Hope you guys enjoyed your block leave. It’s always nice to go back home, relax, grow that pathetic excuse of a two-week beard, and not have to think about anything military-related until that inevitable flight back to your installation.
Hope nothing big happened in those two weeks… Oh… F*ck… Nevermind… Literally everything went to sh*t while you were trying to hook up with your old high school fling because it’s time to get your packing list in order.
Now would be a good time for you to smoke one if you got one because the sh*t hit the fan big time. Unless you’re under 21. We can’t have law-breaking juveniles in our ranks while we’re about to head into another major conflict.
And this entire vacation, I was just waiting to make a joke about the Space Force finally being a thing but noooOOOooo. Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via 1st Civ Div)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
Real talk: If we go to Iran, it would be a separate conflict from the GWOT as it’s nation vs nation instead of fighting terrorism. So that would mean we’d realistically get to add a star to our CIBs/CABs/CMBs, right?
That may weigh heavily on my decision to reenlist…
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
There’s building character and then there’s risking your troop’s health and lively to appease an antiquated version of what the “military was like back in your day.”
Don’t let anyone fool you. The sweatpants we wore with our PTs back in the BDU era were the comfiest things ever.
“My administration is taking steps to ensure that the men and women who bravely fought for us when they were called will be given the care and attention they need during some of their darkest hours,” said President Donald J. Trump.
The roadmap is the result of an Executive Order that President Trump signed on March 5, 2019. It calls for several steps to advance this critical national goal, many of which are already underway:
National Suicide Prevention Activation Campaign
This summer, the PREVENTS Office will launch a nationwide public health campaign aimed at educating Americans that suicide is preventable. It creates awareness of mental health and suicide prevention best practices with a call to action for ALL Americans to take the PREVENTS Pledge to Prevent Suicide.
Improving Suicide Prevention Research
Too often, we focus on a one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention that fails to take into account an individual’s specific risk factors. As a key element of the roadmap, PREVENTS will launch the National Research Strategy to accelerate the development and implementation of effective solutions to help prevent suicide among Veterans and all Americans.
The PREVENTS Office has built relationships with dozens of organizations across the country. These include Veteran and military service organizations, faith-based groups, universities, non-profits, corporations, small businesses. It also includes state and local governments to share best practices for promoting mental health, to ensure awareness of and access to federal, state, local and tribal resources.
“The release of the PREVENTS Roadmap is a critical step in advancing the national priority of preventing suicide in this nation, but it is only a first step” said PREVENTS Executive Director Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen. “With our Veterans leading the way, we will engage all Americans as we fully implement the PREVENTS Roadmap. Together we will prevent suicide.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking at ways to change how the human body manages time in order to improve wounded soldiers’ chances of survival and recovery.
DARPA has set up the Biostasis program to use molecular biology as a way to evaluate and possibly alter the speed at which living systems operate with the goal of extending the window of time between a damaging event and the collapse of those systems.
Such an extension would expand the “golden hour” — the period of time between injury or infection and the first treatment that is regarded as one of the most important factors in saving a life on the battlefield.
“At the molecular level, life is a set of continuous biochemical reactions, and a defining characteristic of these reactions is that they need a catalyst to occur at all,” Tristan McClure-Begley, the Biostasis program manager, said in a DARPA release.
“Within a cell, these catalysts come in the form of proteins and large molecular machines that transform chemical and kinetic energy into biological processes,” he added.
“Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off,” McClure-Begley said.
The Defense Department policy that ensures wounded troops are moved off the battlefield for care within the first hour after injury has been credited with the military’s nearly 98% survival rate, Rear Adm. Colin G. Chinn, Joint Staff surgeon, said in mid-February 2018.
But the Pentagon’s shifting focus to near-peer adversaries — ones with considerable firepower and air capabilities — has raised questions about whether the golden hour can endure in future conflicts.
The Army is looking at additional training for medics to allow them to provide care beyond the initial triage stage, bridging the gap between a combat medic’s basic knowledge and that of a professional stationed at a battlefield aid station.
DARPA’s initiative, still nascent, is looking for biochemical approaches that control how cells use energy at the level of proteins, using examples from nature of organisms that can survive in extreme conditions and drastically reducing or shutting down their metabolic processes.
“If we can figure out the best ways to bolster other biological systems and make them less likely to enter a runaway downward spiral after being damaged, then we will have made a significant addition to the biology toolbox,” McClure-Begley said.
Right now, the Biostasis program is focused on developing and testing proof-of-concept technologies. Similar Biostasis technologies could yield other medical benefits by reducing reaction times and extending the shelf life of blood and other biological products.
The US military is looking at other ways to boost the body’s ability to respond to and recovery from injury.
Early 2018, doctors and researchers at the Military Health System Research Symposium discussed regenerative medicine and its uses — in particular, the possibility of regenerating limbs, muscles, and nerve tissue.
“We’re not quite there yet,” said Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, extremity repair product manager for the US Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities.”
Saunders added that there has been progress in using synthetic grafts to spark the regrowth of muscle, nerve, vascular, and connective tissues.
The research discussed at the symposium included efforts to use fillers to help damaged bones recover and the examination of the African spiny mouse, which has the ability to shed skin to escape predators and recover, scar-free, relatively quickly.
“Extremity wounds are increasingly survivable due to the implementation of body armor and damage-control surgeries,” Saunders said. “[There are] many wonderful things emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”
The technologies in question are far from practical application. But the military, working under wartime imperatives, has made rapid medical advances in the past. In the run-up to World War II, an Army commission secured FDA approval for a flu vaccine — the first one in the US — in just two years.
After I fractured a vertebra in Iraq, I took up swimming instead of running because it was easier on my spine as I grew older. It has become an integral part of my daily routine. I also like having a beard, but as I swam, my facial hair became super dry and ragged. I went from having a nice thick, black beard to a Brillo pad pretty fast.
