On what would have been their 26th wedding anniversary, Tech. Sgt. John Chapman’s widow, Valerie Nessel, accepted his Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump during a ceremony at the White House Aug. 22, 2018.
“We are gathered together this afternoon to pay tribute to a fallen warrior, a great warrior…and to award him with our nation’s highest and most revered military honor,” Trump said.
Fighting in the early morning hours through brisk air and deep snow, Chapman sacrificed his own life to preserve the lives of his teammates during the Battle of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002.
“[John] would want to recognize the other men who lost their lives,” Valerie said in a previous interview. “Even though he did something he was awarded the Medal of Honor for, he would not want the other guys to be forgotten – they were part of the team together. I think he would say his Medal of Honor was not just for him, but for all of the guys who were lost.”
Chapman was originally awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions; however, following a review of the Air Force Cross and Silver Star recipients directed by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Deborah James, then-Secretary of the Air Force, recommended Chapman’s Air Force Cross be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
“John was always selfless – it didn’t just emerge at Taku Ghar – he had always been selfless and highly competent, and thank God for all those qualities,” retired Air Force Col. Ken Rodriguez, Chapman’s commander at the time of the battle, said in a previous interview. “He could have hunkered down in the bunker and waited for the (Quick Reaction Force) and (Combat Search and Rescue) team to come in, but he assessed the situation and selflessly gave his life for them.”
Valerie Nessel, the spouse of Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, holds up the Medal of Honor after receiving it from President Donald J. Trump during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)
Chapman enlisted in the Air Force Sept. 27, 1985, as an information systems operator, but felt called to be part of Air Force special operations. In 1989, he cross-trained to become an Air Force combat controller.
According to friends and family, Chapman had a tendency to make the difficult look effortless and consistently sought new challenges. Dating back to his high school days, he made the varsity soccer squad as a freshman. In his high school yearbook, Chapman quoted these words: “Give of yourself before taking of someone else.”
Chapman looked for a new challenge, which he found in combat control. This special operations training is more than two years long and amongst the most rigorous in the U.S. military; only about one in 10 Airmen who start the program graduate. From months of intense training to multiple joint schools – including military SCUBA, Army static-line and freefall, air traffic control, and combat control schools – Chapman is remembered as someone who could overcome any adversity.
Attendees observe as President Donald J. Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Valerie Nessel, the spouse of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during a ceremony at the White House.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne A. Clark)
“One remembers two types of students – the sharp ones and the really dull ones – and Chapman was in the sharp category,” said Ron Childress, a former Combat Control School instructor. “During one of his first days at Combat Control School, I noticed a slight smirk on his face like [the training] was too simple for him…and it was.”
Following Combat Control School, Chapman served with the 1721st Combat Control Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, where he met Valerie in 1992. They had two daughters, who were the center of Chapman’s world even when he was away from home – which was common in special operations.
“He would come home from a long trip and immediately have on his father hat – feeding, bathing, reading and getting his girls ready for bed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael West, who served with Chapman through Combat Control School, a three-year tour in Okinawa, Japan, and at Pope AFB. “They were his life and he was proud of them. To the Air Force he was a great hero…what I saw was a great father.”
The Battle of Takur Ghar
In conjunction with Operation Anaconda in March 2002, small reconnaissance teams were tasked to establish observation posts in strategic locations in Afghanistan, and when able, direct U.S. airpower to destroy enemy targets. The mountain of Takur Ghar was an ideal spot for such an observation post, with excellent visibility to key locations.
For Chapman and his joint special operations teammates, the mission on the night of March 3 was to establish a reconnaissance position on Takur Ghar and report al-Qaida movement in the Sahi-Kowt area.
“This was a very high profile, no-fail job, and we picked John,” said retired Air Force Col. Ken Rodriguez, Chapman’s commander at the time. “In a very high-caliber career field, with the highest quality of men – even then – John stood out as our guy.”
During the initial insertion onto Afghanistan’s Takur Ghar mountaintop on March 4, the MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying Chapman and the joint special operations reconnaissance team was ambushed. A rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter and bullets ripped through the fuselage. The blast ripped through the left side of the Chinook, throwing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts off the ramp of the helicopter onto the enemy-infested mountaintop below.
The severely damaged aircraft was unable to return for Roberts, and performed a controlled crash landing a few miles from the mountaintop. Thus began the chain of events that led to unparalleled acts of valor by numerous joint special operations forces, the deaths of seven U.S. servicemen and now, 16 years later, the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor to Chapman.
