Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is known for hunting hurricanes in our hemisphere. But recently, this unit has been deployed a fair bit away from its normal haunts. Some of its assets are in Sri Lanka and doing a much less turbulent version of their usual mission.

According to an Air Force release, these Hurricane Hunters are helping gather data on the monsoon season. Monsoons, as described by the American Meteorological Society, are seasonal shifts in wind direction that often bring a lot of rain. In some cases, these monsoons can cause heavy flooding. Incidentally, many parts of the Southwestern United States are often hit by monsoons, too.


So, with annual, stateside monsoons, why fly halfway around the world to do some research? Well, one reason is that the weather can affect military operations, and the Indian Ocean is a particularly important strategic location for the United States Navy. From there, during Operation Enduring Freedom, carriers, including USS Enterprise (CVN 65), launched air strikes into Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

A WC-130J Hercules in flight.

(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett)

The Hurricane Hunters are carrying out their research mission with the help of the University of Notre Dame, the Office of Naval Research, and the Sri Lankan government. The Office of Naval Research sent the research ship USNS Thomas G. Thompson (T-AGOR 23) to assist in the mission.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Preparing for start-up: A WC-130 on the flight line.

(USAF photo by Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)

As is the case with their hurricane missions, the crews of WC-130 Hercules cargo planes collect oceanographic and atmospheric data on the monsoons using dropsondes and buoys. This also gives the squadron a good chance to train for their mission without flying into actual hurricanes — you can’t exactly call it a “dry run,” but a monsoon is much less intense than a hurricane.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

A WC-130 taxis to its parking slot after completing its mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

The 53rd will be making a return trip to Sri Lanka next year to gather more data on monsoons. In the long-term, the data they’re collecting may be of strategic use to the U.S., but it’s also sure to help Sri Lanka and nearby countries, like India, better prepare for heavy rains and flooding.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Someone just tried to send poison to Mattis in the mail

Two letters sent to the Pentagon, including one addressed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, have tested positive for ricin, a defense official told VOA on Oct. 2, 2018.

The envelopes containing a suspicious substance were taken by the FBI on Oct. 2, 2018, for further testing, according to Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Rob Manning.


The two letters arrived at an off-site Pentagon mail distribution center on Oct. 1, 2018. One was addressed to Mattis, the other was addressed to Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, an official told VOA on condition of anonymity.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected the substance during mail screening, so the letters never entered the Pentagon building, officials said.

“All USPS (United States Postal Service) mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility [Oct. 1, 2018] is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel,” according to Manning.

Ricin is a highly toxic poison found in castor beans.

This article originally appeared on Voice of America. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

When US Marines and sailors arrived in the Baltic region in June for 2019’s Baltic Operations exercise, they did so as national leaders came together in Western Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

But the 47th iteration of BaltOps wasn’t tailored to that anniversary, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Sellin and Marine Maj. Jeff Starr, two officers tasked with planning amphibious operations for BaltOps 2019, in a June 2019 interview.

When they started planning in February 2019, they were aware of the timing, but the schedule was shaped by more immediate concerns. “This is the best weather time to be in this area of the world,” Sellin said.


Sellin and Starr focused on big-picture planning and sought to get the most out of the exercises — “ensuring that we were able to include as many possible craft, as many … landing craft on the amphibious side as possible,” Starr said

“As we traveled and visited all these different countries and different landing locations,” Starr added, “we really had an eye for the specific capabilities and limitations of all the craft that were going to be involved, so that we could make sure to get the maximum inclusion for our NATO partners and allies.”

Below, you can see how the US and its partners trained for one of the most complex operations any military does, and how they did it in an increasingly tense part of the world.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ty-Chon Montemoino briefs US and Spanish marines on boarding a landing craft utility while aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles prepare to exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US and Spanish Marines exit the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry on a landing craft utility, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gnierzno, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Marines and sailors and Romanian and Spanish Marines secure a beach after disembarking from a Polish using Soviet Tracked Amphibious Transports and from Landing Craft Utility ships using Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo Vehicles and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Members of the US Navy Fleet Survey Team conduct a hydrographic beach survey in Ravlunda, Sweden, ahead of BALTOPS 2019, May 8, 2019.

(Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/Kaley Turfitt)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Marines disembark a landing craft utility during a tactics exercise in Sweden, June 19, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Marines exchange information with Spanish marines on the flight deck of the USS Fort McHenry, June 14, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Marines and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking from Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gniezno in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Royal Marines exit a British navy Merlin MK 4 helicopter via fast rope as part of an amphibious assault in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

11 countries joined the BaltOps amphibious task group, and personnel from four countries took part in the landings. “Contrary to popular belief, the language barriers typically don’t prove too concerning for these planning efforts,” Starr said. “What does prove a little bit challenging for us is various communications systems and how they work interoperably.”

