This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

The algorithms that played a major role in allowing a supermassive black hole to be photographed for the first time were largely designed three years ago by a graduate student in her 20s.

Katie Bouman, now 29, was studying computer science and artificial intelligence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and she worked at the school’s Haystack Observatory.


This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

Scientists published the first image of a black hole. The image captured Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87.

(Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration)

In the search for a way to capture an image of the black hole, located 55 million light-years away in the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, astronomers at MIT took part in the Event Horizon Telescope project, but they faced a serious problem.

They needed to stitch together millions of gigabytes’ worth of data captured by telescopes located all over the world.

Bouman had the solution: Find a way to stitch the data about the black hole together pixel by pixel.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

Katie Bouman.

(TED/YouTube)

“We developed ways to generate synthetic data and used different algorithms and tested blindly to see if we can recover an image,”Bouman told CNN.

“We didn’t want to just develop one algorithm. We wanted to develop many different algorithms that all have different assumptions built into them.”

“If all of them recover the same general structure, then that builds your confidence.”

Vincent Fish, a scientist at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, told CNN that Bouman was “a major part of one of the imaging subteams.”

Fish told CNN that senior scientists worked on the project too, but the specific task of imaging the black hole was predominantly run by junior researchers like Bouman.

“One of the insights Katie brought to our imaging group is that there are natural images,” Fish said.

“Just think about the photos you take with your camera phone, they have certain properties.” He added: “If you know what one pixel is, you have a good guess as to what the pixel is next to it.”

CNN reported that Bouman would begin teaching as an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology in the fall.

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

Articles

5 fairy tales as told by your platoon sergeant

Platoon sergeants aren’t just managers and leaders, they’re also mentors — proxy parents even.


But they’re (in)famously gruff about it. After all, they didn’t father any of these kids, and they didn’t pick them either. And their primary job isn’t to turn them into beautiful snowflakes but honed weapons.

So, below are 5 classic fairy tales as recited by cigar-chomping and dip-spewing platoon sergeants:

1. Red Riding Hood Learns to Secure Her Logistics Chain

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Photo: Public Domain

So, this little girl was getting ready for a trip to her grandma’s house. Red Riding Hood started by doing a map recon and checking with the intel bubbas to see what was going on along her route. After she heard about the increase in wolf-related activity in the area, she requested additional assets like a drone for overwatch and more ammunition for the mass-casualty producing weapons systems.

When a wolf attempted to hit her basket carriers and then fled, she had her drone operator follow the wolf to the cave. Red and her squad conducted a dynamic entry into the cave and eliminated the threat. Now, they conduct regular presence patrols to deter future wolves from operating in their area of operations.

2. Goldilocks and the Three Tangos

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Photo: Israeli Defense Forces

Goldilocks was moving tactically through the forest when she spotted a large wooden structure with a single point of ingress/egress. Since she wasn’t an idiot, she didn’t just burst inside to try out the beds. Instead, she practiced tactical patience and established an observation post.

After tracking patterns of life for a few days, she was certain that the structure housed three bears of various sizes. In her head, she rehearsed the battle dozens of times before engaging. When the dust settled from the firefight, she found herself in possession of a defendable combat outpost deep in the woods.

3. Hansel and Gretel Learn About SERE

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Photo: Public Domain. Cartoon bubbles by WATM Logan Nye

When two privates were led by their evil stepmother to play deep in the woods, they brought a compass and map. The stepmother then attempted to abandon them in the forest. Since they knew their stride counts and checked their azimuth often, the kids were able to quickly move back to their home.

Near the house, the kids prepared a number of traps normally used to hunt game for food. These traps were positioned on areas the stepmother was known to frequent and the kids waited. When she trapped herself in a snare near the river, the kids bundled her up and sent her to a black site hidden under a candy cottage. The HUMINT guys got valuable information about witch operations and everyone else lived happily ever after.