Alone, against the elements and separated from his team with enemy personnel closing in, Roberts was in desperate need of support. The remaining joint special operations team members, fully aware of his precarious situation, immediately began planning a daring rescue attempt that included returning to the top of Takur Ghar where they had just taken heavy enemy fire.
Valerie Nessel, the spouse of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, holds up the Medal of Honor after receiving it from President Donald J. Trump during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)
As the team returned to Roberts’ last-known position, now on a second MH-47, the entrenched enemy forces immediately engaged the approaching helicopter with heavy fire.
The helicopter, although heavily damaged, was able to successfully offload the remaining special operations team members and return to base. Chapman, upon exiting the helicopter, immediately charged uphill through the snow toward enemy positions while under heavy fire from three directions.
Once on the ground, the team assessed the situation and moved quickly to the high ground. The most prominent cover and concealment on the hilltop were a large rock and tree. As they approached the tree, Chapman received fire from two enemy personnel in a fortified position. He returned fire, charged the enemy position and took out the enemy combatants within.
Almost immediately, the team encountered machine gun fire from another fortified enemy position only 12 meters away. Chapman deliberately moved into the open to engage the new enemy position. As he engaged the enemy, he was struck by a burst of gunfire and became critically injured.
Chapman regained his faculties and continued to fight despite his severe wounds. He sustained a violent engagement with multiple enemy fighters for over an hour before paying the ultimate sacrifice. Due to his remarkably heroic actions, Chapman is credited with saving the lives of his teammates.
Doylestown Brewing Company, located in Doylestown, Pa., has a mission that is bigger than just making fine craft beer. They use their platform as a local brewery to honor one of their hometown heroes, Travis Manion.
Travis Manion, a Doylestown native, was killed in action while serving in Iraq in 2007, and his family established the Travis Manion Foundation in his memory. The foundation hosts events such as leadership expeditions for veterans and families of fallen heroes, youth character development through a combination of informal discussions and activity-based learning, and community engagement.
A motto and conviction that Travis lived by was the phrase “If not me, then who,” words that Travis spoke before leaving for his final deployment. This motto has inspired a movement across the nation to promote character, leadership, and service. Joe Modestine of Doylestown Brewing Company was one such individual inspired by Travis, and for the last seven years has been brewing “If Not Me, Then Who” Blonde Ale.
Initially brewing the beer for various events and fundraisers, the support has grown dramatically.
“We have gotten calls and messages from all over the United States,” said Modestine of the brews’ popularity. “Everyone is excited about the beer and the ability to support the foundation. For every case of beer we sell, .00 goes back to the foundation, and just within the last couple of months, we have raised over 00, but that is just the beginning.
With the demand for the beer reaching all over the country we know we would never be able to support each chapter so what we are getting ready to launch is a program where we team up with a local brewery in each state, provide them the rights and recipe to brew the beer and support that state and foundation’s efforts. This has never been done before in the beer world, and we can’t wait to get things started.”
Doylestown Brewing Company
Doylestown Brewing Company has been in business for over nine years now, and their beers are currently primarily available in the Philadelphia area, with the goal of having their products available from coast to coast by the year 2022. They have used their business as a platform to educate and advocate for causes meaningful to them, and the people of Pennsylvania. In addition to their support of the Travis Manion Foundation, the company also brews Duffy’s Cut Irish Style Red Ale, which honors the 57 Irish immigrants and railroad workers that tragically died of cholera in August of 1832 while constructing a stretch of railroad west of Philadelphia.
Modestine added, “We are completely honored to be working with the foundation on this project. I often think of Travis and wonder if he would have liked the beer; believe me, that is the only concern I have. I would have wanted his approval and hope that I did him proud, the way he has for so many others.”
In January 2017, the CIA release a large number of newly-declassified documents about information collected on the Soviet Union. One of those documents included two pages of Russian jokes about the Soviet Union.
Headed “Soviet Jokes for the DDCI” (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence), the jokes make reference to Mikhail Gorbachev, so they date from at least as late as the 1980s. The jokes are surprisingly directed at all Soviet leaders, from Lenin to Brezhnev.
It’s good to know there were chances for levity behind the Iron Curtain. One thing’s for sure, people didn’t love Communism as much as the Russians led us to believe.
A worker standing in a liquor line says, “I have had enough, save my place, I am going to shoot Gorbachev.” Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line. His friends ask, “Did you get him?” “No,” he replied. “The line there was even longer than the line here.”
