The Marine Corps presented the Air Medal to three U.S. Marines on July 24, 2018, at Marine Air Station Miramar, California, for their actions while crewing a CH-53E Super Stallion that caught fire off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during aerial refueling operations.
Capt. Molly A. O’Malley stands during an award ceremony where she and two other Marines received the Air Medal.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
The awards were presented to Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16. The Marines were serving in Japan last year and were conducting operations near Okinawa’s Northern Training Area, an area often used for jungle training.
The helicopter itself was almost completely destroyed by the fire. The engine, most of the rotor blades, and the fuselage are visible as just a pile of slag in the Japanese field in images and video released by Japanese media after the crash.
Additional helicopters rushed to the scene to secure the crew and passengers and another CH-53 came on station with a helibucket to drop water and control the flames until Japanese firefighters and American first-responders from the nearby base could respond.
The quick actions of the crew and first responders prevented any property damage to anything except the plants directly under the burning helicopter.
This success by the crew and emergency workers had positive consequences beyond protecting the life and health of the passengers and local population. American military aviation in the area is extremely controversial, and nearly all incidents on the island trigger local protests and condemnation from politicians. Limiting the property damage and protecting all human life reduces the amount of backlash.
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills pose with their air medals and a CH-53 Super Stallion after their award ceremony.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
The Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-53E Super Stallions are quickly becoming obsolete as their heavy rate of use in ongoing conflicts across the world — as well as normal operations and training — take a toll. The average CH-53E is 15 years old.
The aircraft is being replaced by the CH-53K, a very similar version of the helicopter but with a significantly more capability.
See more photos from the award ceremony below:
A U.S. Marine receives the Air Medal from Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 ceremony honoring three Marines’ quick actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 in-flight fire.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand during an award ceremony as Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams gives his remarks.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand in front of Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 award ceremony honoring their actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 fire in their CH-53E Super Stallion.
A huge battle featuring the Battletoads, Ninja Turtles, Ultraman, Mechagodzilla, a team of Spartans from Halo, and about a thousand other beloved pop-culture and childhood icons is something we sadly had to leave behind once all our action figures were cleaned up and mom called us down to dinner.
Kinda like that — but not at all.
Well, not anymore.
Hundreds of pop culture references from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and recent years are featured heavily in Steven Speilberg’s new film, Ready Player One. It’s a film the director says was three years in the making and required the coordination of hundreds of artists and creatives the world over — including author Ernest Cline. Cline’s 2011 sci-fi novel of the same name was also filled with these great easter eggs.
The film is about the quest for such an “easter egg,” which, for the unfamiliar, is an inside joke, hidden message, or secret feature created by the designer of a work. Watching or reading Ready Player One is a lot like trying to get to the center of the world’s largest Matryoshka nesting doll of easter eggs.
Set in a poor area of Columbus, Ohio in the year 2045, film centers around Wade Watts, a young gamer inside the Oasis, an open, massively multiplayer, online world – essentially, it’s a video game that has supplanted the real world in popularity. The Oasis is populated primarily by other gamers and almost everyone has a customized avatar. Wade’s avatar is called “Parzival” and, in the Oasis, he’s on the quest for the greatest easter egg in history.
The Oasis’ late creator, James Halliday, left a series of clues to help people find hidden keys. Once all three keys are collected, the winner can claim the easter egg – Halliday’s fortune and ownership of the Oasis. Watts, in his quest, stumbles upon another gunter (or “egg hunter”), Samantha (also known as Art3mis) and three gamers he knows only through the Oasis: Aech (pronounced “H“), a samurai called Daito, and a ninja called Sho.
Together, as they unlock the secrets to finding the keys, they have to contend with billionaire businessman Nolan Sorrento, CEO of Innovative Online Industries. IOI’s corporate villain has seemingly unlimited resources, unlimited lives, and a vast army of digital slaves helping him wrest ownership of and monetize the Oasis, an idea anathema to the god-like Halliday’s vision.
By the time we get to the Battle of Castle Anorak (Anorak being the name of the late Halliday’s avatar), Parzival has rallied the entire Oasis – the entire world – to fight to keep their digital world pure. Rolling in the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, wielding crowd-pleasing weaponry, like Monty Python’s holy hand grenade, and fighting alongside horror movie legend, Chucky, Parzival and friends take on IOI’s respawning army of employees.
I know, it seems like a lot — even if you’ve already read the book. But look: If you’re a fan of the pop culture of the 1980s, this is the movie for you (listen up, Gen-Xers). The film loves the 1980s as much as you do. More than that, Ready Player One is a throwback to the popcorn-peddling, fun, thrill-ride of movies from the 80s.