4. Jack Gives the Army Instant Cover and Concealment

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
GIF: YouTube/loverhole

Jack was a pretty forgettable little science nerd in his high school but he went on to join DARPA and invented some techno-wizardry-magical device that allowed soldiers to plant a single bean and create a towering observation post from which to cover the surrounding battlefield.

So soldiers began tossing these things all over the place to create forests overnight. Then, they’d slip into one of the beanstalks to get eyes on roads and other important battlefield objectives. The height of the stalks ensured them a clear line of sight for miles and since they could be grown overnight, troops could plant their own cover and concealment ahead of major operations.

5. The Three Little Pigs Use Concentrated Combat Power

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Photo: Public Domain

Three little pigs were preparing for an imminent invasion by a big, bad wolf when one proposed that each pig should fall back to their own home, the senior pig got pissed. “What are you, some kind of dumb boot!?” he asked. “We should concentrate our forces in the most defensible territory we have.”

That pig led his brothers to his house made of brick where they took shelter behind the thick walls. When the wolf arrived, the oldest pig engaged him from a second-floor window while his brothers maneuvered behind the enemy. Then, the pigs established fire superiority and cut the wolf down.

If you have your own platoon sergeant fairytale, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #PltSgtFairyTales.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel’s attack on a Syrian reactor prevented a nuclear ISIS

Israel’s military admitted on March 20, 2018, what intelligence communities around the world had long known — that Israeli airstrikes had taken out a would-be nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007.


In reporting the strike, Israel said it had done so in part to warn its adversaries in the region, like Iran. But surely Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries with spy services already knew the action Israel had taken.

Also read: For first time in 70 years, Saudi Arabia may grant Israel access to airspace

It’s unlikely Iran or Syria needed a current reminder that Israel would fight in the skies over Syria to protect its interests after a massive Israeli air offensive downed an Iranian drone and reportedly took out half of Syria’s air defenses in February 2018.

But one element of Israel’s 2007 strike on a nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor that bears repeating and reexamination is the fact that the terror group ISIS held control of that area for three full years.

If Syria had nukes, then ISIS might have, too

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Two ISIS recruits operate their weapons, a RPG (right) and a PKM (left). (ISIS photo)

“Look at nukes as an insurance policy — at the end of the day, if you’ve got a nuke, it’s an umbrella for all of the other activity that could potentially spark conflict with your enemies,” Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria expert and the senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “If your enemies want to respond to you, they’re going to feel inhibited.”

This may have been Syria’s calculus in 2007 when it set about a clandestine nuclear weapons program, reportedly with the help of embedded North Koreans.

Related: ISIS reappeared in Syria to fight Asad troops in the capital

But in 2011, a popular, pro-democratic uprising in Syria sparked what would become a civil war that has dragged on to this day. During the conflict, Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost control of the majority of his country, with some parts under the control of rebel forces, some parts under the control of Kurdish forces, and from 2014 to 2017, much of the country under ISIS’ control.

ISIS held Deir Ezzor and the surrounding regions for three solid years, during which time they looted and pillaged whatever resources were available and ready for sale, including oil from the country’s rich oilfields.

If Israel had not taken out the reactor in 2007, it’s entirely possible ISIS could have taken custody of it. With access to radioactive materials, it’s possible ISIS could have cooked up a dirty bomb for use in terrorism, or even detonated a full-on nuclear device.

It’s reasonable to expect that a nuclear-capable ISIS would have more leverage, and could possibly force concessions from its opponents or prompt other nuclear states to strike first.

Instability makes Middle Eastern nuclear programs extra dangerous

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
A woman protests the Iranian government’s policy requiring all women to wear headscarves. (Photo by My Stealthy Freedom/Facebook)

“The Middle East is unstable,” Schanzer said. “One never knows when the next popular uprising or the next moment of intense instability might hit.”

Even states like Iran, where the current government has been in power since 1979, could fall prey to a popular uprising that could collapse the regime “overnight,” according to Schanzer.

More: 6 most stubborn world conflicts happening right now

“Imagine if in Syria today we were trying to track loose nukes,” Schanzer said. “Imagine if a country like Yemen had nuclear weapons.”

