From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Every step of this story is true.

It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.

The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.


From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)

The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.

A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.

The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.

Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.

After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.

(Photo by Tetteroo Media)

Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.

It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.

Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.

That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.

He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.

This was the home that American flag had been brought into.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.

Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.

He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.

He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.

He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.

The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)

It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.

Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.

The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.

Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.

Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.

With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.

The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.

An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.

A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.

(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)

As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.

The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.

Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.

That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This European city has been destroyed by invaders 44 times

“War ends only when it has carved its way across cities and villages, bringing death and destruction in its wake,” Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Americans are pretty lucky when it comes to where they are on the map. Only a handful of times in the country’s history has war ever come home to its cities and villages.

The Revolution, the British burning Washington, DC, the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11 are just a few attacks on American soil that come to mind — luckily, the Cuban Missile Crisis ended without that kind of a conflict. The aforementioned attacks are also spread out across the nation’s nearly 250-year history.

Other nations aren’t so lucky.


From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Here’s an ink drawing from the 1600s.

Belgrade, the capital and largest city in Serbia (the former Yugoslavia), is one of those who has not enjoyed such luck. Its location on the crossroads of the Sava and Danube Rivers and its fertile valleys means it will always be an attractive area to any potential invader.

But it’s also right on the path from European Turkey into the heart of Western Europe. You can’t invade the Middle East from Europe without going through Belgrade and, as logic would have it, you can’t invade Europe from the Middle East without passing Belgrade either. All told, the city has been completely destroyed and rebuilt 44 times and has seen 115 different wars.

It’s amazing just how many different art styles throughout the years depict the destruction of Belgrade.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Here’s an Ottoman miniature of another Siege of Belgrade.

Flashback to pre-historical times: As mentioned, a land so well suited for growing crops is going to be settled rather quickly by the early Slavic farmers of Europe. The area’s inhabitants were first known as Thracians and Dacians before the area was conquered by Celts, who ruled for more than 200 years.

Until Belgrade was captured by Rome.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

To be fair, Attila razed cities like it was his job. Because it was.

Rome held the city for some 400-plus years until the Roman Empire was split in two. Roman Dacia was on the edge of the Eastern Roman Empire and they could not protect it properly. In 441, the city we call Belgrade was captured and razed by Huns, who sold its population off into slavery.

The Huns held the city for more than ten years before the Romans could come recapture it, but it was soon taken again, this time by Ostrogoths. It was quickly captured and retaken in succession by the Eastern Romans, Avars, and later, Attila the Hun.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

“Here they come… Shit, there goes the city. Again.”

After Attila, the Romans (now called Byzantines) wrestled for control over the city with Avars, Gepids, Hungarians, and Bulgarians for some 400-plus years. The city saw armies of the first, second, and third crusades march through it as the Serbian Empire began to establish itself in the area. That empire was relatively short-lived, however, and Belgrade was firmly in Hungarian hands.

Until it wasn’t. The site became a focal point for the ongoing Ottoman-Christian struggle in the Balkans. Eventually, the Ottomans captured the city, destroyed it, and sent its Christian population to Istanbul in chains. But it thrived under Turkish rule and became an appetizing target for the rising Hapsburg Empire based in Austria.

The two powers fought over the city of Belgrade all the way through the First World War, even though Serbia was an independent kingdom for much of the time.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Who not only mine the streets, but also spray paint the old buildings. Good work, a-hole.

After World War I, Serbia becomes part of the greater Yugoslavia, which was great for Belgrade until Yugoslavia joined the Axis pact. The citizens rebelled and declared the twenty-something (and anti-Axis) Peter II the rightful king and the one calling the shots on Yugoslavia’s foreign relations. The only answer the Axis had was to bomb the sh*t out of Belgrade and invade with literally every Axis power available.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

“Leave us alone, literally everyone ever!”

Of course, this means the city had to be retaken by the Allies, who decided to bomb the city into oblivion… on Easter. It was then captured by the Red Army and Communist Partisans under Josip Broz Tito. The city (and Yugoslavia) remained firmly in Tito’s good hands until the Balkan Conflicts of the 1990s, where it was bombed by NATO forces.