Even if you don’t love video games or cheeky 80s references, there’s still something for everyone to love in Ready Player One. This is a movie for your inner pop-culture fan.
Just make sure you’ve seen The Shining before you go.
After years of being featured at trade shows and trotted out for high-ranking Marine Corps officials, the Marines’ barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System — known affectionately as the robotic mule — has been put out to pasture.
The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon’s research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.
DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops’ load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.
A second contract worth almost $10 million was awarded in 2013 for an additional phase of the LS3 program that would demonstrate how the legged robot would work by following troops on foot through rugged terrain, carrying their gear, and interpreting verbal and visual commands. The contract also provided for the construction of an enhanced version of LS3 that featured a quieter power supply and better survivability against small arms fire.
In 2012, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos attended a demonstration of the prototype’s capabilities at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. At the time, Amos expressed pride in the developing technology and said it was getting close to something the Marines might use, according to reports.
The robo-mule had its big moment in summer 2014 at Rim of the Pacific, the largest military exercise in the Pacific region. It was featured in high-profile field tests with Marines who put it through its paces on patrols and demonstrated its ability to respond to commands and cross rugged ground.
But the experiment also exhibited the shortcomings of the prototype, Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.
“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson said. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”
In addition to the lawnmower-like noise of the mule’s gas-powered engine, there were other challenges without clear solutions, including how to repair the hulking robot if it breaks and how to integrate it into a traditional Marine patrol.
With the final funds remaining in the second Boston Dynamics contract, the DARPA-Warfighting Lab team built “Spot,” a robotic quadruped the size of a large dog that functioned on quieter electric power. Last September, Marines put the smaller robot to the test in the woods of Quantico, Virginia.
But while Spot eliminated the noise problem, its slighter frame could only carry loads of 40 pounds or so and didn’t display the advanced autonomous technology that LS3 had.
“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” said Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab. “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.”
For now, both Spot and LS3 are in storage, with no future experiments or upgrades planned. Pineiro said it would take a new contract and some new interest from Marine Corps top brass to resurrect the program.
While it may seem as though years of work with the robot quadrupeds has wrapped up without a tangible result, Warfighting Lab officials said the Marine Corps did gain important insights about autonomous technology and its potential.
“We tend to play with things that are fanciful and strange,” Olson said. “Learning from it was a big part, and we’re still learning.”
Meanwhile, the lab has ongoing experiments featuring drones and other unmanned vehicles and are exploring uses for them including medical resupply and reconnaissance.
For most Americans, Kazakhstan evokes images of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, driving across America, uttering timeless quotes about his wife, his neighbor Ursultan, or those a**holes in Uzbekistan. Those interested in military history might want to look beyond Borat’s neon green bikini – it was a Kazakh who hoisted the Soviet flag over the Reichstag during World War II after all and until it was absorbed into the Soviet Union, Kazakh tribes remained largely undefeated in military history.
In 1969, a burial mound was discovered near Issyk in what was then the Kazakh SSR of the Soviet Union. The mound contained an ancient skeleton along with warrior’s gear and funeral treasures belonging to a long-dead Scythian soldier, estimated to be buried around the 5th Century BCE. Based on the funerary treasures, the skeleton was considered to be that of a noble, a prince or princess. Among those treasures was what has come to be called the “Golden Man” amongst Kazakhs – a suit of ornate armor made of more than 4,000 pieces of gold.
The suit is so ornate and valuable, the Kazakh government will only show replicas of the Golden Man in museums. The original is said to be housed in the main vault of the National Bank of Kazakhstan in Almaty.
The Prince is from a tribe of ancient Scythian warriors called the “Saka” who lived in the lands north of what is today Iran. While the ancient historians called all tribes living in the Asian steppe Scythian, the ancient Persians referred to those Scythian tribes at their northern border as the Saka. These nomadic peoples likely fought against Alexander the Great as his forces moved west. They also engaged Cyrus the Great’s Persian forces, killing him in battle around 530 BCE.
The Scythian tribes of this time were not dominated by men, and like their modern-day Soviet Kazakh armies, women would fight alongside their men. It was their Empress Tomyris who led the army that killed Cyrus. Descendants of these same tribes would resist incursions from early Russian, Chinese, and Roman armies.
So while it’s very possible the “Golden Man” wasn’t a man at all, the ancient, cataphract-style armor – armor used by nomadic-style cavalry units – is a beautiful historical work of art. The gold works depict snow leopards, deer, goats, horses, and majestic birds. These are all depicted on the likely ceremonial armor and form a clear basis for the modern style of tribal jewelry-making in the Central Asian country.
