident that the only folks who would properly appreciate his landing have the call signs “Trip” and “Snooze.”
The recommended landing speed was between 100 and 115 knots. Our landing speed was somewhere between 150 and 155 knots. At that point, there was really only one thing to do: Play “Predator Eulogy.”
It’s a good thing that this was a simulator, because if it’d been for real, then a $64 million system would be back in the maintenance shop. Instead, the plane took back off, went back on autopilot, and a different expo attendee went there.
So, what does it take to learn to fly the Reaper, for real? WATM asked Air Education and Training Command, and here’s what we found out. According to Capt. Kaylee Ausburn, a public affairs officer with the 49th Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, the entire time to train a MQ-9 pilot is one year from start to finish. This includes two months at Pueblo, Colorado, during which they fly the Diamond DA-20 Katana.
After five months of academic training and flying in a T-6 simulator, prospective Reaper pilots get five months of MQ-9-specific training involving at least 32 flight hours. Pilots do not even learn to land until well after graduating, once they have reached 500 flight hours.
So, surprisingly, it takes a lot of learning to fly – or land – a Reaper.
SpaceX has won a $149 million Department of Defense contract to build satellites to track hypersonic missiles, marking the first government contract for building such equipment for Elon Musk‘s groundbreaking commercial spaceflight company.
As part of the Space Development Agency’s planned “mega-constellation” of weapons-tracking satellites, both SpaceX and L3 Harris Technologies Inc. will produce four satellites for the Pentagon to track hypersonic weapons. The L3 Harris contract to build its four satellites is reportedly valued at $193 million.
The eight commercially produced satellites will be equipped with wide field of view (WFOV) overhead persistent infrared (OPIR) sensors. Those satellites will form the first layer of a planned surveillance network to track hypersonic missiles.
The Air Force conducts latest hypersonic weapon flight test: Master Sgt. John Malloy and Staff Sgt. Jacob Puente, both from 912th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, secure the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon Instrumented Measurement Vehicle 2 as it is loaded under the wing of a B-52H Stratofortress at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Aug. 6. US Air Force photo by Giancarlo Casem, courtesy of DVIDS.
Under the Space Development Agency’s National Defense Space Architecture, the US will put into orbit a constellation of hundreds of satellites, primarily in low Earth orbit, to track maneuverable hypersonic missiles — a weapons technology currently under development by both Russia and China.
In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat US missile defense systems. Among those new weapons was the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.
Beijing, too, is developing new hypersonic weapons. In August, China tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle.
The flight paths of intercontinental ballistic missiles — which are essentially lobbed in an arc from their launch point — can be relatively easily predicted after launch. Hypersonic missiles, on the other hand, can be steered in flight, making them much harder to track and a more evasive mark for anti-missile defense systems.
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 7:29 a.m. EDT, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo courtesy of SpaceX via Twitter.
The US Missile Defense Agency and the Space Development Agency are developing the Hypersonic and Ballistic Missile Tracking Space Sensor, which will help track hypersonic threats. However, some experts warn the program doesn’t have enough funding and is plagued with challenges when it comes to integrating with other missile defense systems and linking to advanced interceptors and directed energy weapons.
The US Space Force already possesses missile-tracking satellites in high geosynchronous orbits. The new satellites to track hypersonic threats will operate from much lower orbits and will therefore have a comparatively limited field of view, requiring the creation of a constellation of satellites that can effectively hand off tracking responsibilities as they follow the flight path of a hypersonic weapon from horizon to horizon.
SpaceX and L3 Harris are expected to deliver their combined first batch of eight satellites by fall of 2022. The entire missile-tracking constellation is planned for completion by 2026. Initial operating capability is expected by 2024.
SpaceX has already scored several high-profile government spaceflight contracts. Notably, two NASA astronauts launched to the International Space Station in May aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, which was powered into orbit by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. It was the first-ever launch of a space crew aboard a commercial spacecraft, and it marked America’s return to active spaceflight operations after a nine-year hiatus following the last space shuttle flight in 2011.
SpaceX was also recently selected by the Space Force to carry out national security space launch missions over the next five years.
On another front, SpaceX’s Starlink program is currently creating a mega-constellation of small satellites in low Earth orbit to provide global broadband coverage for high-speed internet access. SpaceX anticipates Starlink will achieve “near global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”
On Tuesday, SpaceX put 60 Starlink satellites into orbit aboard a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX has had 17 missions this year.
