MIGHTY HISTORY

Listen to a sailor tearfully recall losing a shipmate in the deadly terror attack on his ship USS Cole

The US Navy released a powerful video Monday of retired sailors and a Gold Star mother recounting the deadly bombing of the destroyer USS Cole twenty years ago today.

In one heartbreaking scene, retired Master Chief Paul Abney breaks into tears as he remembers the loss of fellow sailor Operation Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Saunders. Abney said he stood watch with Saunders every day.


“Both of his legs were busted up so bad,” he recalled. “They were out of shape, they were all twisted on the Stokes stretcher they were carrying him on.”

Tears fill his eyes as he continues. “Still the same cheery personality, he gives me two thumbs up and says, ‘They’re taking care of me, master chief,’ as they were carrying him off on a Stoke stretcher.”

“He was the only shipmate who made it off and to the hospital that passed away over there,” he said. “Every other one that we got off the ship and triaged to get off soon enough they made it. The rest of them died before we ever got them off the ship.”

USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in a boat packed with explosives while in port in Yemen on October 12, 2000. The explosion tore a hole in the ship so large the crew spent several days containing the flooding that endangered the ship. “We almost lost her,” retired Command Master Chief James Parlier said in the video.

“The pressure of it knocked me back in my chair,” Abney said. “Along with it, all the lights went out. The next thing that I can really recall from the blast was this putrid, kind of acrid smoke. It was kind of hard to breathe. Everybody was choking from the smoke.”

Seventeen sailors were killed, and another 39 others were injured in the attack.

Among the deceased was James McDaniels. His mother, Dianne McDaniels, learned about the attack on the news. That evening, she was informed that her son was gone. “I’m glad he did what he did as far as serving because that’s what he wanted to do,” she said.

“These were young men and women that you knew personally. We had a crew of 275,” Parlier said. “Respectfully, to put them in a body bag is the worst thing I can ever think of.”

The attack was attributed to al Qaeda, which carried out attacks in the US a little over a year later on September 11, 2001.

It took a little over a year to repair USS Cole and return her to sea. Parlier said that when the ship was finally fixed and sailing again, he felt pride “because we told them son of a b——s that we were not defeated and that we were coming back.”

Remembering the Terrorist Attack on USS Cole (DDG 67), Oct. 12, 2000

www.youtube.com

In January of last year, the US military killed Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi, an al Qaeda operative believed to have helped orchestrate the bombing of USS Cole, in an airstrike in Yemen.

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

MIGHTY FIT

This guy dropped 160 pounds to fulfill dream of joining US Army

Just a year ago, Christian Montijo was a different man. In fact, he was almost twice the man he is today.

He figured he weighed a little more than 350 pounds. But it was more of a guess, since his scale only went up to that number.

Overweight and realizing his unhealthy habits, the 28-year-old banker from Kissimmee, Florida, set a goal to transform himself. And, if he could, revive his dream of joining the Army.

“I would wake up tired,” he said Tuesday. “I’d be sitting down watching TV and my wife would be, ‘are you OK because you’re breathing really heavy?’ So I decided that I had to make a change.”


The father of two started to eat healthier and drink water instead of several bottles of soda each day. He began to walk after work, then that turned into a jog and eventually a 2-mile run.

He also worked on his situps and pushups as the pounds shed off.

Christian Montijo before the weight loss.

“Last year at this time if you told me that ‘I’d give you a million dollars to do one pushup,’ I could not have done it,” he said. “Honestly, I would go down but I couldn’t go up to save my life.”

A new man

Over the past year, his daily routine allowed him to lose about 160 pounds.

“It’s night and day. I’m a whole new person,” he said. “I wake up with energy, I sleep through the night. I can run now and be fine, and I can keep up with my kids.”

His new frame also met the Army’s weight standards. Coming from a military family, Montijo aspired to be a soldier since high school.

Now eligible, he searched for a job that fit his interest in either technology, communications or intelligence. He then came across 25S, a satellite communications systems operator-maintainer.

Christian Montijo after the weight loss.

