65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY FIT

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Even before Italy locked down in response to the coronavirus, Alyssa Clark could tell something more severe was coming.

“It was probably mid-February where we started having [authorities say] if you’ve traveled in this region, you need to make sure that you are reporting where you’ve been … and if you have any fevers or coughs, reporting it,” said Alyssa, who until recently lived in Quadrelle, a town near the headquarters of US Naval Forces Europe-Naval Forces Africa in Naples, with her husband, Navy Lt. Codi Clark.


“We started to have a premonition that it was going to get a lot worse, and then Northern Italy was really slammed, and they started imposing pretty harsh restrictions on March 9,” which was the “last day of freedom,” Alyssa said in a May 22 interview.

Across Italy, authorities clamped down. As the country’s hospitals strained with patients, politicians confronted residents who disobeyed the stay-at-home orders.

“We could not walk, run, or travel in a car except to go to and from work or to and from the grocery store, and we had to carry papers with us,” Alyssa said. “We could be stopped by police at any time and be fined if we were not moving within those restrictions.”

Alyssa Clark running on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. (Courtesy photo)

A Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness specialist with Naval Support Activity Naples, Alyssa was the only one in her building at the military complex’s Capodichino location.

Isolation may have been important for public health, but for Alyssa, an ultra-marathoner who’s run everything from 32-milers to multi-day stage races of more than 150 miles, just sitting at home wasn’t appealing.

“I am a competitive ultra runner, and I always have a very set racing schedule. I had some big goals for this year and then everything started getting canceled,” Alyssa said. “So I was looking for the next project that I could take on.”

“I was toying with a few ideas and kind of randomly thought, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be interesting to try to run a marathon every day while we’re under lockdown?'”

‘Oh, this is a possibility’

The original plan was to run a marathon every day until people could run outside again. “Then I started looking up what the world record is for consecutive days running a marathon, and I started getting closer and closer to that and thinking, ‘Oh, this is a possibility.'”

For women, that record is 60 days straight. She ran the idea by Codi, who said it was “pretty feasible” for her. “And it just has continued to snowball,” Alyssa said.

Insider spoke to Alyssa just hours after she finished her 53rd marathon, another four- to five-hour hour outing on a small treadmill.

“We have an upstairs room that we don’t use very often, so it just has a couch and a TV that doesn’t really work,” Alyssa said. An open door let in sunlight and a Velcro sticker kept her iPad fastened to the treadmill so she could watch “easily digestible” shows like “Love is Blind” and “Too Hot to Handle.”

“Luckily I had an AC fan on me, and then I have my nutrition set up next to me and a water bottle,” Alyssa said. “Pretty basic, but it works.”

Staying energized was a challenge, especially for Clark, who has a compromised immune system. “I have ulcerative colitis,” Alyssa said. “I actually had my colon removed when I was 14. That’s a whole other story.”

Now gluten-free, Clark eats rice cakes with peanut butter and bananas before running and has gluten-free waffles while on the treadmill.

“I often eat snickers bars — it’s a very good source of energy and sugar,” Alyssa said. “Ultra-marathoners love drinking Coca-Cola, so oftentimes that will be a good pick-me-up.”

So is sugar-free Red Bull. “I actually did about one of those every marathon for quite a while,” she added.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Alyssa Clark on a run before lockdown. (Courtesy photo

Running marathons is taxing — running them on a treadmill even more so.

Alyssa is very specific about her shoes, using ones she trusts and that offer a lot of cushion. “I’ll rotate two pairs, and I’ll probably throw in another pair by the end, and I was using a couple of pairs to start. So I probably used three to four pairs of shoes.”

In addition to stretching, Alyssa said she uses lotion to help with recovery after running. “I’ve been starting to have a little bit of quad pain that I seem to have wrangled, but I’ve been icing that a bit,” she added.

Mentally, the trick to running long distances is not to think about the long distances, Alyssa said.

“I’m never sitting there thinking about the whole 26 miles when I begin. I’m thinking about at mile 8, I’m going to eat something. At mile 13, I’m going to have a Red Bull or something that is enjoyable,” she said. “Then, ‘Hey, I’m already halfway through.’ OK, I’m going to get to mile 16. Then I have 10 miles to go. That’s great. I can do that.”

“I also have a lot of external motivation from people reaching out to me saying that they’re going on runs, that they haven’t been on a run forever and I’ve been motivating them to get out, and also other people saying, you’re inspiring me to get healthier to keep going during this lockdown that’s really challenging, and so that really has helped me keep going when things get tough,” Alyssa added.

Marathon 61 and beyond

Days after speaking, Codi and Alyssa left Italy for the US and their next duty station, but Alyssa kept after the record, setting a goal of completing a marathon each day before midnight Italian time.

“We will be flying out on Tuesday [May 26] to go to Germany. So I will do one Tuesday morning before we leave, and then in Germany before we leave the next day I will do another one on the Air Force base, and then we’ll fly to Virginia,” Alyssa said.

“The next day I will run one in Virginia, and then we will drive to Charleston and I will run one or two in Charleston and then eventually we’ll get to Florida,” Alyssa added, praising her husband for helping make sure she could continue the runs during the move.

“The hard part with this is it’s not a 20-hour event or a 12-hour-a-day event. It’s only a four- to five-hour a day event,” Codi said in the May 22 interview. “So my job during this time has been to force her to attempt to stay in bed and put her feet up and do that kind of focus on recovery.”

Alyssa finished her 60th marathon in Norfolk, Virginia, on the last weekend of May. Marathon 61, and with it the unofficial women’s world record for consecutive days running a marathon distance, came the next day in Charleston, South Carolina. Marathon 62 followed amid protests across Charleston, Clark said in an Instagram post.

Marathon 63 came on Monday evening, after five days of travel, with the couple having finally reached their new duty station in Panama City Beach, Florida. Tuesday and Wednesday brought marathons 64 and 65.

Alyssa’s most recent marathons went the same way her first did: step after step, minute after minute.

“None of these happen by trying to jump into running 10 miles right away. It’s breaking it down, doing what you can, and being consistent. Consistency is the key to success,” Alyssa said when asked for advice to prospective marathoners.

But passion is important, and no one should feel compelled to take up long-distance running, she said.

“Find something you enjoy, because that’s way more important than forcing yourself to do something you don’t love. I love running. I get to do four hours of what I love every day, and that is incredible.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.


