Going to war is not about the ideologies of the left or the right, it’s about becoming a man.
“I’m a journalist,” said Sebastian Junger – Oscar-nominated documentarian and best-selling author – in an interview with War is Boring. “I don’t put any political agenda into my work. I think the right wing tends to idolize soldiers – you can’t talk about them critically in any way. The left wing went from vilifying them in Vietnam to seeing them as victims of a military-industrial complex.”
For young men, however, war is much simpler than a political agenda. Modern society doesn’t describe what manhood is and much less, what it requires. Joining the military fills that void by finding a peer group and purpose to their lives, according to War is Boring.
This generation has a track record for delaying the rituals of adulthood. They’re taking longer to finish school, achieve financial independence, marry and have children, compared with their parent’s generation, according to a New York Times article about millennials. Perhaps it’s a financial decision as the article explains, after all, we did just go through the great recession, or it’s young men devising their own rites of passage.
Junger tells War is Boring that tribal societies have clear rituals and expectations of adulthood:
There’s a lot of initiation rites for young men around the world that involve torturing young men,” he explains. “So that young man can then demonstrate that he’s willing to undergo an enormous amount of pain in order to achieve adult status.
They could actually live untested lives, if left to their own devices,” Junger says. But “they don’t want 30-year-old males wondering about their manhood.”
But initiation rites help define the line between childhood and the adult world, and they define what manhood is. “We don’t have anything like that,” Junger says. “But I think it’s wired in us. It’s certainly wired into our language when we talk about, ‘C’mon, be a man about it,’ or ‘Man up.'”
The way Junger sees it, young men choose to fight, “Okay, if I go to war, surely I’ll come back a man.” When he asked why they joined, the common response was the terrorist attacks on 9/11, military family tradition, and the thought of becoming a man. Check out the full article on War is Boring.
Sebastian Junger is famous for his award-winning chronicle of the war in Afghanistan in the documentary films Restrepo
(2014), and his book WarWAR
(2010). Here’s the official trailer for Korengal:
Alejandro Villanueva is a former West Point lineman and Army Ranger who got his first start at tackle on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He took on the high-pressure role of protecting the “blind side” of backup quarterback Landry Jones, who’s in due to starter Ben Roethlisberger’s injury.
But Villanueva knows a thing or two about pressure, like, the life-or-death kind that soldiers face during wartime on a daily basis. And for him one night in particular stands out among many pressure-filled missions he carried out over the course of four tours in Afghanistan.
As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Villanueva was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in Afghanistan. Stationed in the Kandahar Province, he was the rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. A firefight had broken out between the Taliban and Afghan civilians, and, in trying to protect them, Lt. Villanueva had unknowingly led his troops into an ambush. The Taliban was waiting in the dark for Villanueva, the 6-foot-9 man known as “The Giant,” and opened fire, wounding three soldiers. Two of them survived, but Pfc. Dietrich, 20, bled out through the hole in his back moments after Lt. Villanueva had carried him from the fray and loaded him onto a helicopter.
Less than a month after Pfc. Dietrich died, Staff Sgt. Simon was shot three times, and Lt. Villanueva’s was the last face he remembered as he was loaded onto the helicopter. Staff Sgt. Simon nearly died twice, and Lt. Villanueva was given his dog tags and asked to prepare a memorial speech for his parents. But Staff Sgt. Simon lived, and he planned to watch his friend play against the Chiefs, his favorite team, from the stands of Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Mr. Simon, now retired from the military.
And, along with knowing pressure, these war veterans know crazy.
Did you know the Glorious Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has invented many revolutionary technological and cultural wonders? With guidance from the Eternal Great Leader Kim Il-Sung, his son Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il, and the many followers of the Great Marshal Kim Jong-Un, the magnificent Juche ideology has led to the creation of many things the evil imperialists and their southern puppets claim to be their own.
These five wonders of the modern world are undisputedly from the one true Korea, however – and the lying imperialist media even admits to the greatness and vision of these amazing North Korean inventions.
1. The Cure for AIDS, Cancer, and Ebola – in one drug
When the gangster regime of Obama tried to rid the world of the oppressed Africans by spreading Ebola, our most humble Marshal Kim Jong-Un and his scientists triumphed where the Western American lapdogs would not. By infusing rare earth elements into superior Korean ginseng, the glorious Marshal discovered Kumdang-2, which was found to cure 56 percent of AIDS patients, a number of cancers, Ebola, addiction, impotence, and many more vicious maladies, probably a creation of American capitalist biological weapons manufacturers!
