These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Navy develops laser weapon prototypes for destroyers & cruisers

The Navy plans to arm its destroyers and other ships with high-tech, low-cost ship-board laser weapons engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.


The Office of Naval Research is working on 12-month, $53-million deal with Northrop Grumman to develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.

“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
Northrop Grumman image

Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.

“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement a few months ago.

“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.

It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.

“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the  Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.| U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams

Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

Meanwhile, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.

Articles

A ‘silent service’ vet will front the military’s biggest music festival

Josh Anchondo started his adult life in the Navy, specifically Kings Bay, Georgia. Now, he’s self-styled luxury-events emcee known as DJ Supreme1 and his work takes him to the party hotspots of South Florida and Las Vegas. But he loves to give back to groups like Toys For Tots, Susan G. Komen, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

This time, he’s playing for his second family: the U.S. military.


The Palm Beach Gardens-based DJ is headlining the next BaseFEST Powered by USAA on June 2, 2018, at Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Fla. He’s come a long way from the days of being in the silent service.

“We would be deployed 90 days at a time,” says the former sailor Anchondo. “No sunlight, no newspaper… So my escape being submerged for that amount of time was music.”

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
(Courtesy of Josh Anchondo)

He says it’s like living a dream to be able to provide a temporary escape to those going through similarly rough situations. He did five years in the Navy as a sonar technician and the last 20 as a DJ — yes, there’s a little overlap there.

“I know for a fact the military got me to where I am today in my career, to being a great man, a great father, and to living up to the core values that I learned in the military,” he says. “Honor, courage, and commitment. Those core values will always be with me.”

In the Navy, he spent all his spare time training to be a DJ — eating, breathing, and sleeping music. His favorite records were primarily old-school (even for the late 1990s) hip-hop. But his sounds also extend to the unexpected, like jazz and pop standards, doing live mash-ups of pop songs along the way.

“I kind of let the crowd take me wherever they want,” he says. “Take us wherever the night takes us.”

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
(Courtesy of DJ Supreme1)

Anchondo, aka DJ Supreme1, is not just a DJ who does music festivals and tours like Dayglow. Like many veterans, he’s an entrepreneur with a heart. He runs his own event productions company and wants to start his own tour — the DoGood FeelGood Fest, focused on doing great work in the community. His company, Supreme Events, even prioritizes charity work.

He acknowledges that DJs have a bad reputation, given what happens in the nightlife around them, but he wants you to know they can have a positive influence as well — and that influence can be amazing. BaseFEST is a huge show for him. He wants his fellow vets and their families to come see and feel his positive vibes at the coming BaseFEST at NS Mayport.

It’s an all-day event that brings the music, food, activities, and more that you might get from other touring festivals — but BaseFEST is an experience for the whole family, with a mission of providing a platform for giving back to family programs on base, boosting morale for troops and their families.

BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000 fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for service members and their families and friends. The 2018 tour kicked off at Fort Bliss, Texas and runs through Sept. 22 with a stop at Twentynine Palms, Calif.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Mandalorian’ episode 1 is everything you hoped it would be

Happy Disney+ Day, everyone. After all the hype, The Mandalorian has finally been released and it’s the perfect Star War for anyone who has ever Star Wars’d.

It’s clear right from the start that creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) gets it. He gets what makes Star Wars so special. From the mythos to the humor and even down to the silly-ass wipe transitions, The Mandalorian just feels right.

So let’s get right into Chapter One. SPOILERS AHEAD:


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

“He’s young, his musk will be sweet.” Thank you for that line, Jon Favreau.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

The Mandalorian quickly sets the stage for our hero, a bounty hunter who is good at his job and who doesn’t take any (forgive me) poodoo. The tone is light with moments of comedic release while still building the new world we’re entering. Remember, this series takes place seven years after Return of the Jedi and the fall of the Empire.

Exclusive: @Jon_Favreau confirms that his live action #StarWars series takes place 7 years after Battle of Endor, between #ReturnOfTheJedi and #TheForceAwakens. Will feature all new characters, using cutting edge tech a la THE JUNGLE BOOK. Story coming to @nerdist…pic.twitter.com/iRyPS8hPDR

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There are other hints peppered in to keep us intrigued, such as when The Bounty, played by Saturday Night Live’s Horatio Sanz, asks “Is it true you guys never take off your helmets?” and then is quickly frozen in carbonite. The helmet thing will apparently be important because it’s brought up again later in the episode. I predict we’ll see Pedro Pascal’s debonair face eventually, but it sounds like it will be later rather than sooner.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

The Mandalorian, Disney+

The Mandalorian delivers his bounties and accepts a curious new target from The Client, played by Werner Herzog (Rick Morty, The Simpsons). The target is wanted alive — and The Client will pay well, but he will accept “proof of termination” at a lower rate.