Lithuania borders the Russian province of Kaliningrad along the Baltic Sea, placing some of the amphibious exercises close to Russia.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

A Polish PTS-M carries Romanian Marines ashore during an amphibious assault exercise at Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Like other officials involved in BaltOps, Sellin and Starr stressed that the exercise wasn’t directed at any other country. But tensions between Russia and NATO remain elevated after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — particularly around the Baltic states and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO members (and rely on NATO air forces to patrol their airspace) as is Norway.

Sweden and Finland are not in NATO but have responded to increasing tension in the region. Both have worked more closely with NATO in addition to bolstering their own militaries.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Marines march to the beach from a landing craft utility for an amphibious assault exercise in Klaipeda, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

A Royal Marine disembarks the USS Mount Whitney onto a landing craft vehicle attached to British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion in the Baltic Sea, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Landing craft utility vessels stand by at sea after transporting Marines during an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Romanian Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle exit a landing craft utility as a part of an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Marines perform a simulated amphibious assault from a landing craft utility in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

A US Marine and Spanish Marines buddy rush across the beach following an amphibious landing demonstration during the final event of NATO exercise Baltic Operations 2019 in Lithuania, June 16, 2019, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

A US Navy landing craft offloads vehicles during an amphibious exercise at Kallaste Beach in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

BaltOps 2019 took place just after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and while that still colors popular perceptions of amphibious operations, Starr and Sellin said they don’t plan for the kind of massive landing that put hundreds of thousands of Allied troops ashore in Normandy in 1944.

On June 6, 1944, more than 130,000 Allied troops rushed ashore on Normandy’s beaches as part of Operation Overlord, the beginning of the assault known as D-Day.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Romanian Marines storm the beach during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

US Marine Cpl. Timothy Moffitt runs ashore during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019 in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

“The reality is as amphibious planners, our job is to give our commanders a variety of options … for ways to accomplish the mission, and it’s very much not limited to putting a huge force ashore,” Sellin said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is now controlling citizens by targeting their dogs

Keep your dog on a leash. Make sure your pet doesn’t bark. Clean up after them.

These are the rules that have been enforced in 2018 in Jinan, eastern China, which launched its “Civilized Dog-Raising Credit Score System” system to enforce responsible dog ownership, according to Sixth Tone.

Over the last few years, China has introduced several social ranking systems, including an app in Shanghai that rates people’s honesty, and a bikeshare platform which rewards citizens for good behavior.


Most notably, China is setting up a mandatory country-wide ranking system system that will monitor the behavior of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.” The vast program is due to be fully operational by 2020, but pilot programs have already taken off across several cities.

How it works

Jinan’s dog credit system is similar to the other ranking systems that are proliferating across the country, and aims to improve people’s behavior.

The program, launched January 2017, is compulsory and gives registered dog owners a license that begins with 12 points, according to Sixth Tone.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

(Flickr photo by Lindsey B)

Points are deducted for things like walking the dog without a leash or collar, not cleaning up after them, and neighborhood disturbances. Good deeds, like volunteering at a local shelter, can increase owners’ points.

The sticks and carrots

The points system appears to have worked.

In August 2018, authorities said 80% of dog owners now use leashes, according to Sixth Tone, and complaints about dogs biting or barking were down by 65%, the state-run China Daily reported in August 2018.

Since the enforcement of the system, more than 1,400 dog owners have also been fined or lost points on their license.

Those who lost all their points had their dogs confiscated and were required to pass a test on regulations required for pet ownership.

A local dog owner told Sixth Tone that when registering her dog, the pet was vaccinated, implanted with a microchip and had its picture taken. The owner then received a tag with a QR code that police can use to look up the dog breed, age, immunization status, plus the owner’s personal information and number of license points.

The tag also allows for geolocation, and costs around plus annual tag inspections for an additional cost.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

(Photo by Alan Levine)

The new system also allows police to confiscate dogs that are unregistered by the state. China’s state-owned Legal Daily newspaper praised the credit system and called for it to be implemented across the country.

Several cities have also adopted stricter pet ownership laws. In Qingdao, located along the coast in Shandong, citizens are only allowed to have one dog per person and ban certain dog breeds.

The Chinese government has also introduced widespread measures to monitor its citizens and encourage good behavior.

The country is working to combine its 170+ million security cameras with artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to create a vast surveillance state and keep tabs on its 1.4 billion inhabitants.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin threatens to ‘react’ if US pulls from nuclear treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was “ill-considered” and warned that Moscow will follow suit if the United States arms itself with weapons banned by the pact.

Putin spoke on Dec. 5, 2018, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF treaty unless Moscow returns to compliance with the accord within 60 days.


His remarks came shortly after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it received official notification that the United States intends to withdraw from the INF unless Russia remedies what Washington says is a serious violation of the treaty.

