Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission - We Are The Mighty
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Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

An unmanned US military space plane has landed at NASA’sKennedy Space Center following a mission lasting more than two years.


The , which looks like a miniature space shuttle, touched down May 7, causing a sonic boom as it landed on a runway once used for space shuttles which have been mothballed.

The sonic boom caused dozens of nearby residents to take to Twitter, with one saying her house “shook” and her dog had “gone into a frenzy”.

Exactly what the space plane was doing during its 718 days in orbit is not entirely clear, with the US Air Force saying the orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
The U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida May 7, 2017. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft that performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

The cost of the mission – the fourth and longest so far – is classified.

The Secure World Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the suggests intelligence-related hardware is being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.

At 29 feet-long and with a wingspan of 15 feet, the Boeing-built craft is about a quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.

This mission began in May 2015, when the plane set off from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

Its first mission was eight-months-long from April 2010, its second from March the following year lasted 15 months.

A third took off in December 2012 and ended after 22 months.

Another mission is scheduled later this year.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, sonic booms used to be common in the area during the 30 years of NASA’s manned space shuttle programme, with landings at the Kennedy Space Center preceded by a loud double boom.

But the last of those shuttles landed nearly six years ago.

There is also a type of rocket – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 – which produces sonic booms and these were last heard earlier this month.

But officials had refused to confirm the return date for the , so its arrival was not expected by residents.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and the US now plan to build a moon colony together

The U.S. and Russian space agencies have announced a new collaboration to build a space station orbiting the moon, a rare glimpse of bilateral cooperation amid bitter tension between Washington and Moscow.


NASA and Roscosmos said in statements released on September 27 that the two entities had signed an agreement to work together on a project that will eventually serve as a “gateway to deep space and the lunar surface.”

NASA has dubbed the long-term project the Deep Space Gateway, a multistage effort to explore, and eventually send humans, farther into the solar system.

The two countries’ space agencies will cooperate to build the systems needed for both the lunar-orbiting station and a base on the moon’s surface, Roscosmos said.

With tension at levels not seen since the Cold War, space exploration is one of the only areas in which the United States and Russia continue to cooperate.

Russia rockets and capsules bring astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, and Russian cosmonauts and U.S. astronauts work alongside one another on the orbiting station.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

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This is the insane training it takes to earn the Army Expert Infantryman Badge

Through the darkness, the Soldiers pushed forward toward their objective. Sweat was dripping off the chins of some, hitting the ground as each mile passed. This is only the beginning of earning the Army Expert Infantryman Badge.


Their rucksacks seemed heavier with each passing step, their helmets weighing down like lead covers on their heads. They had to complete a full 12 miles before their trek was done.

Once they reached their destination, there was one more task at hand: each Soldier had to treat a simulated casualty and carry him out on a litter.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
A Soldier with 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team drags a simulated casualty to the finish line of Objective Bull Dec. 15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Objective Bull was the final event of the Expert Infantry Badge testing, which was held Dec. 11-15. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Northrup)

This was the final event for the Expert Infantryman Badge testing that took place Dec. 11-15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Out of the 324 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team Soldiers who started the Expert Infantryman Badge testing, only 73 successfully completed all the required tasks and earned their Badge — making the attrition rate 78 percent.

“The test has evolved over the years,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Walter A. Tagalicud, the I Corps command sergeant major. “It certainly differs from the one I participated in to earn my EIB in 1989. But, the spirit and intent remain. There is no greater individual training mechanism to building the fundamental warrior skills required in our profession, than the EIB.”

There is a lot of train up to the EIB, said Spc. Tyler Conner, an infantryman with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. Even if a Soldier is not trying out for the EIB, the train up for the testing is valuable to see the right way of doing infantry tasks. When a Soldier finally earns the EIB, it shows that they have honed their skills enough to be called an expert infantryman.

The EIB evaluation included an Army Physical Fitness Test, with a minimum score of 80 points in each event; day and night land navigation; medical, patrol, and weapons lanes; a 12-mile forced march, and Objective Bull (evaluate, apply a tourniquet to and transport a casualty).

Also Read: These 3 soldiers fought their way back to the front lines after losing legs

“These crucial skills are the building blocks to our battle drills and collective gates,” Tagalicud said. “The Expert Infantryman Badge is as much about the training, leading up to and through the testing, as it is about proving your mettle.”

“Earning the EIB was one of the best experiences I had in the Army,” said Sgt. Wilmar Belilla Lopez, a Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. “Being tactically and technically proficient is the core of being a Soldier. When a Soldier earns their EIB, it signifies they have achieved a level of proficiency all Soldiers should strive for.”

