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MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Soldiers are about to get their hands on the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), and the first unit will start receiving the trucks as 2019 begins.

These deliveries keep the program right on schedule, following an Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decision in December 2018 to move forward with fielding JLTVs to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit, located at Fort Stewart, Ga., will start receiving its own JLTVs in January 2019, and should be fully equipped with about 500 new JLTVs by the end of March 2019.


“The JLTV program exemplifies the benefit of strong ties between the warfighter and acquisition communities,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “With continuous feedback from the user, our program office is able to reach the right balance of technological advancements that will provide vastly improved capability, survivability, networking power, and maneuverability.”

The new trucks represent a significant modernization success for the Army and Marine Corps, with the program on track to replace many venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV).

“I simply could not be prouder of the team that is bringing JLTV to reality,” Jette continued. “Our single focus is giving soldiers better capabilities, and our team of soldiers, Marines, and civilians worked tirelessly to deliver an affordable, generational leap ahead in light tactical vehicles.”

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Joint Light Tactical Vehicles demonstrate their extreme off-road capability at the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

(U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Vergun)

The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict. JLTVs will give soldiers, Marines, and their commanders more options in a protected mobility solution that is also the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.

“We are very excited to get these trucks into the hands of our soldiers,” said Col. Mike Adams, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. “It’s an honor to be chosen as the first unit to receive such an improved capability, and I look forward to getting it into our formations.”

The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget as it wraps up its low rate initial production phase, yet the program office’s work is far from over. As warfighter needs change, the team will continue to explore ways to refine the design and the capability it offers.

More deliveries are slated across each service in 2019. Ultimately, the Army anticipates purchasing 49,099 vehicles across its Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, and the Marine Corps more than 9,000.

The JLTV will be fielded in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle.

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

Military Life

5 reasons ‘mandatory service’ is a terrible idea

You’ll meet people, both on social media and in real life, who argue that a solution to a widespread lack of discipline is to start drafting citizens right out of high school to serve in the military in some capacity. Whether you think there really is a discipline problem today or not, the truth remains the same — a draft outside of a wartime is unnecessary and extremely toxic.


The thing people don’t realize is that the United States military thrives on the fact that its members are volunteers. The reason our military is so efficient is because the people who join want to be there. While that may not remain the case for every service member for the entire duration of their contracts, you’ll still find most of them serving with honor until the job’s done.

Related video:

Here’s why having a draft would ruin that.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Each of these recruits may run the Department of Defense around ,000.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

The cost

The cost of training a single service member is pretty high already. Spending tons of money training people who don’t want to be there only to have most of them leave the service as soon as humanly possible is just not worth it. We already have plenty of people who join voluntarily and, in boot camp or somewhere else along the line, decide they made a wrong choice. Suddenly, the tons of money spent training them goes down the drain.

It’s all the people who make it through training and complete their service honorably that justify these losses.

It’s basically indentured servitude

People who serve today feel like they’re overworked and underpaid. When the government is faced with absorbing tons of money lost due to wasted training expenses, where do you think the cuts will start?

If you felt a sharp pain in your wallet just now, then you already know.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

There are people relying on others to do their jobs so they might stay alive.

It’s dangerous

A problem with forcing people to do a job is that they won’t care about doing it well. When those aloof people play key roles in the infantry, failing to do the job well might be fatal. These people may not care about holding security or staying awake on watch, which can needlessly endanger the lives of all the people who want to do their job the right way.

You’ll have a lot more sh*t bags

There are tons of people who “slip through the cracks” in the military already. They have no business being in the service, but somehow manage to avoid discharge. Forcing people, against their will, to serve is going to increase those numbers.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

The volunteers are what make the military great. Let’s not mess that up with dumb ideas.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matt Britton)

An all-volunteer force is much better

As stated before, our military is as good as it is because the people who serve chose to be there. They want to do a good job. Furthermore, it’s a good feeling to know that you’re doing the hard work that not everyone is cut out for. By enacting a draft, we would lose the very thing that makes the military great: pride.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s mysterious explosion caused by Putin’s doomsday missile

US intelligence suspects that a mysterious and deadly explosion in early August 2019 was caused by Russia’s efforts to recover its new nuclear-powered cruise missile after another unsuccessful test, CNBC reports, adding another twist in the saga of what exactly happened at the Nyonoksa weapons testing range.

An explosion that killed at least five people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby towns on Aug. 8, 2019, has been linked to Russia’s development of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a new doomsday weapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. While the prevailing theory was that the blast was caused by a failed test, US intelligence has a slightly different explanation.

“This was not a new launch of the weapon, instead it was a recovery mission to salvage a lost missile from a previous test,” a source with direct knowledge of the latest intel reports told CNBC. Russia was reportedly salvaging the weapon from the ocean floor at the time of the incident.


“There was an explosion on one of the vessels involved in the recovery and that caused a reaction in the missile’s nuclear core, which led to the radiation leak,” said another source. This is not the first time Russia has had to go fishing for its nuclear-powered cruise missile, but this appears to be the first time a recovery effort has exploded.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

A still image said to show Russia’s Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile.

(YouTube/Russian Defence Ministry)

Using nuclear reactors to fuel missiles or airplanes has proven to be a “hazardous” technology that’s probably unnecessary, a leading defense expert told Insider.

Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details, sparking concerns of a cover-up.

The death toll has risen from two to five and could potentially be higher. Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging radiation leaks. Local authorities ordered an evacuation but then mysteriously cancelled it. Nuclear monitoring stations nearby unexpectedly went offline due to technical problems. And the system that triggered the explosion has been described as everything but the nuclear-powered cruise missile Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted would be unstoppable last year.

“This is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” Putin said recently, adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”

Russian data on the brief radiation spike in Severodvinsk, which state authorities finally decided to release, indicated that a nuclear reactor was involved, experts said. Russia, which has a history of covering up nuclear disasters, has yet to acknowledge that this was a nuclear accident despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Catch-22’ is the war miniseries that still feels relevant

Catch-22 was written six decades ago by World War II veteran Joseph Heller, but change the B-25s to CH-47s and make the sands of Pianosa (an Italian island) the sands of Afghanistan, Iraq, or Kuwait, and all the characters and most of the plots would fit right in.


The new miniseries from George Clooney, which features him in the supporting role of an insane commander of cadets, includes all the best moments from the novel. The funny ones, and the ones that capture the horror of conflict. Moments like these seven:
(Spoilers below.)

When a slight error in directions puts a man in mortal danger

When a new gunner shows up to the squadron, he’s bunked in the tent of Yossarian, the main protagonist of the novel and the only one of the miniseries. Yossarian isn’t the most helpful of lieutenants, but he gives the new sergeant directions to the administration tent. A slight miscount of tents sends the sergeant to the ops tent, instead.

So the sergeant, instead of signing in to the unit, gets thrown into the next plane going up on a mission, a dangerous one over Nazi-controlled Italy.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

(Hulu screenshot)

When an Army sergeant tries to marry an Italian whore

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A young Army sergeant meets an attractive sex worker, falls in love, and wants to get married, even though everyone in the unit tells him it’s a horrible idea.