As for the bones of the ancient warrior, they were reinterred using the customs of the Scythian warriors of the time. The people of this area are still so very close to their tribal origins that they all know from which of the three tribes of Kazakhstan they descend.
Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.
“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.
Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.
“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”
That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.
“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)
And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.
“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”
After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.
“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”
With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.
“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.
“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)
Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.
“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
When a civil war between Chinese powers ended with victory for the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949, the Republic of China’s government retreated to a region of the nation that had only recently been returned from Japanese control, known as Taiwan. They quickly established a provisional capital in Taipei, and so began a half-century long staring contest from across the Pacific Ocean’s Taiwan Strait. Today, tensions remain high between these two Chinese governments, prompting complex foreign relations and sporadic military posturing between each government and their respective allies.
On Tuesday, Taiwan conducted an unusual series of military exercises aimed at preparing the nation to defend itself against a Chinese attack even after its military installations had been rendered useless by wave after wave of Chinese air strikes and naval bombardments. Taiwan knows China could feasibly neuter their military response capabilities fairly quickly, and in order to stay in the fight, they’d need to get creative with how they field their intercept and attack aircraft. When you’re fresh out of airstrips but still have fighters to scramble, what do you do?
You close down the freeways.
Freeway or Runway? It all depends on the circumstances.
(Photo courtesy of Taiwan’s Freeway Bureau)
“Our national security has faced multiple challenges,” Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen told the press on Tuesday. “Whether it is the Chinese Communist Party’s [People’s Liberation Army] long-distance training or its fighter jets circling Taiwan, it has posed a certain degree of threat to regional peace and stability. We should maintain a high degree of vigilance.”
As a part of the drills, Taiwan launched four different types of military aircraft from portions of highway that were shut down for use as makeshift airstrips. Long stretches of blacktop normally reserved for slow-moving commuters fighting their way through workday traffic instead became packed with American sourced F-16 Fighting Falcons and Northrop Grumman E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, along with French Mirage 2000s and Taiwan-made IDF fighters. Each aircraft took off carrying a full combat load.
The drills not only demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to scramble fighters and support aircraft from the freeway, it also proved conclusively that Taiwan’s troops can conduct refueling and ammunition replenishment operations right there on the highway, redeploying jets back into the fight quickly even after their air bases have been destroyed.
Taiwan fighters land on highway for Chinese ‘invasion’ wargames
“There are only a few military air bases which would become the prime targets in the event of an attack. The highway drill is necessary as highway strips would be our priority choice if the runways were damaged during a war,” Air Force Colonel Shu Kuo-mao explained.
Over 1,600 military personnel took part in the drills, along with Taiwan’s new variant of the F-16 that has been called the “most advanced fourth-generation fighter on the planet” by its builder, Lockheed Martin. The F-16V offers advanced AESA Radar sourced through Northrop Grumman, as well as a variety of updates and upgrades to avionics and combat systems meant to make it a formidable opponent for just about anything in the sky that isn’t Lockheed Martin’s flagship fighter, the F-35, or its sister in stealth, the F-22.
The F-16V is touted as the world’s most advanced fourth generation fighter by Lockheed Martin
(Promotional image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The F-16s that took part in Tuesday’s drills notably flew carrying two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, two AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, sourced from the United States, meaning their primary role in a fight would be to engage with encroaching aircraft and vessels, rather than air-to-surface strikes against the Chinese mainland.
With only about a hundred miles separating Taiwan’s shores from China’s, it stands to reason that combat operations would begin with a heavy bombardment of Taiwan’s few operational airstrips. These drills, however, suggest that even such an offensive may not be enough to stop Taiwan from responding with some of the best fighters on the planet.
This article is not meant to disparage Beretta’s products. The 500-plus-year-old company has supplied arms to every major European war since 1650, and the results are just what a weapons manufacturer intends their products to do. When it came to replacing the legendary M1911 as the U.S. military’s trusty sidearm, no one expected the Italian company to carry the day, but cost was the final factor for the Air Force. From there, it spread to all the branches.
The Army was not pleased.
The M1911 was a workhorse.
From 1911 to 1986, the Colt M1911 was the pistol weapon of choice for the U.S. military. These days, most military personnel don’t require or train on a pistol, but in the days of the 1911, most absolutely did. The American-built weapon was a trusted, durable weapon for decades and many, many wars – and still hasn’t been entirely replaced. But ultimately, the 1911 was replaced because of capacity.