Under the new Pentagon contract, SpaceX will use its Starlink assembly plant in Redmond, Washington, to build its four missile-tracking satellites.
Sources at KAI are worried that the South Korean government is not taking sufficient charge of pushing the contract forward in the wake of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the subsequent leadership vacuum in Seoul, according to News 1.
South Koreans are to elect a new president on May 9.
Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries developed the T-50 Golden Eagle in the ’90s. The jet has more than 142,000 flight hours and trained more than 2,000 fighter pilots.
Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.
Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.
“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.
“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.
US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.
(US Coast Guard photo)
‘Era of experimentation’
Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.
They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.
“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”
The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.
“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”
There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.
The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.
Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.
The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.
Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.
Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.
(US Southern Command)
‘A drop in the bucket’
The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.
“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.
“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”
“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.
Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.
A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.
(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)
Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.
“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)
Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.
“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”
Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.
The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Civil Irregular Defense Group compound at Loc Ninh. The airstrip is to the right of the photo.
The small town and airbase were important for two reasons. First, the airbase was a logistical hub for military and espionage operations conducted by the U.S.; something communist forces were keen to excise. But the town was also the district capital. With a new president awaiting inauguration in Vietnam, the North Vietnamese wanted to embarrass him before he took office.
And North Vietnam was looking for a tasty target. A new commander and staff needed to try out the 9th Division in the field and build up its combat proficiency ahead of larger, corps-level offensives. So, in late 1967, North Vietnamese Senior Col. Hoang Cam, gave orders to get his regiments in position and supplied for an attack on the base at Loc Ninh.
One of his key units ran into an immediate problem, though. U.S. forces were working to secure a hey highway and clear out communist forces that could threaten it, and they swept through an area where Cam’s top regiment was hiding. That regiment was able to set an ambush just in time and killed 56 Americans, but they also suffered heavy losses and fled to Cambodia.
So Cam was down a regiment before the battle started. Still, his men were facing 11 Special Forces soldiers, 400 Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers, and about 200 South Vietnamese regulars. The largest weapons on the base were a few mortars and machine guns.
But the North Vietnamese forces failed to hide their buildup. South Vietnamese and U.S. forces intercepted radio traffic, discovered a field hospital under construction, and discovered elements of a specific unit typically employed in major offensives, the 84A Artillery Regiment.
U.S. Gen. William Westmoreland was too savvy to overlook all this evidence of a coming attack. He suspended some operations and ordered his subordinate to plan for a major defensive operation in that part of Vietnam, especially the district capitals at Loc Ninh and Song Be.
U.S. Special Forces soldiers and South Vietnamese troops in September 1968.
On Oct. 27, 1967, just five days after Westmoreland issued his warning to subordinates, Cam launched the North Vietnamese attack on Song Be. His division attacked a South Korean division but was rebuffed, partially thanks to American artillery and air power. Before South Vietnamese Rangers and American infantry joined the fight the next day, Cam pulled his men back.
As the Rangers looked for the enemy near Song Be, Cam launched a new attack. This time, he struck at Loc Ninh and fully committed to the fight.
Rockets and mortars flew into the base with no warning. The town itself caught on fire, and the South Vietnamese soldiers, with their Special Forces allies, rushed to send their own mortar rounds out.
Before reinforcements could arrive, North Vietnamese sappers blew through a wire obstacle and forced the defenders into the southern part of the compound. With the American and South Vietnamese defense collapsing, the Army rushed in UH-1Bs with machine guns mounted, and the Air Force sent in an AC-47 Spooky gunship that rained metal into the jungle.
The helicopters were able to put some fire on the attackers within the compound, but the AC-47 couldn’t strike there without threatening the defenders. Eventually, that became beside the point, though, as the South Vietnamese called artillery strikes onto the compound. He specifically called for proximity fuses, detonating the rounds a little above the surface to maximize shrapnel damage.
That’s the call you make to shred humans behind light cover. Many of the defenders were in bunkers that would hold back the shrapnel, but the Viet Cong in the open were shredded. The Viet Cong in the jungle finally withdrew under aerial bombing, but attackers remained in the conquered bunkers of the northern part of the compound.
The South Vietnamese were forced to clear these bunkers one-by-one with LAWs, light anti-tank weapons.
The allies found 135 North Vietnamese bodies. They had suffered eight dead and 33 wounded.
But the U.S. knew it had nearly lost the district that night, and it wasn’t willing to go round two with the same setup. So it not only watched the South Vietnamese clear those bunkers, it flew in two artillery batteries and another infantry battalion. Those infantrymen dug into the jungle and established light bunkers.