“The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, ‘Out of every 100 men, 10 shouldn’t even be there, 80 are just targets, 9 are the real fighters and we are lucky to have them – for they make the battle. But the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back,'” Tagalicud said while addressing the new EIB holders.

“You are that warrior. You Infantrymen, you Soldiers, you leaders, and candidates are the one in a hundred,” he said. “Many stepped forward to answer the question am I good enough. For you the answer in a resounding yes!”

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
A Soldier with 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team gets pinned his Expert Infantryman Badge after successfully completing the testing Dec. 15, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The number of candidates was 324 when testing began Dec. 11, but only 73 earned their badge on Dec. 15. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Northrup)

The Expert Infantryman Badge was developed in 1944 to represent the infantry’s tough, hard-hitting role in combat and symbolize proficiency in infantry craft.

For the first Expert Infantryman Badge evaluation, 100 noncommissioned officers were selected to undergo three days of testing. When the testing was over, 10 NCOs remained. The remaining ten were interviewed to determine the first Expert Infantryman.

On March 29, 1944, Tech. Sgt. Walter Bull was the first Soldier to be awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new recon helicopter might be on the chopping block

The Army has been looking for a new scout helicopter to replace the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior for over two decades. Between budget cuts and iffy cancellation decisions, a number of contenders, notably the RAH-66 Comanche and the ARH-70 Arapaho, have failed to make the cut. Now, the Army is hoping to get another chance to replace the Kiowa, which retired from U.S. Army service in 2017.

However, it’s looking like Congress may put the kibosh on putting any new birds in the sky.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Army’s desire to buy a new recon helicopter is being questioned by some on Capitol Hill. There are concerns surfacing about whether manned helicopters can survive on a modern battlefield full of advanced missiles and self-propelled guns. Currently, the Army is using AH-64 Apaches to fill the gap in reconnaissance capabilities left by the Kiowa’s retirement.

The Army has long planned to find a new scout/utility bird under the Future Vertical Lift program, but now it seems they’re looking to get results faster — and they’ve requested $75 million (couch-cushion money in the DOD budget) to do so. One of the reasons for the rush is that the Apache, as impressive as it is, is not exactly the best choice for recon.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

The OH-58 Kiowa Warrior was retired without a replacement — and the scouting mission got handed over to the AH-64 Apache.

(US Army)

Under the Future Vertical Lift program, one of the proposed Joint Multi-Role helicopters, the JMR-Light, is intended to be a scout/light-utility helicopter. One likely contender for that role, Lockheed’s S-97 Raider, has recently been cleared for full flight testing. The helicopter first flew in 2015 and can reach a blistering 220 knots, according to Lockheed Martin.

Although the S-97 is extremely capable, the Army has expressed a desire for a “pure” scout helicopter — Congress, however, citing the concerns mentioned earlier, don’t share that desire.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

The AH-64 Apache carries the same rocket pods and Hellfire missiles as the S-97 Raider, but it carries a lot of them.

(US Army)

The Raider is capable of using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, as well as 2.75-inch rocket pods and either a 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine gun. The Raider can transport up to six troops and has a range of 323 nautical miles. It can carry the fuel needed for almost three hours of sustained flight time.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

The ARH-70 Arapaho didn’t make the cut — one of several efforts to replace the OH-58 that failed,

(US Army)

The Raider is not the only experimental system being considered to fill a gap in recon capabilities. Bell is offering a family of tilt-rotor aircraft, including the V-280 Valor and the V-247 unmanned aerial vehicle. Other companies are also offering prototypes, seeking to get in on a contract that’ll likely be a massive financial windfall.

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ISIS wants you to know it has amusement parks, too

While many Westerners associate Islamic State propaganda with violence and beheadings, the terror group also likes to showcase its deceptively “softer” side to those within its territory in the Middle East, as a Vocativ analysis showed this week.


And given that their target audience is disaffected Sunnis living in war-torn Iraq and Syria, the plan is working.

Videotaped beheadings and action-packed fighting scenes might be effective recruitment tools for young people who are thinking about traveling to Syria to fight with the militants, but the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) knows that winning hearts and minds is just as important to its longevity.

Vocativ notes that “in the areas it already controls or is fighting to take over, almost half of what [ISIS] broadcasts has a positive theme to it. ‘Come to the Islamic State,’ is the message. ‘There is fun here, and food, and services.'”

ISIS markets itself as an Islamic utopia that can provide happiness and stability its residents. In addition to enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia law, ISIS sets up schools and consumer protection bureaus in the areas of Iraq and Syria it holds.