In Catch-22, that’s Nately, and his enduring loves goes to “Nately’s Whore,” an Italian woman with a funny pimp and a clever younger sister. While Nately’s story is a bit cliche, it also features one of the better lines of sergeants loving sex workers.

“Sure, she’s a prostitute now, but she won’t be once I marry her.”

When a piece of flak almost sends the hero home

During one of the bombardier’s missions, he almost gets his “million dollar wound,” the one that would let him go home. Slight spoiler: He’s hit in the nuts by flak. As the American doctor later explains, any man who gives up a nut for his country is entitled to go home. But any man who almost loses a testicle has to fly more missions.

And, spoiler, Yossarian only almost lost his testicle. A piece of shrapnel passed through his scrotum, between his testicles.

When an aviator creates a mock scrotum to ask about his testicles

And how did Yossarian learn that he still had two testicles? An Italian doctor told him. But the Italian man only spoke Italian, and Yossarian only spoke English, so he did a bit of improvisation, just like any soldier trying to communicate with a local would do.

In Yossarian’s case, that was turning a handkerchief into an improvised scrotum filled with two nearby pieces of fruit. Then he pointed at the fake nut sack, said, “Two,” pointed at his own sack, and asked, “Two?” The doctor got the idea, laughed, and confirmed the boys were still present.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

(Hulu screenshot)

When the colonel tries to cover up failure by giving an award and promotion

At one point, our hero is so distracted on a bombing run that he goes through the whole run-up, gives all the verbal commands and watches for the release point, but forgets to actually throw the lever to release the bombs. Yossarian, pretty strung out by this point, decides to just get his plane to go around for another pass.

(Major spoiler) But on that second pass, a beloved character is killed, and Yossarian blames himself for making the second run. His bosses blame him too. But when they go to punish him, they suddenly realize that punishing the bombardier would send the message that the mission failed. So, to maintain the perception that the mission was a success, they promote him and give him a medal instead.

(Then, for slightly related reasons, they have him arrested about 24 hours later.)

When the whole world turns dark

But the most familiar parts of the miniseries, and the novel, are the dark moments, when the humor melts away, and the terrifying reality of the war smashes its way in like the world’s most horrible Kool-Aid Man. We aren’t going to list any moments here, because all of them are major spoilers.

But the themes of loss, vulnerability, the futility of war, rampant capitalism, and more are all explored. The “loss” one comes up a lot.

Catch-22 Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original

www.youtube.com

The titular catch: Catch-22

It’s in most of the ads, so you’ve probably seen how Catch-22 works. If not, it’s a piece of bureaucratic genius that sounds exactly like something the Army would come up with.

Flying bombing missions is suicidal and, therefore, insane. Anyone who is insane doesn’t have to fly bombing missions. All they have to do is present themselves to a doctor and ask to go home. Except.

Except that the moment they ask to go home, the doctor is required to take that as the thought process of a rational mind. Rational people aren’t crazy and can’t be sent home for insanity.

So anyone who asks to go home, can’t. Anyone who doesn’t ask can go home anytime, as soon as they ask.

If you’ve got Hulu, you can check out the show anytime. If not, the book is probably better anyway. Sure, you don’t get to watch Hugh Laurie, but there are even more jokes than in the miniseries. And the novel was written by a vet, so it avoids some of the military mistakes like the show makes. (One guy wearing massive sergeant stripes introduces himself as a lieutenant. There’s about one mistake like that per episode.)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force awards $9.2 billion for new fighter, bomber trainer

The Air Force awarded The Boeing Company a contract worth up to $9.2 billion for the Air Force’s new training aircraft Sept. 27, 2018.

The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators. The contract is designed to offer taxpayers the best value both today and in the future should requirements change.


“This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said. “Through competition we will save at least billion on the T-X program.”

The original service cost estimate was .7 billion for 351 aircraft.

The T-X program is expected to provide student pilots in undergraduate- and graduate-level training courses with the skills and competencies required to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

(Boeing photo)

“This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.”

The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

An initial delivery order for 3 million provides for the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators.

The contract supports the Air Force’s objective of an initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.

“This outcome is the result of a well-conceived strategy leveraging full and open competition,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s acquisition’s silver bullet.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

How this US soldier is the new Nigerian Prince

“Oh, beautiful friend,” begins an email from Nigeria, “I am in need of your help to move the sum of 30,987,544.36 out of my country but, alas, I cannot.” This email scam is old as email itself but is a spin on an even older scam, one that involves a man claiming to be a political prisoner during the Spanish-American War. Apparently, he’s hidden money away and is desperate to get it before the Spanish find it. Thankfully, through friends, he’s found you, a person of considerable trust. Now if you could just send him some money…

Well, the Spanish-prisoner-turned-Nigerian-prince has transformed yet again. This time, he’s turned into an American soldier… In Nigeria.


This letter con is actually even older than the Spanish-American War. The resurgence of the scam in 1898 was just a play on American anti-Spanish sentiment. In the 1700s, it was a different kind of Spanish prisoner who needed money to smuggle a wealthy family member into or out of a country. Then there’s the 1800s’ “Frenchman in Jerusalem,” or the 1920s’ “German Winemaker Investment.”

These are all different flavors of the same scam. You pay a comparatively small amount up front for the promise of a great windfall down the road, but nothing ever comes. Like all of these schemes, the fraudster is taking advantage of a political situation, economic frustrations, or the recipient’s general lack of knowledge about the subject or region.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

This is the new Nigerian Prince.

He’s back. 

Now, schemers are looking to take advantage of all three of those weaknesses. Americans love their military, but don’t always know where the U.S. military is operating — sometimes because it’s undisclosed and sometimes because Americans don’t really care where U.S. combat troops are deployed (before anyone gets indignant about this statement, ask yourself if you really know).

In reality, U.S. troops are deployed to anywhere between 177 and 195 countries in the world. And those are just the missions with 50 or more troops deployed. Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy has been more or less booming for the last 9 years, it really hasn’t translated into an increase in wages or quality of life for most middle-class and blue-collar Americans. And Americans, even American students, tend to be bad at geography.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

This is not a trick. That’s really where Nigeria is.

But the latest scam isn’t coming from Nigeria. It’s coming from Syria. Well… it claims it’s coming from Syria.

“How are you doing my friend, great I guess! Now I know this mail will definitely come to you as a huge surprise, but please kindly take your time to go through it carefully as the decision you make will probably go a long way to determine my future and continued existence. First, let me introduce myself. I am Capt. Christopher Townsend, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Syria.”

For civilians who may be susceptible to this scam, I hope you tried to show this to a military friend because there are many glaring irregularities between this first paragraph and the photo of the ID sent along with it.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Blurring the edges of an ID photo is something no one does ever.