World War III was supposed to be fought in the forests and fields of Europe, where American and NATO troops would face an onslaught of Soviet men who may be fighting in human wave attacks. Planners wanted to give Western fighting men as many rounds as possible to fight their way out, so it seemed natural that decreasing the size of a round while increasing capacity allowed the average G.I. Joe to carry and load more bullets. The M9 would allow for twice as many rounds per load.
The Italian-owned company Beretta submitted its Model 92S handgun to the U.S. Air Force-led Joint Services Small Arms Program in 1978. The Air Force was tasked with finding a sidearm that was suitable for all branches of the military. Beretta went up against other heavyweights of the firearms industry, including Heckler Koch, Colt, and Smith Wesson, to name a few. To everyone’s surprise, the Air Force declared Beretta, the clear winner.
It was not a welcome surprise for the Army. The Army declared the Air Force tests invalid due to what they called testing discrepancies. So they conducted the trials again under Army supervision. While all this hoopla over the test results was happening, the U.S. Navy purchased the Beretta with features demanded by the JSSAP.
The Army went ahead with a third trial anyway, set for 1984. In this trial, Beretta submitted an improved Model 92 up against SIG Sauer’s P226 model, both vying to be the U.S. military’s M9. While both performed admirably, Beretta’s lower overall cost won it the day, and the Army declared the Italian-made pistol its new sidearm of choice.
Since being declared the M9, there have been more than 600,000 Berettas ordered by the U.S. military. American arms manufacturers were incredulous, leveling any number of charges against Beretta, including accusing the Italian company of having access to SIG Sauer’s initial bid to the Pentagon.
The M9 was a workhorse in its own right.
But the Beretta did not last as long as the M1911 did in the U.S. arsenal. After 30 years (no small feat), SIG Sauer finally usurped the Italian gunmaker to become the U.S. sidearm maker for the U.S. Armed Forces Modular Handgun System, finally issued in 2018 with its P320 model.
Just before the end of January 2018, Russia announced that its Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapons system would be equipped with a new type of missile to help it defend against smaller, low-flying targets.
Called the “gvozd” (the Russian word for “nail”), the missile is a small armament designed to take out small targets like drones. The Pantsir will reportedly be able to carry 4 gvozds in one canister, which means a fully armed system can have up to 48 missiles.
The issue of how to combat small and cheap drones that can carry small payloads or carry out kamikaze-style attacks continues to vex global militaries. The terrorist group ISIS has found them to be particularly useful, and in January 2017 saw a swarm of drones attack a Russian air base in Syria, reportedly damaging seven jets.
The Pantsir, known to NATO as the SA-22 Greyhound, entered service in the Russian Military in 2012. Its primary role is that of point-defense, meaning it can defend from low-flying aerial targets within a certain area.
It is armed with two 2A38M 30 mm autocannons that have a maximum fire rate of 5,000 rounds per minute, and twelve AA missiles in twelve launch canisters. The system’s weapons have an effective range of 10 to 20 kilometers.
Conversely, Russia’s S-400 missile system is intended to deal with long-range targets. The system can be armed with four different missiles, the longest of which has a claimed range of 400 kilometers, while the most common missile has a range of 250 kilometers.
The two systems working in tandem provide a “layered defense,” with the S-400 providing long-ranged protection against bombers, fighter jets, and ballistic missiles, and the Pantsir providing medium-ranged protection against cruise missiles, low-flying strike aircraft, and drones.
This explains why the systems have been deployed together in Syria, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has said “guaranteed the superiority of our Aerospace Forces in Syrian air space.”
The Pantsir has also reportedly been seen in Ukraine’s Donbas region, no doubt helping separatists defend against attacks from the Ukrainian Air Force.
Russian air defense strategy
“It certainly makes the system more robust,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a research scientist and expert on the Russian military and foreign policy at the Center for Naval Analyses told Business Insider. “A layered defense is always better than a single defense layer.”
Compared to Russia, the US does not have a point-defense system. Its air defense strategy relies primarily on the Patriot Missile System, the Avenger Air Defense System, and shoulder launched FIM-92 Stingers.
Edmonds says that the reason the Russians have been able to achieve these gains in aerial defense over the West is because the US has not had to face an adversary with advanced air capabilities, and because Russia’s air defense strategy is made specifically to counter America’s aerial superiority.
“For the Russians, in any conflict with the United States, the primary concern is going to be a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.
Operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere have shown that the Americans prefer to use what the Russians refer to as non-contact or new-model warfare — the use of effective airpower to destroy a large amount of targets and winning wars without invading a country.