And apparently, ISIS also operates a mall and amusement park near Mosul, Iraq:

The above propaganda video shows children playing and residents talking about how much better life is now that ISIS has moved in and taken control of Mosul.

And it’s not just amusement parks — earlier this year, ISIS’ media wing announced that the group had re-opened a “luxury” hotel in Mosul.

The video makes no mention of the headless bodies that can also be seen in the streets of ISIS’ self-proclaimed “caliphate,” an aspirational Islamic empire that aims to unite the world’s Muslims under a single religious and political entity.

With its civil services and positive propaganda, ISIS seeks to build a sense of community within its caliphate. And given that many ISIS members are from disaffected Sunni communities, the group has a natural advantage over Westerners in uniform trying to win hearts and minds.

Recruiting with camaraderie

ISIS also uses positive propaganda, along with more brutal propaganda,  to bring in foreign fighters replenish their ranks on the battlefield.

In an extensive analysis of ISIS propaganda for the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation, Charlie Winter noted that the idea of belonging is “one of Islamic State’s most powerful draws to new recruits,” especially Westerners who are thinking of traveling to the caliphate.

“Through their regular publication of, for example, videos and photographic reports depicting istirāḥat al-mujāhidīn — fighters relaxing with tea and singing with each other — the propagandists emphasise the idea of brotherhood in the ‘caliphate,'” Winter wrote.

“The carefully branded camaraderie that one is absorbed into upon arrival in Islamic State-held territories is, as the propagandists would have their audiences believe, almost overwhelming.”

ISIS “recognize[s] that offers of friendship, security and a sense of belonging are powerful draws for its supporters abroad,” Winter wrote.

But ISIS doesn’t just want to attract fighters who are willing to die on the battlefield for their cause. They also see women and families as crucial to their long-term quest for dominance and control of territory.

In their recent book “ISIS: The State of Terror,” Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger noted that ISIS leadership says “hijrah (or emigration) to the land of Islam is obligatory” for all Muslims. They recruit doctors, administrators, engineers, scholars, and women who could marry future martyrs and bear their children.

“They’re the first terrorist group that aren’t interested in [just] fighters, they want families to come,” Patrick Skinner, director of special projects at The Soufan Group, told Vocativ. “They need women and children, they believe they have a state, they now need a future. A lot of people are going there just to live in the caliphate.”

The propaganda depicting bucolic settings and a fully functioning society is obviously false.

ISIS’ caliphate is extremely violent, and militants loot homes, tax residents heavily, and behead opponents. Some who have decamped for ISIS territory have desperately sought to return to their home countries after realizing that the reality on the ground is vastly different from the propaganda they saw online.

Nevertheless, ISIS is still seeing foreigners stream into their territory (many through the Turkish border), and the US is trying to come up with ways to counter the propaganda and come up with an effective counter-narrative.

Check out Vocativ’s full report

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Obama says climate change is a bigger threat than ISIS

The White House released Sept. 21 a new presidential memorandum that orders federal agencies — including the Pentagon and CIA — to devote its defense and intelligence resources to fighting the impact of global warming.


The Obama administration order comes on the heels of a recent report from an environmental group that climate change is a significant and growing threat to national security.

“Climate change and associated impacts on U.S. military and other national security-related missions and operations could adversely affect readiness, negatively affect military facilities and training, increase demands for Federal support to non-federal civil authorities, and increase response requirements to support international stability and humanitarian assistance needs,” Obama wrote. “The United States must take a comprehensive approach to identifying and acting on climate change-related impacts on national security interests, including by maintaining its international leadership on climate issues.”

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission
Mitchell Zuckoff, an author embedded with the Joint Recovery Mission – Greenland, signals to helicopter pilot Tom Andreassen, of Air Greenland, where to land near the nunatak on a glacier near Koge Bay, Greenland, Aug. 16, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta H. Disco.)

So what could the order mean for American troops and intelligence operators?

The military has faced several years of budget cuts, and several major programs, like the littoral combat ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, and the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, are having some real problems. The F-35 Lightning II is also having its teething problems (albeit those are resolving themselves).

A briefing document issued alongside the memorandum added that climate change is more of a threat to American security than cyber attacks or terrorism.

“For all the challenges and threats we face as a nation — from terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, from diseases like Ebola and Zika to Russian aggression in Ukraine — no threat is more terrifying in its global reach or more potentially destructive and destabilizing than climate change,” the memorandum said.

Despite painting the grim picture, the briefing, conducted by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Senior Advisor Brian Deese ended on a hopeful note.

“Just as we work to defeat any adversary before they have the ability to attack, we must similarly prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the briefing document says.