Aside from a clearly photoshopped ID photo, the CAC card above was taken from a U.S. Army Sergeant Major, not a captain of Marines. Secondly, unless that captain was also a journalist, it’s unlikely that he would abbreviate his rank using the Associated Press style. Military personnel have many different ways of abbreviating ranks, but the Marines don’t use a period. Finally, no sergeant major or captain I have ever met talks or writes like that.

And a Marine isn’t likely to make that kind of mistake, even in an informal email. Are the Marines in Syria really with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment? That doesn’t matter.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

It matters, but not for the purposes of deciding to send them money.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

“Some money in various currencies was discovered and concealed in barrels with piles of weapons and ammunition at a location near one of President Assad’s old Presidential Palaces during a rescue operation and it was agreed by all party present that the money be shared amongst us.”

Do dictators just leave money around, hiding in barrels with arms caches? My guess is that President Assad probably keeps his money in a bank, like most of the world. Keeping illicit cash in barrels laying around one of your many houses is a surefire way to lose it. Besides, rich dictators don’t have to horde cash — they don’t care if people know they’re stealing.

The Syrian Presidential Palaces are located in Damascus and if U.S. Marines are/were in Damascus, even on a rescue mission, we probably would have heard about it by now. Most importantly, Assad never lived there.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

It would not be this clean after a visit from United States Marines.

(Flickr/Jacobdugo)

Finally, this is something more akin to the plot of Three Kings than something U.S. Marines would really do. The Marine Corps is renowned for its discipline and adherence to its core values on the battlefield. If they came across a cache of million dollars in a Presidential palace, you’d see Marines posing with it and their small arms on Instagram right before you read about it in the New York Times. Then, they’d turn it in.

If you ever have a question about something fishy sent from someone claiming to be a U.S. troop, just ask a veteran. We all need a good laugh.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia also needs to be wary of a US carrier in Vietnam

In what is the first visit to Vietnam by an American warship since 1975, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) has arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam for a port visit. The last time American carriers visited Vietnam was during Operation Frequent Wind, an evacuation from Saigon before communist North Vietnamese forces conquered the south.


According to a United States Navy release, the carrier was joined by the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108). While the public story is about how this visit, announced in January by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, reflects the United States and the Hanoi governments putting aside the bitterness of the Vietnam War, the obvious, underlying story here is about sending a message to Communist China.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
The guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) arrives in Da Nang, Vietnam for a scheduled port visit. The ship is part of the Carl Vinson Strike Group and is in the Western Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devin M. Monroe)

During Operation Frequent Wind, American naval vessels served as a landing point for many South Vietnamese who were seeking to escape the communists. Numerous planes and helicopters were landed on American carriers and, in many cases, pushed over the side to make room for more escapees.

Those who ran had good reason: The communist regime was responsible for executing at least 65,000 people and sending over 400,000 others to ‘re-education’ camps. Today, there still exists a great deal of repression and local populations, like the Montagnard tribes, have been targeted for genocide by the government.

Meanwhile, the South China Sea has been a major maritime flashpoint, with Communist China having buzzed American planes multiple times in 2017. Before the fall of South Vietnam, the Chinese Communists took the Paracel Islands in a 1974 naval battle. The visit by USS Carl Vinson is a way of sending China a message — but Russia might emerge as the real loser in this exchange.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
Senior leadership from Vietnam greet leaders from U.S. 7th Fleet, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, and the Carl Vinson Strike Group, during a welcome ceremony in Da Nang, Vietnam. The Carl Vinson Strike Group is in the Western Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Devin M. Monroe)

Vietnam has acquired a number of modern Russian ships, including Gepard-class frigates and Tarantul V-class missile corvettes. Vietnam has also acquired two shore-launched batteries of SS-N-26 Sapless anti-ship missiles. The Vietnamese People’s Air Force also has 46 Su-27/30 Flankers either in hand or on order. All of these Russian systems will be looked at closely as the United States and Vietnam grow closer, giving the U.S. valuable insight into the rival peer’s technology.

Lists

5 common movie mistakes veterans can spot right away

For decades, Hollywood has made military-based films that touch Americans’ hearts with epic characters and stunning imagery. Not every movie has a big budget, but it’s the attention to detail that the veteran community respects. When their branch is accurately represented on the big screen, Hollywood scores big points.


Still, even when some filmmakers think they’ve done a great job, veterans notice the smallest error of detail in movies.

Here’s a simple list of five movie mistakes we always seem to spot.

Related: 7 unrealistic Navy SEAL characters in the movies

5. Wearing our uniforms totally wrong

In Jarhead 2, a senior officer (Stephen Lang) would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves, and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus, he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.

You know you can Google our uniforms and learn how to set everything up, right?

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t part of the budget? (Image from Universal Pictures’ Jarhead 2: Field of Fire)

4. “Flagging” your boys

Any person on earth can tell you that pointing a weapon at one of your friends is a bad thing, and pulling the trigger in their direction is even worse. In the infantry, we’re always training to maneuver on the enemy without pointing our rifles at our own people.

1987’s Full Metal Jacket showcased a prime example of “flagging” as “Doc” runs in front of his squad and they shot around him. Every veteran watching this scene is shaking their head.

Sorry! We almost shot you! (Image via GIPHY)

3. Mis-worn berets

See anything wrong with the image below? Shy of the obviously awful salute, her beret shouldn’t be that low and the back of it is supposed to be flush with the skull. It makes the beret look better if you shave off the fluff.

Several films are guilty of this common mistake, but we like looking at Jessica Simpson.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
Jessica Simpson does look good in the beret, though. (Image from Sony Pictures’ Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous)

2. One too many flags

In 2008’s The Hurt Locker, Col. Cambridge appears to have more patriotism than any other soldier in the Army.

There’s only supposed to be the one flag on his right shoulder — not two. The “field” is supposed to be facing forward. You know, like someone running into battle with the flag.

But this colonel decided to show up to work supporting America twice.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
Col. Cambridge should have known better. (Image from Summit Entertainment’s The Hurt Locker)

Also Read: Why Jungle Warfare School was called a ‘Green Hell’

1. Saluting in combat zone

Saluting officers stateside — or when you’re facing an epic ass-chewing — is an absolute must. But salute an officer in the middle of a war zone in real life, and you just might get him or her killed by an enemy sniper.

In war, saluted officers make great targets for the enemy. (Image via GIPHY)
MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of ‘Murphy’ from ‘Murphy’s law’ and the amazing Dr. Stapp

The universe has been finding ways to mess with people long before Edward A. Murphy uttered his famed statement in the aftermath of Dr. John Paul Stapp strapping himself onto a rocket powered sled. One of the earliest instances of this “law” being stated explicitly happened in 1877 where Alfred Holt, in an address to the Institution of Civil Engineers, said, “It is found that anything that can go wrong at sea generally does go wrong sooner or later…”

By 1908, it had become a well-loved maxim among magicians as well, as explained by Nevil Maskelyne in The Magic Circular: “It is an experience common to all men to find that, on any special occasion . . . everything that can go wrong will go wrong…”

This was reiterated by Adam Hull Shirk in The Sphinx in 1928, “It is an established fact that in nine cases out of ten whatever can go wrong in a magical performance will do so.”


