There’s just something special about Duffle Blog articles. Most joke news sites make it completely obvious that they’re jokes and should never be taken seriously. Most rational people would read a headline like “Are Millenials killing the telegram industry?” and take the joke at face value. Then there’s satire – an art form truly mastered by the folks at DB.
Actual satire is a joke about something taken to the extreme so the audience can see the absurdity in whatever is being ridiculed. Think Stephen Colbert when he was on Comedy Central. Great satire blurs those lines so obscurely that no one can really tell the absurdity. Think Don Quixote and how people believed it was a story about how chivalrous knights were.
On a much lighter note, half of all social media users were unable to connect Wednesday, and we got a new trailer for the upcoming Avengers film. I’m not saying it’s a coincidence, but it definitely smells like the greatest viral marketing strategy for a film to date.
If you survived the “Snappening,” enjoy some memes!
Video of a suspected terror attack at an office building complex in Nairobi, Kenya, may have captured a US Navy SEAL on a secretive mission to combat Islamic militants in Africa.
The attack, which left 14 dead, has been claimed by the al-Shabab terror group and may have come as retaliation for Kenyan troops, who along with other forces brought together by the African Union, have been fighting the terrorist insurgency in Somalia.
Meanwhile, the US has kept secretive forces strewn across Africa. In 2017, a US Navy SEAL was killed in a battle fighting alongside Somali forces against al-Shabab in Mogadishu.
In 2018, an ambush by militants in Niger claimed the lives of four service members.
From left, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Wash.; Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; Sgt. La David Johnson of Miami Gardens, Fla.; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga. All four were killed in the Niger ambush in 2018.
But even in Kenya, one of Africa’s more stable countries, the US has a small presence at Camp Simba, where they reportedly train naval special forces. Kenya, like its neighbor, Somalia, has trouble with pirates and has seen some US Navy SEAL presence over the years.
Look for this patch, used by Navy SEAL Team 3, on the unidentified man’s pack.
In the video of the Nairobi terror attack, a white man wearing a US military-style backpack with a patch that’s used by US Navy SEAL Team 3 can be seen at the 30-second mark rescuing civilians and then returning to the scene of the fighting in a state of alertness.
Gun attack underway after explosion at upscale hotel in Nairobi
The Air Force physical training uniform issued in the mid-2000s was never really beloved by anyone in the Air Force. The shorts were sized four times too small, the plastic-like fabric made a racket while running, and the moisture-wicking shirts seem glued on after absorbing even the slightest sweat. They were only a marginal improvement over their all-cotton, all-gray predecessors.
Well, it’s looking like all of that could be gone in the near future. A new PT uniform may be on the way.
New half-zips, compression technology, and optional designs are just a few of the new features that reflect recent innovations in popular sportswear. As for the shorts, the new ones will have two length options: standard and runner.
The alleged new Air Force PT uniform options.
(Air Force LCMC)
The above is supposedly a slide from an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center presentation, dated Nov. 20, 2018. This is in line with comments made by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright, who, just a few months ago, said the service had a new PT uniform in the works.
As you can see in the diagrams above, the new design is much more versatile and modern. Each iteration of the uniform has several options in terms of size and color. The addition of compression pants and shirts is a big step up from the simpler track pants or shorts options of the previous uniforms.
The header slide from the new PT uniform presentation.
(Air Force LCMC)
The slides first made an appearance on the Air Force-themed Facebook humor page Air Force amn/nco/snco and have since found their way to a report in Air Force Times. Airmen regularly privately submit such information to the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, which says the slides are legit. The same Facebook page broke the story of the Air Force move to its new Operational Camouflage Pattern combat battle uniforms.
The new uniforms will maintain the same gray-blue color schemes but could come with better material features, like improved moisture-wicking material and shorts that don’t feel like swim trunks.
Chief Wright previously estimated the Air Force would release the new PT uniforms in mid-to-late 2019.
The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of John Young, who died Jan. 5 following complications from pneumonia at the age of 87. Young is the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times:
Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.
John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.
Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country. His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft — with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’ He flew as Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.
I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking…’
John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity. He was in every way the ‘astronaut’s astronaut.’ We will miss him.
For more information about Young’s NASA career, visit:
Humor in combat is a bizarre topic — and one not many understand unless they’ve been there. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines across the world have been fighting in wars since the creation of militaries. Combat is a high-octane blend of mental and physical exhaustion. The more a soldier is in combat, the better they get at warfighting — and coping with the rigors of war creates a unique sense of humor.
Soldiers are known to engage in somewhat dark humor that is typically derived from repeated exposure to high-stress scenarios in training and in combat. These experiences can make assimilation into the civilian sector more difficult after getting out of the military. The gap between veterans and civilians is ever present, and differences in humor — along with extreme differences in life experiences — can contribute to that divide.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter in high-stress environments is a coping mechanism and can actually manifest helpful physical effects: “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” In addition, laughter can activate and then relieve your stress response as well as decrease tension.
Coffee or Die Magazine spoke with several veterans about their experiences in combat — and why they found some of it funny.
Mike Simpson served in the US Army for 32 years, starting out in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, moving on to 7th Special Forces Group, and ending his career in the military as an emergency medicine physician.
On a deployment in 2013 during winter in Afghanistan, Simpson and his fellow Rangers sprinted into position after their partner force came under fire. It was a small firefight, but they spent the better part of an hour trying to locate a “squirter” that was shooting at them after running from the target building they were there to hit.
During the firefight, Simpson recalled, he “took a mental step back and actually checked my pulse. Then I said, ‘Hmmm … interesting,’ and I chuckled. The Ranger next to me gave me a funny look.”
His fellow Ranger didn’t say anything until they got back to their base. Simpson explained to him why he had checked his pulse during the firefight, and they both had another laugh.
“The first half of my career, I had always wondered how I would react on a psychological and physiological level to combat. You read all the stories and the books, but you don’t know how you will react until it happens,” Simpson said. “I was curious, as a physician, as to how I was handling the situation, so I took my own pulse.”
Steve Wickham served in the US Army for a little over 20 years and deployed a total of five times. He was on a deployment to Afghanistan while in the 563rd Aviation Support Battalion back in 2012, stationed at Kandahar Airfield. Rocket attacks were common and he was typically close to the impacts, as he was living on the airfield in a mini-compound. Eight months into his 12-month deployment, another rocket attack came in.
The incoming-ordnance sirens started going off at approximately 11 p.m. Wickham and his active duty and civilian comrades made their way to the bunker on their compound. The airfield’s Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) defense system started firing at the incoming ordnance, but Wickham wasn’t too concerned.
“The C-Rams were going off, and per usual none of us took the attack very seriously,” Wickham said. “I believe I was sitting on top of the bunker, smoking and joking with another NCO, instead of being inside it.”
Wickham and his comrades were laughing the night away when three rockets hit just outside their aircraft hangars, approximately 60 yards from their bunker. They started running toward the impacts to render aid if needed.
One of the civilians there was Randy, a veteran and firefighter, who had let himself go after getting out of the military. During this whole deployment, Randy had been hitting the gym hard and had lost a lot of weight. Wickham made a quick quip to this civilian as they were running toward the impact site.
“Damn Randy, look at you. That gym time is paying off — you’re keeping up with us!” Appearing dumbfounded, Randy made Wickham’s joke worth it. Randy was winded, and all he could do was flip the bird at Wickham and keep running. They arrived to find that no one was injured, so they moved on to evaluate property damage.
Later on, they were all gathered in a circle and talking about the night’s events. Randy was laughing about Wickham’s ability to crack jokes while sprinting and just after multiple rockets had hit their compound.
Barrett Carver served in the US Army for almost seven years and deployed multiple times. He spent his time in 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and was one of the Rangers involved in the assault on Haditha Dam, a critical structure to capture during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
During the assault, Carver and his fellow Rangers were holed up inside one of the buildings on “the military side of the dam,” and they were taking indirect fire from the Iraqis. Artillery rounds were impacting close to their building for several hours with barrages of small-arms fire. Carver thought to himself, Well, it’s been a good run.