While nuclear weapons may deter state actors from invading a country or pushing it too far, they do not protect against domestic upheaval, like the 2011 Syrian uprising that became overrun with Islamist hardliners like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

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6 misconceptions civilians have about the Army

Whenever soldiers go on leave, it always plays out exactly the same:


“O! You’re in the Army? My friend from work’s brother is in the Navy, so I know allllllll about it…”

This is followed by a in-depth one-sided discussion about what people think they know about the Army, usually followed by some uncomfortable questions.

Here’s a list of assumptions we get that leave us sitting there thinking, “No, dude. Not even close.”

6. “You’re exactly like the other branches of the Armed Forces.”

This one stings.

It’s not that it’s entirely wrong. There is plenty of overlap between soldiers and other branches. But we still have our own mission and they still have theirs. Especially the stupid Navy.

 

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

The best analogy you can use is like the relationship between EMT, nurse, and doctor. They all have a very similar purpose in life, but they each have a different part to play in the grander scheme of things.

5. “You’re all hard ass SOBs with who can ‘John Wick’ someone with a pencil.”

No matter what a soldier did while serving, when they get out they probably won’t correct someone if they hear, “You don’t want to upset him man, he was in the Army! He could snap you in half!”

Many soldiers are required to go to Combatives Level 1 and eventually Level 2 (depending on their unit.) And yes, physical training is a thing everyone does in the morning, and many soldiers also enjoy going to the gym after work ends.

But

While it’s definitely frowned upon, we still have soldiers that look like they should have cheeseburgers slapped out of their hand to make height and weight regulations. Even on the other end of the spectrum, there are also plenty of scrawny soldiers in the Army as well.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Will someone please give Private Rogers that dude’s cheeseburger so he stops looking like he belongs in a Sarah McLachlan commercial.

4. “You’re all wounded and fragile shells of who you once were.”

War is hell. There’s no denying that. But very rarely are soldiers as truly broken as the civilian world thinks we are.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
I don’t know what his problem is, he’s not even looking at the war.

When civilians think about soldiers and PTSD, the worst-case-scenario comes to mind. While there are veterans who suffer from acute PTSD symptoms, most service members have the tools to treat their service-related conditions, and nearly all are still functional members of society.

3. “You’re free to make decisions like where you want to live.”

Back to the lighter and funnier side of things, it is always hilarious whenever people say things like, “Why can’t you just call in sick?” or “You’ll be able to take this day off, right?”

Sure, you have the occasional “Army of One” jerk who thinks he can get away with skating. But no. We don’t choose whether or not we want to go to work. We don’t choose days off without a long drawn-out process. And even if you reenlist for a new duty station, chances are, you won’t get to decide where you live in the world.

That’s just the way things are and soldiers get used to it.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

2. “You’re a master of foreign affairs and know what the military is doing constantly.”

Most soldiers couldn’t even tell you what their Joes are currently doing, let alone what the Special Forces are doing in [Country Redacted]. Even if you were talking with a senior advisor at the Pentagon, they still couldn’t even tell you what every little detail of the Army is up to.

The Army is just way too big and way too diverse, even within itself. When civilians start throwing our opinions into it we’ll either stare blankly or make something smart up.

Also, we don’t like talking about work during leave.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

1. “You’re all constantly training.”

Nothing blows a civilian’s mind quite like the fact that there actually is down time in the military and that we do more than just shoot weapons and practice kicking in doors.

Want to hear what 75% of a lower-enlisted’s day looks like?

Wake up to work out with the platoon at the weakest guy’s level. Pretend to check our equipment that hasn’t been touched since the last time we pretended to check on it. Quick hip-pocket training by a sergeant that was just reminded that they’re a sergeant (“How to check that equipment you just checked,” or “Why DUIs are bad”.) Then wait that for same sergeant to get out of a meeting where they’re told that nothing happened but they should watch out for their Joes getting in trouble. Finally go back to the barracks to do all the things their sergeant was warned about.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
With a packed schedule like that, we’re way too busy to be killing babies, Grandma.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. prepares to win the peace against violent extremists

“It’s not about winning the war. It’s about winning the peace,” was an expression heard often at the Counter Violent Extremist Organizations Chiefs of Defense Conference on Oct. 16, 2018.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the gathering, which drew representatives from 83 nations, including all the U.S. combatant commanders and commanders of counter terrorism operations from around the world.