“It had two things that I wanted: communications and technology,” he said. “It was a two-for-one pretty much.”

In January, he plans to ship out to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training.

A positive example

Before signing his enlistment papers, Montijo credited his recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Ayala, for motivating him when he was still overweight.

Ayala stayed in touch with Montijo since the summer to answer his questions and help map out his goals.

“I wasn’t really expecting that type of engagement that he had with me,” Montijo said.



But for Ayala, he said Montijo’s positive attitude got himself into shape and prepared for the strenuous training to come.

“He’s more than ready, because he’s continuing to lose weight,” Ayala said. “All the working out he has done has been on his own.”

If Montijo is able to carry that same outlook into the Army, Ayala said he wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly jumps up in rank.

“I explained to him that if you have this type of drive to accomplishing his goal, you’re going to pass me up a lot faster in rank,” he said. “The sky’s the limit on the stuff you can accomplish while you’re in the Army.”

Ayala also likes to use him as an example when potential recruits get discouraged about being overweight.

“They look at me all dismayed that their bubble has been popped about joining,” he said of when he informs them about the weight standards.

The recruiter then goes over to his computer and shows them his desktop screen, where he displays Montijo’s before and after photos.

“They’re like ‘wow’ and I even had a couple people say, ‘well if he can do it, I can do it,'” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.

One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?


Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District and a lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, is facing scrutiny for tweets and media appearances in which he criticized Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, for deciding to withdraw Wisconsin National Guard troops from the southern border.

Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.

Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.

But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.

Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.

The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]

Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.

As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.

Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).

There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.

Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.

(Facebook photo)

But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.

Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?

Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.

Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.

Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.

Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.

The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is hiding missile bases in their mountains

North Korea has at least a dozen, possibly more, secret ballistic missile bases hidden in the mountains, a Washington-based think tank reported Nov. 12, 2018.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies — relying on satellite photos, as well as interviews with defectors and defense and intelligence officials from around the world — has identified 13 of an estimated 20 undeclared missile operating bases.

The new “Beyond the Parallel” report says “these missile operating bases … can be used for all classes of ballistic missile from short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) up to and including intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).”


The weapons, many of which were developed as part of an energized program over the past few years, are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.

The secret missile bases are, notably, not launch sites. Rather, they appear to be focused on the preservation of the North’s missile arsenal in the event of a preemptive strike.

North Korea “engages in an aggressive camouflage, concealment, and deception program with regard to its ballistic missile force,” the CSIS report says.

Kim Jong Un inspects the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

The bases, according to experts, tend to be “rudimentary in nature” and feature underground tunnels for the storage of transporter erector launchers (TELs) and mobile erector launchers (MELs) that could be rolled out and dispersed to pre-prepared launch sites.

The operating bases are scattered across the country, typically located in small mountain valleys, the report said. The one closest to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the Sakkanmol base in the “tactical belt,” is said to house a SRBM unit, one that could accommodate more capable medium-range ballistic missiles if necessary.

The revelation, reportedly long known to American intelligence agencies, is the latest in a string of reports indicating that North Korea is not living up to the expectations of the Trump administration, which demands the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

While the administration has celebrated North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing, the closure of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the partial dismantling of the Sohae missile engine testing facility, and the return of American hostages, North Korea has yet to walk the path of disarmament desired by Washington.

Summer 2018, roughly one month after the historic Singapore summit where President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time, reports surfaced indicating that the country continues producing missiles, producing nuclear fuel at secret enrichment sites, and making improvements to key nuclear and missile facilities.

Furthermore, North Korea has repeatedly rejected US requests for a detailed and accurate disclosure of the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Early November 2018, Pyongyang canceled talks with Washington, further complicating the Trump administration’s efforts to secure lasting denuclearization.

After the landmark summit in Singapore, Trump tweeted that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Sebastian Stan stars as US official who risked his career to honor a fallen hero in ‘The Last Full Measure’

Airman 1st Class William “Pits” Pitsenbarger was a Pararescueman during the Vietnam War. Less than a year after receiving orders, he would go on to fly nearly 300 rescue missions and save over 60 men before sacrificing himself to aid others during one of the most brutal battles of an already harsh war. When offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of the combat zone, Pits stayed behind to protect the lives of others and was later killed by Viet Cong snipers.

