Many veterans chose the military life in search of something bigger than themselves. This rings true even for British royalty. Just like his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, Prince Harry served in the British military — except his war stories from Afghanistan are far more impressive than most royals.
Prince Harry entered military service in September 2004 and went to The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in May 2005. During his 44-week intensive training, he went under the name “Officer Cadet Wales” since royal British surnames don’t work like regular folk and he didn’t want any special treatment — despite the fact that everyone at the academy swore loyalty to his badass grandmother.
In case you didn’t know, he’s got badassery in his blood.
After graduating in April 2006, he became an armored reconnaissance troop leader in a unit scheduled to deploy to Iraq. When Defense Secretary John Reid stopped him from deploying, Prince Harry is quoted as saying
“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Prince Harry didn’t just accept this order. He was determined to fight with his brothers and lead his troops. He finally got that chance in June 2007 when he was secretly allowed to deploy to Helmond Province, Afghanistan as a forward air controller — similar to the American joint terminal attack controller.
Even his living conditions were on par with his fellow soldiers.
When his unit and his Gurkha allies were attacked by the Taliban, Prince Harry himself jumped on the .50 cal to hold the line. He successfully repelled the attack all while the Britons back home knew nothing.
Prince Harry returned to England in May 2008 and began his training as an Apache pilot — as is an unofficial tradition among the House of Windsor — and he was damn good. He returned to Afghanistan, now as “Captain Wales.” The Taliban leaders got wind of his return and called for his head. That didn’t scare this badass and his missions were more ramped up.
In true veteran fashion, he was straight out of f*cks to give.
He returned to England with an untold number of combat missions under his belt (but, supposedly, there were a lot). He left active military service in 2015 but he continues to champion the military and veteran community through his countless organizations. He launched the Invictus Games in 2014 and has been a key figure of Walk With the Wounded, HALO Trust, and London Marathon Charitable Trust.
1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.
The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.
“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”
He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.
“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.
He’s only a couple feet away now.
“I took like five steps … “
Major steps down with his right leg.
The enemy pushes the remote control.
The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.
“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”
Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.
Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.
“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”
“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.
“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”
They make it back to base.
“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”
Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.
Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.
“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”
Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.
He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.
He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.
Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.
“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.
“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”
Days turned into weeks, months and years.
His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.
“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”
Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.
“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.
“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”
As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.
“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?
“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”
Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.
The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.
“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”
“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.
He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.
“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.
“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”
He hasn’t stopped since.
“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”
Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.
“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”
“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”
He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.
“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.
“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”
It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.
“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”
Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.
“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.
According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.
“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.
Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).
Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.
So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.
When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.
The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.
But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.
We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.
But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.
The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)
It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.
Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.
Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.
Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.
Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.
That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.
More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.
It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.
Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.
There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.
Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.
Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.
(FARS News Agency)
The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.
Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.
In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.
This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.
Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.
Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.
To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.
PAF: Caveat emptor.
On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.
So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.
To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.
Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.
It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.
Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.
While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.
The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.
As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.
The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.
3. Saudi Arabia
Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.
Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.
That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.
Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.
North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.
2. North Korea
Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.
But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.
The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.
I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.
Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.
It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.
It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.
Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.
It can carry six large rockets and hurl them 90 miles against enemy targets, raining death and destruction on America’s enemies that can slaughter entire enemy units in one fierce volley. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System has real teeth, and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as the Romanian and Polish militaries, are about to get a lot more of them.
And HIMARS really is highly mobile. Not only can it drive itself onto the battlefield from a base or depot, but it can also ride on planes as small as the C-130, drive off the back, and get right into the fight. The Marine Corps actually practiced using HIMARS in “air raids” where a transport plane delivered a launcher to a forward airbase, and then the crew rapidly prepared and fired the weapon.
Alternatively, they can carry a single Army Tactical Missile System. This bad boy can fly over 180 miles and packs a 500-pound warhead. The missile made its combat debut in Desert Storm. The U.S. won that one. We’re not saying that it happened because of the ATACMS, but the math adds up.