He hands over a block of beskar steel stamped with the Imperial insignia as a sort of down payment. We know from The Mandalorian’s first mission (or from Star Wars Rebels) that beskar steel is significant, and Favreau politely informs us why in the next scene.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

The Mandalorian, Disney+

The Mandalorian heads to a fellow Mandalorian armorer (played by The Mindhunter’s Emily Swallow), who melts down the block of steel to forge a new pauldron for our hero, saying the excess will be used to sponsor “foundlings.” Here we get the only heavy-handed backstory in the episodes: a series of flashbacks to a family fleeing during an attack and, I assume, the death of The Mandalorian’s parents, which will eventually lead to him being found by his tribe.

“Has your signet been revealed?” she asked him. It hasn’t, and I don’t know what this means, but dammit Jon, you’ve got me for life and I trust that you’ll let me know when you feel it’s necessary.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

“I have spoken.” — my new catch phrase

The Mandalorian, Disney+

With that, our bounty hunter is off to a new planet to track down his bounty and learn to ride some blurrg (30 Rock, anyone?). He meet’s Nick Nolte’s Kuill, who drops some nice backstory for us (he wants to help The Mandalorian so he can restore peace to his planet) and some nice easter eggs (riding blurrg won’t be a problem because the Mandalorians rode the legendary mythosaurs, don’t you know).

Shout out to female blurrgs, who eat the males during mating. ?

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

This is the buddy comedy I want to see.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

With a nice clock wipe transition, it’s time for some action, but before he can muster up a plan, The Mandalorian spies a bounty droid who we learn is IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi). The droid attacks the settlement and a blaster fight ensues. The Mandalorian joins in, suggests an alliance with the droid, and together they take out their many attackers.

This is the best sequence in Chapter One, not necessarily because the action was anything new (although IG-11’s circular design is very clever) but because the banter between the two was very amusing. IG-11’s programming won’t allow for surrender, so, in the face of overwhelming odds, he continually tries to initiate a self-destruct sequence, which would kill them both. Lolz.

But of course our hero does some quick thinking, seizes his enemy’s laser cannon, and defeats all of his attackers. Finally, we get to see who this important and secretive bounty is.

And guys? The reveal is…perfect.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

OHMYGODILOVEYOULITTLEBABYYYYYY

The Mandalorian, Disney+

This little angel will never not be known as “Baby Yoda,” am I right?

Of course, it’s not actually Yoda, but here’s what we know so far: the baby is fifty years old (this species, while remaining unknown, ages differently than humans; Yoda was over 900 years old when he died) and is probably Force sensitive (Yoda was a powerful Jedi Master and Yaddle, the only other member of the species we’ve seen so far, was also on the Jedi Council).

The Mandalorian kills IG-11 after the droid tried to terminate Baby Yoda the baby and then shares a nice little Adam-and-God moment with the child.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Precious, huh?

Altogether, I have to say that this show promises to be one of the best creations in Star Wars canon. It feels nostalgic and new at the same time. It impressed me more than any of the recent films.

What did you think of it? Leave a comment on Facebook and let me know.

https://twitter.com/PrequelMemesBot/statuses/1196245176340996096
The Mandalorian IS a prequel to the sequels https://redd.it/dxvg8f pic.twitter.com/cd2AJbZW8X

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MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US Air Force maintains operational success

Airmen at aircraft maintenance squadrons around the service have begun innovating with new scheduling, accelerated hands-on training courses, and virtual reality simulators to get new maintainers proficient quickly; keeping more aircraft ready to fly and improving operational readiness.

We begin a continuing series of video vignettes at Travis Air Force Base, California, highlighting airmen who are successfully closing the aircraft maintainer experience gap.


Growing his replacement

Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Flynn, a 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant aircraft maintenance unit supervisor at Travis Air Force Base, California, is responsible for the approximately 300 personnel keeping 18 C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft mission-ready.

It is one of the Air Mobility Command missions that never sleep.

“Our mission never stops,” Flynn said. “We are 24/7 and 365 days a year. The demand for rapid air mobility is constant and is never going to stop.”

While the operations tempo has been fierce over the past decades of combat operations around the globe, Flynn, a 19-year veteran of the aircraft maintainer career field, plans to reenlist and shape the maintainer force of the future.

“My job is to create my replacement… There is an influx of new airmen that is putting a stress on the (noncommissioned officer) tier. They have gone from supervising two airmen to three, four or five. So, that means I am here at 0600 every day, catching the young staff and tech sergeants coming off night shift and those going on day shift and checking in with them; making sure I am approachable,” Flynn said.