The move has drawn criticism from some. Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, said that the briefing document “reflects delusional group-think substituting for sound policy in the White House and Pentagon.”

“Preparations for bad weather and extreme events such as hurricanes are always prudent, but normal and even abnormal seasonal changes cannot be compared to deliberate attacks from armed human adversaries,” she said. “Furthermore, there is no way that our government or other governments can ‘mitigate’ dangerous weather, or even normal weather. It is unsettling to see high-level officials in the White House buying into narratives such as this.”

Alternate energy projects have been a priority in the Department of the Navy since President Obama took office in 2009. A Washington Free Beacon report last month noted that three of the major projects pushed by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus had not been cost-effective.

Donnelly also expressed concern that “the two documents appear to authorize a power grab on the part of unelected officials who would use ‘national security’ as an excuse to act upon unsupported theories of climate change.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier caught her second wind as a model/actress after battling cancer

Mylee Cardenas had a plan: stay in the Army until they told her to leave. But her dreams of becoming a career soldier were derailed by cancer. Instead, she found her second wind in life as a model and actress.


Without any money in the family to afford college, Mylee had intended to use the military to become a doctor, joining at seventeen as soon as she finished high school. Once she was in, however, her plan quickly changed to be a career soldier. She deployed to Northern Afghanistan, where her unit was responsible for all nine provinces in the region. However, while she was there, things changed.

When she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, she had every intention of defeating it and throwing herself straight back into the fight. The medical board reviewing her case had other ideas. After a lengthy process, she was declared unfit for duty, and retired due to both the breast cancer and severe combat-related PTSD.

She lost her uniform, which she considered her shield and strength overnight, but she gained so many new opportunities. Through motivational speaking, she was able to inspire people, especially veterans, around the country with her story. She now models, acts, and is a fitness coach on the side while she goes to school in the hopes of becoming a physical therapist.

Although she still comes home with the muscle memory of waiting for a phone call telling her she can return to duty, she now has other plans in place. While her circumstances of leaving the military were sad, she also came out with the feeling of suddenly being free.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.

The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.


Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.

The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.

(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)

“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.

Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.

“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”​

In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.

The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.

Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.

Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)

“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.

Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”

Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.

“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”

“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.

Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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Air Force approves incentive pay for airmen in Turkey

The Air Force recently approved incentive pay for Airmen assigned to Turkey, just months after a military coup prompted defense officials to suspend accompanied deployments there. The Pentagon had ordered Air Force dependents out of the country in March.


According to the Air Force Times, unaccompanied tours to Turkey will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months. Airmen will be given the option to extend their tours from 12 to 24 months with an incentive pay of $300 per month.

Air Force Personnel Command says that Airmen must apply for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay either prior to leaving their current duty station, within 30 days of arriving in Turkey, or “during their date eligible for return overseas forecast and initial vulnerable to move list windows.”

Airmen who have been in Turkey over 30 days may elect to extend their date eligible for return overseas, or DEROS, for 24 months past their current DEROS. Airmen who elect to accept Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay under these conditions will begin to collect the incentive pay on the first month of the 24 month extension, the service said.

All other Airmen who are eligible for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay, and accept it, will serve 24 months in Turkey and will begin receiving the incentive pay upon arrival in country.

The Air Force Times reports that civilians previously assigned in Turkey will automatically have their tours reduced from 24 months to 12 months, unless an extension is approved by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen civil unrest progress in recent years, with terror attacks and a failed coup in July. The country is host to a key airbase at Incirlik, which is critical to the coalition fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The Air Force Times reports that Airmen who find that this recent change in tour requirements presents a hardship for them may request a “home-base or follow-on assignment” and that the Air Force will consider cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis.

The changes to Turkey assignments do not impact personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Security Cooperation Organizations in Turkey.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why some military survival kits include condoms

Listen, condoms will save your life. You may not believe it, but the condom is a multipurpose force multiplier that does more than protect one’s little trooper from NBC threats during unarmed combat. The idea of having condoms isn’t even all that new, so this may be old news to many readers. Even the Army’s official survival handbook lists condoms as a necessary item for survival kits.

The reasons are many, and I’m going to list them without a single dick joke. Sorry.


Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Water.

Water is the number one reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a U.S. troop. Water is the number two reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a civilian. Condoms, of course, are designed to keep fluids in – and they are really, really good at it. When properly handled, a condom can carry two liters of water. Just tie it off with a stick and wrap it in a sock, and you’ve got yourself a durable water container.

You should probably use non-lubricated condoms for this purpose.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Tinder.

I don’t mean you should be using condoms just for the Tinder dating app (although you should definitely be using condoms if you’re on the Tinder dating app). A condom can carry a lot of flammable material and – as I mentioned – the condom is totally waterproof so it will keep your cotton, newspaper, Doritos, whatever you use as tinder, dry.