Putin claimed that the United States was seeking to use Russia as a scapegoat for the demise of the INF by accusing it of a violation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx7zszUNnKw
BREAKING! Putin Responds To US Ultimatum: Russia’ll React Swiftly If Trump Withdraws From INF Treaty

www.youtube.com

“They are looking for someone to blame for this…ill-considered step,” Putin told journalists in Moscow, adding that “no evidence of violations on our part has been provided.”

It is “simplest” for the United States to say, ‘Russia is to blame,'” Putin said. “This is not so. We are against the destruction of this treaty.”

President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that the United States would abandon the INF, citing the alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.

Putin said he understands the second argument.

“Many other countries — there are probably more than 10 — produce these weapons, but Russia and the United States have restricted themselves in a bilateral fashion,” he said. “Now, evidently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have these weapons.”

“What will be the response from our side? Very simple: We will also do this,” he said, indicating that Russia will develop and deploy weapons banned by the treaty if the United States does so.

The United States says that Russia has already done that by deploying the 9M729, or Novator, which Washington says breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

In a joint statement on Dec. 4, 2018, NATO foreign ministers said that Russia has “developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”

The NATO ministers called on Russia to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance,” saying it is now “up to Russia to preserve the INF treaty.”

Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands and Putin gave no indication that Russia plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Dec. 5, 2018, that the official notice from the United States cites unspecified evidence of alleged Russian violations.

“The Russian side has repeatedly declared that this is, to say the least, speculation,” Zakharova said of the U.S. allegation. “No evidence to support this American position has ever been presented to us.”

Zakharova claimed that Russia has always respected the treaty and considers it “one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told foreign defense attaches in Moscow on Dec. 5, 2018, that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a “dangerous step that can negatively affect not only European security, but also strategic stability as a whole.”

At the NATO ministerial meeting on Dec. 4, 2018, Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF in 60 days unless Moscow dismantles the missiles, which he said were a “material breach” of the accord.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo told journalists in Brussels.

“We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal,” he said. “We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that although Moscow has a last chance to comply with the INF, “we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the U.S. ultimatum was an “escalation of the situation.”

Peskov accused Washington of “manipulating the facts…to camouflage the true aim of the United States in withdrawing from the treaty.”

In a tweet on Dec. 3, 2018, Trump expressed certainty that “at some time in the future” he, Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping “will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s two-piece, flame-resistant uniform undergoes second round of tests

U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command will begin a second round of testing in 2019 on a two-piece organizational clothing variant that offers flame resistance and moves the Navy one step closer to delivering sailors a safe, comfortable, no-cost alternative to the Improved Flame Resistant Variant (IFRV) coveralls, with the same travel flexibility as the Type III working uniform.


USFF conducted the initial wear test on two-piece variants from May through September of 2018 and collected feedback from nearly 200 wear-test participants across surface, aviation, and submarine communities about everything from colors and design, to comfort and options like buttons and hook-and-loop fasteners. The command also received feedback from more than 1,700 sailors in an online survey about colors and design.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

An information graphic describing the modernized, two-piece, flame-resistant organizational clothing wear-test design components for sailors.

(U.S. photo illustration by Bobbie A. Camp)

Fleet survey responses indicated that sailors liked the functionality of the Type III but would like to see the design in traditional Navy uniform colors. More than 70 percent of E-6 and junior sailors surveyed liked the navy blue blouse and trouser while a khaki version was the preference for chiefs and officers.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Flynn, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), demonstrates the operational de-blousing capability of the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

“Leaders are listening to the fleet when it comes to this design,” said USFF Fleet Master Chief Rick O’Rawe, a wear-test participant. “We have an obligation to keep our sailors safe in inherently dangerous environments, but we also want to be mindful of their time. This is going to be something that’s safe, easy to maintain, and doesn’t require half-masting of coveralls when it’s hot or having to change clothes every time you leave the ship. Never again should we have to pass the words ‘all hands shift into the uniform for entering port or getting underway.'”

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Lt. Jamie Seibel, assigned to U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command, demonstrates the operational wearability of the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype (khaki variant) aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG-72).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

The updated design, which won’t require sailors to sew on components, will be tested by 100 officers and enlisted sailors to see how well it performs from wash-to-wear without ironing, and how it holds up to laundering. The two-piece variant will allow for de-blousing in extreme climates and challenging work environments. An undershirt will continue to be tested with a flame-resistant, moisture-wicking fabric in black.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

A sailor assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103) demonstrates the operational wearability of the black Gortex parka and the flame-resistant, two-piece organizational clothing prototype navy blue variant.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks)

I have received so much feedback just from wearing the two-piece around the command every day,” said Yeoman 1st Class Kelly Pyron, a wear-test participant assigned to USFF. “The best part is that we’ll be able to transit from the ship and run errands in the two-piece; having one standard underway and in-port across the board will be much more convenient. I am excited to see the wear test moving into the next phase of evaluation.”