Articles

Why Iran’s favorite weapon is the cyber attack

In a piece written for The Cipher Brief, Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute details Iran’s weapon of choice for imposing its will on domestic and foreign threats alike — cyber attacks.


Eisenstadt, as well as experts contacted by Business Insider, say that Iran has a weak conventional military that couldn’t possibly hope to push around stronger countries. For that reason, cyber attacks represent the perfect weapon.

Related: US may have to consider firing on Iranian boats after latest attack

Cyber attacks are cheap, ambiguous, hard to pin on any one actor, and almost completely without precedent when it comes to gauging a military response.

Cyber attacks allow Iran “to strike at adversaries globally, instanta­neously, and on a sustained basis, and to potentially achieve strategic effects in ways it cannot in the physical domain,” writes Eisenstadt.

Unlike the US, which wields nuclear weapons and the world’s finest military, Iran relies on its ability to potentially wreak havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping routes, its funding of terrorist organizations, and its arsenal of ballistic missiles to deter attacks, according to Eisenstadt.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
“Hack those guys over there.” | Creative Commons photo by Mohammad Sadegh Heydari

However, Tehran cannot hold the Strait of Hormuz in an outright confrontation, its terrorist allies have become increasingly vulnerable and targetable by world powers, and if Iran ever used a ballistic missile, it would soon find itself on the receiving end of a blistering counter attack.

Therefore cyber attacks give Iran a fourth kind of deterrence, one which the US has repeatedly failed to punish. Indeed, cyber attacks are new territory, and the US still hasn’t found an appropriate and consistent way to deal with cyber attacks, whether those attacks come in the form of Russian meddling in the US election, North Korea’s hack of Sony, or China’s stealing valuable defense data.

Eisenstadt addresses this lack of US response as a “credibility gap,” which the US must somehow fill.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the 3rd Infantry Division is called ‘Rock of the Marne’

The 3rd Infantry Division, then known simply as the 3rd Division, was activated in November 1917 for service in World War I. They were fighting the Germans by April 1918. The green troops of the 3rd Division were thrown into the line in the midst of a strong German attack along the Marne River.


The Marne had been the site of a significant battle that had turned back the German onslaught into France in 1914. It would be remembered once again in 1918.

Also read: This is why 3/2 Marines call themselves ‘the Betio Bastards’

After the Germans’ Spring Offensives had ground to a halt, they still sought a breakthrough of the Allied lines. Hoping to draw forces away from Flanders, where the Germans hoped to eventually drive through to Paris, they launched a large scale offensive to the south in the vicinity of Reims.

In the early morning darkness of July 15, 1918 the Germans began crossing the Marne River in assault boats.

Under a massive artillery barrage, the German Seventh Army smashed into the French Sixth Army. Under the brutal bombardment and onslaught of German stormtroopers, the French fell back in disarray. All along the line the Germans were quickly gaining ground – except for one spot on their right flank.

This was the position held by the 3rd Division. Particularly stubborn resistance came from the 38th Infantry Regiment under the command of Col. Ulysses McAlexander. It was dug in along the riverbank with a secondary line holding a raised railroad embankment. As the Germans crossed the river they were met with murderous fire from the Americans.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

As they landed, the Germans quickly found themselves engaged in brutal hand-to-hand combat.

Unfortunately for the Americans, there were simply too many Germans and slowly but surely the advanced platoons on the riverbank were wiped out. The Germans were then met at the railroad embankment, where according to Capt. Jesse Woolridge, they gave a thousand times more than they took, but even those positions became untenable. Reinforcements were quickly rushed in and smashed the beleaguered German troops.

This effort finally broke up the attack.

In Woolridge’s account, he states “it’s God’s truth that one Company of American soldiers beat and routed a full regiment of picked shock troops of the German Army.”

While the rest of the 3rd Division was pushed back, the 38th Infantry was giving the Germans hell.  Refusing to relinquish his position despite his exposed flanks, Col. McAlexander pulled his two battalions on the flanks back to form a horseshoe shape. The shape of his defense and the stubbornness with which he held it earned McAlexander and the rest of the regiment an enduring nickname – the Rock of the Marne.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
General Ulysses Grant McAlexander.

The nickname eventually came to encompass the entire division for their stellar defense of their sector during the massive German attack. The Division would later adopt the special designation The Marne Division as well for their part in the battle.

At the Second Battle of the Marne, the 3rd Division also received its official motto. As French troops retreated, 3rd Division soldiers rushed to the scene to hold the line. The division commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Dickman, gave his famous orders, in French so their allies would understand, “Nous resterons la!” – We shall remain here!

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

The battle was significant. Not just to the 3rd Division but to the entire American war effort. The Americans were relatively untested at the time and their success in holding back the Germans at the Marne garnered great respect from their European counterparts.

Stopping the German offensive also opened the way for the immediate counterattacks of the Aisne-Marne Offensive and finally the Hundred Days offensive that would eventually lead to Germany’s capitulation. The division’s stand was called “one of the most brilliant pages in the annals of military history” by the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, Gen. John Pershing.

The 3rd Infantry Division would go on to distinguish itself once again during the Second World War. The 3rd was the only division to meet the Nazis on every front fighting from North Africa to Sicily, onto the Italian mainland, into Southern France before ending the war in Germany.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
The 3rd Infantry Division starts the long road home after WWII.

During its spectacular march against the Axis, some 35 members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor for their action in combat including their most famous member, Audie Murphy.

The Marne Division later fought in the Korean War before spending the Cold War guarding Germany against possible Russian aggression. Since 2003, the division has been actively involved in the Global War on Terror and led the US Army’s invasion of Iraq.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
The U.S. 3rd Infantry Division secures an abandoned UN position on the Kuwait-Iraqi border in March 2003.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Three members of the U.S.-Russian crew have returned to Earth after spending several months at the International Space Station (ISS).

Russia’s Roskosmos space agency said the Soyuz MS-15 capsule carrying the crew chief, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan landed safely on April 17 in Kazakhstan.

Skripochka and Meir spent 205 days in orbit, while Morgan’s time in space lasted 272 days.


65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Expedition 62 crew portrait with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.