And the locals have not forgotten.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Endgame’ writers say only one of the X-Men would’ve lived to fight Thanos

“Avengers: Endgame” is officially the biggest movie of all time but if the Russo brothers had their way, it would have been even more epic. In a recent interview, the “Endgame” director duo spoke about what the movie would have looked like if the X-Men existed in the MCU and which of the mutant crew would have survived Thanos’ snap at the end of “Infinity War.”

The Russo Brothers said that all of the X-Men would have been wiped away when Thanos snapped the Infinity Gauntlet except for one: Wolverine.

“I’d love to see a fiercely motivated Wolverine going up against Thanos,” Joe Russo told IGN.


This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Wolverine has long been the most beloved member of the X-Men and it would have been truly amazing to get to watch him team up with the Avengers to take down Thanos.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

“It’s not our job to give the people what they want, it’s to give them what they need,” Joe added.

Of course, this was only able to exist in the Russo’s minds, as the X-Men were under the umbrella of 21st Century Fox. But with Disney acquiring Fox earlier this year, it seems that the door is now open for Wolverine, Professor X, and the rest of the X-Men crew joining the MCU. And while it may be too late for Wolverine and Thanos to face-off for the fate of the universe, we would still be excited to see what the Russo Brothers can do with these legendary characters.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s crazy flying aircraft carriers could have actually worked

As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.

China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)

DARPA’s Gremlins Program

The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.

In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier

The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Boeing AAC design sketch

Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Sketch of a micro fighter inside a 747 fuselage.

The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)

Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)

Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.

Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

(Concept illustration)

The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier

The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.

The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.

The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-36 Peacemaker

This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.

The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.

The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers

Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.

However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.

The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)

The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)

After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. and Russian astronauts forced to conduct emergency landing

A space capsule carrying a two-man Russian-American crew that malfunctioned after liftoff has landed safely in the steppes of central Kazakhstan, the Russian and U.S. space agencies say.

Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague returned to Earth on Oct. 11, 2018, in their Soyuz capsule for an emergency landing following a problem with the booster rocket shortly after a launch bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Both NASA, the U.S. space agency, and Roskosmos, the Russian equivalent, said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 20 kilometers east of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan.


“The search and rescue teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members are in good condition and are out of the capsule,” NASA said.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag

(RFE/RL Graphic)

“The cosmonauts are alive. They have landed. They have been found,” according to a source at the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

The crew had to return in “ballistic descent mode,” NASA earlier had said, which it explained was “a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.”

Following their emergency landing, NASA published pictures of Hague and Ovchinin undergoing a medical checkup and relaxing on sofas in Zhezqazghan. The two were expected to be flown to Baikonur and then on to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow.

Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate the causes of the malfunction, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that manned space flights would be suspended until the probe is completed.

The Soyuz capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster when it failed 123 seconds after the launch from Baikonur, Borisov said, according to the Interfax news agency.

The minister added that the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.

Footage from inside the spacecraft showed the crew being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred.

In a statement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that a “thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”

Hague and Ovchinin were due to spend six months on the ISS, which is orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have plunged to the lowest level since the end of the Cold War over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential, and other issues, but Russia and the United States have maintained cooperation in space.

The Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the ISS following the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Oct. 11, 2018, booster failure led to what is said to be the first emergency landing for the Soyuz since 1975, when it failed to separate between stages during an ascent and triggered the abort system. The crew survived.

In 1983, a Soyuz exploded on the launchpad soon after the two cosmonauts it was carrying jettisoned. The crew also survived without injuries.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Back in May, the Army Times ran a piece announcing that the Army was officially looking to replace the M16 family of weapons and the 5.56mm cartridge with a weapon system that is both more reliable, and has greater range.


As the article states, they’re taking a hard look at “intermediate rounds,” or rounds with diameters between 6.5 and 7mm, that have greater range and ballistics than either the 5.56 x 45 or the 7.62 x 51, both of which are old and outdated compared to the crop of rounds that have sprung up in the last decade or so. The thinking is, with these newer rounds, you can easily match the superior stopping power of the 7.62 without sacrificing the magazine capacity afforded by the tiny 5.56 cartridge, while still giving troops better range and accuracy.