Suddenly, they all heard a loud twang, and a thick cloud of dust erupted inside the building. Carver looked up to see a horseshoe-shaped indent in the corrugated tin roof over their heads. Everyone burst into uncontrollable laughter — one of the artillery rounds had been deflected by the thin tin roof.
“Deflection is a funny thing,” Carver said. “It could have just as easily been a dud round. Either way, I take a kick where I can get it. Amazing thing is that with the amount they dropped on us, we only had two casualties. Both made it.”
Scott Ford served in the US Army for 21 years and is the recipient of a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan on April 6, 2008, while serving as the team sergeant of Operational Detachment Alpha 3336 (ODA-3336).
Ford struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger while on his flight to a training event. She was a psychologist, and they were discussing different ways to handle heavy stress. One of her suggestions for handling stressful situations was to imagine breaking crayons. At the time, Ford didn’t realize this suggestion would pop into his head years later during a firefight in Iraq.
During a mission one night in Sadr City, Iraq, Ford and his Special Forces team were pinned down on top of a roof while supporting the main assault element.
“It was one of those little aggravating gunfights where we just can’t find the guy to kill him, and we’re trying all kinds of unique things,” Ford recalled.
It got to a point where Ford and his teammate sat down behind their cover to think through a solution to finally kill the insurgent who had them pinned down. Then a smile creeped across Ford’s face, despite the bullets impacting their cover. His teammate looked at him with bewilderment and said, “What the fuck are you thinking about right now?”
Ford looked at him and said, “I’m like, breaking fucking crayons, bro.” They both busted out in laughter. After regaining composure, they figured out a way to take out the insurgent.
“You know, it’s just one of those moments where anybody else would look at us like, you guys are fucking weird, you know?” Ford said.
Ford believes veterans are unique because they have the ability to laugh in dire situations. Ford and his old teammates still get together from time to time, and the story about breaking crayons always comes up.
Jason Briggs served in the US Army for four years in 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and deployed five times. Briggs’ last deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2008 involved a particularly funny experience while out on a mission.
His team didn’t have their usual pilots and were being flown by an aviation unit that they hadn’t worked with much in the past. They were loaded onto two MH-47 Chinook helicopters to infiltrate their target. High winds coming down the mountains made flying conditions difficult. When Briggs’ Chinook attempted to touch down, the pilot struggled to make a steady landing and took several tries; each failed attempt to land was followed by a rapid gain in altitude while spinning. Meanwhile, the other helicopter landed on its first attempt and offloaded its Rangers.
The guys were having a blast on his Chinook, pretending the scary helicopter ride was a roller coaster and that they were in Disney World, laughing constantly.
“You’d see the mountains under nods just whizzing by out the back out the Chinook,” Briggs said. “It took about four attempts to put her down, and when he did, we were a ways away from the other chalk. But hey, we were finally down.”
The Rangers landed and executed their mission, detaining several people from the targeted house. The call for their exfiltration was radioed into command, and eventually the same crew of Chinooks came thundering in.
When the pilot of Briggs’ Chinook made the first attempt to land, they all had to take off running with their detainees to avoid getting stomped on by the actual helicopter.
“Sure enough this guy can’t put it down again — the first attempt sends us running like mushrooms about to be stomped by Mario,” Briggs said. “Have you ever seen an exfil circle, with PUCs, pick up and run in a complete brownout as a helicopter follows them around trying to land on them? Yeah, that actually happened.”
The pilot landed after about three attempts, and the Rangers loaded up with their detainees. They had a safe flight back to base to prepare for the inevitable follow-on mission.
“Although we got to share the camaraderie together in the bird,” he said, “I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life as I did seeing a helicopter try to land on me in the middle of the night in Afghanistan.”
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan is the Air National Guard Special Assistant to Maj. Gen. Scott F. Smith, the Director of Training and Readiness, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va. The directorate, encompassing seven divisions and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is responsible for policy, guidance and oversight of Air Force operations.
General Vaughan also serves as the lead for the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team (AF-PEAT) and co-leads the ad hoc Joint-PEAT, along with Navy Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman.
General Vaughan completed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his commission as honor graduate from ANG’s Academy of Military Science. He previously served in leadership roles at the squadron, group, wing and higher headquarters levels in both the mobility and combat air forces. General Vaughan commanded the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico, and Detachment 1 of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group (formerly the 13th Expeditionary Support Squadron), Antarctica.
During an interview with Airman Magazine, Gen. Vaughan discussed his new post leading the joint investigation of Unexplained Physiological Episodes (UPEs) and his experiences as a mobility and combat airman and safety officer.
Airman Magazine: Please tell us about your new job investigating Unexplained Physiological Episodes.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: As part of my role working in A3T, I’ve been tasked by the A3 Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly to lead the Physiological Episodes Action Team, also known as the PEAT.
PE stands for physiological episode or event. Essentially it’s any anomaly in the interaction among the aircrew, equipment, and environment that causes adverse physical or cognitive symptoms, which may impede the ability to fly..
What we’ve done across the Air Force and all aircraft, but most recently with the T-6 fleet, is to investigate what causes PEs. In some cases an Unknown PE will immediately reveal to us what happened. Maybe there was some sort of contamination in the cockpit due to an oil leak or some other fumes, so we’re able to identify it as a known physiological event.
In other cases, pilots will experience symptoms, come down and land, report them and we don’t know exactly what the cause is until we investigate further.
Members of the Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team and Air Force PEAT listen to a discussion between Rear Adm. Fredrick R. “Lucky” Luchtman (left) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward L. “Hertz” Vaughan (right) as they lay the ground work for the Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT.
(Photo by Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: Tell me about the PEAT. What is the structure and objective of the team?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: The AF-PEAT is Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team. Now, previously this has been known as the UPE IT or Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team. We’re working very closely with our Navy partners and they came up with a pretty good name – Physiological Episodes Action Team. In the interest of both jointness and keeping it simple for all the flying community, we’ve aligned names with the Navy.
Of course, that’s not the only thing we’ve learned from the Navy. The Navy’s had some great success in exploring what happens in physiological episodes, what happens to aviators, and we’ve been able to learn a lot from them and they’ve learned from us as well.
Airman Magazine: How does the PEAT operate?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We have two meetings per week. Every Friday the Air Force PEAT meets. Who is on this action team? The answer is those people who are required for that particular meeting.
We’ll have the topics of the week, sometimes we’re looking at specific incidents with airplanes, specific episodes, and other times we may be investigating new equipment that’s coming out, new procedures, new training or maybe there’s the results of an investigation that we’ll need to review. We have standing members of the team, about half a dozen, that are there at every meeting.
Then we have another kind of a second layer of folks, which gets us up closer to 20 people, who come in as needed. That second layer includes folks from the acquisition community or the 711th Human Performance Wing. We don’t necessarily need to have them come to every meeting, but there’s times we really need somebody from human performance wing present. That’s one meeting.
Then immediately following that meeting, we have, what I call the Joint-PEAT. It’s really an ad hoc Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team with the Navy. It is very much a joint effort in that we work closely together and meet weekly to keep a steady battle rhythm so as things come up during the week, if they’re not an emergency or if it’s not something that we’ve got to address right at that minute, we’ll be able to put it together on Friday. We know that once a week we’re going to have a meeting where we can sit down face-to-face and hash these things out.
My Navy counterpart is Rear Adm. Frederick Luckman, he goes by “Lucky”. My call sign is “Hertz”. We immediately got to a Hertz-Lucky professional friendly demeanor. We go through an awful lot of coffee. He and I meet as often as we can to share data. Like I said, we cannot share the information fast enough.
The Navy is doing a lot of good work. They had a series of issues with physiology not only in the F-18, but T-45s, and they’ve had very good success in their T-6 fleet. They have a T-6 fleet that’s about half the size of the Air Force’s. They have slightly different models, some of theirs are newer models, but the oxygen systems are very similar.
The Navy adopted early on, in response to some of the lessons they learned from other airframes, significant maintenance practices in their T-6 oxygen system that we found very useful. We watched the Navy adopt those, saw the results of it and in those cases we’ve been able to adopt it exactly the same way that they have.
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, head of the Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team, and Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman, Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team lead, discuss ongoing efforts to minimize the risk of Physiological Episodes.
