U.S. Army training officials have finalized a plan to ensure new recruits in Basic Combat Training receive more trigger time on their individual weapons.
In the past, new soldiers would learn to shoot their 5.56mm M4 carbines and qualify with the Army’s red-dot close combat optic. Under the new marksmanship training effort, soldiers will qualify on both the backup iron sight and the CCO, as well as firing more rounds in realistic combat scenarios.
“We just want to make sure at the end of the day, they can still pull that weapon out and engage the enemy effectively,” Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr., commander of Leader Training Brigade at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, told Military.com.
Guadalupe’s brigade, which falls under the Center for Initial Military Training, is responsible for the new training program of instruction for Basic Combat Training that the Army announced early 2018.
The new BCT is designed to instill more discipline and esprit de corps in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army noted trends among soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience, poor work ethic and low discipline.
The restructured training program will place increased emphasis on marksmanship training and other combat skills.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley tasked Fort Jackson to lead the effort to toughen standards so soldiers will be more prepared for combat upon completion of BCT, Guadalupe said.
(U.S. Army photo)
“He wanted us to create the absolute best soldier that we can create coming out of Basic Combat Training prior to their advanced individual training,” he said.
Fort Jackson has been tasked to develop “best practices as we slowly implement the new program of instruction,” Guadalupe said.
The goal is to have initial operating capability by July 15, 2018, and to have the new BCT fully operational at Jackson and the other three BCT centers at Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Sill, Oklahoma; and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, by Oct. 1, 2018, he said.
The redesigned BCT marksmanship program includes more instruction time and requires trainees to spend more time on the range.
In the past, new soldiers in BCT shot 500 rounds and received 83 hours of marksmanship instruction over a 16-day period. The redesigned standards have soldiers shooting 600 rounds and receiving 92 hours of training.
Much of that time will be devoted to shooting and qualifying with front and rear backup iron sights to ensure soldiers become more familiar and more disciplined with their weapons, Guadalupe said.
Trainees start out working in marksmanship simulators, “but the real difference is made when they feel the percussion of that weapon and the effect that it has once actually shooting bullets down range,” he said.
For nearly two decades, soldiers have relied upon sophisticated weapons optics such as the M68 CCO as the primary sight in combat.
But Army senior leaders, for many months now, have been stressing the importance of making sure soldiers can operate in technology-degraded environments since potential enemies such as Russia and China are investing in electronic warfare.
In addition to giving recruits more range time, this new reality is driving the return to learning to shoot with basic iron sights designed to work in any condition.
“While technology is critically important to us, we’ve got to make sure they understand the minimum basics of how you shoot that weapon without any of the technology that you could put on it,” Guadalupe said.
(U.S. Army photo)
Basic trainees will have to qualify with both iron sights and the CCO as a graduation requirement. For the qualification course, soldiers are still given 40 rounds to engage 40 targets.
But on CCO qualification day, soldiers will run through the course twice to give them more time to become effective with the optic.
“We did that so they would have more range time, more bullets for that CCO,” said Wayne Marken, quality assurance officer at Jackson.
“They spend the predominance of training time on the backup iron sight, and because they complete backup iron sight and then transition to CCO, we have built in extra time for them to get more range time,” he said.
The best qualification score soldiers receive during the CCO record firing day will determine which marksmanship badge they wear — marksman, sharpshooter or expert.
“Let’s say you go out and shoot 37 rounds and you are an expert the first time you qualify,” Guadalupe said. “We are still going to let you go back to the range and shoot again.”
The new emphasis on marksmanship is also designed to expose young soldiers to more realistic shooting scenarios.
At the end of the final field training exercise known as The Forge, soldiers are required to do a battle march and shoot event.
Soldiers march four miles with 40-pound rucksacks and then go immediately into a close-combat firing range, do 25 pushups and engage 40 targets at ranges out to 100 meters with 40 rounds of ammunition.
“This is at the end of The Forge, so the soldiers over a four-day period … have marched over 40 miles already,” said Thriso Hamilton, training specialist for the Basic Combat Training POI.
“The soldiers are extremely tired, they are hungry, they’re under a stressful situation and we want to see at that point how much focus they can garner to be able to … engage targets,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Military commissaries worldwide will soon have plexiglass “sneeze shields” installed in checkout lanes as a barrier between commissary employees and shoppers, officials announced today.
The 24-30 inch-wide, 36 inch-high barriers, which will be installed in all commissary stores over the next several days, are designed to “add extra protection for customers and cashiers during the COVID-19 outbreak,” the release said.