One day, I was on the phone with a potential client who sold beard care products. I mentioned what the pool did to my beard and that regular shampoo wasn’t helping. He said, “Dude, if all you want is to not have neck dandruff, use shampoo. If you want to have a full, robust beard, use actual beard products”.
Like many of us, I initially balked. From my days of hardcore PT in the Marines, to the lackadaisical faux workouts post EAS, to the insane post-divorce shred sessions, to my current let’s-just-do-something-to-keep-active routine, I didn’t think twice about how my workouts affected my skin, beard, and body — until I had a steel-scouring pad growing from my face. But after trying different products, I have seen a difference. I am now a firm believer. Using the right personal care products is just as important as the workouts you do.
With BRAVO SIERRA, you know you will get quality care regardless of how intense your workout is.
It’s part of their business practice. This personal care company, founded by a team of veterans and some patriotic civilians, uses feedback from men serving in the military to create and finely tune products that really go the extra mile to make you look and feel good.
It’s in their mission statement. “BRAVO SIERRA believes in agile physical product development to ensure consumers get better products, faster. We believe the human body is the most important system, and that democratizing product development will be the future of taking ownership of our health and wellness.”
Here are some of their products and how they are a cut above what you use post-workout.
Hair & Body Solid Cleanser
Lots of soaps use sulfates and silicone in their composition. They smell good, but don’t clean your pores, skin, or hair as well as they should. Also why do you want to douse yourself in chemicals?
BRAVO SIERRA doesn’t use the traditional harsh cleansing agent that strips your skin. Their hydrating formula and coconut-derived cleansing agent allows you to use this product from hair to toe without drying out your skin, hair, face or scalp.
Yup, I watched American Psycho back in the day, saw Patrick Bateman’s routine and thought, “Nope! Not me.” And yet here I am telling you that you need to moisturize your face. All that sweat from the gym, the chemicals from the pool, the sun when you run or bike outside… it takes a toll. This non-greasy option uses blue algae and apple fruit extract for all-day hydration. It also has aloe vera so you can use it as an aftershave.
Shaving can get tedious when you have a 9 to 5 but it really sucks when you are in the military and have to shave literally anywhere. I still get irked when I think about being made to shave using old razors and cold water every day when I was out in the middle of the Syrian Desert. Well, BRAVO SIERRA made a shaving cream with that in mind. Its foam-to-cream texture prevents irritation on sensitive skin. It’s engineered with the first environmentally friendly, non-flammable propellant, making it ideal for your travel pack.
Antibacterial Body Wipes
Can’t shower right away after working out? Given the current situation with the virus, you might be looking to avoid the gym showers altogether! Have to run into the store on the way home after the gym? These wipes are the ultimate on-the-go solution for when you have to clean up when you can’t clean up.
Infused with aloe vera, ginseng and blue algae, these wipes will have you feeling refreshed and smelling like an adult — instead of a baby. They kill 99.99% of bacteria in 60 seconds, are 4x thicker than baby wipes, and are biodegradable.
You don’t want to be told “you stink” like poor Slider from Top Gun. If you aren’t breaking a sweat, you aren’t working out. And if you are breaking a sweat, then you really should be bringing deodorant with you. BRAVO SIERRA’s deodorant is aluminum- and baking soda-free. It’s long lasting against odors and provides excellent sweat protection. As an added bonus, it’s stain free.
BRAVO SIERRA also lets you combine these products into awesome kits so you can bundle according to your needs. There is a starter set, an active set, a barber set, and a hygiene-ready set or you can just build your own!
Working out is fun. Working out hard is even more fun. But maintaining your health also is important on the outside as well. Skin and hair care go a long way and BRAVO SIERRA has the best products to get you there.
General of the Armies is a rank so high up in the strata of power that only two people in the history of the United States have ever attained it. Keep in mind: This is not General of the Army, it’s plural — all the Armies. Today, it is the equivalent of a six-star general with autonomous authority equal to the Admiral of the Navy, but senior to General of the Army, General of the Air Force, and Fleet Admiral.
How did one attain this an honor and the right to exercise complete control over our Armed Forces? Historically, you either win the War to End All Wars like John Pershing or be George Washington.
John J. Pershing graduated West Point in 1886 and was assigned to the 6th Cavalry. In 1890, he went on campaign against the Ghost Dance movement in the Dakota Territory before becoming an instructor of military science at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, a year later. He earned a law degree while teaching there in 1893 and became a tactics instructor at West Point in 1897.
Here is a quick timeline of his military career:
1898 — Pershing returned to service in the Spanish-American War in Cuba as an ordinance officer.
1899 (June) — Pershing was promoted to adjutant general in charge of the Bureau of Insular Affairs.
1899 (November) — Pershing deployed to the Philippines in command of the department of Mindanao.
1901 — Pershing campaigned against the Moros for two years.
1905 — Pershing deployed to Japan as a military attache to the U.S. Embassy.
1906 — Pershing is promoted from captain to brigadier general and returns to the Philippines as the governor of the Moro Province.
1917 — Pershing becomes the commander of the U.S.-Mexican Border.
1917 (April) — U.S. declares war on Germany.
1917 (June) — Pershing is sent to France to gather a ‘General Organization Report’ used to create an Army of one million by 1918 and three million by 1919. US Army strength is 84,000 at the time.
1918 — Pershing concentrates an army almost entirely independent of the allies on the Western Front.
The allies strongly advised that the U.S. troops replenish their failing armies instead of marshaling our own in WWI. Allowing this to come to pass meant Americans would be used as cannon fodder during enemy attacks. Pershing strongly defended the idea of keeping the U.S. Army whole, regardless of the desperation of our European allies. The U.S. War Council gave into allied pressure and recommended the amalgamation of U.S. troops into other armies.