“Their layered defenses are designed around that threat,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds pointed out that aircraft take a more active and aggressive role in American and NATO strategy than Russian strategy.
“The way we fight, our aircraft are out front. They prep the battlespace for follow-on units,” he said. “It’s almost the opposite for the Russians. Fighter aircraft will be fighting kind of behind the line, not venturing far out front.”
Edmonds also noted that defense against an aerospace happens “across domains.”
“That’s counter-space, that’s GPS jamming, that’s missiles, dispersion, camouflage — there’s a whole host of things that they practice, and capabilities they developed to counter a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
The fight between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in northwest Syria’s Afrin province appears to be in a tailspin.
Turkish forces have reportedly killed more than a hundred civilians, mutilated U.S.-backed SDF fighters, and even indiscriminately shot at displaced civilians attempting to flee into Turkey.
Ankara launched a massive ground and air campaign, code-named “Olive Branch,” against the U.S.-backed SDF forces in Afrin on Jan. 20 2018 in response to the U.S.’s announcement that it would train and maintain a 30,000-strong, predominately Kurdish force in the region.
Turkey views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
But in the last two weeks, Turkish forces have made only limited gains in Afrin, as SDF fighters, including the YPG and all-women YPJ, appear to have put up rather stiff resistance.
At least 20 videos have surfaced showing YPG forces targeting, and in many instances destroying, invading Turkish tanks and armored vehicles with anti-tank guided missile systems. Freelance journalist Aris Roussinos compiled a Twitter thread of those videos here.
On Feb. 03 2018, YPG fighters killed seven Turkish soldiers, including five in one attack on a tank, according to The Guardian.
SDF fighters have also responded with occasional rocket fire across the border into Turkey, according to The Washington Post. One of those attacks killed a teenage girl and wounded another civilian in the Turkish town of Reyhanli.
But these attacks appear to have only incensed Turkish forces.
A number of graphic videos have appeared on social media showing Turkish-backed rebels mutilating dead YPG fighters.
On Feb. 01 2018, videos emerged showing Turkish-backed rebels kicking the dead corpse of a female YPG fighter named Barin Kobani and discussing whether she was attractive after stripping off her clothes and cutting off her breasts.
A YPJ spokeswoman told AFP that Kobani and three other female fighters were battling Turkish-backed forces, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”
“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” Kobani’s brother, 30-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, cried out at her funeral, AFP reported.
Another incredibly graphic video appeared on Twitter apparently showing Turkish forces kicking and stepping on the body of a dead male YPG fighter.
These disturbing instances have coincided with a Human Rights Watch report released on Feb. 03 2018 saying that Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at civilians trying to flee Afrin and returning the asylum-seekers.
Turkish border guards are also reportedly beating detained asylum-seekers and refusing them medical care, Human Rights Watch reported. Between Dec. 15 2017 and Jan. 22 2018, more than 247,000 Syrians in Afrin were displaced to the border, according to the UN.
On Feb. 04 2018, thousands of people reportedly gathered in the Afrin town of Kobane and are currently traveling to the city of Afrin in support.
Kurds in other countries around the world, such as Lebanon and Germany, are also protesting Turkey’s operations in Afrin.
Turkey itself has even detained nearly 600 people for social-media posts criticizing the invasion, according to Reuters.
Before seven of the Navy’s carrier-variant F-35 Joint Strike Fighters embarked aboard the carrier USS George Washington for a third and final round of developmental testing, they completed a required ashore training period, practicing landings at Choctaw Naval Outlying Field near Pensacola, Florida.
The landings went well — maybe a little too well.
“They were landing in the same spot on the runway every time, tearing up where the hook touches down,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of Naval Air Forces, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. “So we quickly realized, we needed to either fix the runway or adjust, put some variants in the system. So that’s how precise this new system is.”
The new system in question is called Delta Flight Path, a built-in F-35C technology that controls glide slope and minimizes the number of variables pilots must monitor as they complete arrested carrier landings. A parallel system known as MAGIC CARPET, short for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, is being developed for use with the Navy’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Together, these systems may allow carriers to operate with fewer tankers, leaving more room for other aircraft, Shoemaker said.
Military.com reported on the implications of this new landing technology from the carrier George Washington earlier this week, as the first operational pilot-instructors with Strike Fighter Squadron 101, out of Oceana, Virginia, began daytime carrier qualifications on the aircraft. On Thursday, Shoemaker had an update on the ongoing carrier tests.