The U.S. and South Vietnamese alliance struck hard, rooting out platoons in the rubber plantations. In one case, an impatient South Vietnamese soldier grabbed a U.S. officer’s pistol from him and used it to attack a North Vietnamese machine gunner. When he couldn’t chamber a round in the pistol, he used it to pistol-whip the machine gunner instead.
This back and forth continued for days. On Oct. 30, the North Vietnamese sent additional forces to threaten other cities and positions, potentially trying to draw away some of the American defenders. But the allies knew the fight for Loc Ninh wasn’t over and sent other forces to protect Song Be and other locations.
Just after midnight on Oct. 31, another rain of mortars and rockets flew into Loc Ninh. But this time, the fire was more accurate, and North Vietnamese forces used anti-aircraft fire the moment the helicopters and AC-47 showed up. But proximity fuses were again used to slaughter North Vietnamese attackers.
At least 110 North Vietnamese were killed while the allies lost nine killed and 59 wounded.
The next night, artillery and machine gun fire rained onto the air base, but then the main thrust came at the new infantry base in the jungle. Observers posted in the jungle detonated claymores to blunt the attack but then had to melt away as the attackers continued their assault. The U.S. infantry pushed the attack back in just 30 minutes of concentrated machine gun fire and claymore use.
One U.S. soldier had been killed and eight wounded. Over 260 bodies were found, and there were signs that even more had been lost.
Additional forces were flown in, and the U.S. commanders were finally able to go on the attack. The attacks did not go perfectly, however. On Nov. 7, a U.S. battalion moving down a dirt road moved into the jungle and came under a furious assault. An RPG took out most of the U.S. battalion command team, including the commander.
One soldier in that fight was Spc. Robert Stryker who stopped one attack with a well-aimed M79 grenade launcher shot, but then died after diving on a grenade to save others. He’s one of the two Medal of Honor recipients for whom the Stryker vehicle is named.
But the 9th Division finally withdrew, ending the Battle of Loc Ninh. The U.S. had lost 50 dead and hundreds wounded, but the North Vietnamese lost somewhere over 850 dead and failed in its objectives to take either Loc Ninh or Song Be. But the Tet Offensive was on the horizon.
(Most of the information for this article came from an official Army history from the Center of Military History, Combat Operations: Staying the Course, October 1967 to September 1968 by Erik B. Villard. It is available here.)
Okay, let’s imagine you’re going through your stuff to see what you want to donate to charity. First, there’re the old clothes that you haven’t worn in a while. Then there’s that kettlebell sitting in the corner from your last effort to get in shape. And finally, there’s the grenade launcher…
Don’t laugh — a grenade launcher was donated to a Florida Goodwill shop, according to ABC7.com. When the employees realized what they had, they called the police. Explosive ordnance disposal experts rendered the situation safe.
A spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office told WATM that what had been donated was “an airsoft grenade launcher used primarily for paintball.” The spokesman, Dave Bristow, admitted that he had no idea what the launcher’s ultimate fate would be. A UPI report indicated the launcher resembled the M203 grenade launcher.
Aviation ElectronicÕs Technician 3rd Class Awail Hassen loads a high explosive point detonated 40MM grenade round into an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise on the fantail of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gary Prill/Released)
However, this isn’t the only time armaments have surfaced where you might not expect them to. One former Marine recounted how the staff of Tierrasanta Elementary School, which opened in 1974, ended up on a first-name basis with the members of various local explosive ordnance units. The school had been built on an impact area in the former Camp Elliot, where the 2nd Marine Division had been training. Thirty years after the war, kids would find unexploded bazooka rounds and grenades and bring them in for show-and-tell.
Uncovered UXO has been far more common in Europe, with significant finds cropping up in both the United Kingdom and Germany in 2017. BALTOPS naval exercises have repeatedly uncovered UXO during mine countermeasures exercises in 2009, 2011, and 2012.
Should you come across UXO, a slight modification of the four rules of the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program makes sense: Stop, don’t touch, get away, and call police.
Today the World Health Organization designated COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, a global pandemic. President Trump addressed the nation from the White House this evening to talk about what we know, what we’re doing and how we will respond. Watch the full address, here:
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on “Man vs. Wild,” the British survivalist Bear Grylls’ show, while his country continues to choke off Kashmir’s access to food and the internet for the ninth consecutive day.