The Last Full Measure is the long-awaited story of how the men he saved would try to procure him the Medal of Honor — and the dark reason why the American government resisted.

Check out the final trailer, released today:


“The sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten,” intones Christopher Plummer, who plays the father of William Pitsenbarger. The Last Full Measure, written and directed by Todd Robinson, also stars Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.

“Todd Robinson’s riveting drama chronicles one man’s sacrifice and valor on the battlefield, and we believe it also highlights an aspect of American patriotism overdue for recognition. Everyone should know about William Pitsenbarger’s bravery and life, and it’s a privilege to bring this film to theaters where it should be seen,” said Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as reported by Deadline.

Pits was initially posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted Airman to receive it, before it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

William “Pits” Pitsenbarger

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Medal of Honor Citation

“Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on April 11, 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.

On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties.

Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible.

In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.”

He was also posthumously awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant. Other awards and medals include the Air Force Cross, the Airman’s Medal, and two Purple Hearts. His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.

Following the battle, Pitsenbarger’s fellow PJ’s and soldiers who he saved in combat embarked on an over 30 year effort to upgrade his Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. In the trailer, William Hurt, who plays a fellow PJ, describes the situation as “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Finally, in 2000, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor in a cermony attended by his parents, fellow veterans and the Secretary of the Air Force. The Last Full Measure will release in theaters on January 24th, 2020.

Articles

Former US Navy vessel attacked by Yemeni rebels in Indian Ocean


HSV-2 Swift came under attack off the coast of Yemen this past weekend and suffered serious damage from what appears to be multiple hits from RPG rockets. Photos released by Emirates News Agency show at least two hits from rockets that penetrated HSV-2 Swift’s bow, in addition to substantial fire damage.

According to media reports, HSV-2 Swift is being assisted by the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Mason (DDG 87) and USS Nitze (DDG 94) as well as USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15). The vessel is currently being towed away from Yemen.

HSV-2 Swift was acquired by the Navy from Incat, a shipbuilder in Tasmania, in 2003, where it served for a number of years in Pacific Command, European Command, and Southern Command until 2013, when the first Joint High-Speed Vessel, USS Spearhead (JSHV 1) replaced it. During its deployments, HSV-2 Swift primarily carried out humanitarian missions, including for relief efforts in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War. The vessel also took part in a number of deployments, like Southern Partnership Station while in U.S. service.

HSV-2 Swift in happier times. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In 2013, the vessel was returned to Incom, where it was refitted and then acquired by the National Marine Dredging Company in the United Arab Emirates, where the ship was used to deliver humanitarian aid. HSV-2 Swift was on such a mission to not only deliver medical supplies but to extract wounded civilians when it was attacked this past weekend. Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, claimed to have sunk the vessel.

HSV-2 Swift displaces 955 tons of water, has a top speed of 45 knots, and has a crew of 35. The vessel can carry over 600 tons of cargo on  nearly 29,000 square foot deck.

Articles

This is why the UH-1 Huey became a symbol of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War’s icon was arguably the UH-1 helicopter. Officially designated the Iroquois (‘Huey’ is more of a term of endearment), this helicopter has been the most-produced in history, first flying in 1956 — that means it has just over six decades of service with the United States military!


Over 7,000 Hueys were used in Vietnam, and 2,500 were lost during the war.

According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the UH-1D had the ability to carry up to 16 passengers and crew.

The chopper could also carry just under 3,900 pounds of equipment in the cabin or 5,000 pounds in an external sling. It also could serve as a potent gunship, firing 70mm rockets, M60 machine guns in 7.62mm NATO, and M134 miniguns.

Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (U.S. Army photo)

The secret to the Huey’s success was a gas turbine engine that not only was able to perform at higher temperatures and in less-dense air than previous helicopters, but it was also much lighter than previous helicopter engines.