Of about 100 F-35C arrested landings were completed on the carrier, he said, 80 percent engaged the No. 3 wire, meaning the aircraft had touched down at the ideal spot. As of Monday, there had been zero so-called bolters, when the aircraft misses an arresting wire and must circle the carrier for another attempt.
“I think that’s going to give us the ability to look at the way we work up and expand the number of sorties. I think it will change the way we operate around the ship … in terms of the number of tankers you have to have up, daytime and nighttime,” he said. “I think that will give us a lot of flexibility in the air wing in the way we use those strike fighters.”
Tankers, or in-air refueling aircraft, must be ready when aircraft make arrested landings in case they run low on fuel during landing attempts. Fewer bolters, therefore, means a reduced tanker requirement.
“Right now, we configure maybe six to eight tankers aboard the ship,” Shoemaker said. “I don’t think we need … that many. That will give us flexibility on our strike fighter numbers, increase the Growler numbers, which I know we’re going to do, and probably E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye carrier-launched radar aircraft] as well.”
The F-35C’s last developmental testing phase is set to wrap up Aug. 23. MAGIC CARPET is expected to be introduced to the fleet in 2019, officials have said.
Names like Blackbeard and The Barbarossa Brothers may ring a bell. They conjure visions of a billowing Jolly Rogers flag, bands of thieving pirates, and of poor souls walking the plank to their watery graves. But you probably also picture only men. Contrary to popular belief, female pirates have also sailed the high seas, from the very beginning of piracy’s existence.
These swashbuckling female pirates left their mark on history. They defied odds when women weren’t even permitted on ships, commanded crews, and carried out some of the wildest heists in history.
Madame Ching, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a pirate who terrorized the China Sea in the early 19th century. She commanded over 300 ships, and 40,000 pirates, including men, women, and even children. Skirmishes with the British Empire, Portuguese Empire and the Qing dynasty were common during her reign.
But Madame Ching wasn’t always a successful pirate. She was born in 1775 and is believed to have worked in a brothel until she was in her late teens. Then in 1801, she met Cheng I, a notorious pirate with whom she fell in love. They were married and adopted a son, Cheung Po, who was being taught the ways of piracy by Cheng I. Allying with Madame Ching allowed Cheng to access the alliance and powers of the mainland underworld. Madame Ching, a cunning woman, only allowed his access on the condition that she have equal control and share of their fortune.
Six years after the two were married, Cheng died. Madame Ching took advantage of the opening. She was one of the few female pirates who was fully accepted by an entirely male crew, being adopted wholeheartedly by Cheng I’s crew. Madame Ching rose to become one of China’s most notorious pirates. Once she was in charge, Madame Ching also instituted a code of law for her pirates unlike any seen before. They included prohibition from stealing from friendly villagers, beheading for any rapes, and more.
By the time Madame Ching died in 1844, she held numerous coastal villages under her control, levying taxes and protecting towns from other pirates.
Despite Anne Bonny’s historic reputation, very little is known about her life. We know she was an Irish pirate who spent most of her life in the Caribbean. She’s thought to have been born somewhere near Cork, Ireland in the late 1600s or early 1700s. She and her father moved to London after a fight with his wife—who was not Anne’s mother. He began dressing her as a boy around that time. They later moved to Carolina, then Nassau in the Bahamas.
There, Anne met John “Calico Jack” Rackham, a well-known pirate captain. The two quickly became secret lovers, although Anne had already married James Bonny. She was brought on board his ship in her old male disguise.
She took equal part in combat alongside the men, becoming well-liked amongst the crew. Together, they plundered the waters surrounding Jamaica. However, in 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a patrolling ship commissioned by the Governor of Jamaica. Most were taken off guard and too drunk to fight, but Bonny and a female crewmate (and rumored lover), Mary Read, held off the assailants for at least a short while.
Eventually, the entire crew was taken, convicted and hanged. Both Read and Bonny were able to gain a stay of execution due to their “delicate conditions” (read: pregnancies). However, Read died in prison, most likely during childbirth or from its aftereffects. Bonny gave birth in prison, then was released. Her fate after this is unknown. Some believe she actually died in prison, others that she escaped and returned to a life of piracy.
Grace O’Malley has become a legendary figure in Irish folklore despite her very real roots—she was even an inspiration for Anne Bonny to take up piracy. From a young age, O’Malley longed to follow in her father’s footsteps as a privateer on the seas. She once asked her father if she could join him on a trading venture to Spain. She was promptly rejected: Her father said her hair was too long and would get caught in the ship’s ropes. In response, O’Malley chopped off her hair.