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: How does the timely resolution of PEs, affect training and readiness?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Looking at the National Defense Strategy, lethality is the primary objective and, for the Air Force, that equates to readiness. Are we ready to fight? You know, the question is readiness for what? Ready to do what? It’s ready to prosecute the war, ready to fight. In some cases, being ready to go out and influence and be that presence where we need to be.
If we’re having equipment struggles, delays in our programs, or we’re having to stand-down aircraft or cancel missions because of physiological episodes that will get in the way of us being ready. It will get in the way of us executing any plans we may have out there. So it’s important for us to get the information back, put the fixes in, get those funded, fielded and executed as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we’re going to enhance readiness and capability as we grow toward the Air Force We Need.
It also eliminates a distraction. Anytime you have aircraft mishaps of any kind, anytime you have a cluster of these PEs, it’s going to create a distraction, not just for the frontline airman, but for their families, and anybody else associated with it. Anybody involved with the operation and maintenance will have a distraction. That distraction takes our eye off the readiness ball. That’s one of the reasons that you’ll see the PEAT, Physiological Episodes Acting Team, embedded right in A3T. A3T’s tasking is training and readiness.
Airman Magazine: What types of symptoms are commonly associated with PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Symptoms span the spectrum of what can happen to people on airplanes. I’ll caveat this with Air Force aviators receive extensive training in physiology and what may happen to them in tactical aviation. All pilots and other aircrew going through their initial training, experience the hypobaric chamber, we call it the altitude chamber. They get used to what it’s like to operate at high altitudes and what happens during decompression. They also have routine refresher training in all aspects of aviation physiology.
One of the main reasons for doing that training is so that each aviator can learn what their individual symptoms will be. No two people will react the same to an aircraft or environmental stimulus and, in fact, the same person may have different reactions on different days based on fatigue, fitness, nutrition, or other personal factors.
It’s important for each aviator to have a sense of what symptoms they might have, especially the early onset symptoms, so they can take early appropriate action to safely recover the aircraft or get out of the environment that’s causing the problem.
Some of these symptoms can range from things like tingling in the extremities, fingers and toes, headaches or nausea. There are actually cases of folks having euphoria, while other folks may become belligerent. They know if you’re flying along and all of a sudden you just feel a little irritated for no particular reason it may be time to check your oxygen system, look at the environment you’re in or determine if that’s caused by something else. Then take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.
Airman Magazine: You have said that when investigating and mitigating PEs, “We can’t share information fast enough.” Describe what you mean and how that process can be improved?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Sharing the right information and then making sense of the information is very important in dealing with this phenomenon. What we do right now in the Air Force is we listen to the pilots. Pilots will land and give us a debrief – What happened? When did it happen? What types of conditions were going on in the airplane?
You’ll find that in the Air Force fleet, and the Navy fleet as well, most of the aircraft have pretty sophisticated sensors when it comes to their engines and other aircraft systems. When they land that information is downloaded, aggregated, and acted upon. Much of the critical data is available real time and available to the pilot for immediate action. Each aircraft is slightly different as technology improves, but the amount of data that we’re able to download from a given flight is enormous. But hard data on the human weapon system is slim to none.
This gets into right into some of the themes of Secretary of the Air Force has talked about going into artificial intelligence, big data analytics. How do we deal with all this data, make some sense of it and not run down the wrong path to get a wrong conclusion?
I will tell you one area though, where we’re still struggling, not only the Air Force, but also the Navy and our colleagues at NASA, is collecting data from the actual human weapon system.
We want to know things like pulse rate, oxygen content in the blood, cognitive functions, any anomalies with eyesight, but these are very hard things to sense independently without interfering with the aviators while they conduct their mission.
That’s a fascinating area of research that’s happening out at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in conjunction with the Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton. What they’ve started to do, both those labs working together and along with some NASA support, is fielding some prototypes, such as sensors that might go, for example, in the (oxygen) mask or on the pilot’s helmet.
We actually know real-time information about the oxygen system in an airplane. We have sensors on the actual system to know the content of oxygen and other gases that might be presented to the aviator. What we don’t know is what happens in system losses; what happens between the actual oxygen production or the oxygen source and the pilot’s breathing. Furthermore, we don’t know the pilot’s ability to uptake that oxygen. There’s a lot of medical and physiological processes that we need to monitor better.
A technique called Hybrid 3D Printing, developed by AFRL researchers in collaboration with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, uses additive manufacturing to integrate soft, conductive inks with material substrates to create stretchable electronic devices.
(Wyss Institute photo)
Airman Magazine: What does the end state of this research look like? Are you talking about monitoring physiological responses of pilots during missions in real time?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: That’s absolutely correct. We’d like to get to an end state where the human weapon system is instrumented in such a way that’s noninvasive and nonintrusive. The aviators won’t feel the sensors and it doesn’t interfere with their duties at all, but that that data is available just like you would read all the instruments on an engine. We’re trying to figure out, is that five years from now, two years from now or 20 years from now?
If you think of the human on the loop or in the loop going forward, especially in cyber systems and integrating across all-domain operations, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure that the human weapon system is keeping up and that we’re able to monitor that.
So we’re looking at sensors that might be wearable. A lot of folks out in the community are familiar with wearable fitness monitors and the chips that go in your shoes if you’re going to run a race to keep track of where you are. One of the challenges we have in aviation is the sensors that might be worn in commercial practice that people might buy at a local store are not suitable for the aviation environment, particularly tactical aviation.
Not only do you have the pressure and temperature anomalies that occur as airplanes travel up and down, but in tactical aviation, fighters, bombers and training aircraft, there’s an awful lot of G-loading. There can be anomalies that go from high altitude to low altitude in very short order and that has a lot of wear and tear on the sensors. Some sensors are embedded in clothing and depend on contact with the skin. For example, in order to prepare themselves for a mission, aviators will strap down tighter than you might in an automobile to keep them safe, but that may also cause bulges in the clothing that interferes with sensory contact. There’s a lot of research yet to be done and a lot of development ahead of us.
I’m looking forward to the Air Force potentially investing more in that research. I’m especially impressed with our ability to work with our joint partners with the Navy and the Army, which is coming on board later this month, in this PEAT effort. They’ve got a lot of exciting things happening in their aerospace medicine field and then NASA has been a partner throughout. You really can’t beat, from an intellectual capacity standpoint, having partners like the 711th Human Performance Wing and NASA. We’ve got the best partners in the world.
Airman Magazine: Are there other interagency or commercial partners in the research and investigation of PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Absolutely. Some of the companies that produce our aircraft have divisions dedicated to human physiology and enhancing the ability of the human to perform in or on the loop. They provide enhancements such as providing sensors and digital displays. In some cases, even an augmented reality display, which we have in many aircraft, where there’s a lens that comes over one eye and not only can you see your environment, but that lens will produce a heads-up display of images that will help you interpret what you’re seeing on the ground.
Not only do we have industry partners that helping us with this, we also have universities and some international partners. Primarily we’re working through the Navy to access the folks that are doing that work on the outside, but we’re going to start working a little more with our international affairs group here in the Air Force to foster those partnerships.
Airman Magazine: Do you see a time when human sensor capability will be baked in rather than bolted on?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I think we’re going to get to that point. Right now, we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact, that if we start utilizing every sensor that’s available commercially, we run the risk of interfering with the mission and maybe causing a distraction. The last thing we want to do is have sensors be the cause of problems. We want the sensors to help us solve those problems.
We’re looking at ways to prototype these things. Edwards Air Force Base, for example, where we do a lot of research and development flight testing, has been very instrumental in working with the 711th Human Performance Wing and the system program offices for the airplanes, to include the T-6, F-15, F-16 and others, in doing some remarkable testing that gives us great foundational data. That foundational data is important to determine where we do the development going forward. Also, we recently shook hands on an agreement with the Civil Air Patrol to help us collect, assess, and sort through the many commercially available wearable sensors.
Airman Magazine: What’s the benefit to the force of being able to process and utilize PE data faster?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So for example, right now if we have a physiological event in the aircraft, we typically execute emergency procedures, get to a safe backup source of oxygen if it’s available, descend to an altitude where it’s safe to breathe ambient air and then land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airfield.