The plexiglass barriers are the latest in ongoing efforts to keep commissaries open while reducing virus spread. March 18, stores stopped offering Early Bird shopping hours to give workers more time to stock shelves and clean. Officials also started 100% ID checks at commissary doors, restricting all non-authorized shoppers from entering.
Stores have also stepped up their cleaning routine, officials said in today’s release.
“At our commissaries we are wiping down checkout areas, restrooms and shopping carts with disinfectant, and practicing routine hand washing and other basic sanitation measures to avoid spreading germs,” Robert Bianchi, a retired Rear Admiral and the Pentagon’s special assistant for commissary operations said in the release.
The plexiglass barriers will be installed at all regular checkout lanes, the release said. They will not be installed at self-checkout.
The only nation to have used nuclear weapons this century will be able to strike Seattle in four years, former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said on Wednesday.
“I really do think that it is very likely by the end of Mr. Trump’s first term the North Korean’s will be able to reach Seattle with a nuclear weapon onboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile,” Hayden said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“Now, will it be a high-probability shot, they have technical issues, so probably not. But then again, what kind of odds are you comfortable with when it comes to Pyongyang?” Hayden said.
So far this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has conducted 25 ballistic-missile tests and two nuclear tests.
Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow of Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation and former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, says the North Korean threat isn’t four years away — it’s nearly here.
“Hayden is a bit behind the curve on the North Korea ICBM threat,” Klingner told Business Insider.
“After the December 2012 launch, the South Korean navy dredged up off the ocean floor the stages of the North Korean missile, Klingner explained. “South Korean and US officials assessed the missile had a 10,000 km range which covers a large part of the US.”
The launch, which was largely viewed as a front for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, was not only successful but also showcased the North’s technological advancements.
“After the February 2016 launch, experts assessed it could have a range of 13,000 km, covering the entire US,” Klingner said, which makes the Seattle range estimate “outdated,” he added.
According to Klingner, even the rocket with a range of 10,000 km would compromise approximately 120 million people.
What’s more, in 2015, US commanders of US Forces Korea, Pacific Command, and North American Aerospace Defense Command publicly assessed that Pyongyang is able to strike to the US with a nuclear weapon.
One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.
But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.
Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed to Kuwait recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.
Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.
“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”
As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.
That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”
After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.
“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.
Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.
“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”
Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.
“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?'” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”
Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”
Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father, and stepfather all serve on active duty.
“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”
But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.
“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”
Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.
“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.
Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.
Drive, Motivation, Discipline
Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.
“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids — the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”
Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.
“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said.
“I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”
Russia’s newest nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) the “Knyaz Vladimir” — or “Prince Vladimir” in English — was officially launched the week of Nov. 20.
The submarine is the first version of a second variant of the Borei-class submarine (also known as the Dolgorukiy-class after the name of its first vessel), which will be known as the Borei II-class. It was launched during a float out ceremony at the Sevmash Shipyards in Severodvinsk in northern Russia.
The 558 ft long and 44 ft wide submarine is different from its three predecessors. The Knyaz Vladimir has an improved suite of electronics, a deeper dive capability (400 metres), improved living quarters, and lower sound levels that help make the sub virtually undetectable.
The biggest difference in the Knyaz Vladimir is its ability to launch four additional RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missiles, each capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads.
As Franz-Stefan Gady at The Diplomat points out, this means that the Knyaz Vladimir “will be capable of launching 96-200 hypersonic, independently maneuverable warheads, yielding 100-150 kilotons apiece,” meaning each warhead alone is ten times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
That is enough to devastate the entire eastern seaboard of the United States — and then some. All of from just one submarine.
While Knyaz Vladimir is expected to fully integrate with the Russian navy next year, Russia plans on building four additional Borei II-class submarines, with the last one expected to be completed in 2025. That will bring the total number of Borei and Borei II-class submarines to eight.
Two of the three existing Borei-class submarines, Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh, are deployed in Russia’s increasingly active Pacific Fleet; while the other sub, Yuri Dolgoruky, is deployed with Russia’s Northern Fleet.
The Knyaz Vladimir is named after Grand Prince Vladimir, also known as Vladimir the Great, who was responsible for Christianizing the Kievan Rus, a moment many Russians consider to be the founding of their nation.