Coupled with a more reliable platform, preferably one that doesn’t jam up if you so much as think about sand getting in it, this could potentially be a game changer for the US Army.

Now, me personally, I think this is great. I’ve had a chance to play around with a couple of these intermediate calibers, and I quickly fell in love. I’m not one of those guys who despises the 5.56, because, for what it is, it’s not a bad little round. It’s got decent ballistics out to a decent range, and you can carry a lot of them. But, when you compare it to something like the 6.5 Creedmore, one of the rounds reportedly being considered as a replacement, it’s like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Lamborghini Aventador.

And hey, a new rifle would be pretty great, too. The M16 platform has been around for ages, and while its modular nature means that it’s endlessly adaptable, the direct gas impingement operating system is a right pain in the ass. Advances in firearm technology over the past half century have given us plenty of options, and it’s high time we took a look at them.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses smoke as concealment during a stress shoot at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

But giving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.

What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?

Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?

For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.

Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.

For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses a vehicle as a barricade and fires at multiple targets during a stress shoot scenario at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.

If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.

As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.

Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from out battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Rise of Skywalker’ creators are ‘not screwing around’ with ending

The guy who created Cloverfield and directed The Force Awakens wants everyone to know he’s trying really hard to not mess up the ending of the Star Wars saga as we know it. On Oct. 18, 2019, Entertainment Weekly reported that J.J. Abrams said outright that “we are not screwing around” when it comes to creating a legit ending for the nine-part “Skywalker saga” in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Do we trust him? Do we have a choice?

According to EW, J.J. Abrams knew how hard it was going to be to write The Rise of Skywalker (along with Justice League writer Chris Terrio) because “Endings are the thing that scare me the most.” The director and co-writer of the movie also doesn’t really think The Rise of Skywalker is supposed to be the ending to the existing new trilogy which started in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but instead, he views it as the end of a nine-part story, which begins with The Phantom Menace and goes all way through the classic movies everyone loves.


“This is about bringing this thing to a close… if years from now, someone’s watching these movies, all nine of them, they’re watching a story that is as cohesive as possible.”

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J.J. Abrams

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Whether or not Abrams pulls that off remains to be seen, of course. If you were a fan of Lost, now is probably not the time to remind yourself that Abrams was involved with the ending of that series, too. Then again, maybe because Abrams has dealt with so many controversial endings of big pop-culture properties, that he’s the perfect guy to tackle the ending of Star Wars.

Or then again, maybe that’s wishful thinking. Let’s keep a little optimism here! Right?

In any case, we’ve now got J.J. Abrams’s promise: he’s not screwing around. Hopefully, the Force is listening.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Payday Friday. (Read these memes until your direct deposit goes through.)


1. SGT Snuggles recommends a surprising strategy.

From factory to fire: The journey of an American flag
Also, not time for MREs. Time for biscuits.

2. Desert camouflage uniform, woodland camo makeup.

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Those are going to clash on the red carpet.

SEE ALSO: 6 reasons why Camp Pendleton is the best base in the Marine Corps

3. Best sleep a vet can get.

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Keep lots of copies. You don’t want to be caught without one.

 4. The future is coming … (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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… but it may be less exciting than you expected.

5. Wait, the Air Force is now getting Lunchables? (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

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What are they complaining about?

6. How toxic could it be? (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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7. “Your pay inquiry has been added to the queue.” (via Air Force Memes and Humor)

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8. They’re armored, 42 MPH death dealers.

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Worst case scenario, you need two tanks.

9. Lucky timing.

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Four seconds later and you would’ve had to run back inside.

10. If this were true, Snuggle would win the fabric softener wars.

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Rumor says that washing a Marine in this will turn them into a sailor.

11. There is the official way and there’s the expedient way. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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Sometimes, the expedient way is better. Sometimes it isn’t.

 12. Military police take their games seriously.

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Don’t step into the yard unless you’re really ready to play.

13. You don’t just show up ready.

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You have to build muscle memory.