This allowed the Huey to be smaller (48-foot rotor diameter, 57 foot length) and lighter — making it fast (a top speed of 135 miles per hour) and maneuverable. It had a range of 315 miles, giving American troops the ability to strike hard and fast at a distance.

The chopper’s mobility meant that in a one-year tour, the average infantry soldier saw 240 days of combat. For some perspective, in the Pacific Theater during WWII, the average grunt saw 40 days over the nearly four years that conflict lasted.

U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Today, versions of the UH-1 are still in service with the Marine Corps (the UH-1Y Venom), the Air Force (UH-1N), and Navy (UH-1N). The Army’s last Huey mission was flown on Dec. 15, 2016. According to an Army release, the helicopter was handed off to the Louisiana State Police a week later.

History, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

These drones are fighting the massive fires in California

Five years after a proof-of-concept mission, the MQ-9 Reaper drone has developed into a key asset in California’s fight against wildfires, including the Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires, which are currently burning in Northern California.


“It’s a technology I never thought I’d see,” said Jeremy Salizzoni, a fire technical specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who was embedded with the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base, California, during 2013’s devastating Rim Fire.

More than 250,000 acres burned in August 2013 as the Rim Fire raged in Tuolumne County, California. At the time, it was the state’s third largest wildfire on record. More than 100 structures were lost in the blaze, which took nine weeks to fully contain.

An aircrew from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing flies an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a mission to support state agencies fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, Aug. 4, 2018. The aircrew conducted fire perimeter scans and spot checks on the blaze, which encompasses the Ranch and River fires.

(California Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

Game-Changing Technology

Eleven days after the Rim Fire started, the wing launched a first-of-its kind mission to overfly the fire with an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted reconnaissance aircraft and beam back real-time video footage of the fire to Salizzoni and wing intelligence analysts working in an operations facility at March.

Through the Predator’s footage, Salizzoni, who was used to driving for hours through rugged terrain to access overlook points and put eyes on the leading edge of a fire, could see any area of the fire he wanted, in real time and without ever leaving the operations facility.

The remotely piloted aircraft’s thermal imaging camera provided a view of the fire unlike anything he’d ever seen. Traditional aerial assets are important, but encounter limitations due to smoke, fuel, altitude and field of view, he said.

“It was such a dramatic change from anything I’d seen in my career,” Salizzoni said. “It was like being blind and then having vision in the blink of an eye.”

He and his colleagues knew they had a new tool in their firefighting toolbox.

“We saw things over the course of that fire that you couldn’t have made up,” Salizzoni said. “I don’t think there’s a better intel resource at our disposal right now.”

During its eight-day emergency activation for the Rim Fire, the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing — the unit’s name at the time — logged more than 150 hours of fire support and was credited with helping firefighters expedite containment.

MQ-9 Reaper RPA

Domestic Response

In the five years since, the 163rd Attack Wing has changed its name and the kind of airplane it flies, but one thing hasn’t changed: the wing’s dedication to domestic disaster response missions right here at home.

RPAs are no longer just trying to prove their worth, said Air Force Maj. Mike Baird, the senior intelligence officer at the 163rd Attack Wing. The wing’s MQ-9 Reaper RPAs — a big-brother to the recently-retired Predators — are an in-demand incident awareness and assessment asset preferred by California’s civil authorities when disaster strikes.

The wing has supported more than 20 wildfires since 2013, but it takes more than just airplanes, Baird said. Keeping California safe takes a wing-wide effort.

“What we’ve been doing behind the scenes from maintenance and communications to refining our deployment and personnel processes has led up to our ability to provide an unprecedented level of MQ-9 support,” Baird said.

The wing provided real-time full motion video support over a number of fires in 2017, including California’s most destructive fire on record and also its largest fire to date. More than 5,600 structures were damaged and 22 lives were lost during the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County in October. Two months later, in December, the Thomas Fire ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to become the state’s largest fire on record with more than 280,000 acres burned.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class James Thompson)

Innovation on the Fly

The wing works to refine its techniques and procedures, and works to expand the detailed real-time incident awareness and assessment data it provides to incident commanders. Innovation on the fly is the name of the game.