Russia’s submarine activity shows signs of increasing
Russia is currently in the process of modernizing its submarine fleet, which has suffered from years of neglect due to the massive costs associated with SSBNs. While Russia has a number of nuclear submarines still in active service, like the Oscar, Delta III, and the famous Typhoon class- submarines, the Borei II-class submarines are expected to be the backbone of Russia’s SSBN fleet.
Already, Russia’s submarine activity shows signs of increasing. In 2015, a admiral said that Russia’s submarine fleet intensified its patrols by almost 50%. A year later, it was reported that Russia’s subs in the Northern Fleet increased their patrol time by half, and just last March, Admiral Vladimir Korolev, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, announced that Russia’s submarines had “returned to the level we had before the post-Soviet era.”
Russia is also building fifth-generation nuclear attack submarines, known as the Yasen-class. One of these subs, the Severodvinsk, is already in service with the Northern Fleet.
Last July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on a strategy that singled the US out as a direct threat, saying that it wanted to “dominate the oceans, including in the Arctic.”
“The Russian Federation continues to retain its status as a great naval state, whose naval potential ensures the defensive of its national interests in any part of the World Ocean,” the strategy declared.
Though the US Navy has far more submarines in active service both in SSBN’s and attack submarines, the Russian Navy’s recent moves and its newest submarine plans, show a sign of changing strategy, with a new focus placed on challenging the US Navy’s dominance — particularly underwater.
Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.
Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:
In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.
Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:
It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.
Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.
After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.
The US Air Force flew B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers through the disputed South and East China Seas on March 4, 2019.
“Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and participated in routine training missions, March 4, 2019,” US Pacific Affairs told ABC News, explaining that while one bomber “conducted training in the vicinity of the South China Sea,” the other trained near Japan in cooperation with the US Navy and Japanese forces.
Online flight-tracking data for the flights indicates that one flew near the Philippines while the other conducted operations around Japan.
The last time the US Air Force sent bombers through the South China Sea was in November 2018. The US repeatedly sent bombers through the area in 2018.
The B-52 bombers stationed in Guam are there in support of the US Air Force’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission intended to deter any country with adversarial intentions.
The B-52H Stratofortress.
Bomber flights over the South and East China Seas are perceived as challenges to China, which has attempted to assert its dominance over the strategic waterways. The US has, in the past, sent bombers to Korea in a show of force to the North in the wake of hostile actions.
As it does with US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations, Beijing has previously criticized US bomber flights over the South and East China Seas, calling them “provocative.”
The US has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea in 2019, and the US Navy has also twice sent US warships through the Taiwan Strait.
In response, China has issued warnings, urging to steer clear of these areas, and even flexed its muscles by showing off its anti-ship weaponry, such as the “carrier killer” DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile.
B-52 bombers are high flying heavily-armed aircraft. Some are nuclear-capable bombers, while others have been denuclearized. It is unclear whether the B-52 bombers flying above contested waterways are nuclear-capable aircraft.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was an early morning in Smoaks, South Carolina, and humidity hung in the air. A truck pulled into the Valley Forge Flag driveway, a facility whose sole purpose is flag production. Valley Forge has been producing since World War I, and their flags have seen a number of fates, from being draped across the caskets of presidents to landing on Omaha Beach to navigating the jungles of Vietnam. Some say it’s one of their flags that is planted on the cold surface of the moon.
The truck began offloading countless rolls of an off-white fabric. The delivery man called them “greige goods,” and he was on his way as soon as he was unloaded.
Rolls of fabric used in flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo courtesy of Valley Forge Flags)
The Valley Forge material handler sent the greige goods to be dyed, and when the rolls returned, some were white and others had become a deep, brilliant red. They were cut into strips, and six white strips joined seven red strips, making a total of 13 stripes arranged into one neat pile.
A seamstress approached the pile and set herself to sewing. The sewing machines in this facility were automated, and three or four machines would be running at any given time under the watchful eye of Valley Forge employees. This woman watched them carefully as they stitched the strips of cloth together; she watched as the strips became stripes, the needle pressing into the fabric and joining them together with a firm bond.
The facility floor was filled with the sound of these sewing machines as each one was pieced together, beginning to resemble an American flag.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Rolls of blue cloth with embroidered stars were already waiting to join the stripes. The facility workers cut them to size and fit them next to the stripes, emplacing the final piece of the puzzle.