Once approved, the new prototype will serve as an alternative to the IFRV coverall for operational commands. The coverall may continue to be the prescribed clothing item for some sailors in applicable work environments.

Pyron expressed, “If a clothing item, that I will not have to buy, can make my life easier while keeping me safe, I’m all for it.”

MIGHTY FIT

49ers star gives Super Bowl tickets to Gold Star family

San Francisco 49ers super star tight end George Kittle announced on Twitter that he gave two tickets to attend Super Bowl LIV to the family of fallen Army Sergeant Martin “Mick” LaMar.


Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

https://twitter.com/gkittle46/status/1220397761352200192?s=21

According to the Associated Press, LaMar joined the Marines and served for four years after graduating high school in 1986. Following a decade of working as an electrician and with an armored truck company, LaMar joined the Army in 2007 despite relatives’ efforts to talk him out of the decision. His brother-in-law Gilbert Alvarado told the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee that LaMar “wanted to go back.”

“He wanted to fight for his country,” Alvarado said.

According to Military Times, LaMar was assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas and died Jan. 15, 2011 in Mosul of wounds sustained when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which he was training shot him with small-arms fire. Also killed was Sgt. Michael P. Bartley.

LaMar was a “great guy with a big heart” who loved his family, according to his brother-in-law, LaMar died on his wedding anniversary. His next leave was set to start Jan. 30, 2011, and he would have seen his three-month-old daughter for the first time then.

Kittle donated the two tickets to LaMar’s wife, Josephine, who will be bringing her and Mick’s son to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 2 in Miami.

“The work I do with the USAA and the TAPS organization is something I really have kind of fallen in love with,” Kittle said (via the Sacramento Bee). “I have a lot of family in the military, so it’s something that I just respect, and the sacrifice that they give is the ultimate sacrifice. So if I can ever give back and make a family’s day or just make them smile a little bit, then I’ve just done a little part in their lives.”

The Salute to Service’s mission is to be a year-round effort to Honor, Empower and Connect our nation’s service members, veterans and their families. It is grounded in deep partnerships with nonprofits and organizations that support the military community in the United States and across the world. In partnership with USAA, the NFL expands Salute to Service off the field to honor and recognize our military by bringing players and team personnel to military bases, hosting thousands of service members at NFL games and events, and enlisting NFL fans to show military appreciation. Learn more about the Salute to Service and their NFL experience at Super Bowl LIV, here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Vietnam War veterans will be honored at the World Series

On behalf of the upcoming film Last Flag Flying, Amazon Studios partnered with We Are The Mighty to donate two World Series tickets to a lucky veteran in the Los Angeles area.


When Army veteran Greg Alaimo was told he’d won tickets to the World Series, he couldn’t believe it. “You won’t believe it either!” he told We Are The Mighty.

Alaimo, a Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Medal recipient, had assisted the Los Angeles Dodgers in finding recommendations for Vietnam War veterans for their Hero Of The Game. After Alaimo received the final list (which includes men like Medal of Honor recipient Ray Vargas and Charlie Plumb, who was a POW for 6 years during the war), he realized he wanted to meet the men on it.

“The heroes they chose are amazing. I called my contact and thanked him for allowing me to participate. I then asked if I could purchase two tickets. He regretfully indicated no tickets were available. I wanted to visit with those chosen for this is the first time the Dodgers have honored Vietnam veterans at a World Series.”

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka
Alaimo and his unit Bravo 1-7 on stand down in Bien Hoa, home of the First Infantry Division, The Big Red One, just below Saigon. (Photo courtesy of Greg Alaimo)

That’s when Amazon teamed up with We Are The Mighty to give out another set of tickets.

“When I was contacted about winning the tickets I thought it was a joke. I’m holding two great tickets for [Game Two] and I’ll meet those representing all Vietnam Vets — amazing.”

They’re not the only “amazing” ones. Alaimo has an impressive service history himself — during Active Duty and beyond. After fighting in Vietnam with the First Infantry Division, Alaimo returned home and became “the go-to guy” if veterans need help. A member of American Legion Hollywood Post 43, Alaimo says it’s important for him to connect with the veteran community because he doesn’t want them to be treated the way he was after he returned from Vietnam.

“They need to know we respect them and are grateful for their sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice of their families.”

Alaimo will be taking his good friend, and fellow veteran advocate, Charlie Cusumano with him to the game. We asked who they’ll be rooting for:

“Duh????? Go Blue! DODGERS!!!!!”
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US just unleashed the most dangerous ‘hunter-killer’ on earth

The US Navy commissioned the USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019, and, in doing so, ushered in a new era of millennial undersea war fighters and the most technologically advanced submarine hunter-killer on Earth.

“I think we can honestly call South Dakota ‘America’s first millennial submarine’ from construction to operation,” Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut said at the South Dakota’s commissioning.