With increased HIMARS capability in NATO, it would be much more complicated for Russia to invade. And if it did another destabilizing mission like it’s still doing in the Donbas region of Ukraine, HIMARS would still be pretty useful. Those Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have proven pretty reliant on Russian artillery, and the extra range and precision of HIMARS would allow them to hit back with pinpoint accuracy while out of Russian range.
Too bad for Ukraine that it’s not part of this contract.
In 1992, Jim Valvano – a former basketball player, coach of the 1983 champion North Carolina State men’s basketball team, and broadcasting personality – was diagnosed with metastatic cancer that had spread to his spine.
Up until this point, the charismatic Queens, N.Y.-native was best known for his celebration after defeating the Houston Cougars in the 1983 NCAA championship game. You can see “Jimmy V” running onto the court about 9 seconds into the video below:
“Time is very precious to me. I don’t know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people, too.”
It was just a decade later that his life was tragically cut short. But before he went, even knowing the end could be near, he was able to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the first annual ESPY Awards. It was a speech that echoed for years to come and remains one of the most memorable.
Those are words appropriate for fighting cancer, being the underdog in the country’s biggest basketball tournament, or even fighting alongside your brothers and sisters in arms, far from your family and loved ones.
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day… Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy… think about it: If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
But about a week or so before, Jimmy V gave a speech commemorating the Wolfpack’s 1983 NCAA championship to the team, current players, and Wolfpack fans. That speech was one for the ages. It will keep you shouting the mantra of, “Don’t give up! Don’t ever give up!” during any rough time in your life.
Jim Valvano died from the cancer he was determined to fight just a month or so after his legendary ESPY Awards speech. His name and spirit live on through the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Pairing athletes with military veterans just makes sense. Both have a team mentality, dedication to their uniform and all the meaning associated with it, and — most importantly — a deep connection to their fellow teammates. It may (or may not) surprise some to learn that making film and television is very much a team sport as well. The cast and crew have to operate in tandem and rely on one another for success. Physical fitness is also a very important aspect to all three lifestyles.
So, it makes sense that movie stars are getting into the latest social media trend: push-ups for veterans.
In 2015, FOX NFL insider Jay Glazer created the nonprofit Merging Vets and Players to match separated combat veterans and former professional athletes to help the vets deal with transitioning out of their old team — the U.S. military — and into civilian life. He wanted to show that the country cared about what happens to them when the uniform comes off, that the skills they picked up in service to the United States are still applicable in their new lives, and that professional athletes could help show them their true potential.
Glazer was soon joined by Nate Boyer, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and player for both the Texas Longhorns and Seattle Seahawks who is very active in the veteran community. He believes the two worlds have a lot in common.
“Both war fighters and football players need something to fight for once the uniform comes off, and your service to country or time on the field is over,” Boyer says. “Without real purpose for the man on your right and left, it can be easy to feel lost.”
With Glazer’s access to the world of the NFL and its players combined with Boyer’s impeccable credentials in the military-veteran community and unique knowledge of the struggles returning veterans face, the nonprofit offers peer support between the athletes and veterans, as well as physical training and challenges at locations across America.
One of those challenges recently caught on with another group: movie stars. Glazer challenged all the members of his elite LA-based training center, Unbreakable Performance, to a 25 push-up challenge. For every member who publicly posts their 25 push-ups, TV personality and NFL alum Michael Strahan will donate fitness equipment to Merging Vets and Players. It immediately got a response.
Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World was challenged by Strahan specifically. He answered the call, then challenged Jack Ryan star, John Krasinski, who challenged both Captain America Chris Evans and The Rock to pump out 25 for Merging Vets and Players.
They both did their 25. In the days that followed, Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Dave Bautista answered the call, as did Caleb Shaw, and Sylvester Stallone. Recently challenged stars include Mark Walhberg, LeBron James, and even Snoop Dogg.
The 25 push-up challenge didn’t stop with celebrities, though. Veterans who follow Merging Vets and Players, as well as MVP alumni, are also posting their 25 push-up challenge videos on Instagram and Twitter.