Pershing ignored the recommendation. He refused to sacrifice American lives and left the allies to suck it up. It was akin, as he put it, to…
“Pouring new wine into old bottles.” – John J. Pershing
In 1919, recognizing his achievements and victory after World War I, Pershing became the first person to be promoted to General of the Armies. His insignia became four gold stars but, because of bureaucracy, they were not recognized as an official rank for years. He held this rank for the rest of his career. According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History,
“Pershing then retired from the United States Army on September 13, 1924, and retained his rank on the U.S. Army retirement rolls until his death in 1948.”
Years later, in 1976, Congress decided that it was inappropriate that General George Washington was outranked by four- and five-star generals in the nation’s history. Washington retired as a lieutenant ‘three-star’ general and was subsequently out ranked officers of the Civil War, WWI, and WWII, including General Pershing. Something had to be done. America could not allow George Washington to be out ranked — that’s borderline blasphemy — so they did something about it.
On March 13, 1978, Lieutenant General Washington was promoted to General of the Armies, effective July 4th, 1976.
Here’s the text of his posthumous, legislative promotion:
“Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War; Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution; Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list; Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.(b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.”
Besides getting physically trained to the bone by a demanding drill instructor, recruits in boot camp have another element that is feared and rarely talked about outside of the military — the “blanket party.”
A blanket party is a form of (mob) discipline that usually takes place in a military barracks setting, typically in an open bay.
Soap wrapped in a towel is a common tool to use during a blanket party. (Image via Giphy)We don’t condone taking part in blanket parties, but the idea is to coerce a shitty recruit back on the right track. Usually it brings a massive shitstorm of legal problems — no one wants that.
But before you step into the squad bay for the first time and subject yourself to the collective judgement of the team, here are some things to avoid so you’re never in a blanket party’s sights.
Recruits go through some tough times during their stay in basic training and alliances tend to form. Recruits always get in trouble in one way or another.
When a single person reports wrongdoing on a group of people or an individual, they might get payback in the form of a blanket party.
For not being a team player
One of the purposes of boot camp is to learn the power of teamwork. Rarely has a single person ever completed a mission by themselves. So when a recruit doesn’t pull his own weight, that can easily screw over the whole team.
If that person continually screws over everyone, that individual might get some unwanted attention after “Taps” gets played.
Being a consistent f*ck up.
In boot camp, when someone in the squad screws up, everyone gets punished. The drill instructors usually punish the whole squad bay for an individual’s mistake to teach the importance of teamwork.
It takes multiple times before someone earns a party, but after making several mistakes that affect everybody — without a glimpse of positive production — recruits tend to take matters into their own hands.
Like we said before, alliances tend to develop in boot camp. Most of the time they form around where your bunks are located. Getting along with others is essential in any industry. In the military, troops have commonly sacrificed their lives to save their brothers. You rarely commit your life to someone you don’t respect.
So in a world where recruits are trained to defend themselves and our country as a team, the guy that can’t make friends tends to suffer.
Again, we can’t stress this enough, We Are The Mighty absolutely does not condone blanket parties…but in the past they have sometimes been a huge “wake-up call” for someone on the receiving end.
It’s peak hurricane season, as Hurricane Dorian has been reminding us.
But Dorian isn’t the only strong storm swirling: Four cyclones churned over the oceans this week. On Sep. 4, 2019, they lined up for a satellite camera.
The GOES 16 satellite, operated by that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with help from NASA, captured the above image of the Western Hemisphere on Sep. 4, 2019. It shows Hurricane Juliette, Tropical Storm Fernand, Hurricane Dorian, and Tropical Storm Gabrielle lined up across the globe.
At the time the photo was taken, Juliette in the East Pacific and Dorian in the Atlantic were Category 2 hurricanes. Fernand and Gabrielle were tropical storms with sustained wind speeds 45 mph and 50 mph, respectively.
Labeled image of the chain of tropical cyclones lined up across the Western Hemisphere on Sep. 4, 2019.
The image shows 2 hurricanes and 2 tropical storms
Dorian made a record-tying landfall in the northwestern Bahamas on Sep.1, 2019, as a Category 5 hurricane with 185-mph sustained winds. It ground to a halt on Sep. 2, 2019, flooding islands with a wall of water up to 23 feet high, ripping buildings apart with wind gusts as strong as 220 mph, and killing at least 23 people.
In the NOAA image, Dorian can be seen traveling north along Florida’s east coast, towards Georgia and the Carolinas. Since then, it has brought heavy rains and flash floods, lashed the southeastern US coast with powerful winds, caused tornadoes, and even caused bricks of cocaine to wash up on a beach. One man was reported dead in North Carolina after falling off a ladder while preparing for the storm.
Tropical Storm Fernand, meanwhile had just made landfall over northeastern Mexico at the time of this satellite image. The storm caused heavy rainfall, with a threat of flash flooding and mudslides, but it has since dissipated.
Hurricane Juliette has stuck to the open ocean in the East Pacific, and is expected to weaken over the next few days.
Tropical Storm Gabrielle has wandered harmlessly through the open Atlantic, and on Sep. 5, 2019, was “struggling to maintain thunderstorms near its center,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.
Hurricane Dorian moves slowly past Grand Bahama Island on Sep. 2, 2019.
An above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic
NOAA recently revised its forecast for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season — it now projects a 45% chance that this year will see above-average activity. That could mean five to nine hurricanes in the Atlantic, with two to four of those expected storms becoming major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above, with winds greater than 110 miles per hour).
On average, the Atlantic sees six hurricanes in a season, with three developing into major hurricanes (defined as Category 3 or above). Hurricane season peaks in August through October, with especially high activity around September 10. The season ends November 30.
Hurricane category numbers don’t necessarily indicate the full destructive power of a storm, however, as they’re based solely on wind speeds. In Hurricane Dorian’s case, the storm has traveled slowly, so its effects have been prolonged.