Perhaps what will happen in the future, with sensors on board, you may be able to head off that emergency. Sensors may alert the pilots to the fact that they are entering a phase of flight or a set of activities or an environment, where they’re at higher risk of these kinds of anomalies. By alerting the pilot to that, they may be able to mitigate it or avoid a physiological event.
Furthermore, if there is a situation in flight, the sensors on board that gives them real time readings may enable them to do a better job of assessing what’s going on.
But this is where it gets insidious. With physiological events, one serious possible symptom is an inability to assess the situation.
Now that’s a pretty extreme symptom, but you may have those situations come up. In which case, presenting the data to the pilot as numbers or another traditional data format might not be as useful as, maybe, an alert light. There are some programs out there that cause the oxygen mask to vibrate a little bit. We do this with the control stick in airplanes as well. With such an equipped aircraft if you were to get into a stall, the control stick vibrates, They call it a stick shaker. Applying these proven technologies to other areas are all in prototype and being tested.
Zach Demers, an aerospace engineer, demonstrates the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) in an F-16 flight simulator at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
Airman Magazine: Weren’t you involved in the adoption of another pilot safety system?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Formerly, I served as the Air National Guard’s national director of safety. Part of our safety portfolio is flight safety and in that we have some advanced fourth and fifth- generation aircraft, but we also have legacy systems out there. Systems that don’t have baked-in ground collision avoidance systems.
We worked very hard with the system program office and the Pilot Physician program in the United States Air Force to bring on board these Auto G-CAS systems (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System). We have confirmed saves in situations where the pilot may have lost awareness. It doesn’t have to be a physiological event. It can be task saturation or other things that cause the pilot to lose awareness of proximity to the ground. Traditional GCAS systems will alert the pilot, such as an X symbol in the heads-up display, letting them know they’re near the ground and need to pull back on the stick.
In the Auto G-CAS, the aircraft sensors can actually determine the point where the pilot can no longer recover, due to the limits of human reaction time, and the system takes over the jet and recovers it for the pilot. As soon as the aircraft is in a safe regime, it returns the control back to the pilot. And that’s also had a couple of great saves for us.
Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Pilot Physician program, what is that and are they involved in the J-PEAT and investigating of UPEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan:Pilot Physician is a very unique program in the Air Force and its highly specialized. These are individuals are rated aviators of all sorts, but primarily pilots. Then they go to medical school and change their job category. So they’re no longer primarily pilots for the Air Force, they’re now physicians for the Air Force.
They’ve enabled to help us understand what’s going on both operationally and medically and where those two things meet. In other situations, you have pilots who were trying to describe what’s happening to them in the airplane and then you have medical doctors trying to understand that description. There can be things lost in translation between the communities.
The Pilot Physicians speak both aviation and medicine fluently, are able to identify with the pilots and, in many cases, have flown that exact aircraft being investigated.
Lt. Col. Jay Flottmann, pilot physician and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, explains how a valve in the upper pressure garment and the shape and the size of oxygen delivery hoses and connection points contributed to previously unexplained physiological issues during F-22 flights.
(Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)
Airman Magazine: Are there specific examples of investigations that benefitted from Pilot Physician experience and expertise?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Lt. Col. James “Bones” Flottman was the Pilot Physician directly involved in the F-22 investigation that we did a few years ago. The F-22 had a series of physiological episodes. He was the one that was able, as an F-22 pilot and a physician, to credibly determine that it was a work of breathing issue.
It was a combination of factors, we don’t need to go into all the specifics right here, but he was able to bridge the gap between pilot practices, things they’ve been taught to do and things they did through experience, and what was happening medically. That resulted in improvements in the whole system – improvements in some of the hardware and improvements in the pilot practices. Not only was he able to help the investigation team solve that, he was able to then go back and credibly relate this to the pilots, restoring faith both in the system, in the Air Force process.
There’s another one that is a friend of mine, retired Col. Peter Mapes. Dr. Pete Mapes is a classic Pilot Physician. He was a B-52 pilot and a fantastic doctor, as are all of them. He and I worked closely together on Auto G-CAS, as well as several key people in engineering and operations. He was really the driving force, along with Lt. Col. Kevin Price, at the Air Force and the OSD level to push that development and production through, especially for the legacy aircraft.
He also had a role in many other aviation safety improvements to include helicopters, specifically wire detection. A lot of helicopters have mishaps because they strike power lines. He was instrumental in getting some of those systems put into helicopters and out into the fleet.
He was also instrumental in improving some of the seat designs and some of the pilot-aircraft interface designs as well. Really too many to mention.
Another great a success story for the Air Force, when it comes to the Pilot Physician program is Col. Kathy Hughes, call sign “Fog”. She’s flown the T-38 and A-10, a great flying background, and has been a wonderful physician for the Air Force. She really explored the use, the application and the design of our G-suits and was able to help the Air Force evolve into a full coverage G-suit. So now the G-suits that our fighter aviators fly are more standardized and more effective than the previous generations of flight suits. Thanks, in large part, to her work. I recently met her at aviation safety conference where she is helping commercial interests design better ejection seats.
That’s just three examples. There’s a whole laundry list.
We also have advising both the Navy and Air Force PEAT, Col. William P. Mueller; call sign “Ferris”. Col. Mueller was an F-4 fighter pilot and now one of the top physicians in aerospace medicine. He’s been absolutely invaluable in helping us understand what’s going on with the physiological episodes. He not only sits on the Air Force PEAT, but he also has a permanent membership sitting on the Navy’s PEAT. So he’s part of that joint interaction and offers a fearless perspective on improving training.
Col. Kathryn Hughes, a pilot-physician and director, Human Systems Integration, 711th Human Performance Wing, sits on the stairs of a centrifuge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2016.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I like using the email analogy. So most of us have email. Those that work in an office may have one for work and one for personal use, or maybe even more than that. If you’re like me at all, if you skip checking your emails for even one day, you find yourself in a huge email deficit. Now imagine all the sensors, whether it’s a cyber system, aircraft systems, space system, and each piece of all the data being collected as an email coming to you. Within minutes you would be completely overwhelmed with data. So we’re going to rely on systems to help us sort through the data and present those things that are most important now for decision making.
Those other pieces of information that we might want later for analysis, it will store those and present them at the appropriate time. So that gets after artificial intelligence. We need these systems to work with the human in the loop. We don’t necessarily want it to be standalone. We want it to be integrated with humans and that’s where the real challenge comes in, because as an aviator flying an airplane, the data I want right at that moment to prosecute the fight, may be different than the data a cyber operator working with me in that operation may need at that same moment. Artificial Intelligence or underlying data systems will have to be smart enough to give the data to the operator that’s needed to make the right decision.
I recently spent some time with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I asked him about this wicked technology problem of applying artificial intelligence on the tactical edge. His advice about leveraging cloud technology to perform advanced operations on big data, where and when needed, has been invaluable.
Airman Magazine: How does recorded data on individual pilots allow you establish baseline physiology and find relationships between PEs that may occur in aircrew from different units and bases?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We’re already finding benefit from that data, so the 711th Human Performance Wing is working very closely, in this case with the T-6 system program office, and some big data analytic gurus. These folks will take large volumes of data and slice and dice it to find where there might be some differences from what would be considered a baseline or normal.
Then they can dig into those differences and see if there is something to learn. They’re finding a lot of great results that help us improve the systems. Because physiological events involve humans and each human has such a different reaction and an individual person will have a different reaction on a different day, it can be difficult to look at a small sample size and draw any big lessons. We need large sample sizes and that’s where you can start to kind of tease out the pieces of the data that are going to move us forward.
As we worked with the Navy on the Physiological Episode Action Team we have found that pilots in the Air Force and the Navy are more informed than ever. They know people in the tech business and the pilots talk amongst themselves and share information and they’re finding these wearable sensors.
Most of the wearable sensors are not suitable for aviation use. They just can’t provide good data under those conditions, but it’s worth exploring. Talking to Admiral Luckman, we wanted to find a way to get these sensors, and most of them are small things like fitness monitors, that just aren’t allowed in our environment right now, into the cockpit just to see how they survive a flight. The Civil Air Patrol, which flies general aviation aircraft, fly with their smart phones and other types of equipment.