Before World War II, the U.S. military wasn’t much to look at. Even as the Roosevelt Administration began to prepare for the war, switching on the “arsenal of democracy” and instituting a peacetime draft, it wasn’t enough to deter the Japanese from hitting the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the Americans were battle-tested at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in 1943, they failed miserably.
China is facing a similar situation, with a large military slowly advancing in technology but lacking any real combat experience. But where will China face its Kasserine Pass?
Despite superior numbers and newer equipment, the Nazis handed the U.S. their butts, and combat experience made the difference. The Nazis had been fighting in North Africa for almost three years by then and the Americans hadn’t seen combat at all. The Americans were rigid and inflexible, while the Nazis already had time to work out all the kinks in their command and control.
At the time, it looked pretty bleak for us… but we all know Tunisia was just a warmup for what would come later.
Your destruction has a last name, it’s P-A-T-T-O-N.
The difference between Patton and the man he replaced was the same issue that troubled the Army as a whole. Where Patton’s predecessor made rank as a teacher and trainer and had no real combat experience, Patton had been leading troops in combat since 1916. For the Chinese, it’s been some 40 years since the Peoples Liberation Army fought a major combat operation – and that did not go well.
In 1979, China invaded neighboring Vietnam, a country that had just finished fighting its own civil war four years prior. So when the Vietnamese had to respond to Chinese aggression, they had almost 40 years of fighting under their collective belt by that time. Vietnam completely wiped the floor with the Chinese. China left Vietnam after just three weeks of fighting and has been largely inexperienced ever since.
A Chinese tank destroyed in Cao Bang, Vietnam in1979.
(Vietnam News Agency)
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army of today is very different from the one who invaded Vietnam. China now has its own homegrown fighter planes, ships, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, among other weapons systems, but while the tech has been tested, the Army itself has largely not been. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced nearly uninterrupted combat opportunities in some form since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at least 18 years of constant warfare in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean training doesn’t have benefits.
Units who train in conditions as close to actual combat as possible fare better when it comes to real-world operations, but any training will help a unit gain experience in its battlefield roles. Once the United States maintained a regular standing army in the postwar world, it was better able to sustain battlefield losses and withdraw from a loss while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. Research shows that a well-trained unit under experienced commander suffer far fewer casualties when the bullets start flying.
So while China would like the world to tremble at the idea of an advanced, well-trained army and navy exerting its influence and power at will, until the Chinese actually demonstrate the capability to use that training in a real-world combat situation, they’ll always just be trying to push around their smaller neighbors while trying to ignore their real geopolitical rival – the one who’s operating with airbases and seasoned combat troops on their doorstep.
In perhaps one of the oddest British strategies against Nazi Germany, British troops launched almost 100,000 hydrogen-filled latex balloons into Nazi-controlled territory to set fires and short out power wires as part of Operation Outward.
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force members recover a kite balloon.
(Royal Air Force)
Operation Outward was the result of an accident. Barrage and observation balloons in World War I got more coverage than in World War II, but the floating sacks of hydrogen were widely used in both conflicts. You can actually spot them in some of the more famous D-Day photos from later in the day or over the days and weeks that followed.
(The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion was the only Black combat unit that came ashore on D-Day, though plenty of Black logistic and engineer units were there on June 6.)
But when it happened in the Scandinavian countries in 1940, the Brits were all, “Wait, what’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, so let’s apologize to Scandinavia but then do the same thing, on purpose, to Hitler’s Third Reich. Screw those guys.”
The British relied on a couple infrastructure advantages for this plan. Britain’s electrical grid was more developed, and therefore more susceptible to disruption, but it also featured faster circuit breakers. This meant that Britain’s grid, if hit with balloons trailing wires, would suffer relatively little damage. Germany’s, with slower breakers, had a real risk of losing entire sections of the grid or even power plants to balloon disruptions.
So, even if it led to a balloon trading war, Britain could expect to hold the upper hand. And so weather balloons were filled with hydrogen, fitted with either spools of wire or incendiary devices, and floated over the channel into Germany.