Slower, wetter storms like this are becoming more common as the planet warms. Over the past 70 years or so, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, a 2018 study found.
Dorian is now the fifth hurricane to reach Category 5 over the past four hurricane seasons in the North Atlantic. In the last 95 years, there have been only 35 Category 5 hurricanes in the North Atlantic, so this frequency of strong storms is far above average.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
If anyone can save the planet, it’s Rudy Reyes, a specops veteran who is changing the definition of what it means to be a warrior.
Reyes served with the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in both Iraq and Afghanistan before engaging in a counter-terror contract for the Department of Defense, training African wildlife preserver rangers in anti-poaching missions, and writing the book Hero Living, which chronicles his warrior philosophy and teaches others how to follow it.
Now, as the co-founder of FORCE BLUE, Reyes and his team unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both.
And they’ve just completed a very critical mission: the study of juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys.
It might not seem like a big deal — but it is.
According to the trailer for their new documentary Resilience, “The sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of the planet.”
Check out the rest of the trailer right here:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JZ1jNgtPu/ expand=1]FORCE BLUE on Instagram: “PLEASE REMEMBER to join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8:00 p.m. EST on Facebook for the world premiere of our short film RESILIENCE. And…”
On Aug. 15, at 8:00pm EDT, FORCE BLUE will premiere Resilience, the story of their recent mission. During the study period in June, FORCE BLUE veterans helped collect samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys in order to improve green turtle conservation and recovery efforts.
“These sea turtles are the oldest living creatures on the planet, yet —through no fault of their own — they’re locked in a battle just to survive. We owe them our support. The same can be said, I think, for our FORCE BLUE veterans and the warrior community they represent,” said Jim Ritterhoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of FORCE BLUE.
That’s the genius of FORCE BLUE, a non-profit that seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapid declining health of our planet’s marine resources and the difficultly combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life. Consisting of a community of veterans, volunteers, and marine scientists, the organization offers veterans the power to restore lives — and the planet.
“We were all in the hunter warrior mindset yet we were hunting to protect and to study and to treat,” said Reyes. It’s not exactly what one might expect from a community known for watering the grass with “blood blood blood.”
“It almost feels like the turtles know they are going through a crisis too, just like us. And now we have a chance to do something for them. That means everything,” shares Reyes.
Reyes is a man who has emerged from the battlefield with the desire to improve the world. The first time I met him, I said I’d heard a rumor that he could kill me with his little finger. He immediately and passionately corrected me: “I could SAVE you with my little finger!”
That told me everything I needed to know about him — because both statements are true, but what Reyes chooses to do with his power is what makes him a leader within the military community and a force for good in this world.
It could be argued that the one persistent challenge faced by the Air Force over its 70-year history is how to best integrate Airmen with cutting-edge technology.
Most pressing, from the earliest days of aviation, was the need to protect the human body from the potentially deadly forces generated by advances in aircraft speed, maneuverability and altitude capabilities.
Even in the pre-Air Force days leading up to WWII, altitudes were being achieved that necessitated aircraft with oxygen systems to keep pilots and crews coherent and alive during missions. This was closely followed by the development of aircraft with a pressurized fuselage, such as the B-29, which allowed crews to fly high-altitude missions without oxygen masks and cumbersome heated flight suits to protect them from sub-zero temperatures.
The advent of the jet age led to ever increasing altitudes and gravitational forces (G-forces) on the pilot, necessitating the development of G-suits to push blood to the pilot’s brain, minimizing blackouts, and ejection seats to allow pilots to safely escape aircraft operating at high speed and altitude.
The testing of these technologies quickly became the public face of the Air Force’s human performance research and human factors engineering.
Baby Boomers routinely saw newsreel films and photos in magazines of researchers testing ways to protect pilots from the effects of high G-forces and altitudes with rocket sleds, centrifuges, atmospheric chambers and even balloons used in Project Excelsior as an Airman, Col. Joseph Kittinger, protected by a pressure suit, made a free-fall jump from 19 miles above the Earth’s surface.
It was physiological research necessary to keep advancing the Air Force’s capabilities in the air, and later, in space. But it also made for good theater for the public.
However, from the very beginnings of the Air Force, there has been concurrent, less theatrical study of another interface between humans and their machines that has been just as ground breaking; that between the machine and the human brain.
It is research that is pivoting from an emphasis on optimizing tools for use by Airmen to creating technologies that will work with Airmen, as a partner.
Cognitive research by the Air Force began with an issue created by the U.S.’s enormous production output during WWII: lack of uniformity between aircraft cockpits and displays.
“There wasn’t such a thing as a standard cockpit configuration and aviators were confusing things like landing gear and putting flaps down,” said Dr. Morley Stone, the Chief Technology Officer for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. “Of course, that was leading to a variety of mishaps … Really, that gave birth to the whole field of human factors engineering.”
Lt. Col. Paul Fitts led the research team at Wright Patterson AFB that developed a consistent method for laying out an aircraft cockpit and instruments allowing a pilot to quickly and efficiently comprehend the current state of the aircraft. They also developed methods to manipulate controls more reliably, no matter the airframe.
The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider. ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH
“That key research that occurred here at Wright-Patterson (AFB), as well as elsewhere, enabled the standardization of the key instrumentation needed to fly an aircraft,” said Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the AFRL. “It’s called a T-scan pattern. Pilots quickly learned the T-scan to rapidly ascertain if their aircraft is doing they want it to do. That became the standard for decades.”
However as new weaponry, on-board radars, sensors, communications and command and control technologies were added to airframes, pilots and crews quickly became overwhelmed by too much information for the human brain to process efficiently, a condition that pilots call a “helmet fire.”