Dunford and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, spoke to Pentagon reporters during a break.


This was the third chiefs of defense conference. It started in 2016 with 40 countries. “Last year we had 71 [countries] and this year 83, so we are pleased with the turnout,” the general said.

Combating violent extremism

Over the past two years there has been real and quantifiable military progress against violent extremism. But that does not mean the campaign is over. Nations now must particularly address the underlying conditions that lead to radicalization, and that requires a whole-of-government approach, the chairman said.

There is a military dimension and chiefs of defense play an important role. The chiefs generally deal with the counterterrorism fight and mass migration. But getting after the underlying conditions – building economies, establishing schools, hospitals and infrastructure, and improving legitimate governance is a broader issue.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, brief the press at the Counter Violent Extremist Organization Chiefs of Defense Conference held at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.

DOD photo by Jim Garamone

“What we’ve tried to do throughout the day is ensure that we have in context the role of the chiefs of defense,” Dunford said. “One of the things that I think most of them will be more empowered to do when they return to their countries is describe the nature of the challenges we face and help craft more comprehensive solutions to deal with violent extremism.”

The military can deal with the symptoms of terrorism, but it cannot solve the root cause.

The chiefs of defense themselves are a network aimed at taking on a network. The chiefs’ network opens up opportunities to share information, share intelligence and share best practices and then, where appropriate, to take collective action, the chairman said.

The chiefs discussed countering violent extremism around the world, from West Africa and the Sahel to Libya and the maritime operation the European Union is conducting there. They discussed the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida. They discussed the operations in Afghanistan. They also talked about the Sulu Sea and the challenges in Southeast Asia.

Dunford said he was pleased with the good dialogue at the meeting. The chiefs “came prepared to engage and have a discussion,” he added.

Stabilization, sustainment effort

McGurk called the defeat-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria a microcosm of the counter violent extremist organizations campaign worldwide. “The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” he said. “But that is not the end of the campaign. We talked about transitioning to a new phase really focusing on the stabilization and sustainment effort.”

He noted that nations have announced 0 million in contributions just over the last five months enabling stabilization initiatives in Syria. This is giving hope in even in very difficult places like Raqqa – the former capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate – where 150,000 Syrians have returned to their homes.

In Iraq, the U.S.-led effort has now trained over 170,000 members of the security forces. “We had a good presentation today from the commander of the new NATO Training Mission to Iraq that will continue to professionalize the force,” McGurk said. The United States announced 8 million will go to vulnerable communities in Iraq that were so damaged by the fight and campaign and the genocidal acts of ISIS.

Getting information and intelligence to the countries that can act upon it is important, as well. Dunford said nations in Africa and Southeast Asia are looking at establishing fusion centers where regional nations can share this vital information.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

These are the most laughably bad recruitment ads for each branch

A lot of time and effort is put into every single advertisement that the U.S. military uses to leave a good, lasting impression on the minds of potential recruits. The best ads evoke emotion, tell the viewer what they stand to gain from service, and inform them that they’ll be a welcome addition to the team.

The following ads exhibit none of those qualities.

Remember, someone in the recruiting command for each branch decided that these videos were the best way to bring those numbers up. And don’t worry, we’re not leaving anybody out — every branch managed to push out a laughably bad commercial.


U.S. Air Force — “We’ve been waiting for you”

Hey, kid! You ever just sit and stare at an incoming tornado like an idiot when someone’s yelling at you to find shelter? Well, then you’re perfect astronaut material!