He utilizes the ups and downs of his own career maintaining B-1 Lancers and C-17 Globemaster IIIs and teaching electronic warfare navigation systems to relate to and support his NCOs and junior airmen.

“With this abundance of new airmen, it’s very important to explain to them that this is not a ‘One Mistake Air Force,'” Flynn said. “It is not only my job to set standards and expectations, but to talk to them about their mistakes, help them correct it and build them back up. I try to pass on everything I have learned, mistakes and successes, through those daily encounters.”

“There was a point in my career where an NCO stuck his neck on the line for me. He said, ‘airman Flynn is an asset to the Air Force and we should retain him.’ I haven’t looked back since. Immediately following that I got my assignment at McGuire (AFB) and taught two different career fields across multiple mission data sets for C-17s and C-5s. I definitely believe failing forward is a positive thing and that NCO sticking his neck out for me has made me want to do it for others.”

Waypoints for success

“I really want to get my degree and go the officer route. If given the choice, I definitely would become an aircraft maintenance officer. I would come right back here,” said Airman 1st Class Raeqwon Brown, a 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron C-5M electrical and environmental specialist.

That’s a big dream for an airman that has only been on the Travis Air Force Base, California, flightline for a few months and is still working on completing the core 5-level tasks to become a journeyman maintainer.

Yet, Brown’s supervisor, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Dantuma, is committed to turning that dream into an achievable goal.

“My immediate goal is to get him trained up to be a highly proficient maintainer, but the ultimate goal is to keep motivated airmen like him in the Air Force,” Dantuma said.

“That is the good part of all the new maintainers coming in from tech school; I get to train new maintainers the way I know they need to be to benefit to the mission. … If he is willing to put in hard hours and focus every day on learning the aircraft and procedures, then I will help him map out the steps he needs to take to become an officer.”

It is just the kind of support that has Brown feeling as if he has found a home.

“It is a great reassurance to know that a noncommissioned officer would even consider showing you the waypoints to getting a degree and becoming an officer. … Even in the short amount of time I have been in the maintenance realm, I feel this is what I would want to do for the rest of my career,” Brown said.

A1C makes good

Airman 1st Class Caitlin Good is a KC-10 Extender crew chief assigned to the 660th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California.

According to her command, since her arrival to the unit in July 2018, Good has excelled.

She’s excelled so much that, with the assistance of supervisors, other noncommissioned officers and experienced airmen, she was 100% complete with her 66 core 5-level upgrade tasks in three months.

“From day one, it was support from the supervisors on my team and the other airmen that have been here for a long time. We’re the same rank, but they have a lot more knowledge and experience. They were all a big help to me,” Good said.

“The NCOs made sure that I was there and I was seeing it, doing it hands-on and doing it frequently. Just a lot of repetition, making sure that I did something over and over again to make sure I got it.”

As a result, Good was granted a unique waiver from attending the four-month long Maintenance Qualification Training Program, which all newly-assigned crew chiefs normally go through.

In addition to her already stellar performance, she was selected to join the ranks of flying crew chiefs, which most airmen do not accomplish until two or three years into their first KC-10 assignment.

She continues to excel by helping close the aircraft maintainer experience gap; spreading her knowledge and experience to waves of new airmen filling out the career field.

“There is a lot more pressure because you are a 5-level now. You’re expected to be in a leadership role,” Good said. “We just got a fresh new group come in from our first phase of training at the Field Training Detachment.

“When we catch a jet, I’ll tell them and show what we do and some tips that I’ve learned to make the job quicker and more efficient. Basically, just passing on what I’ve learned to the new group that’s coming in, and there are three more groups coming in after them. But, I get more repetitions as I train them and try to be an example for them, trying to be kind, be patient, just like everyone has been with me.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy is sending Russia a message in the Black Sea

The US Navy sent an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer into the Black Sea on Feb. 17, 2018 to “conduct maritime security operations” in the region.


The USS Carney joined the USS Ross to patrol a body of water that has become increasingly tense since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Crimea is the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and is where Russian jets have had close intercepts with US Navy aircraft in recent months.

“Our decision to have two ships simultaneously operate in the Black Sea is proactive, not reactive,” Vice Adm. Christopher Grady said in a Navy release. “We operate at the tempo and timing of our choosing in this strategically important region.”

This is the first time two US Navy warships have been in the Black Sea since NATO and Ukraine conducted naval defense drills in July 2017. The exercise involved more than 3,000 members.