An investment by James G. Clark, director of Air Force innovation, and Air Force Col. Chris McDonald from the disruptive innovation division in Clark’s office, helped the wing’s Hap Arnold Innovation Center develop a specialized network to push and pull data from RPAs and other data-generating assets from civilian and military organizations.

The network’s customizable data sets — coupled with the RPAs’ real-time thermal imagery — provide incident commanders and first responders a common operating picture they can access from anywhere, anytime.

RPAs proved “an opportunity for people to make tactical and objective based decisions on real time information,” Salizzoni said.

As the Rim Fire nears its fifth anniversary, RPAs are once again in the sky, flying through smoke to deliver data and protect Californians as wildfires ravage the state.

By July 31, the 163rd was on its fifth fire of the summer.

Throughout July, the wing flew nearly 350 hours to support civil authorities working the County, Klamathon, Ferguson, Carr, Mendocino Complex and Eel fires, and is credited with helping to protect thousands of structures in the process. The MQ-9 provided near real-time full motion video and frequent fire-line updates to decision makers determining where to build up future containment lines.

It’s a marathon pace, but the wing’s airmen up for it, said Air Force 1st Lt. Frank Cruz, officer in charge of the 163rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, whose unit provides direct support for the MQ-9’s around-the-clock fire operations to aid civil authorities.

“Everyone is 100 percent on board,” Cruz said. “They’re all-in.”

Military Life

5 ways troops deal with their bug problems

Insects carry disease, infect food stores, and bring loads of other concerns with them. Keeping an area bug-free is a top priority for maintaining good health and hygiene.

The military has plenty of rules and regulations in place to help troops keep an area free of pests (which usually involves a lot of cleaning), but there are far more ingenious — and fun — ways to ward off these crawlers.


And yet so many people forget bug spray on their packing list…

(Photo by Spc. Matthew Drawdy)

Busting out a can of bug repellant

A regular can of bug repellent works wonders. Normally, you’d spray it on your skin to deter pests for a little while, but you can also use it to protect an entire area.

The more expedient way, however, is to just spray it everywhere. Or, for maximum recklessness, you could just take a knife to the can and let it explode everywhere. Just watch out for open flames, though, because aerosol bug-repellent is highly flammable.

Other branches have a version of this, but they actually respray their uniforms instead of just hoping it’s good enough.

(Photo by Cpl. Jonathan Sosner)

Insect-repelling uniforms

For the soldier with plenty of faith in the system, the U.S. Army fielded factory-tested, insect-repelling ACUs to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan back in 2012. To their credit, the permethrin-treated clothing works kinda well at first.

Under factory conditions, the ACU-Ps were said to work for fifty washes. In the hands of soldiers, however, they last maybe three before the colors started to run.

It’s really a toss up. Most insects don’t really care, but you’re really just trading mosquitoes for wasps.

​(Courtesy Photo)

Smoking tobacco

Among the least-advised methods of repelling bugs (according to most medical officers, anyway) is to smoke nicotine, but many older vets swear by it — or it’s just a convenient excuse.

Let’s set the record straight on this with some university-backed studies and advice from subject matter experts: Yes, some insects, like flies and some mosquitoes, are deterred by tobacco smoke. However, most insects are actually drawn to heat and smoke because it feels like an ideal environment — burnt and damaged trees. Additionally, plenty of the more aggressive insects, like wasps, are actually drawn to the smell of nicotine and discarded cigarette butts.

Whatever works, am I right?

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Selesnick)

Field-goal kicking camel spiders

Camel spiders are notorious. They’re extremely large spiders that will desperately cling to shade, even if that shade is cast by troops standing in the open desert. They’re not aggressive and non-venomous to anyone larger than a mouse, but no one wants to see a giant f*cking arachnid skitter up close in attempts to stay shaded.

Some troops will openly accept the punishments associated with negligent discharge if it means they can open fire on those suckers. Others opt for a more effective (and satisfying) method: punting ’em into a million pieces when they rush you.