I’m not saying that every advertisement needs to be upbeat and cheery (you’ll see that those fill out the rest of this list), but this commercial is basically nightmare fuel set to a depressing piano score. Also, it’s cool and all to be fascinated by extreme weather, but if you’re the type of person that walks toward the huge freakin’ tornado in your backyard… you probably won’t score high enough on the ASVAB to get into the Air Force — let alone space command.

U.S. Army — “Sucked in”

It’s been beaten to death already — we all know how terrible of a campaign “An Army of One” was. That slogan completely dispels the notion that you’re becoming a part of something bigger than yourself and promotes Blue Falconry. This ad actually predates that monstrosity.

This ad is what you’d get if someone was sucked into the TV Poltergeist-style, but instead of being pulled into some ghostly dimension, they were instead transferred to the realm of sh*tty detail. Someone thought that layering on an upbeat song was all it’d take to make us how objectively creepy it is — they were wrong.

U.S. Navy — “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure”

When you release a commercial, you typically want to make it abundantly clear what you’re actually pushing. In this video, a bunch of sailors get their port of call in the Caribbean and enjoy themselves, doing all the fun shore-leave stuff that any ol’ tourist would do — which is a far cry from actual service.

It also doesn’t help that this ad was mocked viciously on Saturday Night Live back in 1979, where they showed sailors on a working party to the tagline of, “It’s not just a job, it’s .78 a week!”

U.S. Marine Corps — “Chess”

Oh man, speaking of misleading advertising… At least the Navy’s laughably bad ad featured some sailors. It takes a full 54 seconds of watching this commercial before you realize that it’s trying to sell you on the Marine Corps.

It’s like someone who didn’t even understand the rules of chess decided that it deserved a dark, gritty reboot. First of all, that’s not how the knight piece moves at all. It starts out fine when he moves across the board to take out the lightsaber wielding bishop but, after that, he just does what he pleases.

To be fair, that’s how most Marines would react given a chess board…

U.S. Coast Guard — “Be part of the action”

Did you know that the Coast Guard actually runs commercials every now and then? And I’ll be honest, this commercial is actually the best of the worst on this list. It takes a fair and balanced understanding of what the Coast Guard does and gives it a Miami Vice tone.

The reason that this one stands out as being the worst of the Coast Guard ads is that it finishes with the dumbest criminals in history being stopped by the dorkiest dudes to ever sign up. On the bright side, having Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. put on a Coastie Cap at the end earns them at least a couple cool points.

Articles

13 funniest memes for the week of April 7

Tomahawks are flying, tensions are rising, and we’re just over here collecting memes and giggling. Here are 13 of our favorite funny military memes from this week, starting with a little shout out to the ships that conducted the strikes:


1. Congrats to the Navy for getting to set off some fireworks last night (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
But y u no shoot more?

2. Digital security is important (via Team Non-Rec).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
ISIS is coming for you with stock photos of models.

ALSO READ: The only time the Soviet Union officially fought the US was in brutal air combat

3. Navy Capt. Bender got the hookers out before the NCIS raid began (via Military World).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Best. Cruise. Ever.

4. You’ve got to earn that nap time by holding up that book she’s going to read to you (via Decelerate Your Life).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

5. If it’s stupid but it works … actually, this is still stupid (via Coast Guard Memes).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Would love to the new safety briefing when this goes awry.

6. Poor Jody never gets any respect (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
#JodiesServeToo

7. Grade-A, Tier-One killers (via Devil Dog Nation).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Just make sure they’re home before dark.

8. Every paratrooper’s spirit animal on a Saturday jump (via Military World).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Unless it’s a Chinook, Sherpa, or foreign jump. Then, it’s all smiles all around.

9. Shut up, POG (via Pop smoke).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
POGs who wish they weren’t POGs are 1,000 percent more likely to call people POGs than an infantryman is.

10. Yeah. This is worth the next four years of my life (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Career counselors are basically Mephistopheles made flesh (Google it, then print one out and tape it to the career counselor’s door).

11. “Potato” isn’t too shabby (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

12. Good ol’ National Training Center (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
So many great memories there.