This all brings us to our unsung hero of the hour, Dr. John Paul Stapp — a man whose work has saved hundreds of thousands of lives since, and who Joseph Kittinger — who famously did a high altitude jump from 102,800 ft — called the “bravest man I’ve ever met… He knew the effects of what he was getting himself into… And he never hesitated.”

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Dr. John Paul Stapp.

Born in Brazil, the son of American missionaries there, Stapp eventually became an English major in college, but he changed career paths due to a traumatic incident that occurred during his Christmas break of 1928 when a 2 year old cousin of his was severely burned in a fireplace. Stapp helped to try to nurse the child back to health, but efforts failed and, 63 hours after getting burned, the toddler died. Said Stapp, “It was the first time I had ever seen anyone die. I decided right then I wanted to be a doctor.”

Unable to afford to go to medical school initially, after he earned a Master’s Degree in Zoology, he instead started teaching chemistry and zoology at Decatur College in Texas while he saved up money. Two years later, he attended the University of Texas where he got a PhD in Biophysics. Next up, he went to the University of Minnesota Medical School and got a Doctor of Medicine degree while working as a research assistant there.

Initially planning on becoming a pediatrician, Stapp changed career paths after joining the Army Medical Corps during WWII. While working as a flight surgeon, among other things, he was heavily involved in designing high altitude oxygen systems as well as studying the effects of high altitude/high speed flight on the human body. The end goal of all of this was to create better safety systems for pilots. During this time, he became puzzled at how some people would survive crashes, even extreme ones, while others in similar or lesser crashes would receive fatal injuries.

This all brings us around to Project MX-981 at the Edwards Air Force Base in 1945.

Up until this point, the prevailing theory was that a human body could not withstand more than 18Gs of force without suffering a fatal injury. The problem here was that airplanes of the age were flying faster and higher than ever. As such, the military wanted to know if their pilots could safely eject at these high velocities without being killed, as well as to try to design the safest possible system for doing so.

Testing towards this end was overseen by Dr. Stapp, using a rocket powered sled called the “Gee Whiz”. This was placed on rails on a 2000 foot track, at the end of which was an approximately 50 foot long section where a hydraulic braking system would stop the 1500 lb sled in its tracks.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Stapp rides the rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base.

The passenger aboard the cart was to initially be a 185 lb dummy named Oscar Eightball and then later chimpanzees. Stapp, however, had other ideas. He wanted to see what an actual human could handle, stating of Oscar Eightball at the project’s onset, “You can throw this away. I’m going to be the test subject.”

David Hill, who was in charge of collecting the test data throughout the experiments and making sure all the telemetry gear stayed working, said of this, they all thought Dr. Stapp must be joking as “We had a lot of experts come out and look at our situation. And there was a person from M.I.T. who said, if anyone gets 18 Gs, they will break every bone in their body. That was kind of scary.”

Dr. Stapp, however, used his extensive knowledge of human physiology, as well as analyzing various crashes where people must have survived more than 18Gs of force, and determined the 18G limit was absurdly low if a proper restraint system was designed and used.

That said, Dr. Stapp wasn’t stupid, but rather an excellent and meticulous researcher, who would soon earn the nickname, “The Careful Daredevil”.

Thus, step one was first to design a proper restraint system and work out all the kinks in the testing apparatus. Towards this end, they conducted nearly three dozen trial runs using the dummy, which turned out to be for the best. For example, in test run number one, both the main and secondary braking systems didn’t work owing to the triggering teeth breaking off, and, instead of stopping, Gee Whiz and Oscar Eightball shot off the tracks into the desert. Funny enough, after the teeth were beefed up, the braking cams engaged, but themselves immediately broke…

In yet another catastrophic failure, the forces were so extreme that Oscar broke free from his restraints. The result of this was his rubber face literally being ripped off thanks to the windscreen in front of his head. As for the rest of his body, it went flying through the air well over 700 feet (over 200 meters) from where the Gee Whiz stopped.

This brings us to about two years into the project on December 10, 1947 when Dr. Stapp decided it was his turn to be the dummy.

Initially strapping himself in facing backwards — a much safer way to experience extreme G-forces — the first run with a human aboard was a rather quaint 10Gs during the braking period.

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Giphy

After this, they continued to improve the restraint system as Dr. Stapp slowly ramped up the Gs all the way to 35 within six months of that first run. He stated of this, “The men at the mahogany desks thought the human body would never take 18 Gs; here we’re taking twice that with no sweat!”

And by “no sweat”, of course, he no doubt meant that throughout the tests, he’d suffered a hemorrhaged retina, fractured rib, lost several fillings from his teeth, got a series of concussions, cracked his collarbone, developed an abdominal hernia, developed countless bloody blisters caused by sand hitting his skin at extreme velocities, severe bruising, shattering his wrists, and fracturing his coccyx. But, you know, “no sweat”.

While recovering, if further tests needed conducting in the interim, he did begin allowing other volunteers to do the job, but as soon as he was healthy enough again, Dr. Stapp was back in the seat instead. One of his coworkers on the project, George Nichols, stated that Stapp couldn’t bare the idea of someone being seriously injured or killed in experiments he was conducting, so whenever possible made himself the guinea pig instead.

Of course, in order for the research to be as useful as possible and for other scientists to believe what Dr. Stapp was managing to endure, extremely accurate sensors were needed, which is where one Captain Edward A. Murphy comes in.

For a little background on Murphy, beyond very briefly helping out on this project, the highlights of his career included working on the SR-71, XB-70 Valkyrie, X-15 rocket plane, and helping to design the life support system for the Apollo missions.

Going back to Dr. Stapp’s project, at the time Murphy was working on a separate project at Wright Field involving centrifuge, including designing some new sensor systems in the process. When Dr. Stapp heard about this, he asked if Murphy wouldn’t mind adapting the sensors for use in Project MX-981, to which Murphy happily complied. More specifically, Murphy’s sensor system would allow them to directly measure the G forces on the passenger, rather than relying on measuring the G forces on the sled body itself.

Now, before we go any further, we should point out that exact details of what occurred over the two days Murphy was directly involved in the project have been lost to history, despite many first hand accounts from several people. You might think it would make it easy to sort out given this, but human memory being what it is, the accounts from those who were there vary considerably.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

This acrobatic airplane is pulling up in a +g maneuver; the pilot is experiencing several g’s of inertial acceleration in addition to the force of gravity.

Illustrating this point in the most poignant way possible we have a quote from Chuck Yeager, who was good friends with Dr. Stapp. In the quote, Yeager was responding to the widely reported idea that Yeager had sought out Dr. Stapp to clear him for his famous flight where he broke the sound barrier. As to why he chose Dr. Stapp, Yeager supposedly felt that no other doctor but Stapp would clear him on account of Yeager’s supposedly broken ribs.