While millennials across the board make up the majority of the US’s combat service members in any service, the South Dakota was built by the shipbuilder General Dynamics Electric Boat, whose workforce is more than half millennial, The Day reported.


“The rise of the millennial generation emerging to lead Electric Boat’s important work for the country, I believe, is a powerful rebuttal of cynics and naysayers that say that American manufacturing and technological excellence are a thing of the past,” Courtney said.

In the slides below, meet the young sailors and new submarine that makes the South Dakota the most modern and fearsome submarine in the world today.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

The color guard parade the ensign during a commissioning ceremony for the Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota on Feb. 2, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins)

The South Dakota is a fast-attack boat.

The South Dakota is a fast-attack submarine, which trades the world-ending nuclear might of a ballistic-missiles submarine, or “boomer,” for Tomahawk cruise missiles, mines, and torpedoes.

Boomer submarines hide in oceans around the world on the longshot chance the US may call upon them to conduct nuclear warfare. These submarines are not to be seen and avoid combat.

But fast-attack subs such as the South Dakota meet naval combat head-on.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason

One weapon makes the South Dakota a force to be reckoned with up to 1,500 miles inland: the Tomahawk. The South Dakota can hold dozens of these land-attack missiles.

Fast-attack submarines like the South Dakota serve as a door-kicker, as one did in 2011 when the US opened its campaign against Libya with a salvo of cruise missiles from the USS Michigan. These submarines also must hunt and sink enemy ships and submarines in times of combat, and the South Dakota is unmatched in that department.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

(Photo by Chief Petty Officer Darryl Wood)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Members of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two prepare to launch one of the team’s SEAL delivery vehicles from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia during a training exercise.

(US Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

The US Navy Virginia-class attack submarine USS South Dakota.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Russian Typhoon-class submarine.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

(US Navy photo)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Type 039 submarine.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Capt. Ronald Withrow, outgoing commanding officer of the South Dakota, right, returns a salute from his relief, Missouri native Cmdr. Craig Litty, left.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Steven Hoskins)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

(US Navy photo)

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

(US Navy photo)

Submarine combat is a very dangerous and tricky game. Any sonar or radar ping can reveal a sub’s location, so the ships need to sit and listen quietly to safely line up a kill.

The South Dakota can detect ships and subs with an off-board array of sensors that it can communicate with in near real time. This represents a breakthrough in undersea warfare.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Durocher, a pre-commissioned unit South Dakota submariner.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)

But submarines are only as good as their crews. The South Dakota will live or die based on its crew’s ability to stick together and problem solve.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army starts working on its future attack-recon helicopter

The Army is now crafting early requirements for what is expected to be a new attack helicopter — beyond the Apache — with superior weapons, speed, maneuverability, sensor technology, and vastly-improved close-combat attack capability.

“We know that in the future we are going to need to have a lethal capability, which drives us to a future attack reconnaissance platform. The Apache is the world’s greatest but there will come a time when we look at leap ahead technology,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told a small group of reporters.


A future attack-reconnaissance helicopter, now in its conceptual phase, is a key part of a wide-spanning, multi-aircraft Army Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program. FVL seeks a family of next-generation aircraft to begin emerging in the 2030s, consisting of attack, utility and heavy-class air assets. Ultimately, the FVL effort seeks to replace the Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook.

Current areas of exploration, McConville elaborated, include examinations of aerodynamics, aircraft configurations, new sensor technology and the physics of advanced attack helicopter flight.

The Army is now working on two Initial Capabilities Documents (ICDs) to lay the conceptual groundwork for new weapons, munitions and a supplemental next-generation drone.

The new attack-recon helicopter is intended to follow the — now much further along — FVL utility helicopter program effort; currently being developed as a Science & Technology demonstrator program, this program now includes built, airborne helicopters.

The concept informing a new attack-recon initiative rests upon the realization that even the most advanced existing Apache helicopter, originally emerging in the 1980s, may ultimately have some limitations as threats evolve in coming years. Although the most current Apache, the AH-64E, contains composite rotorblades, improved avionics and a new 701D engine, a new platform would be expected to introduce a quantum leap forward with respect to attack helicopter technology.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka
Two U.S. Army AH-64E Apache Guardians.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)

For instance, the new aircraft will be engineered to integrate weapons and sensor systems to autonomously detect, designate and track targets, perform targeting operations during high-speed maneuvers, conduct off-axis engagements, track multiple targets simultaneously and optimize fire control performance such that weapons can accommodate environmental effects such as wind and temperature, Army officials describe. Any future attack platform will also be optimized for what’s called “high-hot” conditions, defined as 95-degrees Fahrenheit and elevations of 6,000 feet, where thinner air can make helicopter maneuvers far more challenging.

No particular air frames or specific technologies have as of yet been identified for the new Attack-Recon aircraft, however the new air vehicle itself is likely to contain composite materials, higher-resolution sensors, infrared heat suppressors, and radar signature reducing configurations.