NOW: The top 10 militaries in the world, ranked

AND: ‘The Marine’ packs a record number of technical errors into the first five minutes

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 things NOT to do when you arrive at your first infantry unit

There comes a time in every Marine’s life when they must join the varsity team known as The Fleet. The first few weeks are an exciting time of formations, picking up cigarette buds, and hazing training. The fleet is a Machiavellian jungle of NJPs, promotions, and broken promises that will make you want to deploy at a moment’s notice.

A healthy dose of pessimism is key to survival in your first unit because you’re not in a movie; this is a war machine, and you’re an essential cog. You’re where the metal meets the meat. Keep that motivation, though, you’re going to need it.

Here’s what you should not do when you arrive at your first infantry unit.


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Guess who has duty on New Years?

(Terminal Lance)

Boot camp stories are a no-go

The easiest way to annoy everyone around you is to make jokes using a drill instructor’s voice. Do not assume that it will inspire some sense of brotherhood because all Marines go to boot camp. Wrong. Everyone has their own stories, and they will let you know how much easier you had it. The more experienced Marines have been in some serious combat, and, by comparison, you’re just a baby.

No one likes a B.O.O.T. (barely out of training) Marine, and you’re just going to have to accept that. It’s part of the culture; it’s part of maturing into a warfighter, it’s what you signed up for. When you’re alone with your peers, it’s fine to talk about what you went through, but knowing your audience will save you an untold amount of stress in an already stressful work environment.

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Don’t say I didn’t warn you, brother.

(Terminal Lance)

Don’t dress like a boot

Marines are proud — it’s on the recruitment poster — that doesn’t mean you should exclusively buy Eagle, Globe, and Anchor t-shirts. Diversify your wardrobe because it’s one of the few things that will allow you to hold onto what some psychologists describe as a “personality.”

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You did what!?

(Terminal Lance)

Fix the problem yourself, don’t tattle 

Everyone around you can potentiality be in combat with you, and it’s a lot easier to risk life and limb for someone you like. If the man to your left or your right is doing something wrong, fix them, but do not ever snitch. You will be ostracized, given the worst assignments, and when they’re done with your disloyal carcass, you’ll be pushing papers at headquarters. HQ will also know that you’re a stool pigeon and will continue to treat you accordingly. The stigma has been known to last for years, Marine. One of the Infantry’s cardinal rules is to re-calibrate a misguided Marine’s moral compass through intense physical training but do not ruin their career.

It’s called taking care of your own.

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It’s free real estate

Do not get in trouble before your first deployment

Keep your nose just as clean as your inspection uniforms. Every three years, an enlisted Marine will receive a Good Conduct Medal to add to their stack. While it is not necessarily easy to obtain due to barracks parties or dares gone wrong, it is not so taxing that it’s insurmountable. Getting in trouble will hold you back from promotions in a highly competitive MOS. If you don’t want to call that window-licking-moron that came with you from the school of infantry corporal, do not get drunk and embarrass yourself.

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And he did all of his MCIs!

(Terminal Lance)

Do not put off doing your MCIs

The Marine Corps Institute is a self-learning platform that adds points to the Marine promotion system known as a cutting score. It offers courses that teach about combat procedures and tactical knowledge of weapon systems. Some are easier than others, and there’s no reason for a fresh Marine to not do them. It will set you apart from your peers in the eyes of the leadership, and it makes the platoon look better on paper.

Every quarter, battalion HQ evaluates the progress each line company is making towards promoting their Marines. A Marine working on his or her MCIs will be spared working parties by their seniors because it is in their best interest as well. Although junior Marines will not witness Staff NCOs and officers brag or trash talk about each other’s platoons, this is another point they can bring up in Command and Staff meetings stating that their platoon should have the honor of leading the assault in training and in combat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Unleash the hounds: Spartan warrior dogs

If you thought your K-9 was a badass, you’re probably right. But maybe not quite as badass as these 4 Spartan Warrior dogs.