We use dryer lint.

Also, be advised that a condom will go up in flames faster than you’re going to be comfortable watching. You can use them as tinder themselves and will even start a fire.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Barrels.

Turns out condoms are good at protecting a rifle and a gun, whether you’re fighting or having fun. This is actually a fairly common use among survivalists who spend a lot of time outdoors. You may see (again, non-lubricated) condoms over the barrel of a weapon to keep mud, dirt, and water out. They even make little condoms for this purpose.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

First Aid.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the condom’s greatest strengths are its elasticity and waterproofing. You can use the condom as a crude tourniquet in case of injury, but you can also use it as a rubber glove to protect both yourself from blood-borne disease and protect your patient from whatever muck is on your grubby little hands.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran went from the Marine Corps to a successful photography career

Cedric Terrell exchanged a stable career in the Marine Corps to pursue his passion for photography. Now his efforts have resulted in growing name recognition and a footprint that stretches from coast to coast. In this Spotlight Series, Terrell focuses his lens on veterans who have separated and started their own careers in the entertainment industry.


Cedric joined the Marines during his junior year, and left for boot camp a week after he graduated. No gap year, no summer break. He didn’t even tell his mother he was joining until it was too late to stop him.

At the time in 2005, the situation in the Middle East was hairy and his friends and family had plenty of questions about why he wanted to go. Even though he knew what might be waiting for him, he had faith that everything would work out, and he would have his fellow Marines by his side through it all.

As a Marine security guard, his first station was in Beijing, China, where his love of photography began to develop. He bought his first camera, and he took more and more photos.

When he stepped out of the military in 2010, everyone around him once again wondered why he would move from a relatively routine life to photography, which offered no stability. He went to school first and used photography as a side gig, but it quickly became his main focus.

Garnering success, he put his attention into expanding his business and opening a studio. He especially loves working with veterans, because he can put his trust in them and they can trust him. They have a shared background, but are all working toward their own goals.

MIGHTY GAMING

5 little things that make you feel operator AF in ‘Far Cry 5’

With Far Cry: New Dawn coming soon, it’s tough not to get excited because we all know that the game is going to do the one thing for which the franchise is known: Dropping you into the middle of a f*cked-up situation and forcing you to shoot your way out of it. Of all the games in the series, Far Cry 5 is the best (so far) in doing exactly that, but goes a step even further in motivating us American players to uproot the local tyrant — it’s set in Montana, USA.

But the thing that Far Cry 5 does best is it makes you feel operator AF.


While there are plenty of things that we loved about this game, including the story and characters, the best feature is making you feel like some Special Forces operator on his way to show the antagonist, a religious cult leader named Joseph Seed, and his f’ed up family what that Zero Foxtrot life is all about.

Here are the features of the game that make it so:

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

You can even dress like one of your boots on the weekends.

(Ubisoft)

You get a choice in wardrobe…

…that includes 5.11 gear. That’s right — every geardo‘s favorite brand is featured in the game. But if there’s anything that makes you feel like an operator, it’s running around in plain clothes with a plate carrier and mag pouches to go give those cultists (known as “Peggies”) a piece of your mind.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Sometimes, it’s better to go it alone.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pilch)

Lone-wolf operations

On your own, you can infiltrate enemy camps and kill every single last one of them without any external support. Some camps can have up to fifteen enemies. You’ll go up against snipers, machine gunners, and flamethrowers. But like a true operator, you can do the whole thing with nothing more than a bow and some throwing knives.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Operators are used to being in small teams to take on large numbers of enemies.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew J. Bragg)

Small-unit operations

Instead, if you want to bring a team with you to spank the enemy and send a message, you can use the “Guns for Hire” feature and bring up to two others with you.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

Nothing like picking up one of these bad boys and going to town.

(Ubisoft)

The ability to use any weapon

In all honesty, it would be easier to provide a list of weapons you can’t use in the game. Like the best of them, you can pick up any weapon on the battlefield and use it to your advantage (and your enemies’ detriment). Anything from a small tree branch to a heavy machine gun is in your wheelhouse.

Mysterious Air Force space plane lands after 2-year mission

“It ain’t me, it ain’t me…”

(Ubisoft)

The ability to use any vehicle

You want to fly an airplane and drop warheads on foreheads? You can do that. You want to ride in a Huey to reap souls while blaring Fortunate Son? You can do that, too. In fact, there’s not a vehicle your character cannot use.

All things considered, by the end of the game, you’ll feel like growing out that nice operator beard and eating some egg whites.

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