“A key milestone, which was really significant, was the introduction of the glass cockpit,” said Draper. “Over several decades of just adding more controls and hardware instruments here and there, the real estate became really limited.”
“If we were able to put in computer monitors, if you will, into the cockpit, we would be enabling the re-using of that real estate. We could tailor the information towards a particular mission or phase of flight. The controls and the displays could be changed. That opened up a wealth of opportunity to not only provide more capability to the pilot, but also to enable the introduction of graphics into cockpits to make the information more easily understood and utilized.”
These concepts advanced by human factors engineering at AFRL has led to further research making the workflow of Airmen in many career fields more efficient and has even crossed over into the public sector.
According to Stone, this type of research led to everything from the development of the mouse, optimizing how a person inputs information into a computer, to eye-tracking studies to analyze how Airmen best recognize and utilize intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance information displayed on a monitor, to wearable devices that can measure a human’s current physical state, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.
Yet for all of these advances in streamlining interfaces and presenting data in more digestible packets on ergonomic displays, the limits of human cognition still present an ubiquitous obstacle for the future Air Force to efficiently integrate main and machine.
Stone and Draper believe one way to scale this obstacle is to enable Airmen to share some of their workload with a partner – a silicon-based partner. Draper and his team at the Human Autonomy Lab at the AFRL focus on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence as we move into the future.
“Seventy years into the future, we’ll still be limited by the fact that we have a very limited short-term memory, we get bored easily, we’re not known to just sit there and stare at one place for a long period of time. That’s why our eyes move a lot,” said Stone. “We’re looking at a whole variety of tools, not just wearable sensors, but other types of non-invasive standoff sensors that look at things like heart rate and respiration and other physical cues … and trying to get that information out in such a way that you can make it readable to that future synthetic teammate.”
These sensors, coupled with ever increasing computing capabilities, could lead to Airmen of 2087 routinely conducting missions with a synthetic partner that will not only shoulder some of the workload, but constantly monitor the carbon-based Airman’s physical, mental and emotional state before recommending mission options.
“Computational power is getting ever more powerful. Also, computational power is becoming more miniaturized, so you can start putting it more places,” said Draper. “At the same time, you’re increasing the reasoning capabilities of the machines to collect domain knowledge, assess the conditions and create courses of action.”
“We have sensors becoming very miniaturized and able to sense the human physiology without even being attached to the human,” Draper added. “In a vision of the future, Artificial Intelligence can serve to continually monitor the human while the human is engaged in various tasks, and then dynamically adapt the interaction with the machinery, the interaction with the environment, and the off-loading of tasks. All with the express purpose of better team performance.”
According to Draper, one of the Air Force’s first forays into the realm of operational autonomous computing was the introduction of flight management systems into cockpits during the 1980s.
“Up until then, you had pre-planning and the pilots did all the navigation with a navigator,” said Draper. “Then they introduced a flight management system, which would automatically generate routes … give you the waypoints all the way from point A to point B. However, the initial design of these systems was less than great and we ran into lots of problems, lots of mishaps. This inspired research in order to better design how humans interact with automation which is critical, especially when we start talking about increasingly intelligent systems that are going to be introduced to future military systems.”
These initial steps were the beginning of a slow gradation from applying of autonomous systems as advisors, to allowing them to shoulder some mission requirements, to a possible future of handling some tasks on their own.
“The Air Force in its history has focused very strongly on the cockpit and crew stations for aircraft. However, where we’re going is expanding well beyond the cockpit,” said Draper.
“The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider … We want to reduce the overall workload associated with the Airmen, but the Airmen still retain key decision making authority.”
The key ingredient in a symbiosis between carbon-based and silicon-based Airmen is the development of trust.
Consider the amount of trust you have that your consumer grade GPS or cellular navigation system will correctly plot the best route to your destination and give you timely cues to execute that route. This is the bridge that must be designed and optimized between Airmen and their synthetic counterparts.
“As autonomy becomes more trusted, as it becomes more capable, then the Airmen can start off-loading more decision-making capability on the autonomy, and autonomy can exercise increasingly important levels of decision making,” said Draper. “That’s a migration you slowly incorporate as you unleash autonomy, as its capability dictates, and then you reel it back in when you need to, when your trust in it drops and you know that you need to become more engaged, you tighten the leash. The Airman and machine will share decision making, and at times one or the other takes the lead depending on the particular context.”
Draper said this trust will be achieved by a paradigm designed with a series of checks and balances, where Airmen can override an autonomous decision and Artificial Intelligence can sense an Airman’s fatigue, stress or miscalculation and suggest an alternative course of action.
“Humans make errors too, right? We all know this,” said Draper. “We should have an almost equivalent Artificial Intelligence looking at overall system performance, telling the aiman, ‘Hey, human! What you’re doing here potentially can really disrupt some complex things. Do you really want to do that?'”
Draper believes autonomous systems will never be given the keys to the kingdom and turned loose to execute missions completely on their own without human management and authorization. There will always be an Airman in the loop working with technology, to do the right thing. The nature and level of Airman engagement will change with new technology, but the critical role of the Airman, as supervisor, teammate, overseer, will persist.
“Imagine a perfect assistant with you while you work on a car. You’re struggling and you’re switching between many different tasks. All the while, you have this intelligent assistant that is constantly supporting you; reaching and moving tools out of your way and bringing in new tools when you need it, or showing you pictures and giving you computer readouts of the engine at exactly the right time. That sort of symbiotic tight-synced relationship between humans and autonomy is what I envision 70 years from now. True teammates,” said Draper.
In September 1940, World War II was a year old. The US was still a noncombatant, but it was preparing for a fight.
That month, the US introduced the Selective Training and Service Act — the first peacetime draft in US history. Mobilizing the millions of troops was a monumental task and essential to deploying “the arsenal of democracy” that President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to provide.