NASA

The crew was replaced by U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who docked with the ISS on April 10.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of being brought to the city of Qaraghandy in central Kazakhstan for traditional welcome ceremonies, the crew members were taken straight to the Baikonur space complex near the city of Qyzylorda.

The U.S. astronauts will fly aboard a NASA plane directly from Qyzylorda to Houston, while the crew’s commander Skripochka will fly back to Russia.

The ISS, which orbits about 400 kilometers above Earth, is tasked with conducting scientific experiments.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

102-year-old WWII Navy WAVES vet would ‘do it again’

When the Navy called on women to volunteer for shore service during World War II to free up men for duty at sea, 102-year-old Melva Dolan Simon was among the first to raise her hand and take the oath.

“I went in so sailors could board ships and go do what they were supposed to be doing,” said Simon. She recalled her military service as “something different” in an era when women traditionally stayed home while men went off to war. “I helped sailors get on their way.”

Simon was 25 years old in October 1942 and working as an office secretary at the former Hurst High School in Norvelt — a small Pennsylvania town named for Eleanor Roosevelt — when she joined the Navy’s Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES.


Simon was the first woman in her hometown of Bridgeport, Pa., to join the WAVES, according to a yellowed clipping of a 1942 newspaper article. She was also among the first in the nation to join the service. It was just three months earlier, on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the law establishing the corps.

“I had a good job with the school, but I felt I would be doing more for my country by being in the service,” said Simon.

The seventh of 12 children, Simon said she chose the Navy because several of her brothers were already serving in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

WWII Navy WAVES Veteran Melva Dolan Simon’s service memorabilia includes her rank and insignia, photos and official documents.

“They were all enlisted, and I thought, well, what’s wrong with joining the Navy?” said Simon. “I decided I wanted to go, and I was accepted.”

Simon attended WAVES Naval Station Training at Oklahoma AM College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Okla. Each class of 1,250 yeoman learned military discipline, march and drill, and naval history over a six to eight-week training period.

“That’s where we learned the basics of the Navy,” said Simon. “We were trained to march, we studied hard, and they drilled into us how important what we were doing was.”

After completing basic, many of the WAVES trainees spent another 12 weeks at the college for advanced training in secretarial duties.

From Oklahoma, Simon was assigned to active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which during World War II employed 40,000, built 53 warships and repaired another 1,218. She and her fellow yeomen earned anywhere from to 5 in basic pay per month, depending on their rank, plus food and quarters allowance, unless provided by the Navy.

Simon lived on the all-female fourth floor of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. WAVES personnel were under strict orders not to visit any other floors of the hotel – an order Simon said she followed.

“I didn’t go on the other floors,” said Simon, sternly. “It was none of my business.”

Simon’s military responsibilities included taking dictation from the officer in charge, performing clerical duties and driving officers around the base.

“They gave me a driver’s license for the Navy, and I would drive these officers, sometimes just very short distances,” Simon said, smiling as she motioned from her seat at a dining room table to the far side of her kitchen. “I thought that was interesting because it would have done them some good if they’d just walked.”

Simon wrote letters home to her family at first, then sent her parents money to have a home phone installed. Simon said that home phones were a luxury at the time. Before they installed the phone, her family used a telephone at a nearby store to call her.

“I sent them money every payday to keep the phone bill paid,” Simon said. “It was much easier to call than to sit down and write, especially since I was writing all day at the office.”

The phone also allowed her future husband, Joseph “Joe” Simon, to keep in touch with her. The two had met at the high school where Joe Simon worked as an agriculture teacher, and he’d visit with her when she was home on leave. They married in July 1945, just a few weeks before Melva Simon received an honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1945.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

WAVES standing in formation.

(DoD photo)

The couple purchased a 22-acre farm in 1947 in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., where they supplemented Joe’s teacher’s salary by growing and selling sweet corn.

“It sold like hot fire because it was good sweet corn,” Melva Simon said. “Then Joe planted apple trees, and that’s what we decided to do.”

The couple started an apple orchard — Simon’s Apple Orchard — that remains family-run today. The orchard opens its doors to customers every fall, offering everything from pure sweet cider still made using the Simons’ original recipe to bags of fresh McIntosh, Stayman, Rome, Jonathan, red and yellow delicious, and other apple varieties.

At the VA

Melva Simon worked the orchard alongside her husband, then took over when he died in 2004 at the age of 88. Still spry at 102, she drove tractors, harvested apples, made cider and worked the counter at a small shop on the property until just a few years ago.

Blessed with a lifetime of good health, Melva Simon only recently discovered she is eligible for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the help of her daughter, Melvajo Bennett, the World War II veteran has, since August, received care through VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Westmoreland County VA Outpatient Clinic.

“It didn’t dawn on her to go to the VA because she’s always had such good health and never really had to see the doctor,” said Bennett. “But they’ve been wonderful with how they are treating her.”

Asked for the secret to good health and a long life, Melva Simon gave a simple answer.

“There is no secret,” she said. “All it takes is simple living. I eat simple food. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”

As for her military service, Melva Simon said she’d do it all over again.

“That was all I ever wanted to do, was to do something for the government and the country,” she said. “I’d do it again.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says it just whacked 4 top ISIS leaders in Syria

The Russian Defense Ministry says it has killed four Islamic State commanders in an airstrike targeting the extremist group outside Syria’s eastern city of Deir al-Zour, including a former senior security official from Tajikistan.


The ministry said in a Sept. 8 statement that 40 militants were killed in the air strike, including Abu Muhammad al-Shimali, who is responsible for foreign IS fighters, and Gulmurod Halimov, a former Tajik Interior Ministry commander.

It said the airstrike targeted a gathering of IS warlords in an underground bunker near Deir al-Zour.

“According to confirmed data, among the killed fighters are four influential field commanders,” the ministry said.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Gulmurod Halimov. Screengrab from TomoNews US YouTube video.

Halimov, often referred to as the IS “minister of war,” is a former commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry’s riot police, known as OMON, who had received US training while serving in that position.

He made an online announcement in May 2015 that he had joined IS.

Tajikistan has issued an international warrant for his arrest, and the United States has offered $3 million for information on his whereabouts.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Halimov was present at the meeting of IS warlords and was fatally wounded in the air strike. It said he had been evacuated to the Al-Muhasan area, 20 kilometers southeast of Deir al-Zour.