Also read: Navy names Arleigh-Burke destroyer after World War II Marine hero

US military officials told CNN that the purpose of the deployment was to “desensitize Russia to the presence of US military forces there,” and to help “establish rules for how the two countries should safely operate in proximity to each other, as they did in the Cold War.”

Russia responded to the announcement on Feb. 20, 2018, and said they are tracking the destroyers. “If they demonstrate any hostile or provocative actions … they will get a response and will be served accordingly,” Russian Admiral Vladimir Valuev said.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones
The guided missile destroyer USS Ross. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Sandberg)

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union effectively controlled the entirety of the Black Sea, though Turkey has determined who can enter and exit the body of water since the sixteenth century.

But in the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, almost all of the Black Sea nations have either joined NATO, or had their relations with Russia deteriorate due to armed conflict.

Related: Here is how Burke-class destroyers will be able to zap incoming missiles

Russia is very sensitive about the Black Sea and has been militarizing Crimea since its annexation in 2014. “Basically anything new that they have they are putting in Crimea,” a US defense official based in Europe told CNN.

In addition to close intercepts with the US Navy, the sea has seen a number of incidents with other nations. In 2016, Turkish President said that the Black Sea had “nearly become a Russian lake,” and Ukraine claimed in 2017 that guns from a Russian-occupied oil rig had shot at a military plane, which Russia subsequently denied.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s new autonomous refueling drone flies for the first time

The U.S. Navy and Boeing announced on Sept. 19, 2019, the first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. The drone is set to be the first carrier-launched autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be integrated in a Carrier Air Wing.

The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and sporting the civilian registration N234MQ, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots operating from their ground control station. The aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-planned route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station, according to the official statement.


Capt. Chad Reed, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, stated: “Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight Sept. 19 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.

(Boeing)

This first test asset is being used for early development before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an USD $ 805 million contract awarded in August 2018 in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program, which aims to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as rapidly as possible.

According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month. Testing of this first development asset will continue over the next years to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development, ahead of the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and in support of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.

MQ-25A Stingray Takes First Flight

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The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first operational carrier-based UAV, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to operate from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tested both alone (2013) and alongside manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the strain on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that currently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them available for operational taskings.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 ‘dumb’ military tactics that actually worked

“If it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid,” is how the old saying goes. Though it isn’t said much anymore, the meaning behind it still rings true – and has for generations. A tactic that seems so stupid can be useful to the right mind. It can goad an enemy into losing focus and abandoning caution. These tactics can be used to influence an enemy’s thoughts and actions. It can even change the future for millions.

So don’t be so quick to judge.


These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Napoleon at Austerlitz

In the beginning of the 19th Century, Napoleon was making his presence known across Europe. The end of the old order was at hand as “The Little Corporal” from Corsica took control of the French and dominated the armies and rulers of Europe. But the social order wasn’t the only thing he upended. Napoleon upended the entire doctrine warfare, how battles were fought, forever. Nothing is more obvious than his win at Austerlitz, where a seemingly rookie mistake was the key to victory.

As Napoleon fielded the French to take on a superior Russian-Austrian force outside of Vienna, things looked bleak, and the French were widely expected to lose and be forced to flee Austria. With every passing day, Napoleon’s enemies became stronger. To goad them into a fight in the place of his choosing, he occupied the heights overlooking the town of Austerlitz, basic military strategy since the days of Sun-Tzu. As the combined enemy army approached, they saw the French abandon those heights. The battle was on, and Napoleon used the heights as a psych-out. Once the French took the heights in combat, the battle was over for the Russian-Austrian allies, and Napoleon was Master of Europe.

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

Israeli independence

When the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, it was a jubilant day for the Jewish people – and no one else in the region. The Jews of the new nation of Israel were immediately surrounded on all sides by Arab enemies with superior numbers, technology, money, and basically anything else you might need to win a protracted war for independence. What the Israelis had going for them was a ton of World War II veterans and a lot of cunning brainpower. So even when they had to make bombing runs in single-engine prop planes, they managed to win the day even if they didn’t have bombs.

As an advancing Arab army approached Tel Aviv, the Jewish forces in the area were at a loss on how to repel them. They had no bombs to support the Israeli troops in the region, and even if they did, they had no bombers to fly them. They needed an equalizer. Someone with combat experience in WWII remembered that seltzer bottles tend to whistle like bombs when dropped from a height. When full of seltzer, they also explode with a loud bang. So that’s what the nascent IAF used. The Arabs didn’t really have seltzer or those old-timey bottles used to spray it, so they really thought they were being bombed – and disbursed.