13. You’ll never run faster than when you’re told you don’t have to run that morning (via The Salty Soldier).

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
One word. One syllable. So many feelings.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine became the Chief Brand Officer for USAA

Tony Wells’ journey from Marine to leading USAA’s brand wasn’t easy. But his diverse career after his service made him the perfect person for the job. 

“I grew up in the Washington D.C. area and obviously there is a very heavy military presence there,” Wells explained. His mother was a teacher and his father a pharmaceutical representative, both successful in their own right. “I was very fortunate to have a number of family members that either served or had connections.” 

Although he eventually became a proud Marine, it wasn’t always the plan.

Recruited by the Naval Academy to play basketball as a senior in high school, it was the first time Wells really considered a career in the military. His maternal grandfather served during World War II as a Steward and Driver for a Navy captain. As a Black American, it was one of the few jobs they were allowed to hold within the military during that time period. “For him, it was an absolute moment of pride when I graduated from the Naval Academy many years later,” Wells shared. “The idea that his grandson would be a Marine officer was just a dream come true.”

So, why did Wells choose becoming a Marine over a sailor? As a midshipman during his junior year, he was assigned to a Marine unit. “We went to Bridgeport, which is where Marines do mountain warfare training. I just had an unbelievable time and seeing the relationship between the staff NCOs and officers, for me it was just a different experience…It felt more like what I wanted to embody as a military leader,” Wells shared. 

In 1986, Wells commissioned as a Marine Corps Infantry Officer and headed to the fleet. Wells shared that being an “Officer of Marines” was the greatest job he’s ever had. “Being of service to country and for me, having those basic leadership philosophy foundation approaches ingrained early has served me well,” he said. 

Wells deployed with the 1st Battalion 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune to the Mediterranean. He was a rifle and weapons platoon commander during this time. He then had the opportunity to become a company commander. “It was a very unique opportunity for me as a 1st Lieutenant,” he said. Wells served under Michael Hagee, who would go on to become the Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

After PCSing to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Wells had the opportunity to take on a secondary MOS and was trained to be a Public Affairs Officer. When he returned to San Diego after completing his training, the first Gulf War began. Wells found himself on the evening news…Wells found himself on the evening news, briefing the nation on how recruits were handling training as they prepared to deploy. “It was a great leadership experience and a great practical opportunity for me to transition. That became how I ended up transitioning to civilian service,” he explained. 

Tony Wells
Tony Wells (LinkedIn)

Wells dove into his new civilian career with Nissan, working as their Corporate Communications Manager and eventually an Advertising Manager. After almost six years with Nissan, he moved on to other various marketing roles for different companies and industries. While working for one of them about 20 years later, he had a conversation with USAA.

“It was like coming home. I’ve been a USAA member since I was at the Naval Academy,” Wells shared. “It’s just been a tremendous experience around this idea of how important the mission is. I would say my whole business career I haven’t experienced the pull of the mission and alignment since the Marine Corps.”

Although Wells said he’s worked for some truly great companies, purpose is inherent within USAA. So is perspective. “When I have a tough day or think it’s been rough. I know that somewhere there is a cold, wet and hungry Marine who is in danger while protecting our country and our way of life,” he said. 

As he looks back on his life, Wells is quick to recognize what he called deep blessings and great opportunities. “For me, Black History Month is about paying homage to the folks who have come before and the great sacrifice and accomplishments that Black Americans have had that may have gone unrecognized,” Wells explained. 

Not only did his grandfather serve in the Navy, his cousin was a Montford Point Marine, one of the first Black Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order requiring fair employment practices and banning discrimination. 

“The last year has been a very interesting time in America. I think the murder of George Floyd really caused folks to reassess race relations. I think it’s very interesting that the military has such a long history of being the first to integrate but at the same time recognizes there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said. Military leadership spanning across every branch of service was quick to condemn the murder of George Floyd and begin a deeper examination of their own houses for racism. 

USAA joined them, issuing their own statement and commitment to fighting racism.