Just remember, the see-through ones are the most dangerous ones. Have fun!

(Courtesy Photo)

Night-vision goggles to spot them

Scorpions give off trace amounts of ultra-violet bio-luminescence that can’t be seen by the naked eye. Coincidentally, most night-vision goggles pick up light from both ends of the electromagnetic spectrum. For better or worse, you can spot scorpions more clearly at night through a pair of NVGs.

Be warned. Sometimes, you’re better off not knowing how many scorpions are really hanging around your fighting position.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Air Force is ready to kill you if you storm Area 51

An estimated 1.2 million social media users have expressed an interest in storming Area 51, with the idea that the United States Air Force, who is presumed to run the top-secret facility, could not possibly stop (or kill) all of them. As of now, the storm is scheduled for 3 a.m. local time in Amargosa Valley, Nevada – not far from the site of the testing facility.

Recently, an Air Force spokesperson warned that such a storm would be a “dangerous” idea.


The Air Force, of course, knows what you’re up to on social media, just like any other governmental organization when the group is focused on committing a crime. While Area 51’s existence was acknowledged by the United States government in 2013, it is still a military base, and any attempt to enter it illegally is a crime. What the CIA and USAF didn’t acknowledge is the long-held presumption that the area was used as a test site for alien technology. And while the Air Force would like to assume the plan is a joke, local hotels have seen a bump in reservations for the time period.

“Oh, it’s insane,” Connie West, a co-owner of The Little A’Le’Inn, a hotel in nearby Rachel, Nev. said in an interview on Sunday. “My poor bartender today walked past me and said, ‘I hate to tell you, but every phone call I’ve had is about Sept. 20.’… People are coming.”

If people do come, the Air Force wants them to know that Area 51 is a testing facility for combat aircraft and that its defense is in the hands of nearby Nellis Air Force Base – and the base has plenty of troops and helicopters to repel storming of the perimeter.

“[Area 51] is an open training range for the U.S. Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces,” a spokeswoman told The Washington Post. “The U.S. Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets.”

Articles

This is who the US thinks just tried to hack its most secure nuclear sites

American officials have concluded that hackers working on behalf of a foreign power recently breached at least a dozen US nuclear power sites, Bloomberg reported July 6.


Bloomberg cited multiple US sources who said they had zeroed in on Russia as the primary suspect behind the most recent attacks, including one at Kansas’ Wolf Creek nuclear facility.

Officials believe the attacks may be related to a separate hack that happened late last month, in which unidentified hackers infiltrated the business-associated end of the power plant. The name and location of that site were not released, but EE News reported that federal investigators were looking into cyberattacks on multiple facilities at the time.

When reached for comment about the latest hacks, government officials and a spokesperson for Wolf Creek said the operational side of its network had not been affected.

Salem nuclear power plant. Photo by Peretz Partensky

“There was absolutely no operational impact to Wolf Creek,” Jenny Hageman, a spokeswoman for the nuclear plant, said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “The reason that is true is because the operational computer systems are completely separate from the corporate network.”

But the hacks have raised red flags for investigators who worry Russia may be gearing up to levy an attack against the US power grid.  If that were the case, it would fit into a pattern adopted by Russia in the past, particularly as it relates to Ukraine.

In 2015, a massive cyberattack leveled against the country’s power grid cut electricity to almost 250,000 Ukrainians. Cybersecurity experts linked the attack to IP addresses associated with Russia. Since then, Wired magazine’s Andy Greenberg reported, Ukraine has seen a growing crisis in which an increasing number of Ukrainian corporations and government agencies have been hit by cyberattacks in a “rapid, remorseless succession.”

Ukraine is now host to what may turn into a full-blown cyberwar, Greenberg reported. Two separate attacks on the country’s power grid were part of what Greenberg called a “digital blitzkrieg” waged against it for the past three years, which multiple analysts have connected to Russian interests.

Lights out. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

With respect to the recent cyberattacks on US nuclear facilities, the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were aware of the intrusions.