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The army led by a zombie

Some people are just so necessary for success you can’t afford to let them go. Unfortunately for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the people of Valencia, one such person was missing when Muslim armies from Morocco were marching their way. They must have gotten wind that Rodrigo was no longer with the army of Valencia, which was true. Rodrigo was no longer among those defenders because Rodrigo was also no longer among the living. Since the Christian knight had never lost a battle, his reputation alone was enough to keep invaders at bay.

Luckily for Rodrigo – whom you might know better as El Cid – he had a pretty cunning wife, Jimena. Jimena ordered El Cid’s dead, decomposing body be fully armored and dressed, then lashed to his horse. Jimena then told the army to make a valiant last cavalry charge to break the siege, with El Cid at the head. When the Muslims saw the Spaniards coming at them with El Cid at the head of the attack, they immediately broke ranks and tried to flee but were cut down by the Spanish defenders.

Strong men marry strong women. Remember that.

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Island-hopping to fight another day

In 1942, things looked really bad for the allied naval forces in the Pacific. The December 1941 attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor came at the same time of a half dozen other surprise Japanese attacks throughout the region. Attempts to hit the Japanese back at the Java Sea and the Sunda Straits were met with abject failure. After the Japanese Empire captured the Dutch East Indies, the Navy was limping pretty bad. Hong Kong, Malaya, Burma, and more had all fallen to the mighty Japanese initiative. As all allied ships were ordered to retreat to Australia, one was somehow left behind.

That was the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch minesweeper which was separated after the attacks on the East Indies. Armed with one three-inch gun and two 20mm cannons, the minesweeper was no match for any of the Japanese warships floating around the islands. In order to stay undetected, the Dutch covered the ship in foliage and painted the hull the color of rocks. They moored the ship near islands by day and moved only by night – and it worked. She not only made it to Australia, she survived the war.

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(Laughs in Mongol)

Mongols think differently

For much of the Western World in the Middle Ages, a retreat was not a good thing. If a cavalry force appears routed, it might lead to the infantry breaking ranks and running. Even the most orderly of retreats was considered as an option only at the last possible moments. That was not how the Mongols under Genghis Khan thought of a retreat. A retreat was a tactic to be used like any other tactic.

There are many examples of the use of a feigned retreat in this history of the Mongol conquests. The reason for this is because it worked. It worked really really well. Troops from China to Poland would be locked in a life-or-death struggle against the Mongol hordes when suddenly the Mongols would turn tail and run, their spirit to fight seemingly broken. As a chorus of cheers went up from the exhausted defenders, they would inevitably give chase to the invaders – only to watch as the retreating Mongols turn again, in full force, and on ground that supports them.

The defenders would then be slaughtered to a man.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this video of an air strike against an F-15S in Yemen

Currently, Yemen is in the midst of a civil war. On one side, there are the Houthi rebels, backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. On the other side is the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, led by President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. This war has raged since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition tried to defeat a 2014 coup lead by Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced out as President of Yemen, received the backing of the Houthi rebels. Last month, Saleh was killed after switching his allegiance to the Saudi-led coalition.


The Saudi-led coalition has been dominating the skies since the war exploded on the international scene. This is no surprise, as the Saudi Air Force is one of the most modern in the Persian Gulf region. The strikes have been controversial, causing an American cutoff of munitions deliveries under the Obama Administration. The Trump Administration resumed the deliveries last year.

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A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15S in its hangar. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons, uploaded by Eagleamn)

The Houthi rebels have received arms from Iran, including the Noor anti-ship missile. The Noor is an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802, and was used in multiple attacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87).

However, the Houthi have also apparently begun to MacGyver some weapons as well. In the video below, rebels claim to have hit a Saudi F-15S Strike Eagle. According to a Facebook post by aviation historian Tom Cooper, the weapon that was apparently used was a modified AA-11 “Archer” air-to-air missile.

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The AA-11 Archer, also known as the R-73. (DOD graphic)

While the United States has developed surface-to-air versions of air-to-air missiles like the AIM-9 Sidewinder (MIM-72 Chapparal), the AIM-7 Sparrow (the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow), and the AIM-120 AMRAAM (in the HUMRAAM), Russia has not taken this path, preferring specialized missiles. The jury-rigged approach did almost work for the Houthis, but the missile appears to hit a flare from the Saudi Strike Eagle. AA-11s would likely have been in the Yemeni arsenal to arm MiG-29 Fulcrums exported to that country by Russia.

While the Saudi Strike Eagle survived this close call, it’s a reminder that on the battlefield, any weapon can kill you. It may also give Iran – and Russia – some new ideas.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines want to arm the Osprey for assault missions

The Marine Corps is now arming its Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with a range of weapons to enable its assault support and escort missions in increasingly high-threat combat environments.