Inducting millions of civilians and turning them into effective troops — and keeping them happy, healthy, supplied, and fighting — was also a daunting challenge.
In order to find the best way to do that, the War Department mounted an opinion survey, polling nearly a half-million soldiers stationed all around the world throughout the war. Their uncensored responses, given as the war was being fought, are an unprecedented window into how those troops felt about the war, the military, and their role in both.
“Entirely too much boot-licking going on,” one soldier wrote. “Some sort of a merit system should be instituted.”
“Spam, Spam, Spam. All I dream about is Spam,” wrote another.
(National Archives photo)
In an email interview, Edward Gitre, a history professor at Virginia Tech whose project, The American Soldier in World War II, has compiled tens of thousands of responses to those surveys, explained why the Army sought the unvarnished opinions of its soldiers and what those opinions revealed.
Christopher Woody: Why did the War Department conduct these surveys? What did it want to find out about US troops and how did it want to use that information?
Gitre: Henry Stimson, the aged Secretary of War, outright barred the polling of US troops when one of the nation’s leading pollsters, Elmo Roper, first pitched the idea in spring 1941. The War Department was not in the habit of soliciting the “opinions” of foot soldiers.
Yet an old friend of the Roosevelt family, Frederick Osborn—who had already helped to institute the country’s first peacetime draft in 1940—quietly but effectively made the case.
Chiefly, he convinced Stimson and other leery officers that surveys would be for their benefit. Surveys would provide them information for planning and policymaking purposes. Allowing and encouraging GIs to openly air their “gripes” was not part of Osborn’s original pitch.
When George C. Marshall became chief of staff in 1939, he compared the US Army to that of a third-rate power.
With the passage of the draft in 1940, the War Department would face the monumental challenge of rapidly inducting hundreds of thousands, then after Pearl Harbor millions of civilians. Most lacked prior military experience. But this new crop was also better educated than previous generations of draftees, and they came with higher expectations of the organization.
The surveys, then, would help address a host of “personnel” issues, such as placement, training, furloughs, ratings, so on and so forth.
The civilian experts the Army brought in to run this novel research program were embedded in what was known as the Morale Branch. This outfit, as the name suggests, was tasked with shoring up morale. These social and behavioral scientists had to figure out, first, how to define morale, and, second, how to measure it.
Some old Army hands insisted that morale was purely a matter of command, that it was the byproduct of discipline and leadership. But reporting indicated pretty clearly that morale correlated to what soldiers were provided during off-duty hours as well, in terms of recreation and entertainment.
To address the latter, the War Department created an educational, recreational, welfare, and entertainment operation that spanned the globe. The numbers of candy bars and packages of cigarettes shipped and sold were accounted for not in the millions but billions.
If you were coordinating the monthly global placement of, say, two million books from best-sellers’ lists, wouldn’t you want to know something about soldier and sailor preferences? A whole class of survey questions were directed at marketing research.
Woody: What topics did the questions cover, and what kind of feedback and complaints did the troops give in response?
Gitre: The surveys administered by the Army’s Research Branch cover myriads of topics, from the individual food items placed in various rations, to the specific material used in seasonal uniforms, to the educational courses offered through the Armed Forces Institute.
A soldier might be asked a hundred or more multiple-choice and short-answer questions in any one survey. They would be asked to record more their behaviors, insights, and experiences related to service directly. They were asked about their civilian lives as well, including their previous occupation, family background, regional identity, religion, and education. This information could be then correlated with other military and government records to provide a more holistic picture of the average American GI.
One of this research outfit’s most reliable “clients” was the Army’s Office of Surgeon General. The quality and effectiveness of medical and psychiatric care had wide implications, not least in terms of combat readiness. The Surgeon General’s office was interested in more than the care it provided. Soldiers were asked about their most intimate of experiences—their sexual habits and hygiene among them.
Administered in August 1945, Survey #233 asked men stationed in Italy if they were having sex with Italian women, and, if so, how frequently; did they pay for sex, how did they pay, did they “shack” up, use a condom and if not why not, drink beforehand, and did they know how to identify the symptoms of an STI? The battle against venereal diseases knew no lines of propriety.
The Research Branch surveyed or interviewed a half-million service members during the war. The answers they received were as varied as one can imagine, though there were of course common “gripes,” which the old Army hands could have easily ticked off without the aid of a cross-sectional scientific survey.
Yet the scope WWII military operations and the influx of so many educated civilians did create innumerable challenges that were often novel.
But from the soldier’s perspective, it should not come as a shock that so many of them might have taken to heart the premise of the US’s involvement in the war, that the US was committed to defending democracy, and alone if necessary.
Respondent after survey respondent demanded, then, that the US military live up to the principles of democracy for which they were being called to sacrifice. And so, they savaged expressions of the old Regular Army’s hierarchical “caste” culture wherever they saw it, but especially when it frustrated their own hopes and ambitions.
They wanted, in the parlance of the day, “fair play” and a “square deal.” They wanted to be respected as a human being, and not treated like a “dog.”
Woody: The US military drew from a wide swath of the population during WWII. How do you think that affected troops’ perception of the war, of military and civilian leadership, and of what the troops themselves wanted out of their service?
Gitre: The WWII US Army is known as a “citizen soldier” army (as opposed to a professional or “standing” army). It was also at the time described as a “peacetime army.” Compulsory service was passed by Congress in September 1940, roughly 15 months prior to Pearl Harbor. Military conscription was from its inception a civil process.
Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.
(U.S. Navy photo)
That year-plus gap had a deep and lasting impact on how the War Department approached the rapid expansion of US forces. Just the same, it also shaped the expectations of Americans who were called to serve—as well as of their family members and loved ones, and the wider public.
The success of the Selective Service System would depend on the state in which the Army returned soldiers back to civil life. They would need to feel that they had gained something from the military, in the form of skill training or more education.