“There is no indication of a threat to public safety, as any potential impact appears to be limited to administrative and business networks,” the agencies said in a statement.

But cybersecurity experts say that once a system is breached in any way — even if it’s not on the operational side — nuclear safety could be at risk down the road.

“If a nuclear power facility is attacked on the business side, that might actually serve as a way of information-gathering” for hackers, Paulo Shakarian, founder of the cybersecurity firm CYR3CON, told Business Insider. In some cases, hackers will try to “see if, by reaching that system, they can get more insight into what the facility is using on the operational side,” Shakarian said.

Though nuclear power providers have rigorous practices in place to divide business and nuclear operations in their networks, experts say an attack on one could inform an attack on the other.

Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Greg Martin, the CEO of cybersecurity firm JASK, said that while it was “wonderful” that network segmentation prevented hackers from being able to attack critical infrastructure directly, “the business side has tons of information about the more vulnerable infrastructure side of these types of plants.”

That information can include emails, communications involving design plans, information about security assessments, emails or documents that contain passwords, and more. Martin echoed Shakarian’s assessment and added that some information that can be gleaned from a breach like this can open up a window that “can be used to set up for future, more damaging attacks just based on the proprietary information they’re able to steal.”

These latest suspicions towards Russia come on the heels of a colossal cyberattack that crippled countries and corporations across the globe, which cybersecurity experts said Russia may have perpetrated.

Russia was also found to have hacked the 2016 US election in an effort to damage then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and tilt the election in favor of Donald Trump. Russia has so far denied all the charges against it.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

64 scavenger hunt clues to keep kids busy in quarantine

Our unwelcome nationwide experiment has confirmed our suspicions: Working full-time from home while keeping young kids educated and entertained is impossible. Toddlers and preschool-age kids aren’t developmentally ready for extended solo playtime, and even if you’re not opposed to parking them in front of screens, they’ll eventually get bored. What you need is a safe, reasonably educational, and time-consuming activity that requires only half-distracted parental assistance. Believe it or not, such a thing exists: the scavenger hunt.

A form of good clean fun, the scavenger hunt, like hide-and-seek, is as old as time; scavenger hunt clues give parents a chance to be creative, and the hunt helps kids see their everyday surroundings in a new light while developing problem-solving skills. Scavenger hunts are, most importantly, something kids can do mostly on their own, buying parents some time to do what they need to do. For younger kids, a simple list of pictures can serve as the type of scavenger hunt where kids just need to find one of each item. To up the ante, lend them your phone and let them take photos, or adapt it for the backyard. To really up the stakes, turn off the lights in a room and have kids search for items with a flashlight.


Indoor Scavenger Hunt Clues

  • A picture of you as a baby
  • Something soft
  • Something you can wear
  • An eraser
  • Something that smells good
  • Something spiky
  • A paperclip
  • A crayon with a funny color name
  • Something heart-shaped
  • A miniature toy version of something adults use (a toy truck, play food, doll clothes, etc.)
  • One of your drawings
  • A pair of shoes that don’t fit
  • Something shiny
  • Something with legs
  • Something small enough to fit inside a lunchbox
  • Something hairy
  • A game
  • A key
  • Something you can spread
  • Something that’s your favorite color
  • Something that could help clean up a spill
  • Something that helps you sleep
  • A type of food you don’t like
  • Something that turns on and off
  • Something you can see through
  • Something you can’t see through
  • Something that makes a sound
  • Something that moves on its own (e.g. a slinky, a pet, or a marble)
  • Some sort of box
  • A ball
  • Something that’s used to carry other things

Category Scavenger Hunts for Kids

  • Something from each color of the rainbow: an object that’s red, one that’s orange, and so on… yellow, green, blue, and purple.
  • An object (book, paper, shirt) that has the letter A. Then find an object with the letter B. Continue for the rest of the alphabet.
  • Something you can feel, something you can smell, something you can taste, and something you see.
  • Something soft, something rough, something squishy, something hard, and something liquid.
  • As many things as you can find for every shape: circle, square, triangle, rectangle.
  • As many things as you can find with flowers on them.
  • As many question marks as you can find.
  • Things that could fit inside an envelope.
  • Things that start with the same letter as your name.
  • A collection of all of your favorite things: something that’s your favorite color, smell, thing to cuddle, shirt, shoes, favorite snack, best gift, and favorite book.