They have a tremendous safety record, but they also have a completely different set of rules than we do. They typically just follow the AIM and the FAA civilian flight rules. Most of those flight rules don’t have any prohibitions on bringing equipment in your pocket or your flight bag.
So recently we sat down with some of the leaders of the Civil Air Patrol to work out a memorandum of understanding whereabouts we’ll get these ideas and sensors to our pilots in the fleet. Some of them will appropriately go through Air Force and Navy channels and may end up being something of a program of record in the long term.
Others that we can’t cross that gap and into the system, we’ll offer those to Civil Air Patrol and, at their option, they can start flying those. It’s not official flight test, but they can at least tell us, does this thing survive a flight up to 10,000 feet and back. And that piece of information might be just enough. That then allows our system program office with the labs to start taking a closer look.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So that’s a great question and that’s why I think the development of sensors and better understanding of baseline human physiology is so important.
The RPA environment is just the tip of the iceberg. As we look at humans in the loop or on the loop, human physiology, whether it’s in cyber, RPAs, intel, space, any of the other missions that we’re doing, is a very important consideration.
What we don’t have yet is a tremendous amount of baseline data. What’s physiology supposed to look like in those situations? So when it’s different, how would we know it? That’s some of the work that’s going on right now at the labs is base-lining that data.
I will tell you that while the environment of RPAs is uniquely different than the environment in airplanes, but it’s not always easier. You have a lot of folks that are out there engaged in very serious operations, life and death situations, that they are dealing with for hours on end and then go home every night to their families and to would be a normal environment. Most people have coping mechanisms to deal with that. But that’s one of the areas of research that folks are looking at in the labs – how do we better prepare people to go back and forth between these kinds of environments?
Maj. Bishane, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of a deployed military service member while trying to maintain the normalcy of a day-to-day life.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Airman Magazine: Let’s shift gears and talk about your career history. How does leading PEAT differ from your past experiences as a safety officer at a wing or a squadron?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Prior to this, I worked for Secretary Mattis in OSD reserve integration. We basically informed OSD policy relative to the seven different reserve components out there to include the Air National Guard.
Before that, I served as commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. As a wing commander, it is a minute-by-minute duty to make risk decisions and it’s very important to realize the consequences of those decisions and understand that whole risk matrix.
In my current position, I’m not a commander of anything. I’m not really in charge of folks specifically. We have a team, but we come together as required. So this job is more informative. One of our primary roles is to inform commanders. As they give us data, we give them back context so they can make better risk decisions.
It also allows the labs to put a focus on their studies enabling the system program offices to acquire and improve systems to support the mission. So this job is very different in that respect.
I think having been a commander previously helps me understand what these commanders they need to hear and how they want to receive that data so it doesn’t overwhelm them.
Airman Magazine: What is it you would like the pilots and aircrew to know about you, the PEAT and their part in preventing and mitigating PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I traveled to Randolph Air Force Base and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the higher headquarters staff. I met with the commander of 19th Air Force and I was very encouraged and reassured with everyone’s openness to really solving this problem as aggressively and quickly as possible, talking about physiological episodes, but also, in a broader sense, the sustainment of the T-6 and sustainment of other airframes for which people might be interested.
I feel good about where that’s going. I also had a real eye-opener when I had an opportunity to meet with some of the T-6 pilots. We met off base. We decided to meet in a restaurant in a casual environment. We wanted that format because I wanted to hear really unfiltered what some of these T-6 pilots, who are some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying that mission, that airframe. I was able to learn a lot. They have great faith in their chain of command and leadership. They have valid and serious concerns about physiological episodes, as does the commander all the way up to the chief of staff and the Secretary.
I think being able to hear their perspective, share with them my firsthand knowledge of meeting with senior level commanders in the Air Force bridged some gaps. I also was able to hear some very specific engineering questions and connect some of those pilots directly with some of the engineers at the system program office and some folks within their own chain of command that they just haven’t connected with yet. Just trying to get those dialogues going, because the solutions that the air Force is putting into place, whether it’s T-6 or any other airframe, are usually phased. Some of them require major investment, money and time-wise, and those take a little longer to accomplish.
So how do you bridge the gap between today and when we get to that promised land if some of those bigger fixes and it comes down to some solid risk management? In the case of the T-6, there’s a whole list of maintenance protocols that we handle and emergency procedures for the pilots that don’t necessarily reduce the number of these events, but they can reduce the severity and certainly mitigate the consequences. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want a situation where any physiological episode goes far enough to lead to a permanent injury or harm of an aviator destruction of property. We want to catch those things as early as possible through these mitigation techniques.
Another thing I got to do when I was at Randolph was shadow the maintainers as they did maintenance on a T-6 that had a physiological episode. In the past, when these things would happen, there wasn’t a specific protocol. They would do their very best to look at the oxygen system, but there wasn’t a protocol on how to do that.
T-6 Texans fly in formation over Laughlin AFB, TX.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
Over the last year, with the help of a lot of the pilots, doctors, chain of command folks, human performance wing – a big team effort, when the airplane lands after one of those instances it’s an automatic protocol for that oxygen system.
In most cases it’s removed and a new one is put in and the suspect system then gets this thorough going over at the depot level and not only do we fix that, that particular system and return it to service. We’re able to learn a lot and collect data points. In some cases, we don’t find the specific cause in that system and then we look elsewhere – maybe more pilot interviews, talking to the doctors and trying to piece it together.
The protocols that are out there now not only helped mitigate the consequences of these events until we field new equipment, but they also help us in collecting data that will inform better decisions going forward.
I love American Christmas traditions as much as the next guy, but stockings, honey-baked hams and pictures with Santa aren’t the only traditions out there. Countries around the globe have fun, festive and occasionally creepy traditions of their own. Keep reading for some of the most unique ways of celebrating Christmas on almost every continent. We didn’t find any traditions in Antarctica, but maybe the penguins just like to keep their parties on the DL.
In the US, it’s hard to imagine a sunny, tropical Christmas, but that’s the norm for Australians. There, Christmas takes place in summer. Instead of celebrating around a fire, Kiwis usually share casual barbecues with friends and family. The New Zealand version of a Christmas tree is called the Pohutukawa, which turns bright red in December. Don’t worry, they still sing carols, but they’re sung in both English and Maori!
Several countries, Austria included, have a more sinister undertone to their holiday festivities. In addition to St. Nicholas coming to visit, a demon named Krampus joins the party. The children still get treats from St. Nick, and the looming threat of Krampus bringing a nasty gift on Christmas morning keeps them on their best behavior. bad children worry what Krampus might bring on Christmas morning.
Oatmeal fans should fly to Finland for Christmas. There, families often eat rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon and butter. An almond is hidden in one of the puddings, and who ever discovers it is declared the winner. Parents have eased up in recent years, putting almonds in everyone’s porridge to avoid a fight.
In Holland, Santa maintains a more traditional, saintly appearance. There, he’s known as Sinterklaas, donning a long white beard, red cape, and red miter. Instead of a stocking, kids put a shoe out by the chimney for Sinterklaas to fill with gingerbread and other treats.
Holland’s more questionable traditions have caused controversy in recent years. Instead of elves, Santa has helpers called Zwarte Piet, drawn from traditional folklore. It doesn’t sound strange until you know what it stands for; Zwarte Piet translates to Black Pete. For decades, Sinterklaas has been joined by helpers in curly, black wigs with their faces painted black. Though some still believe it’s harmless, protests have brought the tradition’s racist ties to light. Hopefully, more respectful traditions will take its place.
Here, lots of people celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. In Iceland, there are 13. On the nights leading up to Christmas, 13 “Yule Lads” visit the homes of little children. Good children wake up to discover candy in their shoops. Those who misbehave discover rotten potatoes instead! I think I’d rather have coal.
Irish traditions are simple and sweet. They leave a red candle on the windowsill to symbolize warmth and welcoming over the chilly winter. Their traditional Christmas meal is similar to ours, with vegetables, cranberries and potatoes, but instead of turkey or ham, they have roast goose.