Rockets, guns, and missiles are among the weapons now under consideration, as the Corps examines requirements for an “all-quadrant” weapons application versus other possible configurations such as purely “forward firing” weapons.

“The current requirement is for an allquadrant weapons system. We are re-examining that requirement — we may find that initially, forward firing weapons could bridge the escort gap until we get a new rotary wing or tiltotor attack platform, with comparable range and speed to the Osprey,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation, told Warrior Maven in a statement.


Some weapons, possibly including Hydra 2.75inch folding fin laser guided rockets or .50-cal and 7.62mm guns, have been fired as a proof of concept, Burns said.

“Further testing would have to be done to ensure we could properly integrate them,” she added.

All weapons under consideration have already been fired in combat by some type of aircraft, however additional testing and assessment of the weapons and their supporting systems are necessary to take the integration to the next step.

“We want to arm the MV-22B because there is a gap in escort capability. With the right weapons and associated systems, armed MV-22Bs will be able to escort other Ospreys performing the traditional personnel transport role,” Burns added.

The Hydra 2.75inch rockets, called the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS), have been fired in combat on a range of Army and Marine Corps helicopters; they offer an alternative to a larger Hellfire missiles when smaller, fast-moving targets need to be attacked with less potential damage to a surrounding area.

Over the years, the weapon has been fired from AH-64 Apaches, Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, MH-60s Navy helicopters and Air Force F-16s, among others.

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(BAE Systems)

Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.

Adding weapons to the Osprey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles, or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.

Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions — to include surprise attacks.

Also, while arming the Osprey is primarily oriented toward supporting escort and maneuver operations, there are without question a few combat engagements the aircraft could easily find itself in while conducting these missions.

For example, an armed Osprey would be better positioned to prevent or stop swarming small boat attack wherein enemy surface vessels attacked the aircraft. An Osprey with weapons could also thwart enemy ground attacks from RPGs, MANPADS or small arms fire.

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(U.S. Navy photo)

Finally, given the fast pace of Marine Corps and Navy amphibious operations strategy evolution, armed Ospreys could support amphibious assaults by transporting Marines to combat across wider swaths of combat areas.

New Osprey Intelligence System – Sustainment to 2060

Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Burns said.

While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope, and operational tempo.

Other elements of Osprey modernization include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems to defend against incoming missiles and small arms fire.

The 2018 Marine Aviation Plan specifies that the CC-RAM program includes more than 75 V-22 aircraft configurations, identified in part by a now completed Mv-22 Operational Independent Readiness Review. CC-RAM calls for improvements to the Osprey’s Multi-Spectral Sensor, computer system, infra-red suppressor technology, generators and landing gear control units, the aviation plan specifies.

As part of this long-term Osprey modernization trajectory, the Marines are now integrating a Command and Control system called Digital Interoperability (DI). This uses data links, radio connectivity and an Iridium Antenna to provide combat-relevant intelligence data and C4ISR information in real-time to Marines — while in-flight on a mission.

In addition, the Osprey is being developed as a tanker aircraft able to perform aerial refueling missions; the idea is to transport fuel and use a probe technology to deliver fuel to key aircraft such as an F/A-18 or F-35C. The V-22 Aerial Refueling System will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Corps officials said.

“Fielding of the full capable system will be in 2019. This system will be able to refuel all MAGTF (Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force) aerial refuel capable aircraft with approximately 10,000 pounds of fuel per each VARS-equipped V-22,” the 2018 Marine Aviation Plan states.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies — all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said. The Osprey can hit maximum speeds of 280 Knots, and can transport a crew of Marines or a few Marines with an Internally Transportable Vehicle.

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Internally Transportable Vehicle can fly on the Osprey.

(Marine Corps Photo By: Pfc. Alvin Pujols)

Corps developers also emphasize that the V-22 modernization effort will incorporate new technologies emerging from the fast-moving Future Vertical Lift program; this could likely include the integration of newer lightweight composite materials, next-generation sensors and various kinds of weapons, C4ISR systems, and targeting technologies.

Fast-moving iterations of Artificial Intelligence are also likely to figure prominently in future V-22 upgrades. This could include advanced algorithms able to organize and present sensor data, targeting information or navigational details for Marines in-flight.

While the modernization and sustainment overhaul bring the promise of continued relevance and combat effectiveness for the Opsrey, the effort is of course not without challenges. The Corps plan cites concerns about an ability to properly maintain the depot supply chain ability to service the platform in a timely manner, and many over the years have raised the question of just how much a legacy platform can be upgraded before a new model is needed.