There have been several unconfirmed reports from both northern Iraq and Syria since 2015 that Halimov was killed while fighting alongside IS forces.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Russian Tupolev Tu-160 bombers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Alan Wilson.

Tajik authorities have repeatedly rejected those reports, saying they think he is still alive.

Heavy fighting continues between Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, and IS fighters seeking to reinstate a siege of Deir al-Zour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin this week congratulated his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, after Syrian state media said government troops had broken the three-year long siege of the city by IS forces.

In the months after Russia began a campaign of air strikes in Syria in September 2015, Western officials said it mainly targeted not IS militants, but other opponents of Assad.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This patrol boat doubles as a landing craft

These days, single-mission ships are not exactly the best of buys. The big reason is they can only do one thing and no matter how well they do that one thing, they can’t handle other missions very well. Versatility can often make or break a purchasing decision. Think of it this way – if a ship (or small boat) can do multiple missions, there is a better chance it will be purchased.

One such versatile boat is being displayed at SeaFuture 2018 in La Spezia. That is the FFC 15, a patrol boat that can do more than just patrol. In fact, according to a release on behalf of Baglietto Navy, it can also serve as a rescue asset, a fast-attack craft, a police boat, and also a landing craft.


There are some baseball utility players who look at this boat with sheer envy at its versatility. According to a handout provided on Baglietto’s behalf, this boat comes in at 20 tons, almost three times the size of the legendary Higgins boats. But it has a top speed of 45 nautical miles an hour and can go 330 nautical miles on a single tank of gas.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

The FFC 15 can hold up to 24 troops, and has a top speed of 45 knots.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

The boat is not only capable of operating on the open ocean, it can also navigate up and down rivers. The boat can also be hauled by a transport like a C-5 Galaxy (which hauls various Navy patrol boats) or C-17 Globemaster III. If the roads are good enough, this boat can also be hauled in by trucks. It can also be hauled in on various ships.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Inside the troop compartment of the FFC 15, where up to 24 personnel can be carried from an amphibious ship to a quiet out-of-the-way place to sneak ashore.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

The boat has a crew of four and can haul as many as 24 personnel. The bow is equipped not only for beaching (through a reinforced prow), but it also has a bow ramp. There are also two positions for heavy machine guns like the M2 .50-caliber machine gun.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

The FFC 15 features two positions for gunners on top of its superstructure. Despite being able to haul 24 troops, it can be carried on C-5 and C-17 transports, or by truck.

(Photo by Baglietto Navy)

So far, no orders for this boat have been made. That said, this fast and versatile vessel could very well find a lot of orders for a lot of missions with a lot of countries.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrorists now have a new group to join if they don’t dig on ISIS

A new al-Qaida-inspired group has sprouted up in Pakistan in the hopes of recruiting from a growing base of disaffected former Islamic State fans and militants.


Known as Ansar al-Sharia Pakistan, the group has emerged in the city of Karachi and was founded by two militants who used to belong to al-Qaida, but disavowed that affiliation in early 2017, VOA reports.

Local media in Pakistan has reported that Ansar has been responsible for at least seven terror attacks in 2017 so far.

The group plays to militants upset with the way ISIS has sowed disunity, and as such, the tactics employed bear far more resemblance to those of al-Qaida, rather than ISIS. The group claims no formal affiliation with al-Qaida, but it does explicitly acknowledge strong influence from Osama bin Laden.

“The Ansar al-Sharia group started killings in Karachi since the beginning of this year and claimed responsibility for killing an army officer on Faisal Highway [in Karachi],” Major General Mohammad Saeed, head of a paramilitary security group in Karachi, told local media, according to Voice of America.

Saeed noted that Ansar al-Sharia has only been launching attacks against the police.

The group’s membership is not restricted to males. Pakistani police have arrested four female members already. Moreover, Ansar al-Sharia’s “kill team” sports three young men with graduate degrees in applied physics, showcasing the group is capable of recruiting talent.

Ansar al-Sharia has made announcements of its existence via Twitter, stating: “We give glad tidings to Muslim Ummah that a large number of Mujahideen from Karachi, Punjab and tribal areas are leaving ranks of IS and announce disassociation with [it].”

VOA was unable to independently verify the Twitter account’s authenticity.

MIGHTY MOVIES

United States Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force battle storms in new NATGEO show

Gathering Storm is an intense new show on National Geographic featuring the United States Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. Each branch is highlighted as they race against time to complete vital missions during catastrophic storms.

Keo Films spent over a year developing the six-part series for National Geographic. The show will bring viewers inside the intensity of the world’s most powerful storms and outline the devastating impacts of climate change. Keo Films gave hundreds of cameras to maritime workers to document a year at sea and what happens during a major storm. Cameras also followed the three military branches serving in the midst of deadly storms.

The Coast Guard can usually be found right in the middle of it all, always ready.


65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Chief Warrant Officer Paul Roszkowski is a part of the leadership within the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office and was involved in the series from the start. “The Coast Guard worked with Keo Films for more than a year to coordinate filming part of our mission the public generally doesn’t get to see. This involved getting international film crews cleared to film at a moment’s notice at a number of Coast Guard units across the country and prestaging cameras at some units in case a storm formed. We are grateful to all of the units that participated in this which include USCGC Cypress, USCGC Alex Haley, Sector Guam and Sector Miami. Gathering Storm will give a peek behind the curtain of what Coast Guard personnel are doing before a major storm hits and the rescues start,” he shared.

Sector Miami is one of the busiest areas of responsibility for the Coast Guard. When hurricane season approaches, that responsibility increases tenfold. “We have two of the busiest cruise ports in the country… The port coordination team is vital. The decisions that are made [during a storm] are impactful. When we set those port conditions, the implications they have on all the stakeholders in the area are huge,” Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Daniel Delgado explained.

As the Incident Management Division Chief for Sector Miami, Delgado worked closely with Keo Films for the series. “They were interested in seeing the preparation that goes into the ‘before the storm’ work. A group of people were here with us here in the sector building and also gave cameras to our teams that went out to verify pre-storm preparations. It was great working with the crew and they were very respectful of us and the work we had to do and didn’t impede it,” Delgado shared.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

When hurricanes are approaching, the Coast Guard receives daily updates from the National Hurricane Center, which is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Although the public has probably heard of the term “hurricane hunters,” they may not realize who’s flying many of those planes to gather vital weather data that gets dispersed to the Coast Guard: the United States Air Force.