Yeager’s response to this almost universally reported story is as follows: “That’s a bunch of crap!… That’s the way rumors get started, by these people…who weren’t even there…”

He goes on,

that’s the same kind of crap…you get out of guys who were not involved and came in many years after. It’s just like Tom Brokaw’s book if you’ll pardon the analogy here, about the best of the breed or something like that. Well, every guy who wrote his story about World War II did it fifty years after it happened. I’m a victim of the same damn thing. I tell it the way I remember it, and that’s not the way it happened. I go back and I read a report that I did 55 years ago and I say, hmm, I’d better tell that story a little bit different. Well, that’s human nature. You tell it the way you believe it and that’s not necessarily the way that it happened. There’s nothing more true than that.

During this impressive and extremely accurate rant about how difficult it is to get an accurate report of some historic event, even from those who were there, he notes of those writing about these things after, “Guys become, if you’ll pardon my expression, sexual intellectuals. You know what the phrase is for that? Sexual intellectuals. They’re fucking know-it-alls, that’s what.”

And, we’re not going to lie, we mostly just included that little anecdote because we’re pretty sure “Sexual Intellectuals (Fucking Know-It-Alls)” is the greatest description of the staff and subscribers of TodayIFoundOut we’ve ever come across, and we kind of wish we’d named the channel that (and are pretty sure we’re going to make a t-shirt out of it…)

In any event, that caveat about the inherent inaccuracy of reporting history out of the way, this finally brings us around to the story of how Murphy and his law became a thing.

The general story that everybody seems to agree on is that Murphy or another worker there installed Murphy’s sensors and then a chimpanzee was strapped into the sled to test them out. (Note here, that years later in an interview with People Magazine, Murphy would claim it was Dr. Stapp that was strapped in.) After the test run, however, they found the sensors hadn’t worked at all, meaning the whole expensive and dangerous test had been run for nothing.

As to exactly why the sensors hadn’t worked, there are a few versions of this tale. As for the aforementioned David Hill, he states that it was one of his own assistants, either Jerry Hollabaugh or Ralph DeMarco, he couldn’t remember which, who installed the sensors incorrectly. As Hill explained in an interview with Nick T. Spake, author of the book A History of Murphy’s Law, “If you take these two over here and add them together. You get the correct amount of G-forces. But if you take these two and mount them together, one cancels the other out and you get zero.”

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Cover of “A History of Murphy’s Law.”

George Nichols, however, claimed Hill and DeMarco had both double checked the wiring before hand, but had missed that it had been wired up backwards. That said, Nichols stated it wasn’t DeMarco nor Hill’s fault, as the wiring had been done back at Wright Field by Murphy’s team.

Said Nichols, “When Murphy came out in the morning, and we told him what happened… he was unhappy…” Stating, “If that guy [his assistant] has any way of making a mistake… He will.”

Nichols, however, blamed Murphy as Murphy should have examined the sensor system before hand to ensure it had been wired correctly, as well as tested the sensors before they were ever installed in the sled, and on top of it all should have given them time to test everything themselves before a live run on the sled. However, as Murphy was only to be there for two days, he’d supposedly rushed them. Nichols stated this inspired the team to not repeat Murphy’s mistakes.

Said Nichols, “If it can happen, it will happen… So you’ve got to go through and ask yourself, if this part fails, does this system still work, does it still do the function it is supposed to do? What are the single points of failure? Murphy’s Law established the drive to put redundancy in. And that’s the heart of reliability engineering.”

Hill also claims this ultimately morphed into the mantra among the group, “if anything can go wrong, it will.”

As for Murphy himself, years later in an interview with People Magazine, he would state what he originally said was, “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then somebody will do it that way.” He then claimed when Dr. Stapp heard this, directly after the failed sled run, he shortened it and called it “Murphy’s Law”, saying “from now on we’re going to have things done according to Murphy’s Law.”

In yet another interview, Murphy painted an entirely different picture than accounts from Hill and Nichols’, stating he’d sent the sensors ahead of time, and had only gone there to investigate when they’d malfunctioned. He stated when he looked into it, “they had put the strain gauges on the transducers ninety degrees off.”

Importantly here, contrary to what the other witnesses said of how Murphy had blamed his assistant, in the interview, Murphy said it was his own fault, “I had made very accurate drawings of the thing for them, and discussed it with the people who were going to make them… but I hadn’t covered everything. I didn’t tell them that they had positively to orient them in only one direction. So I guess about that time I said, ‘Well, I really have made a terrible mistake here, I didn’t cover every possibility.’ And about that time, Major Stapp says, ‘Well, that’s a good candidate for Murphy’s Law’. I thought he was going to court martial me. But that’s all he said.”

Murphy then went on to explain to the interviewer that he actually didn’t remember the exact words he said at the time, noting “I don’t remember. It happened thirty five years ago, you know.”

This might all have you wondering how exactly this statement that nobody seemed to be able to remember clearly came to be so prevalent in public consciousness?

John Paul Stapp Fastest man on Earth – rocket sled Pilot safety equipment 1954

www.youtube.com

It turns out, beyond being incredibly brave, brilliant, and hell-bent on saving lives, even if it cost him his own, Dr. Stapp was also hilarious from all accounts from people describing him. He even wrote a book with jokes and various witty sayings called For Your Moments of Inertia. For example, “I’m as lonely as a cricket with arthritis.” or “Better a masochist than never been kissed…”

Or how about this gem from an interview where he was asked about any lasting effects on him as a result of the experiments — Dr. Stapp wryly responded, the only residual negative effect was “all the lunches and dinners I have to go to now…”

Beyond all this, he was also a collector of “Laws”, even coming up with one of his own, Stapp’s Law — “The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle.”

When collecting these laws, he would name them after the person he heard them from, though often re-wording them to be more succinct, which, for whatever it’s worth, seems to align most closely to Murphy’s own account of how “his” law came about.

And as for this then becoming something the wider public found out about, during one of his interviews about the project, Dr. Stapp was asked, “How is it that no one has been severely injured — or worse — during your tests?”

It was here that Stapp stated, he wasn’t too worried about it because the entire team adhered to “Murphy’s Law”. He then explained that they always kept in mind that whatever could go wrong, would, and thus, extreme effort was made to think up everything that could go wrong and fix it before the test was actually conducted.

Going back to Project MX-981, having now reached 35 Gs after 26 runs by himself and several others by 11 volunteers, Dr. Stapp needed a faster sled. After all, at this point humans were flying at super sonic speeds and whether or not they could survive ejecting at those speeds needed to be known.

Enter the Sonic Wind at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. This sled could use up to 12 rockets capable of producing a combined 50,000 pounds of thrust, resulting in speeds as high as 750 mph. The track was about 3,550 feet long, with the braking system using water scoops. The braking could then be varied by raising or lowering the water level slightly.

This now brings us to December 10, 1954, when Dr. Stapp would pull off his most daring and final experiment.