Q: What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek*?
A: Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know it yet.
*(Alexander Dubcek led the Czech resistance to the Warsaw Pact during the Prague Spring of 1968, but was forced to resign)
Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition class essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They are all communists.” Sentence from the same boy’s composition the following week: “My cat’s seven kittens are all capitalists.” Teacher reminds the boy that the previous week he had said the kittens were communists. “But now they’ve opened their eyes,” replies the child.
A Chukchi (a tribe of Eskimo-like people on Russia’s northwest coast) is asked what he would do if the Soviet borders were opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he replies. Asked why, he responds: “So I wouldn’t get trampled in the stampede out!” Then he is asked what he would do if the U.S. border is opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he says, “so I can see the first person crazy enough to come here.”
A joke heard in Arkhangelsk has it that someone happened to call the KGB headquarters just after a major fire. “We cannot do anything. The KGB has just burned down!” he was told. Five minutes later, he called back and was told again the KGB had burned. When he called a third time, the telephone operator recognized his voice and asked “why do you keep calling back? I just told you the KGB has burned down.” “I know,” the man said. “I just like to hear it.”
A train bearing Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev stops suddenly when the tracks run out. Each leader applies his own, unique solution. Lenin gathers workers and peasants from miles around and exhorts them to build more track. Stalin shoots the train crew when the train still doesn’t move. Khrushchev rehabilitates the dead crew and orders the tracks behind the train ripped up and relaid in front. Brezhnev pulls down the curtains and rocks back and forth, pretending the train is moving. And Gorbachev calls a rally in front of the locomotive, where he leads a chant: “No tracks! No tracks! No tracks!”
Ivanov: Give me an example of perestroika*.
Sidorov: (Thinks) How about menopause?
* The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring” – usually referring to economic liberalization by Gorbachev.
An old lady goes to the Gorispolkom* with a question, but by the time she gets to the official’s office she has forgotten the purpose of her visit. “Was it about your pension?” the official asks. “No, I get 20 Rubles a month, that’s fine,” she replies. “About your apartment?” “No, I live with three people in one room of a communal apartment, I’m fine,” she replies. She suddenly remembers: “Who invented Communism? –– the Communists or scientists?” The official responds proudly, “Why the Communists of course!” “That’s what I thought,” the babushka** says. “If the scientists had invented it, they would have tested it first on dogs!”
* Gorispolkom is the local political authority of a Soviet city.
** A babushka is another term for older woman or grandmother.
An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell “To hell with Ronald Reagan.” The Russian replies: “That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘to hell with Ronald Reagan’ too.”
A man goes into a shop and asks “You don’t have any meat?” “No,” replies the sales lady. “We don’t have any fish. It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have any meat.”
A man is driving with his wife and small child. A militiaman pulls them over and makes the man take a breathalyzer test. “See,” the militiaman says, “you’re drunk.” The man protests that the breathalyzer must be broken and invites the cop to test his wife. She also registers as drunk. Exasperated, the man invites the cop to test his child. When the child registers drunk as well, the cop shrugs and says “Yes, perhaps it is broken,” and sends them on their way. Out of earshot the man tells his wife, “See, I told you is wouldn’t hurt to give the kid five grams of vodka.”
Afghanistan has long been one of the world’s biggest producers of opium, which is used to make heroin, and the Taliban has made a lucrative business from taxing and providing security to producers and smugglers in the region.
But the militant group has expanded its role in that drug trade considerably, boosting its profits at a time when it is making decisive gains against the Afghan government and its US backers.
According to a New York Times report, the Taliban has gotten involved in every stage of the drug business. Afghan police and their US advisers find heroin-refining labs with increasingly frequency, but the labs are easy to replace.
The country has produced the majority of the world’s opium for some time, despite billions of dollars spent by the US to fight it during the 16-year-long war there. Afghan and Western officials now say that rather than getting smuggled out of Afghanistan in the form of opium syrup, at least half of the crop is getting processed domestically, before leaving the country as morphine or heroin.
Those forms are easier to smuggle, and they are much more valuable for the Taliban, which reportedly draws at least 60% of its income from the drug trade. With its increasing focus on trafficking drugs, the Taliban has taken on more of the functions a drug cartel.
“They receive more revenues if they process it before it has left the country,” William Brownfield, former US Assistant Secretary for Drugs and Law Enforcement, told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul earlier this year. “Obviously we are dealing with very loose figures, but drug trafficking amounts to billions of dollars every year from which the Taliban is taking a substantial percentage.”