An “incendiary sock” like those used to burn German towns.
(UK National Archives)
The wires were relatively thin. Experimentation showed the designers that they didn’t need the thick steel of normal tethers to short lines, cause electrical arcs, and damage German power distribution. The electrical arcs were the real killer, draining power from the grid, overworking the components of the power generation, and weakening the transmission lines so they would later break in high winds.
Both types were made to fly over the channel at a little over 20,000 feet, then descend to 1,000 feet and do their work. They needed winds of about 10 mph or more to be as effective as possible.
And they worked, well. The idea wasn’t to cripple Germany in a single blow, but to cost them more in economic damage and defensive requirements than it cost Britain to deploy them. And, thanks to the low-cost materials Britain used, Britain only had to pay around the U.S.equivalent of .50 per balloon. Shooting a balloon down could cost much more than that in ammo, and that was if it was shot down by air defenders. If fighters had to launch, the fuel and maintenance would be astronomical.
Assessments found during and after the war painted a picture of constant disruption on the German side. In occupied France, there were 4,946 power interruptions during the program, most of them caused by the balloons. In 11 months from early 1942 to early 1943, Germany had 520 major disruptions of high-voltage lines.
And at a cost of .50 a balloon plus the wages of balloon launchers, mostly members of the Women’s Royal Navy Service, the more than 99,000 balloons launched were a hell of a deal.
On Thursday, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors intercepted a pair of Russian military planes as they entered into America’s Alaska air defense identification zone (ADIZ), just days after conducting similar intercepts of Russian bombers in the same region. This time, the Russian aircraft, which were both reportedly IL-38 maritime patrol planes, had come within 50 miles of the Alaskan island of Unimak and then proceeded to spend a full four hours in the area.
A pair of F-22s, America’s most capable air superiority fighters, intercepted the Russian planes and escorted them out of the area. Thursday’s intercept marks the fifth time American fighters had to shoo Russian bombers and other aircraft away from U.S. Air Space this month, and the ninth time this year. A number of those intercepts included Russia’s Tu-95 long range, nuclear capable, heavy payload bombers, as well as Su-35 fighter escorts.
Russian Su-35 (WikiMedia Commons)
The Su-35 is a fourth-generation fighter, meaning it lacks stealth capabilities, but is still regarded as among the most capable dogfighting platforms on the planet. The Su-35’s powerful twin engines are capable of propelling the fighter to a top speed of Mach 2.25, far faster than an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and each comes equipped with thrust vectoring nozzles that allow the aircraft to perform incredible acrobatics that most other fourth and even fifth generation fighters simply can’t.
That is to say that Russia is clearly taking these incursions into America’s backyard seriously, sending some of their most capable platforms on these missions.
America’s F-22 Raptor, however, also comes equipped with twin, thrust vectoring power plants, which in conjunction with its stealth capabilities, likely makes the F-22 the most fearsome air superiority fighter on the planet.
Are Russian bomber intercepts common for the U.S. or its allies?
The short answer is yes. The United States and Russia have a long history of staring matches in the Alaskan ADIZ, but many other nations, particularly members of NATO, often mount their own intercept flights as Russian pilots encroach on their air space as well.
USAF F-22 Raptor intercepting a Russian Tu-95 bomber near Alaska earlier this month. (NORAD)
Russia regularly conducts long-distance bomber missions all over the world, sometimes prompting an intercept response from nations that feel threatened by their bomber presence. According to the BBC, Royal Air Force intercept fighters have ushered away Russian bombers and other aircraft encroaching on their airspace no fewer than ten times since the beginning of 2019.
What is Russia trying to accomplish?
Like many military operations, these flights are motivated by multiple internal and external factors.
Training and Preparation
The primary reason behind these long-range flights, particularly for heavy payload bombers, is simply training. In order to be able to execute these long range bombing missions in the event of real war, Russian pilots conduct training flights that closely resemble how actual combat operations would unfold.