Previous to this run, Dr. Stapp stated, “I practiced dressing and undressing with the lights out so if I was blinded I wouldn’t be helpless”, as he assumed he would probably be blind afterwards, if he survived at all. He would also state when he was sitting there waiting for the rockets to be fired, “I said to myself, ‘Paul, it’s been a good life.'”

In order to stop his arms and legs from flapping involuntarily in the wind during the test, they were securely strapped down and a mouth guard was inserted to keep his teeth from breaking off.

All set, he then blasted off on his 29th and final sled run, using nine solid fuel rockets, capable of producing 40,000 pounds of thrust.

As an interesting aside here, beyond ground based cameras, none other than Joe Kittinger piloted a T-33 over head with a photographer in back filming it.

As for the sled, it accelerated from 0 up to 632 miles per hour (1,017 kilometers per hour) in a mere 5 seconds, resulting in about 20 Gs of force on the acceleration phase. Then, in the span of just 1.4 seconds, he came to a full stop, experiencing 46.2 G’s of force in the other direction, meaning his body weighed almost 7,000 pounds at the peak G force! In the process, he had also set the record for highest landspeed of any human.

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Col. John Paul Stapp aboard the “Gee Whiz” rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base.

(Air Force photo)

Said Kittinger of watching this, “He was going like a bullet… He went by me like I was standing still, and I was going 350 mph… I thought, that sled is going so damn fast the first bounce is going to be Albuquerque. I mean, there was no way on God’s earth that sled could stop at the end of the track. No way. He stopped in a fraction of a second. It was absolutely inconceivable that anybody could go that fast and then just stop, and survive.”

Nevertheless, when he was unstrapped from the chair, Dr. Stapp was alive, but as Nichols would observe, “His eyes had hemorrhaged and were completely filled with blood. It was horrible. Absolutely horrible.”

As for Dr. Stapp, he would state, it felt “like being assaulted in the rear by a fast freight train.” And that on the deceleration phase, “I felt a sensation in the eyes…somewhat like the extraction of a molar without anesthetic.”

He had also cracked some ribs, broken his wrists, and had some internal injuries to his respiratory and circulatory systems.

And on the note of his eyes, he was initially blind after, with it assumed that his retinas had detached. However, upon investigation, it was determined they had not, and within a few hours his sight mostly came back, with minor residual effects on his vision that lasted the rest of his life.

Apparently not knowing when to quit, once he had healed up, he planned yet another experiment to really see the limits of human endurance via strapping himself to that same sled and attempting to reach 1,000 mph this time…

When asked why, he stated, “I took my risks for information that will always be of benefit. Risks like those are worthwhile.”

To lead up to this, he conducted further experiments, going all the way up to 80Gs with a test dummy, at which point the Sonic Wind itself ripped off the tracks and was damaged.

It is probably for the best that it was here that his superiors stepped in. As you might imagine given his end goal was seemingly to figure out the extreme upper limit of G forces a human could survive with a perfected restraint system, and to use himself as the guinea pig until he found that limit, Dr. Stapp had previously run into the problem of his superiors ordering him to stop and instead to use chimpanzees exclusively. But while he did occasionally use chimpanzees, he went ahead and ignored the direct order completely. After all, he needed to be able to feel it for himself or be able to talk to the person experiencing the effects of the extreme Gs to get the best possible data. And, of course, no better way to find out what a human could take than use a human.

Rather than getting in trouble, he ultimately got a promotion thanks to the extreme benefits of his work. However, after his 46.2G run, they decided to shut down the experiment altogether as a way to get him to listen. After all, he had already achieved the intended goal of helping to develop better restraint and ejection systems, and proved definitively that a human could survive ejecting at the fastest speeds aircraft of the day could travel.

Now, at this point you might be thinking that’s all quite impressive, but that’s not Dr. Stapp helping to save “hundreds of thousands” of lives as we stated before. So how did he do that?

Well, during the experiments, Dr. Stapp became acutely aware that with a proper restraint system, most car accidents should be survivable, yet most cars of the age not only didn’t have any restraint systems whatsoever, they also were generally designed in ways to maximize injury in a crash with unforgiving surfaces, strong frames and bodies that would not crumple on impact, doors that would pop open in crashes, flinging occupants out, etc.

In fact, Dr. Stapp frequently pointed out to his superiors that they lost about as many pilots each year to car accidents as they did in the air. So while developing great safety systems in the planes was all well and good, they’d save a lot of lives simply by installing a restraint system into the cars of all their pilots and requiring they use them.

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Giphy

The military didn’t take this advice, but Dr. Stapp wasn’t about to give up. After all, tens of thousands of people each year in the U.S. alone were dying in car accidents when he felt many shouldn’t have. Thus, in nearly every interview he gave about his famous experiments almost from the very beginning of the project, he would inevitably guide the conversation around to the benefits of what they were doing if adopted in automobiles.

Not stopping there, he went on a life-long public campaign talking to everyone from car manufacturers to politicians, trying to get it required that car manufacturers include seat belts in their vehicles, as well as sharing his team’s data and restraint system designs.

Beyond that, he used his clout within the Air Force to convince them to allow him to conduct a series of experiments into auto safety, test crashing cars in a variety of ways using crash test dummies and, in certain carefully planned tests, volunteer humans, to observe the effects. This was one of the first times anyone had tried such a scientifically rigorous, broad look into commercial automobile safety. He also tested various restraint systems, in some tests subjecting the humans to as high as a measured 28 Gs. Results in hand, in May of 1955 he held a conference to bring together automobile engineers, scientists, safety council members and others to come observe the tests and learn of the results of his team’s research.

He then repeated this for a few years until Stapp was reassigned by the Air Force, at which point he requested Professor James Ryan of the University of Minnesota host the 4th annual such event, which Ryan then named the “Stapp Car-Crash and Field Demonstration Conference”, which is still held today.

Besides this and other ways he championed improvement in automobile safety, he also served as a medical advisor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, in both heavily pushing for better safety systems.

It is no coincidence that not long after Dr. Stapp started these campaigns, car manufacturers started installing seatbelts as a matter of course, as well as started to put much more serious thought into making cars safer in crashes.

In the end, while Dr. Stapp got little public credit for helping to convince car manufacturers to prioritize automobile safety, and provided much of the initial data to help them design such systems, he was at least invited to be present when President Johnson signed the bill that made seat belts required in cars in 1966.