In the first episode, viewers watch as the production crew follows members of Sector Miami navigating the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane which devastated the Bahamas and Abaco Islands in 2019. The damage left the islands in ruins and Hurricane Dorian was soon declared the worst natural disaster in Bahamian history. The Coast Guard saved the lives of over 400 people, flying and sailing through hurricane force winds and almost zero visibility to do it.

While the first two episodes focus on powerful hurricanes, the series then takes viewers into typhoon alley and through the roughest and most deadly fishing ground on the earth – the Bering Sea. Then watch as the Coast Guard and Navy rush to respond to typhoons in the Pacific, all while the Air Force is flying through the storms to gather the important data needed to respond.
65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

“We featured the ‘Hurricane Hunters’ of the 53 Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the USAF Reserve, based out of Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi,” Executive Producer Matt Cole said. He shared that he enjoyed getting to personally interview veteran Hurricane Hunter Lieutenant Colonel Sean Cross about what it’s like flying into powerful storms.

Viewers will also watch the Navy become storm chasers with their advanced technology. “It was fascinating to see how the US Navy center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii plays a lead role for the whole of that region in tracking typhoons and even providing life-saving forecasts. So, out there where typhoons are such a serious and life threatening problem, the forecasts provided by the US Navy using satellite data are invaluable,” Cole said.

The Keo Films also learned a lot during the filming process. For instance, prior to working on the series Cole and the film crew thought ships were safer in harbor during a storm – an assumption the Coast Guard was quick to correct.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

“The folks who work out at sea face these huge storms at their fiercest. By filming with maritime workers on ships at sea we were able to capture the reality of cyclonic weather events and to track their development, through the eyes of these people who work in their path,” Cole explained. Although Hurricanes receive a lot of attention from the media during hurricane season, the show goes even deeper by revealing what it’s like to be in the middle of it all.

Film taken from over 1000 cameras paint a stark and terrifying picture of the impact of storms and climate change, felt on every corner of the globe. “I think that like us, the viewers of the series will come away with a lot more respect for the workforce that makes a living out on the ocean and the military teams that are on constant vigil to try to keep them safe when storms are brewing, through understanding the power and scale of the dangers they face,” Cole said.

The six-part series on National Geographic will air two episodes in a row each Saturday beginning August 15th, 2020 at 10pm.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch: SpaceX just tested the starship they say will take us to Mars

On Monday, SpaceX conducted a short test flight of a full sized prototype of the Starship they say will soon ferry Americans to Mars.

The Starship SN5 Test Vehicle flew for only about 40 seconds on Monday evening before touching back down to earth at SpaceX’s South Texas facility. Short as the Starship’s little hop may have been, it was a significant leap toward SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s goal of mounting crewed missions to Mars.


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The SN5 Starship prototype isn’t the first iteration of the Starship to reach take off. Last year, a smaller prototype vehicle called the Starhopper completed a handful of short flights, reaching as high as 500 feet on one launch before returning to the ground. While these short trips may not seem significant, they actually represent two of the most challenging parts of a any space mission: the take off, and the return to earth.

Starship SN5 150m Hop

www.youtube.com

The Starship mirrors the landing capability of SpaceX’s smaller and proven Falcon 9 rockets. The ability to land and re-use rocket stages has dramatically reduced the cost of orbital missions. The ship will eventually utilize an entire Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket in service anywhere on earth today, as it’s first stage. The Falcon Heavy utilizes 31 individual Falcon 9 rockets for propulsion and boasts similar reusability.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

SpaceX Falcon Heavy during launch (SpaceX)

The SpaceX Starship prototype is powered by a single Raptor engine, but will eventually be equipped with six of the advanced rocket engines, which in conjunction with its powerful first stage, will give the ship a total crew capacity of up to 100 people.

The combination of the Falcon Heavy with the Starship will make SpaceX’s massive rocket entirely reusable, dramatically reducing the costs associated with long-duration space missions to the Moon or Mars. Importantly, the Falcon Heavy is the only rocket currently capable of making the long trip into lunar orbit with a crew onboard.

SpaceX is currently a strong contender for America’s upcoming moon plans to place astronauts on the Lunar surface by the mid-2020s. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked a flight around the moon aboard Musk’s Starship slated for 2023.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this MLB player ended up working as a WWII secret agent

Morris “Moe” Berg’s dying words — “How did the Mets do today?” — were on brand for the 70-year-old New York native who enjoyed a 15-year career in Major League Baseball before America entered World War II.

Sports columnist John Kieran called Berg “The Professor” on account of his reputation as an Ivy League-educated linguist and lawyer, a mentor and coach to younger MLB players, and a newspaper-devouring raconteur who earned fanfare as a repeat contestant on the NBC radio quiz show “Information Please.”

His 1972 New York Times obituary eulogized, first and foremost, the “catcher in majors who spoke 10 languages.”


But the brainy 6-foot-1-inch bullpen catcher with an unspectacular batting average had another career entirely: He was a World War II secret agent who gathered intelligence on three continents for the US government.

“We often think about athletes just playing ball and going in for records. But Moe, Ted Williams twice, Joe DiMaggio — they went off and risked their lives and their careers to serve,” said filmmaker Aviva Kempner, who illuminates Berg’s life and legacy in her 2019 documentary, “ The Spy Behind Home Plate.”

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Washington Senator Joe Kuhel (left) with Moe Berg (right).

(Alchetron)

Berg’s particular line of work during the war — he ultimately served as a spy for the Manhattan Project while working for the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA — further differentiated him. Who else would sit in the dugout talking about whether Mussolini would win or not?” Kempner said.

As the surviving members of the Greatest Generation dwindle and tensions rise among 21st-century nuclear-armed powers, Kempner emphasizes the need to learn about veterans and remember their contributions and sacrifices.

“It’s important to know who our unknown heroes are and what they did,” she said.

Here’s a window into Berg’s life and transition from multilingual ballplayer to World War II nuclear spy.

He was the son of immigrants.

Moe Berg was born in Harlem in 1902. He was the third child of Bernard Berg and Rose Taschker, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine, who came to the US seeking economic opportunity and religious freedom.

The Bergs moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Bernard opened a pharmacy. Education was paramount, and Bernard in particular expected his kids to pursue one of three professions: lawyer, doctor, or teacher.