An Afghan farmer can be paid about $163 for a kilo of raw opium, which is like a black sap. Once it is refined into heroin, it can be sold for $2,300 to $3,500 a kilo at regional markets. In Europe it has a wholesale value of about $45,000.
Opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been consistently high since the US invasion in 2001. In 2016, there was a 10% jump in the area under cultivation, making it one of the three highest years on record. Initial data indicated 2017 was another record year, according to The Times, with government eradication efforts continue to be stymied throughout the country.
Seizures of chemical precursors, which are needed to process opium, have spiked, and the amount of processed morphine and heroin seized has risen considerably, now outstripping that of opium.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that without drugs, the war in Afghanistan “would have been long over,” and a senior Afghan official told The Times that, “If an illiterate local Taliban commander in Helmand makes a million dollars a month now, what does he gain in time of peace?”
The Trump administration has said its new strategy in Afghanistan is aimed at convincing the group there is no way to win on the battlefield, but its growing role in the drug trade is likely to make some elements of the Taliban less disposed to negotiations with the Kabul.
“This trend has real consequences for peace and security in Afghanistan, as it encourages those within the Taliban movement who have the greatest economic incentives to oppose any meaningful process of reconciliation with the new government,” the UN has said.
The Taliban’s move into heroin processing comes as it gains ground against the government, particularly in areas where the drug is produced.
A unit of several hundred Afghan commandos, working with US special-forces advisers, is tasked with interdicting the flow of drugs. But their work is often undermined by Afghan officials (including ones from their own unit) complicit in the drug trade or hindered by insecurity that persists in much of the country.
“In Helmand, we were targeting to do more than 2,000 to 3,000 hectares of eradication,” Javid Qaem, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of narcotics, told The Times. “We couldn’t do anything there, none at all, because Helmand was almost an active battlefield, the entire province.”
Helmand, home to an estimated 80% of Afghanistan’s opium poppies, is a “big drug factory,” a Western official told AFP earlier this year. “Helmand is all about drugs, poppy and Taliban,” he said.
While the US Drug Enforcement Administration has said that a minuscule portion of the heroin seized in the US is from Southwest Asia, heroin sourced to Afghanistan makes up a significant amount of what is found on the street in Europe.
The State Department has said 90% of the heroin found in Canada and 85% of that found in the UK can be tracked back to Afghanistan.
According to the 2017 European Drug Report, “most heroin found in Europe is thought to be manufactured [in Afghanistan] or in neighbouring Iran or Pakistan.” (Drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption.)
Heroin is Europe’s most common opioid, with an estimated retail value between 6 billion and 7.8 billion euros, according to the report, produced by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”
Go to nearly any gym, and you can spot one or two patrons who are walking around with the terrible physical ailment known as “imaginary lat syndrome.” You know those guys whose arms are fanning out away for the rest of their body because they want you to think that they’re so jacked.
Well, it’s not fooling anybody. In fact, having ILS makes you look like a complete moron while you’re trying to show off something off you don’t have.
Thankfully, there is a proven solution if you’ve tested positive for ILS and it’s composed of targeting the lateral muscles that make up your back.
First, appropriately adjust the weight, so it’s manageable, but provides a comfortable level of resistance. Using a close-grip bar, sit on the bench, facing the weight, and with a slight bend in your knees pull the resistance backward. Now, keep your straight maintaining a 90-degree angle with your hips and complete it rep when your elbows also bend to a 90-degree angle.
Make sure you squeeze those lateral muscles once you bend your elbows, then slowly release your arms back toward the weight, working on the negative aspect of the set.
Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.
In a standing position, slide your feet about shoulder length apart and hold onto the cable rope. Pushdown the individual rope ends until it touches the outside portion of your hips while squeezing those lats before slowly bringing those rope ends back to its original position.
Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.
In a seated position, grab onto the close-grip bar, pull the bar down toward middle chest while slightly leaning backward, and squeeze those lats before slowly bringing the close-grip bar back up. Remember to keep your elbows as close to your sides as possible.
Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.
While staying in a seated position, place your hand on the bar, with a reverse grip (palms facing you), and pull the bar toward your middle chest while slightly leaning backward, and squeeze those lats before slowly bringing the bar back up.
Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.