Also, in a manner quite consistent with the overall FVL program emphasis, a future attack-recon platform will seek much greater range, speed and fuel efficiency. A longer combat radius, enabled by newer engine technology, brings massive combat advantages. Principally, attacking air crews will, in many mission scenarios, be much less likely to need what the Army calls Forward Air Refueling Positions (FARP). FARPs are forward positioned mini-bases, often placed within hostile or enemy territory, designed to refuel and re-arm helicopters. A helicopter able to travel faster and farther without needing as much refueling naturally decreases combat risk.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Robert Carver, North Carolina National Guard Public Affairs)

One of the ICDs is preparing to solicit industry input for a next-generation drone demonstrator aircraft, engineered to work in tandem with an attack helicopter platform. The effort aims to achieve what Army developers describe as greater standoff, meaning an unmanned system can enter hostile combat while helicopter crews remain at a safer distance.

“We need to be dominating the aerial corridor. We will put our UAS’ in that dangerous breach,” said Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, leader of the FVL Cross-Functional Team.

It makes sense that the Army would envision a new drone for its future attack helicopter as a way to add new dimensions to its existing Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) technology. Army Apache and Kiowa helicopters have already deployed with an ability to view real-time video feeds from nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. More advanced levels of MUM-T enable helicopter crews to control the flightpath and sensor payloads of nearby drones.The new drone, along with the helicopter itself, will call upon advanced iterations of autonomous navigation. Emerging computer algorithms increasingly enable platforms to perform a wider range of functions without needing human intervention, potentially fostering a combat scenario wherein a helicopter crew would operate a forward-positioned armed attack drone.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka
A U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa light attack helicopter.

Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that this technology has been impactful in combat, as it has at times enabled Apache crews to see real-time images of a target before they even take-off. Naturally, this not only improves the possibilities for surprise attack, but also minimizes the risk to the helicopters themselves by shortening their exposure to enemy fire.

Pursuing a new attack helicopter platform, including these more advanced iterations of MUM-T, involves several key areas of emphasis, senior Army leaders say. These include rapid prototyping, continued experimentation and efforts to engineer the technical infrastructure sufficient to integrate new weapons as they emerge.

“We gain insight from prototypes that help us derive requirements,” said Rugen.

The developmental philosophy for the FVL program, Army leaders describe, seeks to engineer a platform able to evolve as technology evolves to accommodate new weapons, sensors, avionics, as they are discovered. Senior Army developers have explained that the idea is not just to build the best helicopter for today, or even the next few years, but rather to engineer new aircraft designed to include the best technologies for the 2030s, and beyond. Rugen described this strategy in terms of “spiral development.”

In practice, what this means is that instead of looking for near-term or immediate replacements for things like the Apache’s 30mm chain gun, Hellfire missiles or infrared targeting sensors (Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sights) – Army developers seek to architect a platform able to embrace both near-term and future yet-to-be-developed technologies.

This approach is of particular relevance to the second ICD now in development focusing on weapons and munitions.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

US Defense Chief says nukes still ‘bedrock’ of American security

Defense Secretary Ash Carter kicked off a visit to DoD’s nuclear deterrence enterprise, telling airmen at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, that DoD will invest, innovate and sustain to rebuild that enterprise’s capabilities that remain the bedrock of U.S. defense strategy.


The secretary spoke at a hangar on the flightline of the base. He thanked the airmen at the base, and by extension, thanked the thousands of other technicians who man, maintain, guard and operate the bombers, ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines and the command-and-control systems around the world.

“As you know, everyone has their role to play,” he said, “and while each physical piece is important, it’s really the people who make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Launch Facility-4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base Calif. The Minuteman III ICBM is an element of the nation’s strategic deterrent forces under the control of the Air Force Global Strike Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lael Huss)

The secretary emphasized throughout his talk with the airmen that America’s nuclear deterrence is the bedrock of U.S. security and the highest priority mission in the Defense Department.

“Because while it is a remarkable achievement that in the more than seven decades since 1945, nuclear weapons have not again been used in war, that’s not something we can ever take for granted,” he said. “And that’s why today, I want to talk about how we’re innovating and investing to sustain that bedrock.”

Carter has a long history with the nuclear mission, working in the 1980s on basing for the MX missile system. He speaks from experience when he says the deterrence mission has both remained the same and changed.

“At a strategic level, of course, you deter large-scale nuclear attack against the United States and our allies,” he said. “You help convince potential adversaries that they can’t escalate their way out of failed conventional aggression. You assure allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible — enabling many of them to forgo developing nuclear weapons themselves, despite the tough strategic environment they find themselves in and the technological ease with which they could develop such weapons.”

The nuclear deterrent also provides an umbrella under which service members accomplish conventional missions around the world, the secretary said.