On the episode, broadcast by Discovery Channel India on Aug. 12, 2019, Modi built makeshift rafts and discussed growing up in a poor family as he and Grylls crossed a river at the Jim Corbett National Park in northern India, The Guardian reported.
While it’s not clear how far in advance the episode was filmed, its Aug. 12, 2019 airing seems like an untimely publicity stunt as Modi’s government continues to cut off Kashmir from the rest of the world.
Indian security forces have blocked off most major roads and cut off phone and internet lines around the region — a common strategy to prevent large protests and the spread of information critical of authorities.
Modi and Grylls in a promo for Aug. 12, 2019s episode.
(Discovery Channel India/YouTube)
Some journalists there have been offered satellite phones for 100,000 rupees (id=”listicle-2639804307″,400) so they can keep reporting.
This crackdown came after the Indian government earlier this month removed a constitutional provision that guaranteed the independence of the Jammu and Kashmir region to make its own laws and prevented outsiders from buying property or seeking government jobs in the mostly-Muslim region.
Critics think that India’s move would allow Indian Hindus to alter the state’s ethnic and religious makeup.
Indian security forces have also sent thousands more troops to the region, already one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world.
The roadblocks have prevented food supplies from entering the region, and sick people are struggling to get to hospitals because of faulty phone lines and the police blocking ambulances from moving around.
The Guardian described a man named Syed Asim Ali as saying that his family in Srinagar, the largest city in Jammu and Kashmir, had been eating dried vegetables because of the food shortage.
Other residents were stockpiling medicine and food to prepare for further disruptions amid the Eid al-Adha festival this week, The Associated Press reported over the weekend.
Pakistan, which also claims Jammu and Kashmir as its own territory, has appealed to the US and the UN for help to mediate the Kashmir crisis, while India has maintained that this is a regional issue.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The cult of Modi
Aug. 12, 2019’s “Man vs. Wild” episode appears to be another attempt by Modi to build his cult of personality in the country and drum up nationalistic support.
The strongman leader has participated in multiple photo ops to boost his image and that of his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party since becoming prime minister in 2014.
His government has spent more than 52 billion rupees (8 million) in pro-BJP ads and social-media posts since 2014, India’s Economic Times reported last year.
The BJP also hires hundreds of thousands of people to recruit voters via phone and door knocks, ultimately helping build “the most extraordinary personality cult in modern Indian history,” the Indian politician and prominent Modi critic Shashi Tharoor said.
And earlier this year, Rajini Vaidyanathan, the BBC’s South Asia correspondent, even likened Modi rallies to those of US President Donald Trump.
The strongman image, a persona adopted by world leaders throughout history, has been deployed to great effect by Modi’s counterparts Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Putin has taken advantage of numerous publicity stunts to assert his macho image, famously riding shirtless on horseback while on holiday in Siberia.
Bear Grylls’ press team has yet to respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.
Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.
In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.
These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.
In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.
The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.
To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.
But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.
The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.
One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.
For the first time ever, six US Marine F-35s took part in Red Flag, a hyper realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The fifth-generation jets will take part in aerial combat and close-air support drills, as well as mock war games against opposing forces as part of the exercise. Red Flag is scheduled to run from July 11 to July 29.
However, in more recent simulations, the improved F-35 simply dominated F-15s in dogfights.
The Marine pilots seem optimistic about the F-35s’ prospects in the simulated combat, and they are pleased with the work it has done so far.
“We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot said in a Marine Corps press release. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”
“With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” Walsh said.
“The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”
As with any warplane, the capability of the platform is directly tied to the skill of the pilot, and exercises like Red Flag provide unparalleled opportunities to train in realistic situations. This year, the F-35 will train with F-16s, F-22s, F-18s, B-52s and other current Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy platforms.
Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo, the commanding officer of the Marine flight squadron taking part in Red Flag said of the F-35: “If I had to go into combat, I wouldn’t want to go into combat in any other airplane.”
Watch a video report on the F-35 at Red Flag below:
War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.
The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.
The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.
1. People sniffers
The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.
So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.
However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.
Gross dog poop. …or is it?
It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.
What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.
An X-ray view of that same “poop.”
The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.
3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes
Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.
A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.
Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.
Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.
A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.
As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.
“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”
Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.
While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.
The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.
Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.
“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.
For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.
The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.
For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.
Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.
Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.
“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.
“Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.
Special Mission Unit Milestone
This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.
For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.
Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.
The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.
And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.