In 2004, Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il graced the Korean people with his invention of a brand new sandwich called Double Bread with Meat. The decadent Western imperialist media derided the invention and stole it as they have tried to steal the pride of the Korean people, claiming it as their own. Comrade Kim Jong-Il honors us with his protection and guidance in immediately setting up a factory to produce his new sandwich. Large-nosed American capitalists swill their sandwiches with the brown cesspool sugar water swill they call “Coke” while the people of Korea patriotically drink water to be prepared for reunification of the peninsula at any moment!
3. The invisible phone
North Koreans are guided by the advice from our most divine, usually when the Supreme Leader is visiting. But when our Dear Leader (may his soul be ever ascendant with the stars in heaven), Kim Jong-Il needed to guide the glorious People’s soccer matches during the decadent World Cup games, he needed a technology that would allow him to give coaches the knowledge they needed to win the games. The guiding light from heaven invented a mobile phone that could not be seen with the naked eye. The dog of a coach did not listen to all the Dear Leader’s advice and our comrades on the field fell to the malignant Brazilian dogs, 2-1.
4. Waterproof Liquid
This most glorious invention is revolutionizing the housing boom in the glorious capital city of Pyongyang. As hapless America begins to crumble under the weight of its own ignorance, the Juche idea and its ant-colonialist construction forces use this to seal floors and keep the flowing waters of the mighty Taedonggang River out of the homes of loyal patriot Koreans.
Though Unicorns are not so much an invention as they are a discovery, the fact that a unicorn lair was uncovered the lair of unicorns ridden by King Tonngmyong, the ancient ancestor of our Eternal President and Great Leader, the wise and mighty Kim Il-Sung. The King founded his empire in the Juche Year -4912 on the backs of these mighty beasts which would surely have trodden upon the criminal regime in Seoul, puppets of the colonialist American mongrels.
6. Mushroom Sports Drinks
Decadent capitalist American athletes drink their salty poisonous trash water, Gatorade. The pure North Korean people’s athletes represent their country by the overwhelming virtuousness with a natural beverage that enhances the physical ability of sportspersons. This all-natural drink is made from Juche idealist mushrooms which will surely cause a worldwide demand for the mushroom, which we will use to tirelessly crush the treacherous southern hyenas.
Movies are an art medium where every frame can answer a question before it’s even asked. The clever use of symbols, juxtaposition or a turn of phrase can lead the audience down a rabbit hole of their own interpretation. In some movies, the symbols are more obvious, such as the little girl wearing a red coat in Schindler’s List who symbolizes innocence.
These hidden clues are easier to spot in dramas because we’re subconsciously expecting them. We’ve accepted they should be there. In a comedy, however, they’re easy to miss because we aren’t ready for depth. Jo Jo Rabbit is a comedy about a little boy who joins the Hitler youth in Berlin with his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler. At face value, the movie pokes fun of Nazi Germany, but there are a few subtle details that offer a deeper look into life on the other side.
(Warning: spoilers ahead)
When Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson) says, “It’s a great year to be a girl,” after saying she’s had 18 kids and would rate an award called The Mother’s Cross. At face value, it’s a tongue-in-cheek joke that there is a lot of cardiovascular value to a woman’s place aiding the Reich. Hitler really did approve and encourage the procreation of more soldiers for the party. Although she isn’t wearing it in the scene, she would have rated the highest tier of the award after her seventh child.
Hitler doesn’t smoke
The real-life Hitler loathed smoking and wouldn’t allow it in his presence. Yet, in the movie, he offers Jojo cigarettes. During the 1940s, if you were old enough to work, you were old enough to smoke. Since Jojo never met Hitler in real life, he would never have known this. The offer highlights how little the main character knows about the real dictator.
Captain K may have been a spy
At the start of the movie, Captain Klenzendorf says he lost an easily winnable battle due to the incompetence of the Nazi High Command. In reality, the micromanagement by general officers and Hitler himself did play a decisive role in losing the war. Yet, when you hear Captain K state how much he loathed their meddling, and now he has to train the next generation of soldiers, he says he’s using actual grenades.