Another seamstress expertly sewed the fly-end of the flag, and yet another sewed on the white header. The real brass grommets were next, and soon the flags were sent for inspection. The inspector eyed them carefully as they were placed along the table in front of her. Her eye was impeccable; with pride she trimmed excess pieces of thread, and even the most minor defect would be quickly detected and remedied. When complete, she proudly placed a label on the flag indicating that she made sure this flag was of superior quality.
After being properly folded, the flags were placed into packages and taken out the large door in the side of the facility awaiting shipment to their final destination.
Flag production at Valley Forge Flags.
(Photo by Tetteroo Media)
Of these flags, one sat among the rest, heading out to somewhere in the U.S. It looked identical to the others, but its fate was quite different. It would not fly during an American summer nor would passing soldiers salute it.
It wasn’t long before that flag was sitting on the shelf at the PX in Fort Benning, Georgia. It lay there still, amidst the bustle of basic trainees, airborne students, and the throngs of other transient service members in the area.
Eventually, a hand extended from amongst the countless uniforms and took it. After an exchange at the PX checkout counter, the flag was again on the move.
That hand belonged to a man named Patrick. He was of medium height with a strong build, a quiet demeanor, rough hands, and kind eyes.
He took it home to his wife. She had just moved to the area after their wedding; Fort Benning sat on the line dividing Georgia from Alabama, and they lived in the latter in a small apartment complex. Outside, he was an Army Ranger whose country demanded the most difficult tasks of him; here, he was a husband and a friend, a young man fixated on finding happiness in the four walls of a one-bedroom apartment. And he found it, for a while.
This was the home that American flag had been brought into.
Patrick Hawkins during a training exercise in Fort Benning, Georgia.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
Patrick had a reverence for a precious few of his own valuables. A rosary hung nearby — he lamented when people wore rosaries around their necks, saying it was improper. He cherished his wedding ring as a sign of dedication to his beloved. And he felt that the flag, though it was merely a combination of cloth and stitching, represented the things he had fought so hard for during his last three deployments to Afghanistan, the freedoms he enjoyed as he grew from a boy to a Ranger.
Patrick was, for all his calluses and no-excuses leadership, a deeply sentimental man.
He unpacked the flag, but he knew it would not hang on his wall or be displayed on a flagpole. It had a purpose closer to his heart.
He folded it properly and brought it with him to work. He presented his military ID as he passed into Fort Benning, and then drove through the brown fence onto the Ranger compound. Patrick arrived early that day, and he entered the bowels of B Company, 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment — a maze of lockers and bags neatly stowed to the side. Flags of all types were displayed above and the pictures of fallen Rangers lined the walls. Folded flag in hand, Patrick passed them by.
He heaved out a large duffel bag filled with the tools he would need to carry out a war in a far away place. It still had dust embedded into its canvas shell from the last deployment. Patrick placed the flag snugly next to his gear — his cold-weather jacket and extra boots, a laptop and hard drive filled with movies.
The bag containing the flag was loaded onto a pallet, ratcheted down, and covered in plastic sheeting to protect it from the weather. The pallet lay outside under the sun next to Patrick when he kissed his wife and embraced his parents. He was always a momma’s boy, and he hugged her for a few extra seconds; his father was career military, and their touch resonated with mutual respect as well as love.
Bagram Honor Guard members fold the American flag during a Memorial Day ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 29, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier)
It seemed only moments later that Patrick and his flag stepped onto Kandahar Air Field (KAF), Afghanistan.
Upon arrival, Patrick retrieved the flag and carried it to the ready room. It was lined with small, plywood cubbyholes, a hardy wooden table in the center. Zip ties in hand, Patrick grabbed his body armor out of his cubby and placed it on the table. He carefully unfolded the flag and rolled it tightly. He zip tied it onto the outside of his armor, what he called his “kit,” and then placed it back in the wooden cubby.
The flag stayed with him as he donned his kit and grasped his rifle, as he stepped onto the MH-47 helicopter and barreled toward Taliban strongholds. It remained with him as he bolted across the Afghan countryside and dragged Taliban leadership back onto the helicopter and to American lines.
This U.S. Air Force PJ displays the American flag on his kit in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)
There came a moment when the stars on that flag had seen more stars in the Afghan sky than the American sky. It was rolled on Patrick’s back, and it was not properly folded — yet it could not have been in a more perfect state at a more perfect time. He was honored to carry it, and it was in carrying it that he defined why such things have value.
Then one night, Patrick stepped off the helicopter for the last time. A woman exited a small, dirt building, and his Ranger brother went to ensure that she was properly cleared and safely escorted off the battlefield. Instead, the night lit up as she exploded, a suicide vest detonating and sending Patrick’s friend careening back, severely wounded. Other Rangers were knocked off their feet. Smoke and debris hung in the air.