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1. The spear assault dogs

While you might think of dogs in combat and warfare as a relatively new concept, their origin traces back to mid-seventh century B.C., when the Ephesians waged war on Magnesia. Sounds like something out of the Bible until you realize that instead of animals walking onto an ark two-by-two under a rainbow, every horseman was accompanied by a spearman and a war dog who broke enemy ranks in order to lead a bloodbath by spear assault.

Good times.


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2. The PSYWARFARE dogs

Dogs were also instrumental in psychological warfare.

At the battle of Pelusium, Cambysesus II preyed on the Egyptians’ reverence of animals by putting dogs on his front line. Kill a bad guy, sure, but nobody wants to harm a puppy. The tactic worked. Dogs were frequently used as messengers and lookouts as they were less likely to be harmed. The Egyptians mummified dogs because of their respect for the creatures.

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live.staticflickr.com

3. The Molossian

War dogs were both celebrated and feared. The Molossian was the desired breed, which is a relative of the modern day mastiff. Greek poet Oppian wrote, “Impetuous and of steadfast valour, who attack even bearded bulls and rush upon monstrous boars and destroy them….They are not swift, but they have abundant spirit and genuine strength unspeakable and dauntless courage.” Who can forget Hercules from Sandlot? The Beast was feared, and for good reason.

In his work, Cynegetica (“The Chase,”) Nemesiani, who was basically the Cesar Millan of his day, had this helpful hint for how to identify which of the pups would be the strongest:

“You should get a series of flames made in a wide circuit with the smoke of the fire to mark a convenient round space, so that you may stand unharmed in the middle of the circle: to this all the puppies, to this the whole crowd as yet unseparated must be brought: the mother will provide the test of her progeny, saving the valuable young ones by her selection and from their alarming peril. For when she sees her offspring shut in by flames, at once with a leap she clears the blazing boundaries of the fire-zone, snatches the first in her jaws and carries it to the kennel; next another, next another in turn: so does the intelligent mother distinguish her nobler progeny by her love of merit.”

That’s not intense at all. Totally how we pick out German Shepherds.

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c1.staticflickr.com

4. The Agassians

They may not have been much to look at, but plenty of scholars would pick the British Aggasians over the Molossians in a head to head battle.

Poet Oppian described them as: “There is a strong breed of hunting dog, small in size but no less worthy of great praise. These the wild tribes of Britons with their tattooed backs rear and call by the name of Agassian. Their size is like that of worthless and greedy domestic table dogs; squat, emaciated, shaggy, dull of eye, but endowed with feet armed with powerful claws and a mouth sharp with close-set venomous tearing teeth. It is by virtue of its nose, however, that the Agassian is most exalted, and for tracking it is the best there is; for it is very adept at discovering the tracks of things that walk upon the ground, and skilled too at marking the airborne scent.”

Sure, our K-9s might be able to detect bombs, drugs and humans and are probably smarter than the Greek war dogs, but nothing looks as badass as a dog with a wolf collar, something the war dogs used to wear to prevent fatal wolf bites. We think these should be standard issue for all 31Ks and their dogs, too.

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upload.wikimedia.org

MIGHTY SPORTS

How this one-handed Seahawk proves anything is possible

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin was born with amniotic band syndrome, a fetal congenital disorder that affected his left hand in utero. By age four, he was in so much pain he wanted to cut the appendage off himself. He did have the hand amputated – but still grew up doing everything a young boy from Florida would do, including playing football.

But Griffin didn’t just play football, he excelled at it. He and his brother played football together their whole lives, including at the University of Central Florida, where Shaquem was named 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and the 2018 Peach Bowl MVP. The league watched as the talented one-handed linebacker went up for the 2018 NFL Draft – and was picked up in the third round.

One-handed athletes everywhere rejoiced.


It’s not a PR stunt. The one-handed Griffin is a talented back, and his missing hand doesn’t cause him to miss a beat. In the NFL combine, he performed 20 reps on the bench press wearing a prosthesis and ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker since the NFL started tracking the numbers.

When the Seahawks drafted him, he signed a four-year deal worth .8 million.

The spotlight on Griffin was almost unbearable but, luckily for him, his brother Shaquill is still playing right along with him, playing cornerback for Seattle. While the team itself may not have the record they hoped for, the two brothers are having quite a season themselves, and Shaquem is an inspiration for everyone who might have been told they couldn’t do the same.