Bonus Facts:

  • Besides ignoring direct orders to stop using himself as a guinea pig, other ways Dr. Stapp apparently used to frequently flout the rules was to, on his own time, freely treat dependents of people who worked at Edwards’ who were nonetheless not eligible for medical care. He would typically do this via doing house calls to airmen’s homes to keep the whole thing secret, including apparently attending to Chuck Yeager’s sons in this way according to Yeager.
  • It turns out Murphy was also good friends with none other than Lawrence Peter, remembered today for the Peter Principal — people inevitably get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. According Murphy’s son, Robert, at one point Peter and Murphy tried to get together with Cyril Northcote Parkinson of Parkinson’s Law — “Work expands to meet the time and money that is available.” However, Robert claims that fateful meeting ended up getting canceled when other matters came up to prevent the get together.
  • One other strong safety recommendation Dr. Stapp pushed for, particularly in aviation, was to turn passenger seats around to face backwards, as this is drastically safer in crashes. And, at least in aviation would be simple to do on any commercial airline, requiring no modification other than to turn the seat around in its track. As Stapp and subsequent research by NASA shows, humans can take the most G-forces and receive fewer injuries overall with “eyes back” force, where the G-forces are pushing you back into your seat, with the seat cushions themselves also lending a hand in overall safety. This also insures tall people won’t smack their heads and bodies against anything in front of them in a crash. Despite the massive safety benefits here for people of all ages, outside of car seats for babies and toddlers, nobody anywhere seems interested in leveraging the extreme benefits of rear facing passengers to increase general safety.
  • If you’re wondering about the safest place on a plane to sit, funny enough, that’s the rear. In fact, you’re approximately 40% more likely to survive a plane crash if you sit in the back of the plane, rather than the front. The other advantage to the rear is that most passengers choose not to sit in the back. So unless the plane is full, you might get a row of seats to yourself. (Of course, a bathroom is also often in the rear on planes, soooo.) Another factor to consider is where the closest exit is. As a general rule, studies examining accidents have shown you’ll want to be within six rows of an emergency exit to maximize your survival chances. So if the plane doesn’t have a rear exit, that’s something to be factored in.
  • During Joe Kittinger’s then record leap from about 102,800 feet on August 16, 1960, the following happened during the ascent:
    At 43,000 feet, I find out [what can go wrong]. My right hand does not feel normal. I examine the pressure glove; its air bladder is not inflating. The prospect of exposing the hand to the near-vacuum of peak altitude causes me some concern. From my previous experiences, I know that the hand will swell, lose most of its circulation, and cause extreme pain…. I decide to continue the ascent, without notifying ground control of my difficulty… Circulation has almost stopped in my unpressurized right hand, which feels stiff and painful… [Upon landing] Dick looks at the swollen hand with concern. Three hours later the swelling disappeared with no ill effect.
    His total ascent took 1 hour and 31 minutes, he stayed at the peak altitude for 12 minutes, and his total decent took 13 minutes and 45 seconds, so his hand was exposed to a near vacuum for quite some time without long term ill effects. Incidentally, during his fall, he achieved a peak speed of 614 mph, nearly as fast as Dr. Stapp had managed in his little rocket sled. His experience, however, was very different than Dr. Stapp’s. Said Kittinger,
    There’s no way you can visualize the speed. There’s nothing you can see to see how fast you’re going. You have no depth perception. If you’re in a car driving down the road and you close your eyes, you have no idea what your speed is. It’s the same thing if you’re free falling from space. There are no signposts. You know you are going very fast, but you don’t feel it. You don’t have a 614-mph wind blowing on you. I could only hear myself breathing in the helmet.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia can’t be trusted after Ukraine aggression, says Mattis

Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov in contradiction to signed treaties and the Law of the Sea show that Russia cannot be counted on to keep its word, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018.

The secretary spoke to reporters while awaiting the arrival of Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis for a meeting.

Over the weekend, Russia barred the Kerch Strait at the mouth of the Sea of Azov off the Crimean Peninsula. Russian sailors opened fire and wounded at least three Ukrainian sailors in the seizure of two armored naval vessels and a tugboat.


Mattis noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned the action on behalf of the 29 NATO allies and called for “calm and restraint.” The NATO official also called for Russia to release the ships and sailors immediately.

“It was obviously a flagrant violation of international law, it was I think a cavalier use force that injured Ukrainian sailors,” Mattis told reporters. “It was contempt, really, for the traditional ways of settling these kinds of concerns if they had any. When you think there is a treaty between the two countries that prohibits exactly what happened, it just shows that Russia cannot be counted on now to keep its word.”

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Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

During a Nov. 26, 2018 news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the alliance members “expressed their full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

“We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports and allow freedom of navigation for Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait,” he added. The secretary general’s statement came after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

Latest escalation

The incident is the latest escalation in the war between Russia and Ukraine that started when Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. NATO’s position since the annexation has been consistent: The United States and all NATO allies condemned Russia’s aggressive actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said Russia must end its support to militant groups in eastern Ukraine and withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory.

The escalation is the latest in Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. “The Russian move poses further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO provides support to Ukraine and its people. The United States and the other NATO allies sanctioned Russia for its moves.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Green Beret’s kid wrote a book on coping with deployments

When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.

Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.

To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.


The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.

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“Brave For My Family”

While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.

“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.

Story behind the story

While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.

After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.

From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.

Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.

Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.

“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.

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An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.

To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.

Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.

As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.

The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.

“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”

Father and son share their story

Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.

“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.

For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.

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An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.

For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.

“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”

Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.

“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New deployment shows how Air Force would cripple China

The US Air Force completed a first-of-its-kind training exercise involving the stealthiest aircraft in the world in a massive show of force meant to demonstrate the US’s commitment to bucking down a rising China in the Pacific.

B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri took the long flight out to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for the first time ever starting in September 2018.

And while the B-2s familiarized themselves with their new home, they took off for training missions with ultra stealth F-22 Raptor fighter jets from the Hawaii Air National Guard.


“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to [Pearl Harbor] highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, US Air Force director of air and cyberspace operations in the Pacific, said in a statement.

“The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Williams. “The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

A US Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

The US recently started calling the Pacific the “Indo-Pacific” in what was widely seen as a slight against China. Addressing “free and open” travel there seems to needle Beijing over its ambitions to determine who can sail or fly in the international waters of the South China Sea.

But beyond the rhetorical messages, flying B-2s and F-22s together sends a clear military message — you can’t hit what you can’t see.

The US doesn’t have any bigger guns — this is the real deal

Despite the B-2’s massive size, its stealth design and lack of vertical stabilizers make it almost invisible to radars. The F-22 also benefits from all-aspect stealth and a marble-sized footprint on radar screens. Together, the nuclear-capable B-2 and the world-beating F-22 fighter jet represent a force that can go anywhere in the world, beat any defenses, drop nuclear or conventional heavy payloads, and get out of harm’s way.

China has sought to defend the South China Sea with surface-to-air missiles and large radar installations, but the B-2 and F-22 have specific tactics and features to defeat those.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

An Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft banks away after being refueled by a KC-10 Extender aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean, July 15, 2017.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

Additionally, the Air Force tweaked the old tactics used by the Cold-War era stealth airframes to show a new look entirely.

Instead of simply taking off and landing from Pearl Harbor, a known base and likely target for Chinese missiles in the opening salvo of a conflict, a B-2 trained on something called “hot reloading” from a smaller base on a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific called Wake Island.

There, specialists refueled the B-2 and reloaded its bomb bays while the engines still ran, enabling a lightning-quick turnaround thousands of miles out from Pearl Harbor and into the Pacific.