From his early days, Moe had a rocket arm and a photographic memory.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Moe Berg’s passport.

As a 7-year-old, he played baseball on a church team using the pseudonym “Runt Wolfe.” He excelled on the field and in the classroom, initially studying at New York University. He transferred to Princeton University, where he was a star on the baseball team and in the modern languages department.

The popular, idiosyncratic scholar-athlete turned down an offer to join one of Princeton’s exclusive eating clubs, purportedly after being told that while he’d be more than welcome, he shouldn’t think of bringing other Jews around.

He spent off-seasons studying law at Columbia University and traveling the world.

After Berg graduated college, the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) and the New York Giants were interested in recruiting him, in part because they thought he’d help draw the city’s relatively large Jewish population.

He joined the Robins and played in the minor leagues. His technical skills and lack of offensive power inspired the phrase “good field, no hit.” He went on to play for the Chicago White Sox.

At the time, major leaguers worked in the spring and summer and were off the rest of the year. Berg used his baseball earnings to travel. He studied Sanskrit at the Sorbonne in Paris and wrote of how much he enjoyed French “wine, women, and song.”

Largely to appease his father, Berg also enrolled at Columbia Law School and arrived late to spring training while finishing his first year. The following year, the White Sox owner denied Berg’s request to arrive late again, so Berg arranged to leave school early and make up his courses. He’d go on to pass the bar and join the firm Satterlee and Canfield.

But baseball was his priority and ultimately how he made his living throughout the 1930s. He said he would rather be a baseball player than a Supreme Court justice.

He became a catcher by accident.

In 1927, White Sox catcher turned manager Ray Schalk, in a pinch during a game, called out to the bench asking if anyone could catch. Berg tried to volunteer the player next to him. But Schalk thought Berg, a shortstop, was volunteering and put him in without being corrected.

“If it doesn’t turn out well, please send the body to Newark,” Berg reportedly told his teammates. He took to catching. He and his second baseman communicated about the opposing team’s base runners in Latin.

If the runner trying to steal understood Latin, Berg said they’d switch to Sanskrit.

He made two trips to Japan “for baseball” in the 1930s, capturing panoramic footage of Tokyo that is believed to have been used to plan the 1942 Doolittle Raid, the US’s first bombing raid on Japan in World War II.

With Japan already at war with China, the Japanese government was becoming increasingly militarized. (Japan and China clashed from 1931 to 1932 and again between 1937 and 1945.) Meanwhile, Japanese citizens were growing interested in America’s favorite pastime.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Two Japanese naval vessels, left foreground, at Yokosuka Naval Base near Yokohama, directly in the path of bombs from Maj. Gen. James Doolittle’s raiders, April 18, 1942.

(Library of Congress)

In 1932, Berg was among a group of major leaguers sent to Tokyo to coach Japanese college players in hitting, base-stealing, and other skills. When the tour ended and Ted Lyons and Lefty O’Doul returned home, Berg stayed, traveling around Asia by himself.

He ended his trip in Berlin, and he saw firsthand the beginning of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, along with then-Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini’s fascist influence on the Nazi movement.

Back in the US, Berg played on the Washington Senators, frequenting embassy parties in DC, before being dropped and picked up by the Cleveland Indians.

In 1934, the Soviet Union briefly invaded China, and with tensions rising in the Pacific, the US sent an all-star roster of American League players on a tour of Japan to compete against Japanese teams in a friendly 18-game series.

The players would also serve as goodwill ambassadors, as the All-American Japan Tour was an attempt to bolster Japanese-American relations through a shared interest in baseball.

While Berg had set a league record for catching 117 games straight without an error, he didn’t have the same hall-of-famer status as other recruits, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averil, and Lefty Gomez. But he had been to Japan before, and when catcher Rick Ferrell dropped off the All-Americans roster just before the tour, Berg readily accepted the invitation.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Moe Berg, second from the left in the first row, with other members of the “All Americans” on a visit Nagoya Castle during a free day on the 1934 exhibition.

(CIA Museum)

He studied Japanese on the deck of the ship during the three-week journey across the Pacific. Upon arriving, Babe Ruth heard Berg greet a fan in Japanese. Ruth said he thought Berg claimed not to know Japanese. Berg said that he hadn’t a few weeks before.

“Shhh.”

Berg traveled with a 16 mm Bell and Howell movie camera, seemingly undeterred by leaflets distributed by police warning people not to make maps or capture images, which the Japanese feared could be used against them in war.

He also carried an official letter of introduction from US Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

On one occasion, Berg peeled off from his teammates and went to the roof of a Tokyo hospital, then the city’s tallest building. He wore a Japanese kimono and slippers, and he had flowers and an alibi that he was visiting an ambassador’s daughter who’d just had a baby.

But he threw out the flowers and ended up on the roof, where he shot a panorama of the Tokyo skyline, including the harbor and industrial centers. The US would later use the shots as reconnaissance footage to inform wartime military strategy and plan bombing raids.

How Berg delivered the footage to the US government remains murky. He was known for answering questions about his government work by putting his finger to his lips and saying, “shhh.”

When pressed on how he’d left the hospital with the movie camera, he supposedly responded, “What made you think I had anything in my kimono other than my big pecs and biceps?”

During World War II, he retired his Red Sox uniform to work for the government.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, killed more than 2,300 Americans and catapulted the US into World War II. Millions of Americans joined up. Before Berg’s father died in January 1942, he asked his sons, “Why aren’t you contributing to this war?”

Berg left the Red Sox to work for the Office of Inter-American Affairs, a government agency President Franklin Roosevelt founded to counter Axis propaganda in Latin America.

In February 1942, Berg made a radio broadcast addressing the people of Japan, in Japanese, asking for peace; he identified himself as “a friend of the Japanese people” and urged listeners to avoid “a war you cannot win.”

That summer, his work took him to Central and South America, ostensibly as an goodwill ambassador distributing baseball gear. He fed reports on the political situation to his boss, Inter-American Affairs Coordinator Nelson Rockefeller.

The OSS tapped him as a nuclear spy who carried out acts of espionage and sabotage to thwart Hitler’s nuclear program.

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt recognized the importance of strong foreign intelligence to the Allied war effort. In 1942, he signed an executive order forming the OSS, a clandestine espionage and sabotage agency directed by Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan.