With a slight bend in your knees, place your hand on the bar, just outside of your knees and slowly lift up on the manageable weight. Before completing the first rep, make sure your back isn’t arching, and your eyes are looking forward. Now, pull up on the bar toward your navel and slowly bring the bar back toward the starting position.
This exercise can cause lower back pain if your form is off or you’re using to much weight. Make sure you check your ego at the door.
Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.
Logan NyeBy Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
The Hind Mi-24D was an odd but deadly amalgamation of troop helicopter transport and attack helicopter. While it was ostensibly built to transport a squad of infantry and then protect it, American chopper pilots were worried about what would happen if they ran into the attack helicopter and its massive gun and were forced to fight it in the air.
The Marine Corps SeaCobras and later SuperCobras were stronger than their Army counterparts thanks to the addition of a second engine and an improved main gun. The Army would later adopt the Marine’s 20mm main gun on later Cobra models instead of the 7.62mm miniguns and 40mm grenade launchers that they had originally mounted.
But while that 20mm main gun was great for wiping out enemy armored vehicles and light bunkers, its rate of fire was limited to 670 rounds per minute in order to keep it from moving the Cobra too much while it was firing. Meanwhile, the new Hinds had a large, multi-barreled gun that Phillips and others were worried had a higher rate of fire and higher muzzle velocity.
The Mi-24 is a great helicopter that, despite a rocky start, rose to be a major threat to U.S. forces in the Cold War.
(Rob Schleiffert via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
It would later turn out that the Soviets were using a Yak-B main gun with 12.7mm rounds that had a muzzle velocity of 810 meters per second, less than the 1,050 m/s of the Cobra’s M195 20mm gun. But the Yak-B on the Mi-24D could fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute while the Cobra was limited to 670.
Worse, the Russian pilots were training for air-to-air combat in the Hind. When Phillips and others started matching Hinds and Cobras in simulators, it became apparent that victory or defeat in a one-on-one fight would be decided by pilot experience and main gun capability. And the Marines thought they were behind in both training and armament.
But Phillips thought it was likely that Cobras and Hinds would meet in future conflict, and that the Marines would need to up-arm their Cobras or else buy more and deploy them in larger teams so they could win through superiority of numbers.
Obviously, the Marines would prefer to win through excellence rather than throwing unsustainable numbers of pilots and helicopters at the problem. So Phillips proposed two fixes for the armament and one fix for training.
First, his simulation experience against the Hind showed that an air-to-air battle between it and a Cobra would be over quickly. Often, the helicopters settled their conflict in a single pass as one or the other shot down the enemy with a burst from the main gun. To make the Cobra more successful, he wanted to give it a higher rate of fire and muzzle velocity with improved ammunition or even a new gun. Also, an improved sighting mechanism would increase Marine chances.
But he also wanted to add an entirely new weapon onto the helicopter: air-to-air missiles. This is one of the adoptions the Marine Corps would later make, deploying Sidewinder missiles on the helicopter in 1983, four years after Phillips’ paper was written and submitted to the U.S. Army War College.
The AH-1Z Viper has an even better version of the 20mm Gatling guns used on the AH-J SuperCobra.
(Lance Cpl. Christopher O’Quin)
But Phillips also wanted to change training and briefings to address the air-to-air threat. The Russians were training specifically on combat against helicopters, and he wanted the Marines to do the same. And one step further, he wanted transportation helicopters to carry some weapons for self-defense against the Hind, and he wanted those helicopters’ crews to discuss air-to-air procedures before any mission where enemy aircraft could be in play.
All of this combined would have made it to where up-armed Cobras would escort lightly armed transportation helicopters into combat and, if an enemy Hind were spotted, the entire flight would work together to bring down the Russians before the Hind could win the day.
Luckily for everyone involved, the fight never went down. But if it had, those Sidewinder missiles and better training would likely have saved Marines and troops from the other three branches forward as Hinds fell to the snakes in the grass.
The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first-in-class aircraft carrier that’s been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns, got the first of its 11 advanced weapons elevators on Dec. 21, 2018, “setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead,” the Navy said in January 2019.
That tone may be doubly important for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who has promised the elevators would be ready by the end of the carrier’s yearlong post-shakedown assessment summer 2018. Spencer staked his job on the elevators, which were not installed when the carrier was delivered in May 2017, well past the original 2015 delivery goal.
Advanced Weapons Elevator Upper Stage 1 was turned over to the Navy after testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the carrier was built and is going through its post-shakedown period after testing at sea.