Interestingly, as is the case with the Air Force B-52 and Army Chinook, a wide ranging host of upgrades have kept the platforms functional and relevant to a modern threat environment for decades. The Air Force plans to fly its Vietnam era B-52 bomber weill into the 2050s, and the Army’s Chinook is slated to fly for 100 years — from 1960 to 2060 — according to service modernization experts and program managers.

The common thread here is that airframes themselves, while often in need of enhancements and reinforcements, often remain viable if not highly effective for decades. The Osprey therefore, by comparison, is much newer than the B-52 or Chinook, to be sure. This is a key reason why Burns emphasized the “common” aspect of CC-RAM, as the idea is to lay the technical foundation such that the existing platform can quickly embrace new technologies as they emerge. This approach, widely mirrored these days throughout the DoD acquisition community, seeks to architect systems according to a set of common, non-proprietary standards such that it helps establish a new, more efficient paradigm for modernization.

At the same time, there is also broad consensus that there are limits to how much existing platforms can be modernized before a new aircraft is needed; this is a key reason why the Army is now vigorously immersed in its Future Vertical Lift program which, among other things, is currently advancing a new generation of tiltrotor technology. Furthermore, new airframe designs could, in many ways, be better suited to accommodate new weapons, C4ISR technologies, sensors, protection systems and avionics. The contours and structure of a new airframe itself could also bring new radar signature reducing properties as well as new mission and crew options.

Overall, the Marine Corps is accelerating a massive modernization and readiness overhaul of its MV-22 Osprey to upgrade sensors, add weapons, sustain the fleet and broaden the mission scope — as part of an effort to extend the life of the aircraft to 2060.

“We plan to have the MV-22B Osprey for at least the next 40 years,” Capt. Sarah Burns, Marine Corps Aviation spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

While first emerging nearly two decades ago, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft has seen an unprecedented uptick in deployments, mission scope and operational tempo.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Bearcat has been unjustly overshadowed by history

When you think about Grumman fighters, the Wildcat, the Panther, and the Tomcat all spring to mind. And for good reason — these planes are all classics. But there is one Grumman fighter that didn’t quite get a chance to shine in World War II, but it did see some action in Southeast Asia.


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Grumman F8F Bearcats line up on the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge (CV 45)

(U.S. Navy)

During World War II, the Navy was deploying the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair was operated by the Marine Corps. The Hellcat was a very tame plane, but the Corsair — known as the “Ensign Eliminator” and foisted on the Marines — simply had higher performance. The Navy wanted the best of both planes. They wanted the F8F Bearcat.

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French F8F Bearcats prepare to take off to carry out a napalm strike in Southeast Asia.

(U.S. Navy)

At the heart of the Bearcat was the Pratt and Whitney R-2800. This was the powerplant used by both the Corsair and Hellcat, but the Bearcat was much lighter, which gave it extreme performance. The Bearcat also packed a significant punch — to the tune of four M2 .50-caliber machine guns. If that wasn’t enough, the Bearcat was also able to haul five-inch rockets or a 1,000-pound bomb.

The Bearcat’s primary mission was to intercept enemy planes. The plane had a “bubble” canopy (pretty much a standard feature on today’s fighters) to improve the situational awareness of pilots. The Bearcat had a top speed of 421 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,105 miles. It stuck around long enough to see some upgrades, but was quickly replaced by the onset of fighter jets, like the F9F Panther.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkeN4riBy4A

www.youtube.com

The Bearcat did see some combat, though. The French acquired Bearcats from the United States and used them in Southeast Asia. Some of those same planes were later passed on to the South Vietnamese.

The Bearcat also got some time in the spotlight when it was flown by the Blue Angels, from 1946 to 1950.

Learn more about this almost forgotten Grumman cat in the video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the one boxing match the Navy doesn’t want you to know about

Boxing is a sport that empowers human ambition and drive unlike any other form of activity. The physical preparation boxers make before a fight is unparalleled and the adrenaline rush after a well-deserved victory is irreplaceable. There’s just no comparison to any other form of winning. Maybe that was boxing’s appeal to deployed American sailors.

By the end of the Spanish-American war, the U.S. Navy occupied the Dominican Republic and sent a heavy naval force along the shores of this small Caribbean island in order to protect the U.S. government’s financial interest.

Theodore Roosevelt was president at the time and he believed implementing combative boxing events on naval vessels would increase military morale by having competitors pummel one another for glory. These events grew very popular and in no time boxing became a main sporting activity widespread across the Navy.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan…until one match went too far and turned fatal on July 8, 1908, aboard the USS Yankee.