Donovan, a Republican, was Roosevelt’s Columbia Law classmate and a World War I general turned Wall Street lawyer. As the founding father of America’s CIA forerunner, Donovan recruited a diverse cast of military and civilian personnel whom he fondly regarded as his “Glorious Amateurs.”

At its peak in 1944, the OSS employed some 13,000 men and women, with personnel stationed across the world, working not only as field agents but also as codebreakers, researchers, mapmakers, psychologists, scientists, and propagandists who carried out special operations and information warfare.

Berg was recruited to the OSS in 1943.

With his unusual aptitude, agility, language skills, and information-gathering experience, Berg became the OSS agent that Donovan designated to support the government’s top-secret initiative to develop its first nuclear weapons, codenamed the Manhattan Project.

It was an undertaking so covert that Roosevelt supposedly didn’t even tell then-Vice President Harry Truman about it.

Leading researchers and scientists, including Albert Einstein, briefed Berg, teaching him what they hoped would be sufficient background on atomic energy and their adversaries’ efforts so Berg could collect vital information and assets from occupied Europe.

In 1944, Berg moved throughout war-ravaged Italy to track down important Italian scientists and documents in danger of falling into Hitler’s hands.

“I see Moe is still catching very well,” Roosevelt said after learning Berg had located and extracted Italy’s foremost expert in aerodynamics, Antonio Ferri.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

Berg in a photo published upon his release from the Red Sox on Jan. 14, 1942.

(CIA Museum)

Ferri had destroyed lab equipment that could help the Axis and gone into hiding in the mountains with a crate of scientific documents. He raised a resistance circuit carrying out guerilla operations to thwart the Axis and enable Allied air drops. Berg and Ferri connected and began parsing and translating the scientific documents.

With special permission from Roosevelt, Ferri entered the US with a suitcase and the crate of documents and was escorted to the nation’s leading aeronautics research center, in Langley, Virginia.

As Manhattan Project scientists raced to develop the atomic bombs that America would drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, its leaders remained concerned with where Hitler stood with any similar efforts.

If the Axis powers were making progress, it would likely involve German nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg, a Nobel Prize winner who remained in Germany during the war.

In December 1944, Berg was sent to neutral Switzerland for a conference at the University of Zurich with a pistol, a cyanide tablet, and a false identity as a Swiss physics student. His mission was to attend an intimate lecture that Heisenberg was giving at the conference.

If Heisenberg mentioned working on a nuclear bomb, Berg was to stand up and shoot Heisenberg point blank, with the understanding that this would also mean being killed himself.

Between the German language and the deeply technical physics terminology, Berg left the lecture unsure of what Heisenberg knew. He ended up complimenting Heisenberg on his talk and later insisting on escorting him to his hotel.

In the resulting report, which was read by Roosevelt, Berg determined that Heisenberg had low confidence in the German effort and that Hitler was at least two years behind the Manhattan Project.

Berg died in Belleville, New Jersey, in 1972 at the age of 70, after a fall at his home.

In 2018, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to OSS personnel. The presentation of Congress’s highest civilian honor marked the first collective recognition of the OSS, which President Harry Truman disbanded in 1945.

Truman formed the CIA in 1947 from the old OSS headquarters. While Donovan was not employed by America’s post-war intelligence organization, many of his “Glorious Amateurs” were, and four would go on to hold the agency’s top post.

A bronze statue of Donovan — and an OSS book of honor naming the 116 OSS members who were killed during World War II — are on display in the lobby of the CIA’s current headquarters in Langley.

Berg declined the Medal of Freedom in 1946. He never married or had children. He led a nomadic existence, traveling and, in his later years, living with his sister, Ethel, in New Jersey.

Ethel Berg accepted his Medal of Honor after his death and donated it to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York, where it is on display, along with his catcher’s mitt and passport.

Ethel took Berg’s ashes to Israel, but to this day, no one knows where his remains are buried.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This is why the future of motocross is female

Pop quiz, hot shot:

What do gun enthusiasm, maritime rescues, and high-velocity dirt biking have in common?

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Time’s up.


Those divergent interests all come together in Navy Vet and motocross racer, Jacqueline Carrizosa.

The former Navy gunner’s mate and rescue swimmer is, in post-military life, a rider on the rise in the Western U.S. amateur motocross circuit. And the time it took her to try to teach Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis to stick one basic jump is, believe us, no reflection on her abilities.

Check out a side-by-side comparison, Ryan v. Jacqueline, leaping the same stretch of track.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Ryan (top), floating like a tank. Jacqueline (bottom), flying Navy Air. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

Yeah. She’s awesome.

As a teenager, Carrizosa had trouble staying on the straight and narrow after her family moved from California to Las Vegas, but she thrived in the Navy, excelling at physically demanding and traditionally male-dominated disciplines.

When things got rocky again after she left active duty, the same approach helped her. She found structure and purpose in highly skilled action sports, specifically motocross. Her advice?

“Establish something that makes you money, you know what I mean? But also keep your soul alive. You gotta follow your heart. I would say 85% heart, 15% brain.”

Jacqueline Carrizosa. WISE.

But it all proved a little too much for Curtis. The motocross badassery, the beauty, the sheer volume of withering sass. A day at the track with Carrizosa hit him right in the feels (understandable).

And so, completely biffing the ratio, he went 100% heart, 0% brains.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy

You don’t have to imagine how that went over. All you gotta do is watch as Curtis gets his motocross mojo crossed, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

Articles

9 reasons why military camouflage works — or doesn’t

Sun Tzu once said that he who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.


To be honest, in a way, that is exactly what camouflage is all about. It is not about colors, shapes, or ninja stuff. It is about knowledge, patience, and the manipulation of anything anywhere.

All to achieve one goal: to become the environment. In this article, I am going to give you a small, bitter taste of the art of camouflage.

When I was in the Israeli Airborne SF, I served with one of the SR groups. My secondary specialty in my team was what we call in the IDF, a ‘builder.’ Basically, someone who is capable of concealing anything, from one man to an entire team or vehicles in any environment.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Eliran Feildboy. Photo courtesy of Breach Bang Clear.

What is camouflage?

Back in the days, when I used to assist as an instructor for the next generation of builders, one of the first questions I asked the young soldiers in every introduction lesson was, ”What does the word ‘camouflage’ mean to you?”