It is suspicious that when one does blow up it fails to kill Jojo at point blank range. Are they practice grenades and he’s just saying they’re real? Was Jojo just lucky? Could Captain K have sabotaged his own mission? Is he attempting to sabotage training? It’s a stretch if that were the only piece of evidence.
The isolated incident could’ve just been a coincidence, but when the Gestapo raid Jojo’s home, the Captain was on his way to warn him. That scene confirms he is part of the resistance. How long was he part of the resistance? It’s plausible that he was a member from the start.
Real-life espionage has inspired other Hollywood films like Valkyrie and Inglorious Bastards where there is an active resistance against the Reich. So, although many people followed Hitler, there was also a handful who went against the grain.
Also known as the inverted pink triangle, the Rosa-Winkel found on gay concentration camp uniforms. When throwing “undesirables” into the camps, the Nazis also had a system of identifying which undesirable group they belonged to. When Captain K makes his last stand and reveals his true colors (literally), he and his partner both have them on their uniforms. The film hints at their sexual orientation and then confirms it without distracting the audience during his last stand. He no longer has to hide that important part of his life. To put it simply: pride.
An image of Tony Mendez, a CIA officer who oversaw the brazen 1979 rescue of six US hostages in Iran.
“Joining Instagram is another way we’re sharing CIA’s stories and recruiting talented Americans to serve here,” a CIA spokesperson said to CBS News. “Through the account, we’ll give a peek into Agency life, but we can’t promise any selfies from secret locations.”
The CIA’s public affairs team recently made another savvy move on social media by referencing a scene from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
Former CIA deputy director David Cohen appeared as an extra on the most recent episode of “Game of Thrones.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
So a couple of California teenagers have taken it upon themselves to tell these stories before they’re lost.
Rishi Sharma of Agoura Hills, California, has set up the website Heroes of the Second World War. At the time of writing this article, he has interviewed, recorded, and published 360 interviews.
On his website, Rishi states “These men are my biggest heroes and my closest friends. I am just trying to get a better understanding of what they had to go through in order for me and so many others to be here today and to get a better appreciation for how good I have it.”
After just over 14 months, he has traveled all over the country and sits down with each WWII veteran for the interview. He sends the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project some of the videos. With the veteran’s permission, he posts videos on Heroes of the Second World War’s Facebook page.
He doesn’t profit off the project, nor will he ever. He has a GoFundMe page that he uses to pay for the expenses of travel, maintaining the non-profit, and production costs. Currently, he is just shy of his initial goal.
Meanwhile in North Texas, Andy Fancher has launched a YouTube series to also share the stories of veterans.
In his video series “Andy Fancher Presents,” Andy has published many videos highlighting the life of the veteran. He goes in detail about their service, life after the military, and the impact of battle.
His series doesn’t focus specifically on World War II, but he does get into the mindset of the people he interviews. The stories get emotional. He told NBC5 Dallas-Fort Worth, “I realized that I didn’t have much of a strong stomach. I’ve teared up a lot behind the camera.”
The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest warship, the USS Omaha, on Feb. 3. The futuristic, $440 million vessel is named for the Nebraska hometown of billionaire Warren Buffett, who was on hand for the ceremony.
The Omaha, a 218-foot-long littoral combat ship, was commissioned at its new home port in San Diego.
Buffett’s daughter, Susie Buffett, who was designated as the ship’s sponsor, gave the traditional order for officers and crew: “Man our ship and bring her to life.”
“Aye, aye, ma’am,” they replied and ran to the ship as a band struck up “Anchors Aweigh.”
The aluminum-clad Omaha is designed for missions close to shore. It has high-tech computer capabilities and can be reconfigured for various missions, including anti-submarine warfare and anti-mine operations.
When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.
He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”
Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.
Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.
The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.
More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.
Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.
“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”
Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”
He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.
$20 Billion Restart
According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.
To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.
“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.
And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.
Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.
“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.
But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?
F-16s Instead of F-22s?
The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.
Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.
The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.
“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”
Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.
Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.
As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.
By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.
“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’
“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.
For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.
Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.
“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.
The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.
The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.
As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.
Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.
The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.
A Magical Airframe?
Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.
Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.
Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.
“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”
Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”
Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.
In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”
Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”
The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.
Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.
Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.
But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.