Here, witches are scary. In Italy, witches bring gifts! Well one of them does, anyway. An old witch named La Befana sweeps the floors of dirty homes and brings gifts instead of St. Nicholas. It’s believed that the tradition was a reinvention of an ancient Roman goddess named Strenia, who gave out gifts for the New Year.
In Japan, Christmas isn’t such a big thing. Only about 1% of the population is Christian, so the trees and carols never really caught on. Instead, they celebrate the season with…fried…chicken? It started in 1974, when KFC started a marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” It took off like wildfire, and nearly 50 years later, Japanese families are still putting in their order for fried chicken early to make sure they don’t miss out.
On an island in the French Caribbean called Martinique, Christmas time centers around community. Their biggest tradition is called la ribote. During Advent and on New Year’s Day, the people of Martinique deliver holiday delicacies to their friends and neighbors, offering up regional treats like pork stew, yams, and boudin créole, aka blood sausage. Often, groups gather to sing their favorite carols into the wee hours of the morning, embellishing them with lyrics of their own.
In Mexico, Christian tradition is strong. The festivities begin in early December with a march called Las Posadas, representing the long walk of Mary and Joseph. Then, members of the church collaborate to put on nativity plays retelling the story of Christmas. Mexico is also famous for its love of poinsettias, which light up homes and shops with their bright, red blooms every year.
The Philippines is definitely extra when it comes to Christmas displays. Their tradition of Ligligan Parul, the Giant Lantern Festival, is hosted every Christmas in San Fernando. Giant is no exaggeration. Each parol is made of not hundreds, but thousands, of colorful lights. People travel from across the country to see it, naming the city “the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” As you can see, the parols are more like works of art than ordinary decorations!
Poland is another traditionally Christian country, so many of their people’s Christmas customs are religious. Families typically share a religious wafer, or oplatek, on Christmas Eve, each one by one breaking off a piece. Dinner doesn’t start until the first star shines out. If you could take a peek into a Polish dining room on Christmas Eve, you might notice an empty place set at the table. The empty chair is there for a reason; to welcome any unexpected guests to share their meal. How kind!
Consoada is a Portuguese tradition that takes place on Christmas Eve. The traditional dinner honors friends and family who have passed away, inviting them to share in the feast symbolically. An empty chair is left to host any wandering souls, or alminhas a penar, who stop by to visit, and any extra food is left on the table for the night in case one of the spirits gets hungry. Ghosts need midnight snacks, too, you know?
In the US, spiderweb decorations are firmly a Halloween thing. I doubt even Tim Burton decorates his trees with spider webs. In Ukraine, however, it’s totally normal. The tradition started with an old fairy tale. As the story goes, a family couldn’t afford Christmas decorations, so some friendly spiders decorated the tree for them. Luckily, Ukrainian families don’t ask real spiders to take care of the decorating. Instead, they use webs made out of paper, glass, or metal. It’s much more sparkly than spooky.
In Wales, it’s not Christmas without a horse. Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare,” is an age old tradition there. It starts out with a life-sized horse skull decoration or a person in a horse costume. People join the macabre horse to walk door-to-door, singing carols and dancing. Most likely, the tradition has pagan roots from before Christianity was brought to Wales. Sometimes, the singing turns into a battle of wit between the merrimakers and whoever opens the door.
On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait with little warning. During that time, Hussein prevented many foreigners in Iraq from leaving while also bringing foreigners captured in Kuwait to Iraq. The hostages were mostly citizens of Western countries critical of the Iraqi invasion and many worked at the Baghdad General Motors plant.
After the UN gave Hussein the January 16 deadline to pull out of Kuwait, 15 Americans were moved to strategic locations inside Iraq to be used as human shields in the event of retaliatory strikes from the multinational force that was growing larger by the day.
In October, Hussein released the foreign women and children held in Iraq. Many in the State Department feared the remaining hostages would be killed when Coalition forces engaged the Iraqis in Kuwait, either by friendly fire or by their Iraqi captors. That’s when the “Greatest of All Time” stepped in the international arena.
Muhammed Ali was highly regarded in the Islamic world. One hundred and thirteen days into the hostage crisis, Ali came to Baghdad at the behest of a peace organization founded by Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General for President Lyndon B. Johnson. The group hoped to prevent a greater war, but Ali was more concerned with getting the U.S. hostages home.
Many were critical of Ali’s trip. The administration of George H.W. Bush worried it would legitimize Saddam’s invasion. the U.S. media accused Ali of trying to boost his own popularity, perhaps to win a Nobel Peace Prize. The New York Times claimed Ali was actually aiding Hussein and criticized his ability to communicate, reporting, “Surely the strangest hostage-release campaign of recent days has been the ‘goodwill’ tour of Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight boxing champion … he has attended meeting after meeting in Baghdad despite his frequent inability to speak clearly.”
By 1990, Ali had been fighting Parkinson’s Disease for six years, suffering from tremors and a slurred speech. He had to use hand signals to communicate to his spokesman many times during his interactions in Iraq. He still managed to visit schools, talk to people on the streets, and pray in Baghdad’s mosques. Crowds flocked to him wherever he went and he never turned anyone away. It would be part of his promise to Saddam to trade hostages for an “honest account.”
He ran out of his Parkinson’s medication but stayed in the country until he could meet with the Iraqi dictator. He was bedridden for days at a time. His trip was far from a publicity stunt as “The Greatest” was suffering but refusing to leave until he could attempt to get the hostages released. The Irish Hospital in Baghdad replenished Ali’s medication just before Saddam Hussein agreed to meet with him.
Ali sat as the Iraqi dictator praised himself for how well he’d treated American prisoners. Ali reiterated his promise to bring back to the U.S. an “honest account” of his visit to Iraq.
The American hostages met with Ali at his hotel in Baghdad that night and were repatriated on December 2, 1990 – after four months of captivity.
“They don’t owe me nothing,” Ali said of the hostages in 1990.
Six weeks later, the U.S. and the multinational forces staging in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield launched Operation Desert Storm. Coalition forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi troops in 100 hours.
Ali did not receive the Nobel Prize, but he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and a Liberty Medal in 2012.
Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.
The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.
While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.
Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.
“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.
It’s shake and bake, veteran style. NASCAR is well known for being military friendly. When the green flag waves at Daytona this weekend, it will usher in the new NASCAR season with a really special story. The crown jewel event is the Daytona 500. On Saturday, the day before the 500, there is a race called the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 which ushers in the Xfinity Series season. One of the cars racing to win the 300 should be the favorite of all military supporters around the country.
The Our America Dream Team car won’t have the familiar sponsors you see on all the other race cars. Instead, they will feature veteran-owned businesses as the car trades rubber with all the cars on the track.
How is this possible? The team crowdfunded to raise money so they could race. In return for donations, veteran-owned businesses will be featured on the car racing around one of the world’s most famous race tracks during one of racings marquee weekends.
The car will be driven by Colin Garrett. Garrett said, “I’m so grateful for the support from everyone who’s backed the team. We’re excited that fans and military-owned small businesses will be able to see the car on the track and feel proud, knowing they had a hand in us racing. When I started racing, my dad said he wanted me to find a way to use it to make a difference, so I could look back on it and know I helped someone. I wasn’t quite 15 at the time and didn’t really get it, but now I do. Working with the military community is the perfect fit, and it’s cool that it ties in with my brothers’ Army careers.”
Team owner Sam Hunt added, “It feels good to know we’re racing for something bigger than ourselves. We love racing, but the National Awareness Campaign makes it mean so much more.”
Lisa Kipps-Brown, the marketing strategist behind the team who took time to answer questions about the team.
WATM: Where did the idea of “Our American Dream Team” come from?
Kipps-Brown: Two ideas converged to create “Our American Dream Team:”
The belief that hard work, talent, and ingenuity could compete at the professional levels of NASCAR was fostered by the families of driver Colin Garrett and team owner Sam Hunt.
At the same time, the Garrett family had been running a National Awareness Campaign throughout the 2019 NASCAR season to promote the free services offered by Racing For Heroes, a nonprofit founded by Army Special Forces CW3 Mike Evock (ret.). Their holistic services include mental physical health treatments, job placement, and motorsports therapy. Since over 25% of active-duty military are NASCAR fans and about 18% of NASCAR fans are Veterans, it’s the perfect platform to reach the military community.