Outdoor Scavenger Hunt Clues

For those with access to a backyard, an outdoor scavenger hunt is as simple as compiling a list of things for your child to find. Kids can either collect each item or take a photo of it.

  • A flower
  • A worm
  • A three-leaf clover
  • A leaf with four points
  • A stick
  • A spiderweb
  • A bug
  • An acorn
  • A pebble
  • A feather
  • A piece of moss
  • A pine needle
  • A gardening tool
  • A puddle
  • A cloud
  • Dew
  • Pollen
  • A seed
  • A flower that hasn’t bloomed yet
  • A flower petal
  • A flower stem
  • A bird
  • A squirrel

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 heroes who earned a Medal of Honor in Hue City

At the end of January in 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive that turned the tide of the Vietnam War.

The Tet Offensive began on January 30 as the North Vietnamese occupied the city of Hue. US Marines spent nearly a month fighting a brutal urban battle to retake the city — which was 80% destroyed by the battle’s end, according to H.D.S. Greenway, a photographer embedded with the Marines during the war.

An estimated 1,800 Americans lost their lives during the battle.


But in the midst of the chaos, five men who faced harrowing circumstances risked their lives to save those of their comrades — and earned the nation’s highest award for courage in combat, the Medal of Honor.

During one of the ceremonies honoring these heroes, President Richard Nixon remarked on the incredible risks they took.

“They are men who faced death, and instead of losing courage they gave courage to the men around them,” he said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense inducts U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) John L. Canley into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2018, after being awarded the Medal of Honor by the President.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley received his award over 50 years after carrying wounded Marines to safety.

Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, suffering from shrapnel wounds, led his men in the destruction of enemy-occupied buildings in Hue City.

When his men were injured, he leapt over a wall in plain sight — twice — to carry them to safe positions.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 2018, over 50 years after he risked his life for his men.

Read the award citation here.

Medal of Honor recipient Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson shakes hands with President Richard Nixon after receiving his award in May 1969.

(Richard Nixon Library/YouTube)

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to rescue wounded comrades.

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson ignored numerous calls to avoid the airspace surrounding Hue City during the early days of the battle.

He flew his helicopter through enemy fire, guiding the damaged aircraft so he could rescue wounded comrades and fly them back to safety.

His bravery saved the lives of five wounded soldiers.

Read the award citation here.

A photo shows Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez with Gunnery Sgt. John Canley during the Vietnam War. Both have earned the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the brutal Battle of Hue City.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tessa Watts)

Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez

Sgt. Gonzalez and his unit were among the first to deploy into the Viet Cong-occupied Hue City.

Through five days of fighting, Gonzalez repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire, leading his men despite his personal wounds.

Although he died during the battle, his actions ensured his comrades’ survival.

Read the award citation here.

Medal of Honor recipient Joe Hooper listens as his citation is read during the award ceremony in March 1969.

(National Archives/YouTube)

Sergeant Joe Hooper is described as the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War.

Sgt. Hooper earned the Medal of Honor on the same day as company mate Staff Sgt. Sims.

Hooper suffered extraordinary wounds as he fought during the Battle of Hue City, during which he destroyed numerous enemy bunkers and raced across open fields under intense fire to save a wounded comrade.

Read his full award citation here.

Mary Sims accepts the Medal of Honor on behalf of her husband, Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, who died during the Battle of Hue City.

(National Archives)

Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, once an orphan, flung himself on top of an explosive device to save his platoon.

During an intense search-and-rescue mission, Staff Sgt. Sims heard the click of a booby trap as his platoon approached a bunker.

Shouting for his team to stay back, Sims jumped on top of the device to absorb the explosion.

Read the full award citation here.

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