But the nuclear landscape has changed and it will continue to pose challenges, Carter said.

“One way the nuclear landscape has changed: we didn’t build new types of nuclear weapons or delivery systems for the last 25 years, but others did, at the same time that our allies in Asia, the Middle East, and NATO did not,” the secretary said, “so we must continue to sustain our deterrence.”

Russia has modernized its nuclear arsenal, and there is some doubt about Russian leaders’ strategies for the weapons.

“Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations underscore that a diverse and dynamic spectrum of nuclear threats still exists,” Carter said. “So our deterrence must be credible, and extended to our allies in the region.”

North Korea is building nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them, the secretary said. The North Korean threat spurs spending on missile defense in the United States and the deployment of systems to South Korea, he added.

“We back all of that up with the commitment that any attack on America or our allies will be not only defeated, but that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response,” Carter said.

India and China are behaving responsibly with their nuclear enterprises, the secretary said.

“In Iran, their nuclear aspirations have been constrained and transparency over their activities increased by last year’s nuclear accord, which, as long as it continues to be implemented, will verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Carter said. “The last example I’ll cite is Pakistan, where nuclear weapons are entangled in a history of tension, and while they are not a threat to the United States directly, we work with Pakistan to ensure stability.”

Despite the changes since the end of the Cold War, the nature of deterrence has not changed, the secretary said.

“Even in 2016, deterrence still depends on perception — what potential adversaries see, and therefore believe — about our will and ability to act,” he said. “This means that as their perceptions shift, so must our strategy and actions.”

A large-scale nuclear attack is not likely, the secretary said. The most likely scenario is “the unwise resort to smaller but still unprecedentedly terrible attacks, for example by Russia or North Korea, to try to coerce a conventionally superior opponent to back off or abandon an ally during a crisis,” Carter said. “We cannot allow that to happen, which is why we’re working with our allies in both regions to innovate and operate in new ways that sustain deterrence and continue to preserve strategic stability.”

NATO is reexamining the nuclear strategy to integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence to deter Russia, he said.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the United States engages in formal deterrence dialogues with its allies Japan and South Korea, Carter said, “to ensure we’re poised to address nuclear deterrence challenges in Asia.”

Carter said the U.S. is taking steps to ensure that its nuclear triad — bombers, ICBMS and ballistic missile submarines — do not become obsolete.

“We’re now beginning the process of correcting decades of under-investment in nuclear deterrence,” the secretary said.

The Pentagon has underfunded its nuclear deterrence enterprise since the end of the Cold War, Carter added.

“Over the last 25 years since then, we only made modest investments in basic sustainment and operations, about $15 billion a year,” he said. “And it turned out that wasn’t enough.”

The fiscal year 2017 budget request invests a total of $19 billion in the nuclear enterprise, Carter said. Over the next five years, he said, plans call for the department to spend $108 billion to sustain and recapitalize the nuclear force and associated strategic command, control, communications, and intelligence systems.

The budget also looks to modernization, the secretary said. Plans call for replacing old ICBMs with new ones that will be less expensive to maintain, keeping strategic bombers effective in the face of more advanced air defense systems, and building replacements for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, the secretary said.

“If we don’t replace these systems, quite simply they will age even more, and become unsafe, unreliable, and ineffective,” Carter said. “The fact is, most of our nuclear weapon delivery systems have already been extended decades beyond their original expected service lives. So it’s not a choice between replacing these platforms or keeping them. It’s really a choice between replacing them or losing them. That would mean losing confidence in our ability to deter, which we can’t afford in today’s volatile security environment.”

While these plans are expensive, they are only a small percentage of total defense spending, the secretary said.

“In the end, though, this is about maintaining the bedrock of our security,” Carter said. “And after too many years of not investing enough, it’s an investment that we as a nation have to make, because it’s critical to sustaining nuclear deterrence in the 21st century.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Military spouses demand an end to the ‘Widow’s Tax’

Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.

It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.


Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.

No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

Why hasn’t this problem been solved?

There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.

These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka
These are the families who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax.

No. They were not told.

According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.

Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.

In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.

These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax

This is the call to action!

Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.

Here’s how to contact your Senator.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veteran is world-champion hoop dancer

The grassy hill surrounding the arena is packed full of spectators and family members. The emcee calls out a dancer’s name; there’s movement in the crowd. The competitor makes it into the arena, throws out his hoops for his sequence.

Upon the dancer’s cue, the drum starts singing. Bells on his ankles sing in time with each beat of the drum and each step he makes.

He has five minutes to convey a story, using small hoops as his medium to paint each scene, as part of the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held in Phoenix in 2018.


“The competition opens everyone’s eyes to the Native American culture,” said Timothy Clouser, the museum’s facilities director and a Navy veteran. “I find it very fascinating how each dancer puts their own artistic expression in their dance and story they are trying to convey. Not one dance is the same.”