With this proof of her seriousness, her father backed down, and she joined him on his next journey to Spain. Upon his death, she took control of the family’s land and sea despite having a brother. She paraded up and down the coastline thieving and bringing her findings back to her family’s coastal stronghold.
Her marriage to Donal an Chogaidh brought her even greater wealth and power. She had three children, including a daughter who took after her mother. When an Chogiaidh was murdered in an attack on his lands, O’Malley was ready to seek vengeance. She launched an attack on Doona castle, whose owners were thought to be responsible. The ferocity of this attack left her with a lasting nickname: the Dark Lady of Doona.
Later in life, O’Malley had an ongoing battle with Sir Richard Bingham, an English officer who was responsible for the Tudor conquest of England. Irish nobles like O’Malley were unwilling to give up their freedom of rule and fought viciously against the Tudor monarchy. After her sons were captured during a battle, O’Malley decided to visit the Tudor court to plead for their freedom.
She and Queen Elizabeth spoke in Latin, their common language (Elizabeth spoke no Irish, O’Malley no English). O’Malley refused to bow to the queen, as doing so would recognize her rights as the Queen of Ireland. The court was scandalized by O’Malley’s behavior, including blowing her nose in front of the queen. Their meeting resolved in O’Malley’s sons’ freedom and the removal of Bingham from Ireland. O’Malley continued to support the Irish insurgency by sea and land until her death in (approximately) 1603.
Beloved by Irish nationalists, O’Malley was renamed Gráinne Mhaol after her death and held up as a symbol of Irish indepence.
4. Sadie Farrell
Though there is some speculation about whether she actually existed, Sadie Farrell, also called Sadie the Goat, was an American criminal, gang leader, and river pirate who operated primarily in and around Manhattan. Her nickname emerges from how she would attack her victims on land: ramming headfirst into her target’s gut while a nearby acquaintance readied their slingshot.
When she tired of thieving on land, Sadie traveled to the waterfront in West Side Manhattan. It was here that she witnessed a failed attempt by the Charlton Street Gang to board a small riverboat and rob it. She offered up her services to the group and soon became their leader. Within days, she’d organized a highly successful theft which ignited her career as a pirate.
She and the Charlton Street Gang would soon be seen sailing up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages with a Jolly Roger flying from their sloop’s masthead. She was notorious for kidnapping men, women and children for ransom and is said to have made countless men walk the plank. Within a few months, people began anticipating the gang’s raids and what successes they had became smaller. Eventually, the gang returned to the Bowery for the more consistent life offered there.
This Breton pirate sailed the English Channel during the 1300s, and in these years earned the title Lioness of Brittany. Born in 1300, de Clisson was married first at 12. She had two children during her first marriage. Her husband, despite being only seven years older than her, died in 1326. Jeanne remarried twice after this. Her third and final marriage was rather unusual for the time—it seemed to be a love match. She and Oliver de Clisson had five children together, one of whom may have been born before they were actually married.
Her path to piracy began during the Breton War of Succession. For most of the fight, she sided with the French. That is, until her husband was lured onto French soil under the guise of achieving some kind of peace deal. He and his companions were captured, with their peers alleging that they had committed treason with the British. They were all tried and beheaded.
As revenge, de Clisson raised a force of loyal men and started attacking French forces in Brittany. With the English king’s help, she decorated three warships completely in black and, so the tale goes, wrote “My Revenge” across the vessels. It was on these ships that she patrolled the English Channel, hunting down and destroying French ships for 13 years before calling it quits. Jeanne seemingly decided that she had achieved sufficient vengeance out of nowhere and simply stopped wreaking terror upon the high seas. She died in a small port town on the Brittany coast in 1359.
Though Sayyida al Hurra never sailed much, if at all, she was regarded as a queen of the pirates in the Mediterranean. Between 1515 and 1542, she was both the actual Queen of Tétouan in northern Morocco and a pirate queen. She controlled the western Mediterranean Sea and was well-respected throughout the Mediterranean for her ability to rule on her own terms and to resist occupation when her power was threatened. In fact, her name means “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”
She was born into a family of power in 1485, and quickly rose in ranks, marrying Tétouan’s ruler in her teens. When he died, she became ruler in her own right, at about 30. Not long after, the King of Fez, another Moroccan city, sought Sayyida’s hand. They were married, and Sayyida began realizing how piracy could revitalize her city after invading Christian forces devastated it.
By 1523, Sayyida was running the Mediterranean Sea. Her pirates stalked Portuguese shipping routes, stealing goods and money for the benefit of Tétouan. Although it’s possible that Sayyida was never actually on board any of her ships, her strategy and skill were able to create the opportunities that her people needed to rebuild Sayyida’s most beloved city.