“Despite the discord and division we often see in America right now, I still remain hopeful…there are many, many more people committed to being on that journey to get back to the Constitution, which is just this idea that all are men created equal,” he shared. “I just think that the best is yet to come and I continue to believe that the military will play an instrumental role in making that transition a reality.”

This Marine spent his life living and breathing a servant-leadership mentality, honoring all who came before him. Although Wells may have left the Corps behind years ago, he found his new home in USAA by serving them and all other service members. 

When Wells was asked if had any last words for readers, he smiled. “Semper Fi.”

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5 messed-up ways troops welcome the new guy

The military is a close-knit family, built upon multiple generations of camaraderie and inside jokes. Whenever a new person is introduced into that family, they have decades of knowledge to catch up on.

Troops will always rib the new guy — it’s their way of welcoming a new brother and sister.


Of course, just because it’s time to share a life lesson or two doesn’t mean troops will pass up the opportunity to have some fun at someone else’s expense. The following techniques apply to anyone new to a unit — not just the boots.

For maximum effect, mess with the butterbars.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
“Hurrying up and waiting” is the most valuable skill in the military
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Teach them the unit’s pace

The moment you meet a new guy is the perfect time to show them how things are done — first impressions and whatnot. Chances are, they’ve still got a lot of in-processing that needs to get done and they’ll need a sponsor.

Now’s your chance. You can make this go one of two ways: Move things along at a blistering pace and watch as the new guy tries to keep up or grind things down to a screeching, maddening halt. Choose whichever way more accurately describes your unit.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Everyone will find it funny. Totally.
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

 

Introduce them to their new unit

Your unit has been strengthened by years of bonding. Any dumb fights or petty squabbles have been lost to time. The new guy, however, is fresh meat. You get to relive all of those old jokes without letting them know you’re joking.

For example, let the new guy know that the dude in supply isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed — so they’ll talk extremely slowly to them. Or inform them that the hard-ass First Sergeant really enjoys hugs if you go for one. The sky’s the limit.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Great way to get them up to speed on how PT is done in the unit as well.
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Introduce them to the unit after hours

Troops wear their hardcore alcoholism on their sleeve. If the new kid just graduated high school, the most they have to brag about is, likely, that one party where someone’s dad gave them a beer. What better way to give them a more interesting story than subjecting them to possible liver failure?

This is the point where I should throw out there that, legally speaking, consumption of alcohol under the age of 21 is against the law, UCMJ action could be taken, and the MPs will bring the hammer down on those who provide alcohol.

But, you know… Not all military traditions are technically “legal.”

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
If they’re a lieutenant, everyone will just believe your story that they just “wandered” around post.
(Meme via /r/military)

 

Show them the local landscape

You’d be amazed at how quickly someone learns geographical landmarks when they’re lost. Even more so if they’re on foot. It’s like an impromptu land-nav lesson. Show them the company area and then swing by the Exchange for lunch. Then, out of the blue, you’ll just happen to get an important call the moment they’re out of sight.

It’s a win-win scenario. They learn the area like the back of their hand and you get a break from babysitting.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Either way, the FNG probably won’t get that you’re messing with them, so have at it.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)

 

Scavenger hunts!

There is no time-honored tradition tradition quite sending the new guy to retrieve one of the many items in the endless treasure trove of “completely real” things. Recruiters and older vets may try and take away the fun by letting the younger kids know that “blinker fluid” isn’t real, but there are plenty more in the cache.

Get creative and reach for the obscure. Ask the radio guys for a “can of squelch” or the not-blatantly-obvious ID-10-T form. It may sound cruel at first, but on the “search,” they’ll be run around the company area, getting familiar with who does what and where things are kept.

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11 awesome facts about John Glenn and his amazing life

John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).


In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.

Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.

1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.

The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.

 

His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.

2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
John and Anna Glenn in 1963.

Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.

3. He was also the first man to eat in space.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Glenn is seen here eating applesauce. No kidding.

The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).

4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.

Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Glenn and Ted Williams reconnect following a parade down State Road A1A in Cocoa Beach in 1999. (NASA photo)

Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”

5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
The laptop Clinton used to send the email sold for $60,000. (The White House/NASA)

The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.

6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.

7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Magnet Ass standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. (Ohio State University)

He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.

8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
The Mercury 7 astronauts examine their ‘couches.’ Each astronaut’s couch was molded to fit his body to help withstand the G-loads of the launch. (NASA photo)

The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.

9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.

Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
(Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

“Kennedy had indicated to NASA that he would just as soon that I was not assigned to another flight,” Glenn told the Mercury News in 2015.

10. Glenn took the first human-shot photo of the Earth from space.

It was a panoramic view of Florida from the Georgia border.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
(NASA photo by John Glenn)

His first words back to NASA were, “This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.”

11. His space flight inspired a blues song.

Blues legend Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins wrote an upbeat blues song about Glenn’s first orbital spaceflight.

 

Lightnin’ Hopkins was not known for upbeat, fun songs. He is best known for downbeat songs about emotional pain, tragedy, and death.

Humor

4 hilarious tips for pulling the ‘veteran card’ in school

Going to college is a huge step in every veteran’s life after they get out of the military. You just finished serving your country, now you can go to school full time and get it completely paid for – and get paid while you’re doing it.


We earned a pretty epic deal.

But the benefits of being a veteran don’t have to stop there. If you play your cards right, you can flex your “veteran” title and receive some less-than-official bonuses.

Related: Here’s the best time and place to pull the ‘veteran card’

Check out these insightful ways to pull the veteran card in your school – but please use these tips for good and not evil.

1. Getting accepted

Colleges around the country tend to have a strict application process which weed out many student hopefuls. Having the government willing to pay your full tuition is a huge benefit in the school’s eyes — everyone likes to get paid.

It’s a fact.

It’s important that you fill out all the necessary paperwork in a timely order or risk sitting at home for a whole semester.

Please stop clapping like that — its only community college. (Image via Giphy)

2. Receiving extra time for homework and other projects

The majority of colleges have procedures in place for veterans who have “focus issues,” which is great. As long as you let your teachers and the school’s administration know you may have this issue because of your deployments, the more lee way you’re bound to get.

We know you do! (Image via Giphy)

3. Booking classes

Sometimes classes just fill up too quickly, and a veteran can’t register for one of the spots in time — we know it sucks.

Here’s what you do — tell whoever is in charge of booking the classes that you won’t get your monthly VA benefits unless you can get in, followed by the sweetest smile you can muster.

It so freakin’ worked. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying

4. Missing classes

Sometimes you don’t want to go to school on certain days — you’re just not feeling it.

Here’s what you do if you’re willing to put in a little leg work. After you get in good with the teachers, email them saying you’re stuck at the VA waiting for your appointment.

If they ask for a doctor’s note, you need to show some proof like a dated appointment card for another day. Schools tend to work around the veteran’s schedule because we’ve earned it.

Don’t abuse this perk because if they lose faith in your integrity, you could screw other vets over.

That’s what you get. (Images via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.


Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.

On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.

A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.

“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Osama bin Laden (left). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.

Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.

He snapped out of it when a colleague said, “You just killed Osama bin Laden.”

On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.

And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.

How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?

“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”

Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.

The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.

The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Robert O’Neill. (Photo from Facebook.)

“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”

So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.

Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.

Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.

“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Navy SEALs train. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.

“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”

O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”

“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”

O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”

Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.

Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.

“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”

O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.

The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”

Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.

Kuo joined them.

“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”

Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.

“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”

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Navy ratings are back — ‘effective immediately’

The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.


Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole

As of Dec. 21, they have them.

Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.


According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”

“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.

This is how scientists captured the first picture of a supermassive black hole
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano holds an all-hands call to discuss the Navy’s rating modernization efforts at 3rd Fleet headquarters in San Diego on Nov. 7. The decision to scrap Navy ratings has since been reversed. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Spencer)

So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.

When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.

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