The elevator “has been formally accepted by the Navy,” Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said in a statement.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer being briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. John J. Cummings, on the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator on the flight deck.
(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)
The testing and certification “focused on technical integration of hardware and software issues, such as wireless communication system software maturity and configuration control, and software verification and validation,” Couch said.
The Ford class is the first new carrier design in 40 years, and rather than cables, the new elevators are “commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors,” the Navy said in a news release. That change allows them to move faster and carry more ordnance — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute instead of Nimitz-class carriers’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute.
The ship’s layout has also changed. Seven lower-stage elevators move ordnance between the lower levels of the ship and main deck. Three upper-stage elevators move it between the main deck and the flight deck. One elevator can be used to move injured personnel, allowing the weapons and aircraft elevators to focus on their primary tasks.
The Ford also has a dedicated weapons-handling area between its hangar bay and the flight deck “that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations” offering “a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft,” the Navy said.
Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, reviewing safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford’s weapons department.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)
The upper-stage 1 elevator will now be used by the Ford’s crew and “qualify them for moving ordnance during real-world operations,” Couch said.
The amount of new technology on the Ford means its crew is in many cases developing guidelines for using it. The crew is doing hands-on training that “will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation,” the Navy said.
James Geurts, the Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told senators in November 2018 that two elevators had been produced — one was through testing and another was “about 94% through testing.”
The other 10 elevators “are in varying levels of construction, testing, and operations,” Couch said. “Our plan is to complete all shipboard installation and testing activities of the advanced weapons elevators before the ship’s scheduled sail-away date in July.”
“In our current schedule there will be some remaining certification documentation that will be performed for 5 of the 11 elevators after [the post-shakedown assessment] is compete,” Couch said. “A dedicated team is engaged on these efforts and will accelerate this certification work and schedule where feasible.”
Spencer during a tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)
That timeline has particular meaning for Spencer, the Navy’s top civilian official.
The Navy secretary said at an event this month that at the Army-Navy football game on Dec. 8, 2018, he told President Donald Trump — who has made his displeasure with the Ford well known — that he would bet his job on the elevators’ completion.
“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said during an event at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC.
“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” Spencer added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”
An F/A-18F Super Hornet performing an arrested landing aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford on July 28, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson)
The weapons elevators have posed a challenge to the Ford’s development, but they are far from the only problem.
Trump has repeatedly singled out the carrier’s new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, which uses magnets rather than steam to launch planes. Software issues initially hindered its performance.
“They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out,” Trump told Time magazine in May 2017, referring to the new launch system. “You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”
Spencer said he and Trump had also discussed EMALS at the Army-Navy game.
“He said, should we go back to steam? I said, ‘Well Mr. President, really look at what we’re looking at. EMALS. We got the bugs out,'” Spencer said at the event in January 2019, according to USNI News. “It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can’t do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space — it’s all to our advantage.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As cyber attacks on the US become commonplace, disorienting, and potentially damaging to the US’s fundamental infrastructure, the US Army’s Cyber Command reached out to civilian hackers in a language they could understand — hidden hacking puzzles online.
From there, the user can enter rudimentary commands and access a hacking puzzle. Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone told reporters at Defense One’s Tech Summit on July 13 that of the 9.8 million people who viewed the ad online, 800,000 went on to attempt the hacking test. Only 1% passed.
Business Insider attempted the test and failed swiftly.
“We have the world’s adversaries trying to come at our nation,” said Nakasone, who explained that in the next few months qualified hackers could undergo “direct commissioning” and find themselves as “mid-grade officers” in the Army’s Cyber Command. Hackers who can pass the test online will be invited to apply for a role within the Department of Defense.
With Russia’s attempts to hack into voting systems during the 2016 presidential election and its alleged infiltration of US nuclear power plants keeping the US’s cyber vulnerabilities constantly in the news, Nakasone said Cyber Command will put together 133 teams to do battle in the cyber realm.
In light of the recent attacks, Nakasone said he’s seen “more enthusiasm or desire to serve and join the government or military” and that he looks forward to bringing civilians into the battle against foreign cyber crime.
From 1947 to 1970, the United States Air Force conducted investigations into the increasing number of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings throughout the United States. The purpose of the investigations was to assess the nature of these sightings and determine if they posed any potential threat to the U.S.