7. Charlotte de Berry
De Berry is another possibly mythic female pirate. Stories of her life only appear in writing two centuries after her supposed death. Despite this, many believe that Charlotte de Berry did in fact exist and did take to the seas.
Born in the mid-1600s, de Berry grew up in England. In her late teens, de Berry fell in love with a sailor, married him, and started on her journey to piracy. Disguised as a man, she joined her husband onboard and fought valiantly alongside her crew. After one of the ship’s crew discovered that de Berry was a woman, her husband was killed. De Berry barely managed to escape, shedding her sailor garb and posing as a woman working on the docks.
While she was working on the docks, a captain kidnapped de Berry and forced her to marry him. He was brutal to de Berry. In order to escape him, she convinced the crew to betray their captain. De Berry decapitated him before the crew, and took his role as captain of the ship.
For many years following, she sailed the seas, attacking ships and stealing their treasures. She fell in love with a Spaniard, and invited him to join her crew. Shortly after they were shipwrecked. Most of the crew perished, including de Berry’s lover. The survivors were rescued by a Dutch ship, but de Berry jumped into the ocean rather than leave her lover behind. Her fate after this is unknown.
This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.
Bob Ross might be one of the last names you’d think of when considering all the celebrities that have served. The videos of him “painting a happy little bush in the corner right there” exude calmness and tranquility — exactly the opposite of what you’d expect from a training instructor turned hardened, twenty-year First Sergeant turned retiree, but that’s exactly who he is.
What makes Bob Ross’s story even more awesome to the military community is that nearly every aspect of his hallmark zen was directly inspired by — or intentionally the exact opposite of — his time spent as First Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson AFB, Alaska.
Yep. That’s Alaska alright.
(Bob Ross, “Winter Night,” 1984)
His choice in scenery
As you can imagine, at Eielson AFB, there’s nothing but the Last Frontier for as far as the eye can see. It’s 26 miles from Fairbanks and another thousands before you reach what most consider normal civilization.
While Bob Ross was stationed there, this was his view — and it’s what inspired him to draw. A beautiful backdrop of snow-capped mountains and rivers flowing through verdant woods just needed to be captured somehow. The world needed to see the majesty that he saw.
His style of wet-on-wet oil painting and his use of bigger brushes meant that this masterpiece was made in just 25 minutes.
(Bob Ross, “Mountain Retreat,” 1984)
His quick art style
As the first sergeant of an entire medical facility, he needed to find some sort of distraction from the constant stress. He found his outlet one day at the Anchorage USO Club when he attended an art class. Drawing became his passion and he would often paint during his brief lunch breaks.
Within his hour of break for lunch, he’d have to finish an entire painting — and eat. This time constraint proved handy later on. He was already trained in creating an entire painting within brief, half-hour episodes when it came time to create the show.
His soft voice
Bob Ross served many years as a training instructor and yet found no pleasure in raising his voice to give orders. He swore to himself that when he retired out of the Air Force, he’d never yell again. After twenty years of service, he retired in 1981 and kept his word.
His soft voice was the tune to which many picking up painting as a hobby. As anyone who’s drawn or painted knows, you will often make mistakes while creating art. You’ll crumple the paper up or set fire to the easel because you got one line wrong. But that’s not the Ross way. According to First Sergeant Bob Ross (Ret.), “there are no mistakes. Only happy accidents.”
When they start selling Chia-pets in your likeness because of your wacky hair, no one will let you cut it.
His signature hairdo and beard
Today, he’s known as the man with the poofiest perm and a glorious vet beard, but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, for a long time after his retirement, he kept up a professionally done crew cut and would shave every week. But times were tough for Ross.
He would have to skip a hair cut every other week until, eventually, he started skipping them altogether. All the while, he was trying to get the first version of The Joy of Painting on the air. By the time he was able to support himself through the show and associated art supplies, his ‘fro and beard had become part of his identity. This look stuck with him, no matter how much he wanted to shave it and go back to the crew cut.
Hands down the best “post DD-214” life by a long shot!
(Bob Ross Inc.)
His desire to teach
Deciding to leave the military and start a public access show about painting isn’t part of anyone’s get-rich-quick scheme. He did it because it was one of his proudest moments of being in the Air Force: being an instructor, only now he could do it without raising his voice.
Later on, Bob Ross Inc. paint supplies and books brought in money, but that’s never what mattered most to him — he donated plenty of it away. He was just a veteran who wanted to share his Joy of Painting with the world.