It’s worth noting that the United States conducts similar long-range training flights with its own suite of heavy payload bombers, including the non-nuclear B-1B Lancer and the nuclear capable B-52 Stratofortress. Long duration missions can be dangerous and difficult even without an enemy shooting back at you — so it’s in the best interest of nations with long range bomber capabilities to regularly conduct long range flights.
Long range missions require a great deal of logistical planning as well, as bombers are often accompanied by fighters that don’t have the same fuel range as the massive planes they escort. That means not only coordinating with escort fighters from multiple installations, but also managing support from airborne refuelers and flights of Advanced Warning and Control (AWAC) planes. Executing such a complex operation takes practice, no matter the nation conducting them.
An important part of Russia’s foreign policy is maintaining the threat they represent to diplomatic opponents (like the United States and its NATO allies). Deterrence is the ultimate goal of many military operations, and demonstrating the capability to launch long-range strikes against national opponents is meant to support that doctrine.
The concept of using a strong offense as a good defense dates back to when mankind first starting sharpening sticks to defend their territory, and is perhaps best demonstrated in a modern sense by America and Russia’s nuclear deterrent approach of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The premise behind MAD is simple: by maintaining a variety of nuclear attack capabilities, it makes stopping a nuclear response to an attack all but impossible. In other words, if the U.S. launch nuclear weapons at Russia, Russia would be guaranteed to fire their own back at the U.S., and vice versa.
The promise that one nuclear attack would immediately result in a large-scale nuclear war is seen as deterrent enough to keep nuclear powers from engaging in such a terrible form of warfare… at least thus far.
The third, and perhaps most nefarious, reason behind these flights that prompt intercepts from U.S. or allied fighters is as a means of desensitizing military personnel and even civilian populations to the presence of Russian bombers or other aircraft on our doorstep.
Because each of these flights prompts a flurry of headlines form major media outlets, many Americans have taken to dismissing these flights as so commonplace they hardly warrant the webspace. Likewise within the military, conducting frequent intercepts of Russian aircraft can leave some pilots and commanders increasingly complacent about the threat these aircraft potentially pose.
Imagine a bear breaking into your trash can every couple of months. The first few times, you’d be pretty scared and concerned. You might even set up cameras and invest in some bear-spray you can use to deter the bears from coming back. After a few months of sporadic bear visits, that fear turns to annoyance, as you begin to feel as though the bear isn’t a threat to you, but is an inconvenience in your life.
After years of dealing with the same bear digging through your trash, you would likely stop seeing the bear as a threat to your safety and adopt a more neutral approach to rolling your eyes and swearing under your breath every time it comes lumbering up to your old trash can.
The bear itself is no less dangerous to you than it was the first time you saw it and panicked, but your perception of the bear has shifted. Now, while you’re aware that it could hurt you, you’ve also developed an understanding that it probably won’t. You may even start to ignore it from time to time. That unintentional complacency brought about through familiarization will leave you less primed to react if the bear suddenly does pose a threat to your safety.
The slight delay in your response, brought about by complacency, could be all the bear needs to do some real damage. The same can be said about Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers.
How to combat complacency with a Russian “Bear” in your yard
Complacency isn’t just a concern when it comes to Russian aircraft or curious bears. Letting your guard down is a constant concern for service members on the front lines of any conflict.
Military protocol is one powerful tool in the fight against complacency, because it mandates a threat response and outlines its proper execution. In other words, the U.S. Military doesn’t have to make any specific decisions at the onset of identifying a potential threat. Instead, they execute the tasks on their threat response checklist to gather vital information, prepare a response, and in these cases, intercept the bombers.
USAF F-22 intercepts Russian bomber (NORAD)
In this way, America can turn the potential threat of complacency into a valuable training operation, wherein U.S. personnel act as though this Russian bomber flight could be a real attack. Of course, the risk of complacency remains, but that’s why continuous training and preparation is an essential part of American defense.
Whether it’s Russian bombers or a wayward Grizzly, if you treat every interaction like it could be dangerous, you’ll be better prepared in the event that it is.