The six-foot, 227-pound rookie linebacker is now a shining example for not only children with a similar issue, but anyone missing an appendage or anyone in a circumstance that might otherwise keep them from competing at the highest levels.

The boy in the video is 11-year-old Daniel Carrillo, a California boy who was born without his right hand, a result of the same affliction Shaquem Griffin had when was born. He cried tears of joy as he opened his gift in time for the Seahawks play the 49ers on Dec. 2, 2018. Carillo is a junior Spartan, and wants to play high school football to be a Spartan. He wants to then go on to Michigan State – the Spartans – to play. He has NFL dreams, of first being a player and then a coach. Now he knows it’s possible.

Carillo knows he’s going to the 49ers-Seahawks game. What he doesn’t know is that he’s going to meet Shaquem Griffin – on the field.

Who says athletes can’t be heroes anymore?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin just signed a law making it illegal to insult government officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.

People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.

Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.

Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”


People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”

Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.

Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.

But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.

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Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.

British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”

Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”

Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”

“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This airman found a way to combine creative talent with military service

Fresh off of an assignment, he tentatively made his way through a checklist. With a friendly demeanor and calming presence he made his way to visit his colleagues, as old friends do. His intricately inked arms revealed stories untold with each tattoo beneath his neatly rolled uniform sleeves. With hazel eyes, he processed each story as he listened to its thoughts and goals.

Muralist, painter, street artist, and 315th Airlift Wing Reservist, Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, combat photojournalist with the 4th Combat Camera Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, used his creative talent and public affairs training to win 2018 Air Force Photographer of the Year and first place in the 2018 Military Visual Awards portrait category.


“On a daily basis we are involved with creativity, adventure and challenge,” Lundborg said.

At a young age, Lundborg began developing his talent through murals and street art that at times brought a little trouble, so he turned to boxing as a creative outlet. These two outlets led him to a crossroads when it came time to choose between a career in art or fighting. Lundborg found that way through the Air Force.

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Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, paints a mural at Giphy’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles, April 10, 2017.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

“Corban is tenacious,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Herrick, 4th CTCS combat photojournalism superintendent. “He wants to grow and find a way to expand his capabilities and contributions.”

Lundborg’s active duty Air Force career in logistics led him to Korea, where he was able to reignite his dream to be a full-time artist through an apprenticeship at a local tattoo parlor there. There his creativity flourished.

Lundborg said, “I find peace and fulfillment in creativity.”

Soon after returning to the states, Lundborg was able to combine his passion for art through his military career at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Joint Air Reserve Station, Minnesota, as a photojournalist.

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Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, prepares the cameras before a video production shoot for the Air Force Reserve mission video at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 7, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

Lundborg is extremely talented, selfless and quite the servant-leader, Herrick said.

In Minneapolis, Lundborg reached out to his community as an educator to inner city teens.

“The classroom was my new-found joy and the objective of my class was to engage, inspire and change each student’s life,” Lundborg said. “I aim to help them find their identity and their voice through the arts and pull out the greatness already within them.”

Through various combat camera projects Lundborg found his voice at JB Charleston, where his imagery contributed to every mission accomplished.

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Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg, 4th Combat Camera Squadron combat photojournalist, stands next to a mural he painted on The Smokestack, a popular establishment in Dubuque, Iowa, Sept. 26, 2016.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg)

“Staff Sgt. Lundborg’s imagery wasn’t just utilized at the tactical and operational levels,” said Maj. Meg Harper, 4th CTCS Flight Commander. “It ended up having strategic impact as well.”

Lundborg’s work often went straight to the four-star commanding general while overseas, Harper said. His talent strengthened the Air Force mission through on-target, high quality photos.

“I consider Lundborg an absolute key to our combat camera mission,” Harper said.

Lundborg brought his talents to the battlefield for a purpose.

“I believe each person’s life is an intelligently placed brushstroke on a large canvas intentionally placed by the creator for a larger purpose,” Lundborg said. “Each day I have really been living a dream”

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

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