“In a larger sense [compulsory military training] provides an opportunity to popularize the Army with our people which is essential for an efficient fighting force,” the secretary of war said. “Maintenance of a high military morale is one of the most important contributing factors to good public morale,” he continued.
This view filtered down into the ranks. Sailors and soldiers expected to receive useful training and additional education. They also believed the military would put the skills, experiences, and practical know-how they already possessed as civilians to good use.
Woody: Was there anything in the troops’ responses that surprised you?
Gitre: What has surprised me most, I think, are the many remarks not about command and leadership but race.
We know that leaders of and activists in the black community pressed the War Department and Roosevelt administration to confront the nation’s “original sin” and strike down legal segregation. How otherwise could the US claim to be a champion of democracy while systematically denying the rights of a population that was liable, as free white citizens were, to compulsory service?
Black leaders embraced the V-shaped hand signal that was flashed so often to signify allied Victory, and they made it their own, calling for “Double V” or double victory: that is, victory abroad, and victory at home.
Participants in the Double V campaign, 1942.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Surveys from black soldiers demonstrate in rather stark terms how pervasively this message took hold among the rank and file. African Americans were especially well attuned to and critical of the military’s caste culture and to its reinforcement of white supremacy.
It is especially jarring, then, to read commentaries from soldiers defending the continuation of white male supremacy. Not only did some of these respondents opine on the virtues of segregation and the inferiority of blacks. A whole host of them objected likewise to women in uniform.
But undoubtedly the most shocking responses are those that espouse naked anti-Semitism. These cut against the grain of our collective memory of the American GI as liberator of the German death and concentration camps. Statements of these sort are rare. Yet they exist.
Woody: What’s your biggest takeaway from these surveys about troops’ feelings about the war and their attitudes toward the military?
Gitre: When I first encountered these open-ended responses, I was almost immediately captivated by how similarly white and black soldiers wrote about equity in the military. These two populations sometimes used the same exact phrasing.
For so many black soldiers, military service presented itself as an opportunity to break the shackles of structural inequality. They pleaded for merit-based assignments, postings, and promotions. You can flip over to surveys written by white enlisted men and you can see them wrestling with the same involuntary constraints arising from their own submission. They vigorously protested being treated like a “dog,” or a “slave.”
The leveling effect of military service was profound — and not simply for the individual soldier, psychologically. The survey research Osborn’s team conducted on race, merit, and morale demonstrated that not only were black soldiers just as effective in combat, but that the proximity of black and white troops in combat situations improved race relations, instead of destroying morale, as had long been feared. This research fed the 1947 Executive Order 9981 desegregating the US armed forces.
That brings us back to that 1940 peacetime decision to make military service compulsory as a civic duty. You can’t overestimate its significance. This isn’t a plea for compulsory military service. Yet as I continue to read these troop surveys, I am confronted daily by the prospect that we are losing the hard-won insights and lessons of a generation that is passing into its final twilight.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Smoking cigarettes has been a popular pastime among troops since the very first line formed at the armory. Everybody, both civilian and service member alike, has their reason for smoking, but one thing is consistent between the two crowds — flipping one cigarette upside down and saving it for last.
This last cigarette is referred to as the “lucky cigarette” and it’s considered bad luck to smoke it before the others in the pack. People all over the internet have speculated at the origin of this superstition, but it’s very likely that it all started with troops in WWII — and the Lucky Strike brand cigarettes they used to get in their rations.
So, if you’ve ever wondered why your veteran friend saves a single, specific cig for last, here are the best explanations we’ve found:
(U.S. Marine Corps)
World War II
In WWII, troops would get Lucky Strike cigarettes in their rations and each cigarette was stamped with the brand’s logo. It’s believed that those fighting either in Europe or the Pacific would flip every cigarette in the pack except for one. That way, when a troop sparked one, they’d burn the stamp first (this was before the days of filtered cigarettes).
That way, if a troop had to drop the cigarette for any reason, the enemy couldn’t quickly determine the country of origin — any identifying mark was quickly turned to ash. The last cigarette was the only exception — and if you survived long enough to smoke it, you were considered lucky.
U.S. Marine Corps LVTP-5 amphibious tractors transport 3rd Marine Division troops in Vietnam, 1966.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Some swear that this tradition comes from the Vietnam War.
By this point, filtered cigarettes were becoming the norm, so you could only smoke ’em one way. Still, the tradition remained largely intact. Instead of flipping every cigarette on end, troops would invert a single one and, just as before, if you lived long enough to smoke it, you were a lucky joe.
Hopefully you can quit when you get out.
In either case, having a “lucky cigarette” in your pack has since become a universal superstition.
Whether you’re in the military or not, flipping that one cigarette is considered good luck, even when your life isn’t in immediate danger.
This time, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, didn’t have to create gruesome imagery of animals secretly being hurt or mistreated to get people’s attention. The Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus did it for them. And there’s nothing secret about it.
Every year, United States Marines and Thailand’s Marines take part in a blood-drinking ritual as part of the annual Cobra Gold joint training exercise. Thai troops conduct a ceremony in which a king cobra snake is beheaded and its blood is shared among the participants.
The photos prompted members of PETA to protest the treatment of king cobra snakes in front of Thailand’s embassy to the United States in Washington and in front of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s house.
Drinking the cobra’s blood is more than just a source of cool photos of United States Marines, it’s taught to the Marines by the Thai armed forces as part of its jungle survival training. The blood of the cobra, they say, can be used as an alternate source of hydration when water isn’t available or isn’t clean enough for drinking.
PETA has been protesting the use of cobras (and geckos, chickens and insects) in the exercise ever since it discovered that the exercise existed. Cobra Gold is the largest military training exercise in Southeast Asia, and the joint U.S.-Thai exercise covers interoperability, disaster response and other military operations between the two countries.