By now you’ve more than likely heard the news that there was a soldier who fell into the Kilauea volcano. His identity hasn’t been made public, and it’s probably for the best. What is known is that he ignored all of the railings and safety protocols put in place that normal tourists follow, and then he fell 70 feet into the pit.
Before everyone starts worrying about volcano safety briefs coming soon to your obviously volcano-free installation, just know that the only bit of information that we know of him is that he was an officer. Which makes absolute sense and I’m going to go out on a limb and imply that he was the type of officer who wouldn’t go to weekend safety briefs anyways.
Well. The Hawaii County Fire Department chief has said that “He obviously is doing remarkably well for his fall; only time will tell what injuries he has.” So knowing that he’s not in any grave danger – that opens the door for any and all ridicule! Because it takes a certain type of ASVAB-waiver to commission someone who’s willing to look at all of the signs saying it’s a freaking volcano and all the railings around said volcano only to say “This selfie will look cool as f*ck on my Instagram!”
Anyways. Here are some memes to help you get over the added section to every single troops’ safety brief this weekend about using common sense around active pits of boiling lava.
The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.
Here are some of those moments from this past week:
A crew chief from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, prepares one of the unit’s F-16 “Fighting Falcons” to shut down after the aircraft arrives at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 19, 2018, in preparation for the Thunder Over Louisville air show on April 21. The Kentucky Air Guard is once again serving as the base of operations for dozens of military aircraft participating in the show, providing essential maintenance and logistical support.
Medical Soldiers participating in Eager Lion 2018 carry a simulated casualty on a litter to a UH-60 Blackhawk. The 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Charlie Company, along with the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Assault Helicopter Battalion conduct a medical evacuation validation for Exercise Eager Lion 2018 from King Abdullah II Air Base in Az-Zarqa, Jordan, April 14, 2018. Eager Lion is a major Exercise with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.
Field grade officers and noncommissioned officers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, “Broncos,” 25th Infantry Division arrive to their first destination as part of a Mungadai exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on April 17, 2018. The Mungadai is used as a Bronco Brigade leader development program is to create disciplined, trained, and ready professionals, prepared with operational and foundational knowledge, to take disciplined initiative while implementing and executing their commander’s intent.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1ST Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire an M777 Howitzer during Decisive Action Rotation 18-06 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Apr. 16, 2018. The National Training Center allows units to integrate indirect fire into live fire training exercises, enhancing training for Army BCTs.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy NSWG4 Public Affairs)
Special Boat Team 20 personnel execute the insertion of two Combatant Craft Assault vehicles using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System during a training exercise April, 19, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)
Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided- missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) fire a .50-caliber machine gun during a bi-lateral interoperability live-fire gunnery exercise with the Finnish guided-missile patrol craft Hamina (PTG 80) April 17, 2018. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its fifth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
U.S. Marine Corps Rct. Vivienne Herrera, with Platoon 4016, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, stands with her fellow recruits after completing an obstacle during the Crucible at Parris Island, S.C. April 20, 2018. The Crucible, a 54 hour day and night test of endurance, is the final and most demanding step before earning the title of United States Marine.
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua P. Main, a rifleman assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (BLT 2/6), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fires an M203 rifle at a simulated target during a combat mastery shooting range as part of Eager Lion 18 combat rehearsal, in Jordan, April 17, 2018. Eager Lion is a capstone training engagement that provides U.S. forces and the Jordan Armed Forces an opportunity to rehearse operating in a coalition environment and to pursue new ways to collectively address threats to regional security and improve overall maritime security.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Kaczoroski)
A Coast Guard Station Islamorada 33-foot Special Purpose Craft—Law Enforcement boatcrew prepares to rescue a family of four from the water Sunday, April 15, 2018 in Blackwater Sound near Key Largo. The boatcrew took the family to Gilberts Marina with no reported injuries.
Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.
Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)
Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.
As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.
Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.
But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.
Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.
But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.
An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.
(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)
In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.
But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.
The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.
(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)
But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.
And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.