Blue Book was the longest and most comprehensive, lasting from 1952 to 1970. A 1966 Air Force publication gave insight into how the program was conducted:
The program is conducted in three phases. The first phase includes receipt of UFO reports and initial investigation of the reports. The Air Force base nearest the location of a reported sighting is charged with the responsibility of investigating the sighting and forwarding the information to the Project Blue Book Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. If the initial investigation does not reveal a positive identification or explanation, a second phase of more intensive analysis is conducted by the Project Blue Book Office. Each case is objectively and scientifically analyzed, and, if necessary, all of the scientific facilities available to the Air Force can be used to assist in arriving at an identification or explanation. All personnel associated with the investigation, analysis, and evaluation efforts of the project view each report with a scientific approach and an open mind. The third phase of the program is dissemination of information concerning UFO sightings, evaluations, and statistics. This is accomplished by the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Information. —Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 1. (National Archives Identifier 595175)
After investigating a case, the Air Force placed it into one of three categories: Identified, Insufficient Data, or Unidentified.
Sightings resulting from identifiable causes fall into several broad categories:
human-created objects or phenomena including aircraft, balloons, satellites, searchlights, and flares;
astronomical phenomena, including meteors and meteorites, comets, and stars;
atmospheric effects, including clouds and assorted light phenomena; and
human psychology, including not only psychological frailty or illness but also fabrication (i.e., hoaxes).
The conclusions of Project Blue Book were:
(1) no unidentified flying object reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security; (2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as unidentified represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present day scientific knowledge; and (3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as unidentified are extraterrestrial vehicles. —Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 4. (Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)
In 1967, the Air Force’s Foreign Technology Division (FTD), the organization overseeing Blue Book, briefed USAF Gen. William C. Garland on the project. The July 7 report stated that in the 20 years the FTD had reported and examined over 11,000 UFO sightings, they had no evidence that UFOs posed any threat to national security. Furthermore, their evidence “denies the existence of flying saucers from outer space, or any similar phenomenon popularly associated with UFOs.”
The FTD reiterated an expanded finding from Project Grudge: “Evaluations of reports of UFOs to date demonstrate that these flying objects constitute no threat to the security of the United States. They also concluded that reports of UFOs were the result of misinterpretations of conventional objects, a mild form of mass hysteria of war nerves and individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or to seek publicity.”
An independent review requested by FTD came to the same conclusion:
Looking to specific investigation files, we can see what a typical investigation was like, the kinds of documentation and information collected, the investigatory process, and how the Air Force arrived at its conclusions.
Datil, NM, 1950
Cpl. Lertis E. Stanfield, 3024th Air Police Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, reported seeing a strange object in the sky on the night of February 24/25, 1950. He had a camera with him at the time and took several pictures, including the following:
The details of the sighting were included in an investigation report:
This was not the first time an unusual sighting had occurred at Holloman. In fact, it was part of a recurring pattern (and one that explains Stansfield’s possession of a camera at the time of the sighting).
Several sightings of this kind were reported in the desert Southwest around this time. Despite the delay in reaching a conclusion, the similarity of the photographic evidence to known comet sightings led the Air Force to conclude it was dealing with a comet here too.
Redlands, CA, 1958
On December 13, 1958, a man in Redlands, California, snapped a photograph of a strangely shaped object in the sky.
A final report dated January 1959, elaborated on these inconsistencies but reached a conclusion nonetheless. The observer had photographed a lenticular cloud.
All of these sighted were explained as initially misinterpreted natural occurrences. In the next post of the series, we’ll turn our attention to sightings ultimately identified as human-created objects and one sighting truly classified as a UFO.
The United States military has relied on drone aircraft for years, but to date, few other automated platforms have made their way into America’s warfighting apparatus — that is, until recently anyway. After achieving a number of successes with their new 132-foot submarine-hunting robot warship the Sea Hunter, the Navy is ready to pony up some serious cash for a full-sized drone warship, and the concept could turn the idea of Naval warfare on its head.
Earlier this month, the Navy called on the shipbuilding industry to offer up its best takes on their Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) ship concept, and they mean business. According to Navy officials, they want to have ten of these drone warships sailing within the next five years. The premise behind the concept is a simple one: by developing drone ships that can do what the Navy refers to as “3-D” work (the stuff that’s Dull, Dirty, or Dangerous) they’ll be freeing up manned vessels for more complex tasks.
The Navy expects these ships to be between 200 and 300 feet long with about 2,000 tons of water displacement, making them around half to two-thirds the size of an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, potentially landing in the light frigate classification. To that end, the Navy has already requested $400 million in the 2020 budget for construction of the first two vessels for the purposes of research and development.