We realized that the American Dream that we believe in and are chasing is often hard for those in the military community to achieve. Since we wanted to expand our National Awareness Campaign for 2020, helping those who have given so much achieve their own American Dream was the perfect fit to complement what we were already doing with Racing For Heroes. We decided to take a leap of faith and commit to crowdfunding the team to replace as much corporate sponsorship money as possible, which would free us up to promote issues important to the military community and companies owned by Veterans and military spouses.
WATM: Tell us a little about the team owner?
Kipps-Brown: 26-year-old Sam Hunt dreamed of starting a NASCAR team after racing throughout his childhood. After he graduated from college, the late J.D. Gibbs, whom Sam knew through his family, gave Sam his first two cars to help him get started. Sam started his team in 2018, living in his van behind the shop and couch surfing with friends to be able to afford the business. He and driver Colin Garrett started racing together that year in the KN Pro Series, and realized they had something special working together.
WATM: Tell us about your driver?
Kipps-Brown: Unlike most NASCAR drivers, 19-year-old Colin Garrett didn’t grow up racing karts or in a racing family. Yet, in just his third season of racing, he was historic South Boston (VA) Speedway’s 2017 Limited Sportsman Division Champion and broke the track’s qualifying speed record twice. In 2018 he started racing with team owner Sam Hunt in the KN Pro Series and continued racing Super Late Model. What started out as a 3-race deal with Sam turned into a great fit, and they raced KN together the rest of the 2018 season and all of 2019. In the fall of 2019, they decided they wanted to make the leap to the Xfinity Series.
WATM: Do you have any connections to the military? Why did they partake in this endeavor?
Kipps-Brown: Both of Colin’s brothers are Active Duty Army, one currently deployed to Korea. One of Sam’s best friends is a Navy SEAL. I am a milspouse whose husband is retired Navy with 26 years of service, 3 of which were in the Vietnam War. Combating Veteran suicide and helping service members transition back to civilian life is an issue that’s personally important to them. Colin knows it could be his brothers who need help, and I have experienced how difficult the transition can be for Veterans and military families.
WATM: How hard was it to raise money?
Kipps-Brown: We knew it was a long shot, but we also had faith that we could do it. We believed in the loyalty of grassroots NASCAR fans and the power of large numbers of people who could give any amount. Nothing was too small. Our friends, family, and existing fans kicked it off for us, backing the team because they believed in us and our dream. We ended up raising enough to not only race in Daytona, but also pay for stem cell treatments for a Veteran through Racing For Heroes. Crowdfunding needs a crowd, though, and we’re really just now tapping into the power of the military community.
WATM: What were the biggest obstacles?
Kipps-Brown: Connecting with the crowd was by far our biggest obstacle. People are jaded, and for good reason. They’ve seen too many people use Veterans’ issues to further their own cause without giving anything back to the community. The most important connection so far has been when Stephanie Brown, founder of The Rosie Network, introduced us to Marine veteran Greg Boudah, founder of Jewelry Republic. Jewelry Republic, where Veterans buy jewelry, became a sponsor on the car for Daytona, and Greg has been instrumental in getting the grassroots movement going. He’s activated his network of vetrepreneurs like Chris (Smurf) McPhee (retired Green Beret – Green Beret Media) and Michael Whitlow (Marine veteran – Vetbuilder) to help us get the word out. Once people get to know us, they realize we’re part of the military family, that we’re not just asking for money, and we really do want to make a difference. When we get over that hurdle, everyone responds with excitement.
WATM: How many veteran businesses donated?
Kipps-Brown: We have about 50 Veteran Business Advocates so far. When a vet- or milspouse-owned business gives and provides their logo, we promote them on our website, tell their story on our Facebook page, and provide a Veteran Business Advocate badge for their website. It’s an opportunity for them to participate in a national NASCAR marketing campaign, something that would normally never be available to small businesses. There’s never been anything like this done before, and we have plans in the works for other ways of helping grow military-owned businesses. Stay tuned 🙂
WATM: How did you get involved with this? What other outside help did they get.
Kipps-Brown: It’s really been me, Colin’s dad, and the staff of my web marketing strategy company, Glerin Business Resources. I started working with Colin and his dad in November of 2018. A couple of months after that Racing For Heroes happened to contact me, wanting to hire me to develop a National Awareness Campaign for them.
When I visited them at Virginia International Raceway and saw all they do, I was literally in tears. I couldn’t believe the extent of their free services, and the fact that they were holistic was even better. I remembered how hard it was for my husband when he retired, losing that sense of mission and knowing he was part of something that made a difference. I just couldn’t bear the thought of taking money away from their programs. I called Colin’s dad, Ryan, as soon as I left, and he readily agreed to roll Racing For Heroes into the work I was doing with them.
Just after that, he and I began working with Steve Sims, author of Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen, as our business coach. Steve’s encouragement, input, and challenging us to think differently were instrumental in the evolution of the team.
I think the fact that this whole campaign started with a call from Racing For Heroes is so cool; it’s really an organic effort that was constantly changing throughout the season. We’re proud that a movement that started in a small, rural town in Virginia has gone national and is becoming a disrupter in the racing industry.
WATM: Tell us about the race the car will be in?
Kipps-Brown: The NASCAR Racing Experience 300 is the most prestigious NASCAR Xfinity Series of the year. The 300-mile race is held at Daytona International Speedway the day before the Daytona 500, and is broadcast live on TV and radio.
WATM: Are there future plans for any other races?
Kipps-Brown: We intend to race as many Xfinity races on the national stage this year as we can fund, and we plan to be prepared to run the full 2021 season. Colin will also be running NASCAR Super Late Model and Late Model at the grassroots level, like his home track South Boston Speedway. The smaller tracks actually give him a better opportunity to interact directly with fans, which is great for helping communicate the free services available.
The NASCAR Racing Experience 300 rolls out at 2:30 p.m. EST this Saturday, February 15th. Tune in and cheer on the Our America Dream Team!
Given we know that even Neanderthals would bury their dead (even including objects with the bodies) and various human hunter-gatherer groups likewise used to bury or cremate people at specific sites that functioned as sort of pilgrimage locations for these nomads, it should come as no surprise that since the dawn of known warfare soldiers have pondered the question of what to do with the bodies of their fallen comrades and enemies. So what did various groups actually do throughout history?
A thing to note before we continue is that there is a definite gap in the memory of history in regards to this one specific matter and historians only have sparse reports of what happened to the dead of many groups after battles. You might think solving this problem would be simply a matter of locating famous battle sites and doing some digging to glean a little more insight, but it turns out even this is notoriously difficult as we’ll get into shortly.
That caveat out of the way, on the more definitive front, it’s noted that the ancient Greeks made an effort to respect the usual burial customs of the dead after a battle and collecting the bodies of the fallen wasn’t uncommon. For example, following the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC between Philip II of Macedonia and the Athenians, both sides buried their dead in accordance with the religious customs of the period; this was seemingly done both out of respect for the valor the dead showed in battle and to appease the gods.
With the exception of the Spartans, most ancient Greek societies also made efforts to bury their dead near the city they hailed from if time allowed it, though for the sake of practicality, mass graves or the like were sometimes utilizedinstead. In this case, cenotaphs were sometimes erected near their home city in honor of the fallen.
As noted, an exception to this are the Spartans who often buried fallen soldiers on the battlefield they were killed. Also somewhat unique was that rather than stripping the dead of valuables, as per Spartan tradition, each fallen Spartan was buried with their weapons and armor and their final resting place was marked by a simple tombstone with their name and an inscription that read (translated) “In War”.
This was a special honor among the Spartans. If one were to die outside of battle, no such tombstone would be given and the person would simply be buried in an unmarked grave. The one exception to that was if a woman died in child birth, she too would be given the honor of a tombstone.
As for the Romans, most soldiers paid a small stipend each month to pay for funeral expenses should they fall in battle. As you might expect from this, the Romans made a conscious effort to recover the bodies of those who died and, if time allowed it, would bury or cremate them individually. If this wasn’t possible, the bodies of soldiers killed in battle would be collected and given a mass cremation or burial. In the event the bodies couldn’t be recovered, a cenotaph would be erected to serve as a monument to the individual.