The majority of the answers were split into two: hiding or disappearing.

While both might sound correct, those two words describe a long-living misconception that one experiences when he gets involved with task-oriented concealment work.

Long story short, the majority of the time camouflage begins with understanding the nature of observation.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Applying standard camo. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod.

The purpose of it is not only to hide, but to make you part of the environment, allowing you to safely observe, document, and, when necessary, respond.

Being a master of camouflage means being able to live off nature’s hand for 72 hours (or more), being just hundreds of meters away from the objective, and being able to observe the point of interest all the while.

Let’s say camouflage is the art of manipulation–the controlling of reality.

Fundamentals of Camouflage

There are three fundamental camouflage actions. These are the main principles that are found in any concealing construction.

  • Hiding: The action of hiding is setting a barrier that separates you physically, and often visually, from the surrounding environment and its unfolding reality.
  • Blending: Resembling your surroundings by combining different, like elements into a single entity. The main difference between success to failure lays in properly blending subtle details.
  • Disguising: In short, disguising is an action we perform to alter an existing shape or form. We do that to eliminate or create intentional target indicators, such as smell, shape, or shine. Disguising, for example, is adding vegetation to a Ghillie suit or collecting branches to conceal my hide side.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Photo courtesy of Breach Bang Clear.

Target Indicators

Knowledge is power. One of the keys to perfect camouflage at the tactical level is the ability to understand what kind of X or Y signatures my presence creates that will lead to my exposure.

TI, or target indicators, are about understanding what signatures my enemy creates in a specific environment. Those target indicators suggest presence, location, and distance in some cases.

There are two dimensions to consider when detecting and indicated presence. The first–and oldest–dimension is basic human sense. The other is technological.

Human Sense

While smelling, hearing, and touching are obvious senses, but those senses normally only come into play in short distance.

Let’s focus on ‘seeing.’

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Snipers with 1st Sapper Company, Burundi National Defense Force, observe enemy movement, donning field-made ghillie suits. USMC Photo by 1st Lt. Dominic Pitrone

The visual sense is, by far, the most reliable sense for humans. We use it up to 80% of the time to collect information and orient ourselves. So, what kind of visual signatures could I leave that may lead to my exposure? In short:

  • Shape – The perfectly symmetrical shapes of tents or cars, for example, don’t exist in nature. Those, and the familiar shape of a human being, are immediate eye candy.
  • Silhouette – Similar to ‘shape,’ but with more focus on the background. A soldier walking on top of the hill or someone sneaking in the darkness with dark clothes against a white wall–the distinction of a foreground element from its background makes a target indicator sharp and clear.
  • Shine – Surface related. Radiance or brightness caused by emitted or reflected light. Anything that my skin, equipment, or fabrics may reflect. Popular examples would be the reflection of sunlight on hand watches, skin, or optics for example.
  • Shadow – Shadows are very attractive and easy to distinguish for human eyes, depending on a shadow’s intensity. For example, caves in open fields stand out for miles and are very easy to recognize. As a result, we never use caves for hiding, as they’re a natural draw to the eye.
  • Color – Let’s make it sure and simple–wearing a pink hoody to a funeral is a good way to stand out. Match your environment.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Army photo by Pfc. Dixie Rae Liwanag/Released

Technology-Based Target Indicators / Multi-Spectral Awareness

Oh boy, this is where the real challenge begins! I’m actually going to risk it and say that ghillie suits are becoming less and less relevant today due to increases in technology.

Before we will dive into all that Einstein stuff, these are the main wavelengths used by different devices to find your ass:

  • Infra-Red / NIR – Used in NVGs, SWIR cameras, etc. Night-vision devices, for example, use active near-infrared illumination to observe people or animals without the observer being detected.
  • UV – UV radiation is present in sunlight. UV-capable devices are excellent, for example, in snowy environments for picking up differences undetectable by the naked eye.
  • Thermal – Your body generates a temperature different from any immediate background, such as the ground in the morning or a tree in the evening. Devices tend to set clear separations between the heat or cold of different objects, resulting in pretty nice shapes that are easy to distinguish for the observer.
  • Radar (radio)– A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves, an emitting antenna, and a receiving antenna to capture any waves that return from objects in the path of the emitted signal. A receiver and processor then determine the properties of the object. While often used to detect weather formations, ships, structures, etc., there are numerous devices that can give you an accurate position of vehicles and even humans. It’s a long story, hard to manipulate. Such devices exist already in the tactical level.

It is nearly impossible to eliminate your signature against devices who work within the wave length. The only solution is to understand what the human being sees through advanced optics and manipulate the final result.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Army photo by Andrew Zimmer

Buckle up and get your aspirin – we’re moving into the science stuff.

The human and its environment emits different signatures that can be picked up by different technological devices that make use of different types of waves.

Cones in our eyes are the receivers for tiny visible light waves. The sun is a natural source for visible light waves and our eyes see the reflection of this sunlight off the objects around us.

The color of an object that we see is the color of light reflected. All other colors are absorbed.

Technically, we are blind to many wavelengths of light. This makes it important to use instruments that can detect different wavelengths of light to help us study the earth and the universe.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander

However, since visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes can see, our whole world is oriented around it.

Until recently.

With the advancement of technology, humanity slowly cracked and understood the existence of other light waves.

We began to see those dimensions through different devices.

Since the visual camouflage has foiled many plans throughout a history of wars and conflicts, militaries around the world began researching the possibilities of using non-visible wavelengths in detecting the signature of specific objects in specific environments.

Summary

Camouflage is not about hiding and it’s definitely not only about wearing a ghillie suit or digging deeps foxholes.

65 marathons, 1 treadmill, 0 days off: How a Navy fitness trainer took on a world record during lockdown in Italy
Soldiers with the Estonian Defense Force defend their position May 12, during Operation Siil in Oandu, Estonia. Army photo by Sgt. Juana Nesbitt.

It’s an involved, looping process that starts with understanding how humans detect and continues with manipulating this detection.

The old standards, such as ghillie suits, are becoming less and less relevant to the modern battle space as detection technologies advance.

New predators such as SWIR or advance thermal cameras are hard to beat unless you know the device, the interface, and the humans who use it.

As Albert Einstein once said, technology has exceeded our humanity–so get creative.