Brian Hammill, an Army veteran of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a previous World Hoop Dance champion, competed in Phoenix. He uses his dancing to help bridge the cultural gap between Native Americans and non-natives, sharing his culture everywhere he goes.

“As native people, we don’t give gifts of objects because an object goes away, but we give the gift of a song, or a dance,” Hammill said. “When you do that, if you give somebody a song, and you tell them, ‘Every time you sing this song, you tell the story,’ or ‘Every time you do this dance, you tell the story and you give it away,’ that dance will last forever. That’s how this hoop dance carries on; it’s given from one person to the next.”

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

Army veteran Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation applies face paint before grand entry at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2018.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

The hoop dance is different than other Native American dances, such as powwow dancing. Powwows are inter-tribal celebrations of Native American culture. Tribal affiliation doesn’t matter, nor does what region someone is from. It doesn’t even matter if someone is native or non-native.

Powwow dancing consists of at least six categories. Men’s categories include the fancy dance, grass dance and traditional dance. Women’s categories are the fancy dance, jingle dress and traditional dance.

The hoop dance regalia is minimal compared to that of the powwow dances. Typically, a hoop dancer will wear a shirt, breechcloth, side drops, sheep skin, bells (or deer hooves) and moccasins. The colors and designs are specific to each person. The hoops are small and vary in size, typically depending on the height of the dancer. Sometimes they have designs on them, again, specific to each dancer.

“Traditionally, the hoops were made out of willow, depending on where the tribe was located,” Hammill said. “I make mine out of a very exotic wood called plastic.”

The hoop dance has different origin stories with a common thread that it originated in the Southwest. To some native nations, the hoop dance is a healing dance, Hammill said. A hoop would traditionally be passed over an afflicted person, then the dancer would break that hoop and never use it again.

“Basically, it was a way of taking away all that pain or sickness away,” Hammill said. “That’s not done in public. There is also a story of the children, the Taos Pueblo children. It is said that the children saw this ceremony taking place and began to emulate what they saw. Instead of telling the kids, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ the adults encouraged them. They began to sing songs for them. They took what was a prayer and made it something the kids could do. So, basically, the dance changed, it evolved.

“In the north, it tells of a warrior’s journey,” he continued. “As you see these hoops come together, they start to make formations. You’ll see the eagle, the butterfly, the warrior on the battlefield defending his family, the clouds in the sky.”

Each person, he explained, will see that dance in a different way, interpret the story differently. There are hundreds of hoop dance stories, but each one revolves around the sacred circle of life.

“The significance of the hoops is that it represents the circle of life. There’s no beginning and no ending,” Hammill said. “We are taught that each and every one of us — doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin — we are all created equal in that sacred hoop.”

Another part of Hammill’s culture that he lives every day is the tradition of service.

“The way I was always taught is, as a native person, we are always here to serve the people,” he said.

Why Hurricane Hunters are flying in monsoons in Sri Lanka

U.S. Army veteran, Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation, competes at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

“We serve them by cooking and providing food for them. We teach them, or protect them. One of the greatest things I was always taught that we do, is we put ourselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our identity. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, I felt I needed to do.”

Hammill enlisted in the Army while still in high school. He went to basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years, and went on active duty after graduation.

“It’s just something that we do,” he said. “You’ll find that throughout the United States, there are a higher percentage of native veterans per capita than any other race.”

While he was stationed in South Korea, one of his first sergeants learned that he had danced while growing up, and asked Hammill to share his culture with everyone. He performed the men’s fancy dance for his fellow soldiers.

“A lot of these soldiers weren’t exposed to different cultures, so he had me do one of my first presentations there,” he said. “I called my dad in Wisconsin, and he shipped all of my dance regalia to me. I started doing presentations for the people I was stationed with, and in different areas throughout the Korean theater. That’s where I really got the passion to share the story, and I found out how important it is.”

Hammill was introduced to the hoop dance prior to his transition out of the military in 1994. Back then, he would travel about 120 miles from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Livingston, Texas, where he performed and danced with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.

“A good friend of mine, Gillman Abbey, basically gave me this hoop dance,” he said. “He told me the story. He told me every time I dance, to always make sure I share the story, and give the dance.”

He said the hoop dance helped him heal from his time in service. Still brand new to hoop dancing, Hammill actually competed in the World Hoop Dance Championship for the first time about six months after he got out of the military.

“I was 24, in the adult division,” he said. “I remember I was scared because this is a huge competition. Some of the dancers I’m still dancing with today pulled me aside, said to me, ‘Hey, you’re doing good. Let me show you some different moves. Let me help you.’ I’ll never forget that because that’s what really kept me coming back. Being here, feeling that hoop and how it affects people, it keeps me coming back. It took me a long time, about 15 years, until I won my first world title. I moved to the senior division and won four more. But it’s a family. It really is something we all have in common.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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