The 39-year-old exercise is conducted in and around Thailand, but often has many other partners and observer nations. The coming exercise will include live-fire exercises, land-mine reduction, and other simulated war games.
It’s not just an important military exercise, it’s also a partnership-building exercise. Many different nations have joined Cobra Gold, either as participants or observers. China became an observer in 2015 and Burma joined the exercise for the first time in 2016.
But PETA isn’t targeting the exercise itself, just the part where the Thai soldiers tame, kill and drink the blood of a king cobra and other wild animals as part of the exercise. The organization calls it unnecessary, and a zoonotic disease vector “on par with COVID-19.”
PETA also has a problem with the way Marines and Thai troops are taught to kill the animals they eat for survival, claiming the method of killing chickens isn’t approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and that geckos should be killed by blunt force trauma, among other issues.
Photos of the Cobra Gold exercise and of United States Marines drinking cobra’s blood have been public since long before PETA first learned about the event in 2020. That seems to bother the organization just as much.
“The fact that the general public was able to see footage of our U.S. Marines taking part in something so cruel set this apart,” said PETA Associate Director Ashley Byrne, who may not have ever actually met a Marine. “I don’t think that this reflects the values that we want associated with our country.”
On top of the protests, PETA filed a petition for rulemaking with the Department of Defense to eliminate the unnecessary killing of animals as part of Cobra Gold. In the petition, the organization offers an alternative to Thailand’s jungle survival training, which includes “instructional books and videos created by former military survival instructors, interactive video programs, and a focus on non-animal sources of sustenance.”
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony
Top video game players are currently playing for a pool of almost $25 million’s worth in prizes in a game called DOTA 2, but one event that will take place on the main stage will be the most public display yet of a growing technology that will likely re-shape warfare in the way that the maturation of gunpowder or military aviation once did.
A team of artificial intelligence bots from OpenAI will take on a team of five professional human players and the AI will likely win. It will likely be the closest thing AI gets to a Billy Mitchell bombing the Ostfriesland moment.
The details of the game aren’t super important for this discussion, but you can read about it here if you care. Basically, the game is much more complex than the board games that AIs have been taking on in the last few years, and requires a much more complex system of evaluations and executions to win against humans, especially in team play.
Fans watch the proceedings during the 2014 DOTA 2 invitational.
So, what does this all have to do with war? OpenAI doesn’t exist to win video games. It’s a nonprofit started by big names like Elon Musk in order to advance safe AI (Artificial intelligence restricted to working for the benefit and safety of humans). In fact, most of OpenAI’s projects have nothing to do with video games. They just use DOTA 2 as a flashy way to get and keep people interested in their AI work.
What OpenAI really cares about is fueling breakthroughs in AI research and development for use in everything from managing cities to controlling factories. And while they don’t pursue military research, it’s not hard to see how a computer that can control a mage throwing fireballs across a digital battlefield might be taught how to control cruisers firing artillery shells across the water.
Other researchers have already created an AI that can outperform humans in small aerial dogfights. If an AI created with OpenAI’s deep-learning was aimed at that milestone, it could be expected to take on human opponents within a few months of creation, then win against teams within another year or less, and be able to dominate most human teams soon thereafter.
The U.S. Navy’s unmanned X-47B jet aircraft.
And that’s while we make the computer fly jets designed for humans and if it’s forced to treat its planes as assets it can’t sacrifice. But jets flown by humans don’t need to be constrained by the limits of the human body, meaning they can take tighter turns at higher speeds. And we don’t have to treat losing jets the same as we would losing jets with humans on board. The computer could treat them like DOTA 2 heroes: valuable, but ultimately disposable for the right gain.
And the U.S. and Chinese militaries, among others, know about these advantages of AI, and are pursuing AI technology for just that reason. And it won’t just apply to jets, but also submarines, armored vehicles, and potentially even infantry. After all, OpenAI has helped AIs train each other for controlling human-like bodies in everything from digital sumo matches to high winds.
So it’s easy to imagine that, in the next war, China and America will start turning more and more to their robot partners for help against their enemies, potentially each other.
For at least the next few decades, larger ships will still need human crews, which means that hundreds or thousands of sailors will still be at risk while fighting.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacques-Laurent Jean-Gilles)
But this will create an even more frightening change in warfare than aerial bombing did. Sailors and soldiers will be asked to go forward either knowing that the decision has been made by an unfeeling machine or knowing that there was a chance the decision was made by a machine, and that they will be fighting a mix of machines and humans.
And AIs will likely be better at strategic decisions eventually, but it will still carry an added moral weight for troops knowing that they aren’t executing the will of a senior human, but a robot.
But, of course, it won’t be all bad. In isolated areas with little need for humans to safeguard against collateral damage, entire battles could be fought with little or no human losses.
A U.S. Marine leads a robot on a simulated patrol.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kyle J. O. Olson)
Imagine a few decades into the future, one where robots can control warships and planes, submarines, and anti-aircraft guns. Now imagine the historic Battle of Midway where Japan lost five ships and 292 aircraft while suffering 2,500 casualties. The U.S. lost two ships and 145 aircraft while suffering 307 casualties.
Now, combine those two visions, a Battle of Midway where two of the world’s largest navies clash with almost no sailors having to fight at the front. Yes, the ships and planes would still be lost, and control of vast swaths of the world would still be decided by violent clashes, but the human sacrifice would be in the single or double digits.
And the victory for the winner will still be complete. After all, if the U.S. fleet survives at Midway, whether it is crewed by robots or humans, that’s still a physical fleet that can move towards the Japanese home islands.
So, yes, AI will almost certainly revolutionize warfare, and it will happen in the secrecy of classified labs until exploding into the open in a large war.
Until then, if you want to see the progress AI is making, watch the OpenAI Twitter and YouTube streams. Robots may prove their supremacy this week, if only in digital space…