Patrick and the Ranger in his charge, Cody, leapt forward without regard to their own safety. The threat appeared to have been eliminated, and they sought to help their Ranger brethren who were bleeding out in the Afghan dirt.
With another step and a series of flashes, Patrick and Cody were gone. The blasts from several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried just beneath the surface ripped upward and tore through them both, searing through the flag strapped to Patrick’s back.
The night continued, fraught with chaos, but Patrick’s body remained still. The flag on his back, parts of it shredded and other parts covered in his blood, remained next to him.
An eternity of stillness passed in those moments of fire and shadow.
A hand appeared through the darkness. Patrick’s brothers grabbed what they could; they would not leave him in that place, even if the life had left his body. They were shaken and bleeding, but they gritted their teeth and carried him out with the flag on his back.
Patrick Hawkins’ flag, after being cleaned as well as possible, now awaits another deployment.
(Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan)
As Patrick was dragged away, the flag remained on the ground. Once it had been still for long enough, another hand extended from the darkness, picked it up, and stuffed it into a pouch on the belt of another Ranger, just as he left for the exfil helicopter.
The hand belonged to Patrick’s squad leader and mentor, Kellan. The wounded were many, and they had long since run out of litters — Kellan was using another flag to pick up the remains of another fallen soldier. In the pouch on his belt, Patrick’s flag returned to KAF. Tears mixed into the blood on its fabric, which had been stitched together those months ago in South Carolina.
Kellan would look at the flag often, sometimes in sorrow, sometimes with that familiar guilt of survival, and often in gratitude for having the opportunity to know a man like Patrick. To live together in the most extreme of circumstances.
That was not Kellan’s last deployment. He rolled up his sleeves, and he rolled up the flag. He put his kit on the hardwood table in a far away country, zip ties in hand, and secured Patrick’s flag to it. Then he stepped back into the war.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
With a deafening roar that rattled windows, SpaceX — the rocket company founded by Elon Musk — fired up its new Mars rocket-ship prototype for the first time April 3, 2019.
The roughly 60-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket ship, called the “Starhopper” (previously the “Test Hopper”), is a basic prototype of a much larger vehicle called Starship. When completed, perhaps in the early 2020s, the two-stage launcher may stand perhaps 400 feet tall and be capable of landing its nearly 200-foot-tall spaceship on Mars.
The Starhopper prototype gave a full-throated yet brief one-second roar of its sole Raptor engine at 7:57 p.m. CDT on April 3, 2019, based on Business Insider’s eyewitness account.
“Starhopper completed tethered hop. All systems green,” Musk tweeted shortly after the brief firing here on Brazos Island. SpaceX had planned to test the rocket ship earlier this month but had issues with ice-crystal formation in the engine.
A camera on South Padre Island, which is located about 5 1/2 miles from SpaceX’s launch site, recorded the first fiery “hop” test through the haze:
FIRST STARSHIP RAPTOR STATIC FIRE TEST AT SPACEX BOCA CHICA TEXAS
The sound here on Brazos Island was deafening — so loud that part of a resident’s window blinds was knocked off its frame.
“I was cooking collard greens and my house started rattling. It was like a couple of jet airplanes taking off in your living room,” said Maria Pointer, a retired deck officer who lives with her husband, Ray, about 1.8 miles from SpaceX’s new launchpad.
She said previous tests by SpaceX were loud — comparable to the noise of a jet engine — but “this was magnified to about 10 jet-engine roars,” she said.
First Raptor Static Fire test on StarHopper – April 3, 2019
“It reminds you of when the Blue Angels fly over real low,” she added. “That’s the sound. It rattled everything. This was the full Raptor with all the juice going to it. This was the real thing.”
The lone road to SpaceX
SpaceX has been coordinating with Cameron County law enforcement to close access to Highway 4 — the only road into and out of the remote beach community, which about two dozen people share with SpaceX.
During SpaceX’s tests and road closings, renters and longtime residents are permitted to pass through a soft checkpoint about 15 miles east of Boca Chica Village. For safety reasons — the Starhopper is an experimental vehicle that might explode — no one is allowed to pass through a hard checkpoint about 1 1/2 miles west of the launchpad.
Boca Chica Beach, a popular spot with locals from Brownsville and other areas, is also closed during testing operations. Each day of testing has lasted about eight hours.