The same cannot be said of later wars where there seems to have been an almost callous disregard for the fallen, and looting of the dead and dying was commonplace. For example, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings in 1066 shows soldiers piling up the bodies of the dead and stripping them of their valuables. It’s believed that following this the bodies were quickly cremated or buried in nearby mass graves.
It should be noted here, however, that with the rise of Christianity, mass cremation, at least for a time, seems to have gone the way of the dodo in some regions, in favor of mass graves.
That said, despite the countless battles that occurred throughout Medieval Europe, archaeologists have had an extraordinarily difficult time actually finding any of the bodies. As one paper published in the Journal of Conflict Archeology, aptly titled “Where are the dead of medieval battles?“, notes:
Only a handful of mass graves from late medieval battles in Western Europe have been subject to large scale excavation to modern standards. The principal reason is that these, and indeed even early modern battlefield graves, have proven extremely elusive, most being identified by chance. Despite a few successes, no combination of prospecting techniques yet provides a consistently effective method of locating such small archaeological features set almost anywhere within a site covering many square kilometres…
Looking at much better documented times, looting of the dead was also extraordinarily common during the extremely deadly Napoleonic Wars, with soldiers and locals alike pilfering what they could find after battles. For example, consider this account from a British general following the Battle of Heilsberg in 1807:
The ground between the wood and the Russian batteries, about a quarter of a mile, was a sheet of naked human bodies, which friends and foes had during the night mutually stripped, although numbers of these bodies still retained consciousness of their situation. It was a sight that the eye loathed, but from which it could not remove.
And yes, as noted there, the severely wounded weren’t spared the indignity of being robbed of their worldly possessions as they lay dying. And worst of all, this was done not just by their enemies, but comrades as well. In fact, there are firsthand accounts from wounded soldiers who went on to survive their injuries detailing the shock of waking up completely naked.
Illustration of Battle of Heilsberg.
Here’s a snippet of one such quote from a French soldier called Jean Baptiste de Marbot:
Stretched on the snow among the piles of dead and dying, unable to move in any way, I gradually and without pain lost consciousness…. I judge that my swoon lasted four hours, and when I came to my sense I found myself in this horrible position. I was completely naked, having nothing on but my hat and my right boot. A man of the transport corps, thinking me dead, had stripped me in the usual fashion, and wishing to pull off the only boot that remained, was dragging me by one leg with his foot against my body. The jerk which the man gave me no doubt had restored me to my senses. I succeeded in sitting up and spitting out the clots of blood from my throat. The shock caused by the wind of the ball had produced such an extravasation of blood, that my face, shoulders, and chest were black, while the rest of my body was stained red by the blood from my wound. My hat and my hair were full of bloodstained snow, and as I rolled my haggard eyes I must have been horrible to see. Anyhow, the transport man looked the other way, and went off with my property without my being able to say a single word to him, so utterly prostrate was I.
After being stripped of their belongings the dead, and occasionally still barely living, would often be buried in mass graves (sometimes with bodies from both sides unceremoniously thrown in). In general, this was either accomplished via the soldiers themselves doing it, or in many cases members of the local populace given the gruesome task. However, there are accounts of battles where thousands of bodies were simply left to the elements. For example, General Philippe de Ségur states in 1812:
After passing the Kologa, we marched on, absorbed in thought, when some of us, raising our eyes, uttered a cry of horror. Each one instantly looked about him, and there lay stretched before us a plain trampled, bare, and devastated, all the trees cut down within a few feet from the surface, and farther off craggy hills, the highest of which appeared misshapen, and bore a striking resemblance to an extinguished volcano. The ground around us was everywhere covered with fragments of helmets and cuirasses, with broken drums, gun-stocks, tatters of uniforms, and standards dyed with blood. On this desolate spot lay thirty thousand half-devoured corpses…
It should also be noted here that beyond any possessions the bodies may have had on them before being stripped, the bodies themselves were also of value. For example, human scavengers would come through and rob the dead of their teeth, which would then be used to make dentures.
The Napoleonic Wars, and in particular the Battle of Waterloo, were such a boon to the British dental industry in this way that dentures were known as “Waterloo teeth” in the UK over a decade after it ended. Teeth from soldiers were highly sought after owing to predominately coming from relatively young men who still had reasonably good teeth, unlike many others that came from the more wizened dead.
In one account, one Astley Cooper met just such a tooth hunter and noted:
Upon asking this Butler, who appeared to be in a state of great destitution, what might be his object, he said it was to get teeth…but when I came to question him upon the means by which he was to obtain these teeth, he said, ‘Oh Sir, only let there be a battle, and there’ll be no want of teeth. I’ll draw them as fast as the men are knocked down.
Even more grimly, the bones of the dead of some of these battles were later collected and pulverized into fertilizer which was sold for a modest price across Europe. To quote an article from the The Observer written in 1822:
It is now ascertained beyond a doubt, by actual experiment on an extensive scale, that a dead soldier is a most valuable article of commerce; and, for aught known to the contrary, the good farmers of Yorkshire are, in a great measure, indebted to the bones of their children for their daily bread. It is certainly a singular fact, that Great Britain should have sent out such multitudes of soldiers to fight the battles of this country upon the continent of Europe, and should then import their bones as an article of commerce to fatten her soil!
The remains of soldiers were also sometimes collected for use in souvenirs of major battles. For example, poet Eaton Stannard Barrett wrote, “I know one honest gentleman, who has brought home a real Waterloo thumb, nail and all, which he preserves in a bottle of gin.”
Battle of Waterloo, 1815.
Moving across the pond and slightly more recently in history, markedly more respect was shown for the dead during the American Civil War where teams of soldiers were tasked with burying the dead of both sides in simple mass graves, with great care being taken to ensure most soldiers received a proper burial.
Finally, to discuss WW1 and WW2, individual units were largely responsible for the disposal of their own dead with both Axis and Allied forces having their own rules for how this should be handled. For example, during WW2 Colonel Walther Sonntag of the Wehrmacht’s Casualty Office issued a comprehensive guide for military graves officers detailing how mass graves should be constructed.
Amongst other things the guidelines indicated that mass graves should be made as close to railway lines as possible and feature pathways with the intention being that they’d eventually be turned into war cemeteries. As the war raged on, these guidelines were largely ignored for the sake of practicality, leading to, as Der Spiegel puts it, “a surfeit of grave steles”.
As for the Allies, during WW2 burying the dead largely fell to individual soldiers, but some units dedicated to the task did exist, for example the United States Quartermaster Graves Registration Service. Tasked with finding and burying every fallen American soldier, the Quartermaster Graves Registration Service have been hailed as some of the unsung heroes of the War due to the general lack of recognition they’ve received since it ended.
Graves Registration units were exceptionally committed to their task and undertook their duties with a solemn sense of duty and determination, going to extraordinary lengths to identify bodies and perform the appropriate burial rights depending on the fallen soldier’s religious affiliation. When appropriate, GRS units would bury civilian, allied and axis casualties they came across, making sure to bury them in well-marked graves, the locations of which would be passed onto the relevant authorities.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The Marines are trading in their old Light Armored Vehicle for a new model – and it’s about time. In an age of stealth tanks and lasers, the Marines are still driving around in the 1983 model. But you’d never know it. The Corps’ LAV-25 has seen action from Panama to Afghanistan and everywhere in between, and few would complain about her performance.
But times are changing, and even the Marines are going to change with them. Within the next decade, for sure.
Staff Sgt. Heighnbaugh, a platoon sgt. with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon (reinforced), Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, fires a M240G medium machinegun on a light armored vehicle at the Su Song Ri Range, South Korea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani)
The modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle will likely show up “in the next decade,” according to the Marine Corps. It will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal while the new technology allows it to take on the roles normally used by more heavily armored vehicles.
“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.
A LAV-25 patrolling the area near the Panama Canal during Operation Just Cause.
The Marine Corps didn’t list any specific roles or technologies they would look at integrating into the new modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle but the Office of Naval Research “has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments, and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.”
“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”
The Corps wants the new vehicle to equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions inside Marine divisions with a solution for combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance, and security missions by the mid-2020s.