“We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges,” Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron’s commander, said in the statement.

While Beijing increasingly takes a militaristic line towards the US, which is trying to preserve freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the US Air Force made the purpose of its new training regime explicit.

The mission sought to “to ensure free, open Indo-Pacific” with stealth nuclear bombers and fighter jets purpose-built to counter Beijing’s South China Sea fortress.

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

Articles

Did Trump threaten to send US troops to fight Mexico’s drug war?

On Wednesday, journalist Dolia Estevez reported that during a brief, blunt phone call the previous Friday, US President Donald Trump threatened and cajoled Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.


According to Estevez, who cited “confidential information” obtained from sources on both sides of the call, Trump disparaged Mexico and Mexicans, threatened to levy taxes on Mexican imports, and went so far as to hint at sending US troops to confront drug traffickers who, Trump said, Mexico’s military had been incapable of stopping.

The incendiary comments attracted instant attention, both for their vitriol and for their verisimilitude, as Trump frequently inveighed against Mexico throughout his campaign and has kept up his harsh rhetoric during the first days of his administration.

Estevez’s report also characterized Peña Nieto’s response as “stammering.” Much of the Mexican public has been frustrated with Peña Nieto’s response to Trump’s attacks, and the Mexican president has seen his approval rating fall to 12% in recent weeks.

Estevez described Trump as threatening Mexico with a 35% tax “on those exports that hurt Mexico the most” and referred to White House spokesman Sean Spicer restating the 35% tax idea after the call.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto | via flickr

However, while Trump has mentioned a 35% tariff on exports from US companies in Mexico, the most commonly floated number is a 20% tax on Mexican goods entering the US. The White House lists no press briefing by Spicer on January 27, the day of the call.

Hours after Estevez’s report surfaced, a report from The Associated Press corroborated some of the content of the conversation, but downplayed the tone.

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to an excerpt seen by the AP. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

But, the AP said, the excerpt did not make clear who Trump was referring to as “bad hombres,” nor did it make evident the tone or context of Trump’s remark. Moreover, the excerpt did not include Peña Nieto’s response.

The Mexican government also issued a statement around the same time totally rejecting Estevez’s report.

“[It’s] necessary to clarify that the publication is based in absolute falsities and with evident ill intention,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Twitter.

“During the call, President Peña Nieto was clear and emphatic in signaling the differences of position in respect to some statements made by President Trump in public and which he repeated during their dialogue,” the ministry said, adding:

“You assert that you obtained information from confidential sources from ‘both sides of the border.'”
“Only [Peña Nieto] and the foreign minister participated in that call and neither of them remember knowing you or having spoken with you ever. Whoever has been your confidential source on this side of the border, lied to you.”

Eduardo Sanchez, Mexico’s presidential office spokesman, said the conversation was respectful, not hostile or humiliating, as described by Estevez.

“It is absolutely false that President Trump has threatened to send troops to the border,” he said during a Wednesday-night interview with Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.

Later on Wednesday, the Mexican government issued a statement disputing the AP’s initial report, saying the details of it “did not correspond to reality.”

“The negative expressions to which [the AP report] makes reference, did not happen during said telephone call,” the statement, posted on Twitter, said. “On the contrary, the tone was constructive …”

The White House also disputed the account of a contentious call between Trump and Peña Nieto.

“The White House tells me POTUS did not threaten to invade Mexico,” Andrew Beatty, the AFP’s White House correspondent, tweeted a little before 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Jim Acosta, CNN’s senior White House correspondent, also tweeted a comment he attributed to a White House official: “Reports that the President threatened to invade Mexico are false. Even the Mexican government is disputing these reports.”

A more in-depth report from CNN published Wednesday night cited a transcript of the call that differed from the text published by the AP:

“You have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help with. We are willing to help with that big-league, but they have be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out.”

A source told CNN that the AP’s report was based on a readout of the conversation between Trump and Peña Nieto written by aides, not on a transcript.

In a further qualification, the White House characterized Trump’s “bad hombres” remark as “lighthearted” to the AP in a story published on Thursday morning.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
President Donald Trump at the inauguration ceremony. | Defense Department photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

The White House said the comments were “part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure.”

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the AP the conversation was “pleasant and constructive.”

While both sides has downplayed the content of the conversation and dismissed the reportedly hostile tone, the exact nature of the phone call is still unclear, and may remain so until a full transcript or audio (which the Mexican government traditionally does not record) is revealed.

In any case, Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders during his first two weeks as president have been concerning for observers, both at home and abroad.

“(Trump’s) interactions are naive in that he keeps suggesting we will have the best relationship ever with a broad departure of countries, but there is no substance to back it up,” a government official with knowledge of Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders told CNN.

“Source familiar with Trump foreign leader calls says the POTUS convos are turning faces ‘white’ inside the” White House, Acosta tweeted late on Wednesday.

“When he encounters a policy challenge, like with Turnbull, he responds with a tantrum,” the official told CNN, referring to a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

During that call, Trump bragged about his election victory and said Australia was going to send the US “the next Boston bombers” as part of an Obama-approved deal to taken in refugees held by Australia, which he criticized.

Descriptions of Trump’s calls are at odds with “sanitized” White House accounts, The Washington Post, which first reported the nature of the Turnbull call, said of Trump’s discussions with foreign leaders, adding:

“The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job as the nation’s chief executive, a role in which he continues to employ both the uncompromising negotiating tactics he honed as a real estate developer and the bombastic style he exhibited as a reality television personality.”

The contentious nature of the Trump’s call with the Australian leader was especially troubling, in light of the longstanding and close-knit ties Washington and Canberra have developed over decades.

While the call with Mexico’s president appears to be less sensational that initially reported, that correction will likely do little to sooth the nerves of Mexicans and people of Mexican descent in Mexico and in the US.

Trump has made not indication of backing off his pledge to construct a border wall — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has said the wall could be completed in two years, and Kelly is already traveling to the border area to study plans for the wall’s construction.

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field
Mexican Marines during an operation | Creative Commons photo

Moreover, Mexicans appear to have been caught up in the “extreme vetting” Trump has targeted at citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

“We have reports of Mexicans who have been held for more than 12 hours … We have a case of a family who were held for more than 10 hours and we’re looking into that,” Marcelino Miranda, consul for legal affairs at Mexico’s consulate in Chicago, said on Tuesday.

Miranda said he believed stringent questioning faced by those Mexicans had nothing to do with the newly intensified vetting process, though others from the country likely see it as part of a broader hostility to the US’s southern neighbor.

Trump “wants to make an example of Mexico to show how he will deal with countries around the world,” Maria Eugenia Valdes, a political scientist at the Autonomous Metropolitan University in Mexico, told journalist Ioan Grillo.

“This man is capable of anything,” she added.

“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it, just don’t worry about it,” Trump said during a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

“We’re going to straighten it out,” Trump added. “That’s what I do. I fix things.”