SpaceX workers taking Starhopper to a launchpad near Boca Chica Beach, Texas, on March 8, 2019.
On April 3, 2019, multiple residents said the road closings had proved increasingly vexing, given their frequency, extended hours, and tightening security meant to ward off gawkers.
When Cameron County, the state, and other authorities gave SpaceX permission to use the site in 2014, the company agreed to close the road about once a month. Ray Pointer said the road had closings more or less every day for the past week.
Despite the tightened security and compounding inconvenience, Maria Pointer said it was fun to hear and see a bit of history taking place.
“This is the good part about it all,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Royal Air Force Reaper MQ9A remote piloted aircraft interrupted a planned public execution that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attempted to carry out earlier this month, giving the would-be victims of the terrorist group a chance to escape.
According to a May 19, 2017 British Ministry of Defence release, the Reaper was over the Syrian village of Abu Kamal on May 9 when it noticed ISIS fighters gathering civilians in the village. When the crew saw that the ISIS fighters were removing two prisoners from a van, they chose to act.
Unable to directly target the would-be executioners due to the British rules of engagement that require the minimization of civilian casualties, the Reaper crew instead fired a single AGM-114 Hellfire missile at the roof of a building where two other ISIS terrorists were acting as sentries. The missile killed one of the tangos outright, and sent both the crowd of civilians and ISIS scrambling for cover.
The ultimate fate of the would-be victims is not known.
AmericanMilitaryNews.com reports that such executions are becoming more common as ISIS loses ground to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. ISIS was known for a series of beheading videos released since 2014, including one earlier this month of an alleged spy for Russia. A British subject, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” was one of the more notorious executioners until he was killed by a strike carried out by American and British UAVs.
According to the RAF’s web site, the British Reaper MQ9A, which is assigned to XIII Squadron, 39 Squadron, and 54 Squadron, is usually armed with four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs. The MQ-9 is also used by the United States Air Force, the Italian Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, French Air Force, and United States Customs and Border Protection.
After Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer made a special holiday appearance with troops deployed in Afghanistan, people in the military community took notice, and exception, to a picture of him with a pistol holstered on his thigh.
According to the Marine Corps, Spencer addressed a group of servicemembers at Camp Shorab, Afghanistan, on Saturday, Dec.23 with other top Marines, including Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald Green.
A photo of the gathering shows a group of servicemembers listening to Spencer, who appears to have a pistol that resembles the Beretta M9 — a standard-issue pistol used by many in the military — on a holster attached to his right thigh.
“Can someone explain why the [civilian] head of the Navy is wearing a sidearm,” CNN correspondent Barbara Starr asked on Twitter in response to the photo.
Spencer was reportedly offered the pistol and ammunition from Marine commanders, according to a Navy spokesman cited in a San Diego Tribune report.
“He was offered the weapon to carry while he was traveling around [Afghanistan] and he accepted that offer,” the spokesman told The Tribune. “It was not something that he specifically requested and it was offered to everybody on the travel team.”
Senior military officials and VIPs are typically accompanied by an armed military personal-security detachment (PSD) or contractors for visits to combat zones. While it would not be out of the ordinary to see a uniformed senior military official carrying a pistol in a combat zone, as a civilian, some people viewed Spencer himself carrying a weapon as an unorthodox move.
Spencer was sworn in in August to become the Navy Secretary — a president-appointed and Senate-confirmed position held by a civilian to oversee all of the Navy’s operations. As a former H-46 Sea Knight pilot in the US Marine Corps, Spencer would have most likely been familiar with a pistol; however, would most likely not have been the M9, which was fielded to the military after he completed his service.
“It’s odd for a senior civilian political appointee to carry a weapon in a combat zone,” Phillip Carter, the director of the Center for a New American Security’s Military, Veterans, and Society research program, told The Tribune. “But if you’re going to carry then you should do so safely, with proper training, including both weapons [qualification] and [rules of engagement] training.”
Some saw his decision to arm himself as a form of showboating:
Spencer may have been trying to impress the Marines pictured, who are not carrying weapons. Their expressions suggest how well he succeeded.
It shows he has zero confidence in his highly trained security team who travels with him literally everywhere. Wonder if he qualified with the weapon before he departed? Does the Secnav really have time for that stuff?
Although the military is allowed to issue firearms to trained federal civilian employees, it was unclear whether Spencer received authorization from appropriate leadership or if he was certified to carry a firearm, The Tribune reported.