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Light Heavyweight match between Navy sailor Dale Alexander (right) and his Marine opponet.
(U.S. Navy photo)


Not long after the orders were passed down, boxing matches were being held on the decks of naval vessels in order to generate unit cohesion. To liven up the troops and sailors alike, these events were code-named “Smokers.”

Smokers went from a recreational sporting matches to prizefighting spectacles in no time, providing the opportunity to earn respect and extra pay for those sailors in need of a salary hike. This gave minority sailors – primarily Jewish and black sailors –the chance to be seen as more than just their ethnic background. It was one way to earn respect from and build camaraderie with their white counterparts in the days before a racially integrated military.

On July 8, 1908, onlookers cheered and mocked the fighters as the contestants took the stage. Raphael Cohen, a Jewish coal shoveler on the USS Yankee, awkwardly took the ring, awaiting the confident Jordan R. Johnson, a black gunners-mate from the USS Olympia, whose experience could be seen in his cold, unbroken deathly glare.

Both men came from humble beginnings, hardened by their fair share of turmoil, which may have been what brought them into the ring – or as the fighters would call it, the circle of truth.

Johnson joined the military at age 15 and quickly became a victim of physical abuse by his fellow shipmates. This was easily identifiable by unexplained scars on his ribs, abdomen, and neck. Growing up, Johnson spent nights shackled in irons, which turned him into a hardened fighter and earned him fear and respect on the Olympia. The ship’s decks became his training ground as he fought anyone who would meet him.

Cohen, on the other hand, was a young man looking for his identity, merely trying to to find where he belonged in this testosterone-heavy environment. After marrying at a young age, he believed the Navy would turn him into a man (or at least the man he thought he should be) so he searched to prove to himself that he was tough enough to hang with the other fighters.

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A U.S. Navy-sanctioned boxing match.

Both fighters were eager to get the fight going once the bell rang. The fully-charged Cohen fearlessly ran straight at Johnson, whose patience and experience kept him calm throughout the exchange. They fought hard, throwing caution to the wind, and neither giving in as the rounds continued.

Hundreds of sailors and Marines went wild as the two boxers pummeled one another. As each round continued, the crowd could see Cohen weakening. Even the referee questioned Cohen’s condition before allowing him to remain in what would become Cohen’s last stand.

By the eighth round, Cohen had enough, finally slumping to the ground after a crisp shot to the temple landed by Johnson rattled Cohen and left him unable to continue.

Johnson was victorious but what had he really won? Cohen would later be raised onto a stool and carried out of the ring. Two hours later, he was pronounced dead in the medical room.

An autopsy would later reveal the cause of death being a massive blood clot found inside of Cohen’s brain, attributed to the excessive beating he received in the bout. Captain Edward Francis of the USS Yankee later denied all involvement with the organization of the fight and reported Cohen’s death as “not in the line of duty.”

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The telegram informing Cohen’s family of his death.

Cohen’s remains were buried in the Dominican Republic but later sent back to his family in New York in 1911. His remains were finally laid to rest in Maimonides Cemetery in Brooklyn. Jordan Johnson was cleared of all wrongdoing and left the Navy a year later. In 1929, Johnson passed away at the young age of 46, leaving the events of that day as a piece of untold military history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a hidden language in how you stamp an envelope

Ever notice how some envelopes arrive to your deployed friends with the stamp upside down? Probably not, but oftentimes you’ll see it. Sometimes they’re also tilted at an angle. This is not an accident, it’s an antiquated but still-living little language in the placement of a stamp.


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There’s no better way to tell someone in jail you love them.

An upside-down stamp means “I love you.” The stamp posted slightly off-kilter means “I miss you.” There’s a lot more crammed into the placement of one little square on a slightly larger square. It’s an old-timey easter egg, a way to make the letter more than a piece of paper, to personalize it and make even the envelope ones own, transmitting a little emotion along with their ancient text message.

The coded messages are more than a century old now, having their origins in the Victorian Era and have somehow survived the advent of modern texting, email, and other forms of communication that don’t require stamps.

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Of course, there are variations to the language.

“Another military wife told me that her grandmother used to flip her stamps when writing her husband, who was deployed overseas,” Janie Bielefeldt, an ex-marine living in Jacksonville, N.C. told the New York Times. “It’s just something you hear about on the base.”

In those days, young lovers couldn’t exactly be as open with their emotions as we have come to be. The idea of sending nudes or a dick pic might actually cause someone to get hanged or burned at the stake back then. Of course, not so these days, where an entire subculture grew up around sending racy photos. For U.S. military members and their families, however, the practice of writing letters is alive and well, and with it is the language of stamps.