The Sea Hunter, a Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV)
US Navy Photo
In order to manage a variety of tasks, the Navy wants its robot warship to be modular, making it easier to add or remove mission-specific equipment for different sets of circumstances.
“The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force,” The Navy wrote in their solicitation.
“With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants.”
The Navy also requires that the vessel be capable of operating with a crew on board for certain missions. That capability, in conjunction with a modular design, would allow the Navy to use LUSV’s in more complex missions that require direct human supervision simply by installing the necessary components and providing the vessel with a crew.
The solicitation included no requests for weapons systems, but that doesn’t mean the LUSV would be worthless in a fight. The modular design would allow the Navy to equip the vessel with different weapons systems for different operations, or leave them off entirely during missions that don’t require any offensive or defensive capabilities.
Swapping drone ships in for monotonous work could free up the Navy’s fleet of manned vessels for more important tasks.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate)
By equipping these ships with modular vertical launch systems, for instance, a fleet of LUSVs could enhance the Navy’s existing fleet of destroyers and cruisers in a number of combat operations, and eventually, they could even be equipped with the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, allowing them to bolster or even replace destroyers currently tasked with steaming around in defensive patterns amid concerns about North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attack.
Like the Sea Hunter, the LUSV represents little more than the Navy dipping its toe in the proverbial drone waters, but if successful, it could revolutionize how the Navy approaches warfare. Manning a ship remains one of the largest expenses associated with maintaining a combatant fleet. Capable drone ships could allow the Navy to bolster its numbers with minimal cost, tasking automated vessels with the monotonous or dangerous work and leaving the manned ships to the more complex tasks.
It’s not every day that the mild-mannered janitor at your school turns out to be a bad ass Medal of Honor recipient. But that was exactly the case for thousands of cadets at the United States Air Force Academy.
The story starts in Italy in 1943. Pvt. William Crawford was serving as a scout in I Company, 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, as it fought its way up the Italian peninsula.
After landing at Salerno, Crawford’s unit was advancing against stiff German resistance. Just four days after the landings, I Company launched an attack against Hill 424. Once his platoon gained the crest, they became pinned down by intense German machine gun fire.
Ignoring the hail of bullets, Crawford advanced on the German position and silenced it with a hand grenade.
When his platoon was once again pinned down, Crawford didn’t hesitate to charge forward, this time to destroy two machine gun emplacements.
He first attacked the machine gun to the left and destroyed it and the crew with a hand grenade. He then worked his way to the next machine gun under intense fire. When he was in range he again tossed a hand grenade that sent the crew running.
Later during the intense fighting in Italy, the Germans captured Crawford. His status was listed as missing, presumed dead.
When his Medal of Honor was approved in 1944, it was presented to his father, posthumously.
However, Crawford had in fact survived and in 1945 was liberated from a German POW camp by advancing Allied forces.
Crawford was discharged after the war and returned home before marrying in 1946. He decided to reenlist in 1947 and served another 20 years before retiring with the rank of Master Sergeant in 1967.
His next career move would prove fateful. He took a position as a janitor at the Air Force Academy in his home state of Colorado.
Despite his courage in combat, Crawford had always been rather mild-mannered and didn’t care much to talk about himself. As such, the cadets at the Academy paid him no mind, assuming he was just any other janitor.
Crawford carried on his duties until 1976 when one cadet, James Moschgat, noticed a picture in a history book about World War II.
Moschgat couldn’t believe what he was seeing and showed the picture to his roommate saying, “I think Bill our janitor is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”
The next day Moschgat and his roommate confronted Crawford to ask if it was truly him that was talked about in the book. According to Moschgat’s account Crawford simply looked at the picture and replied, “Yep, that’s me.”
Astonished by what they had just learned, they quickly asked why he had never mentioned it before. Crawford’s reply once again showed his humility. He simply said, “That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago.”
Word quickly spread around campus that there was a Medal of Honor recipient in their midst.
The story could have easily ended here with a known recipient of the Medal of Honor working as a janitor at the Air Force Academy. Most people would have never heard the story.
However, the cadets weren’t done.
They eventually found out that because of the circumstances, mainly that Crawford was a POW at the time, he had never had a formal ceremony to present him with his medal.
So, when the Class of 1984 reached graduation they invited Crawford as their special guest. And they had a special surprise in store for him. President Ronald Reagan was giving the commencement speech at the Academy that year.