During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.
“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”
During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.
No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”
Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.
Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.
First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.
Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.
Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.
For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.
Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.
Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.
Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”
Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.
But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.
Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.
The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.
A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.
Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.
A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.
Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.
Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.
To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.
Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.
After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.
Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.
Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.
Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.
Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”
Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.
Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.
Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.
About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.
Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”
The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.
But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.
Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”
Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.
“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”
This year, NORAD — the North American Aerospace Defense Command — celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of tracking Santa’s progress as he delivers presents to the good boys and girls of the world. Every year on Christmas Eve, NORAD purports to track Santa Claus as he leaves the North Pole and delivers presents to children around the world. This year, starting at 12:01 am on December 24, interested folks can track Santa via NORAD’s Santa Tracker Website, mobile phone apps, and through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ via the handle @NORADSanta.
The program started somewhat by chance on December 24, 1955 when a Sears department store placed an ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper telling children they could telephone Santa Claus. However, the telephone number printed was erroneously that of the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center (CONAD), NORAD’s predecessor.
Santa visited Peterson AFB in 2014 for his NORAD mission brief in preparation for Christmas Eve. (Photo by: MC2 (AW) Bansil, Jhomil)
Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty that night and told his staff to give all children who called in a “current location” for Santa Claus — and a Christmas Eve tradition was born, now known as the “NORAD Tracks Santa” program.
OnStar subscribers can press the button in their vehicles and ask for Santa’s location, Windows Phone users can ask Cortana, and starting at 6 a.m. Eastern Time, the kids can just dial toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORAD’s Santa operation has come a long way. Today it seems as complex as the hunt for Osama bin Laden but when it first started it was just a number children could call.
Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. “Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number,” she says.“The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. “And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ “
His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.
“And Dad realized that it wasn’t a joke,” her sister says. “So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho’d and asked if he had been a good boy and, ‘May I talk to your mother?’
On April 13, the US military dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan.
Nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs” (but officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb), the 30-foot-long munition allegedly crushed a network of caves, tunnels, and bunkers dug into a remote mountainside.
At the same time, the SS Mont Blanc was bound to return to France carrying a host of highly explosive materials: 2,367 tons of picric acid, 62 tons of guncotton, 250 tons of TNT, and 246 tons of benzol in barrels below decks.
To exit the Bedford Basin, where the ships were docked, they had to pass through a slim channel. The Imo — behind schedule and on the wrong side of the channel — refused to give way and crashed into the Mont Blanc.
Although the collision occurred at low speed, the benzol spilled and sparks ignited the entire stockpile of fuel. The Mont Blanc exploded with the force of 2,989 tons of TNT — about 270 times more powerful than a “Mother of All Bombs” blast.
The shockwave from the blast covered 325 acres of ground and leveled the neighborhood of Richmond. The temperature of the explosion exceeded 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, vaporizing water around the Mont Blanc — and pushing a 52-foot-tall tidal wave three blocks into town.
The force of the explosion lifted the Imo out of the water and threw it onto the shore. The Mont Blanc was ripped apart and completely destroyed. Almost no part of the ship survived the explosion.
Only two parts of the Mont Blanc have ever been located: a 1,140-lb piece of its anchor, found buried more than 2 miles away, and a barrel from one of the ship’s guns, which flew 2.35 miles from the blast site.
Coleman’s final action was sending a telegraph warning up the tracks: “Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”
Every once in a while, a tv show hits on something that resonates so deeply, we can’t help but find tears in our eyes. Last night, CBS’ military comedy “United States of Al” delivered such a scene.
As the show explores the relationship between an Afghan interpreter (Al) and the US Marine (Riley) who sponsored his immigration to the United States, viewers have been treated to laughs every Thursday night. We’ve cracked up watching Al fumble through the nuances of American life, giggled at the things quite literally lost in translation and felt the many pulls at our heartstrings as the complexity of life off the battlefield unfolds.
We’ve grieved with Riley’s sister over the loss of her fiance who was killed in action, we’ve struggled alongside Riley at the deterioration of his marriage during deployment and we’ve so deeply empathized with these characters as they find their “new normal” on the home front, away from the bizarre comfort a warzone offers when you’re side by side with your brothers and sisters in arms.
We’ve seen glimpses of Al and Riley “over there,” but we haven’t truly understood the relationship between the two – representative of the relationships between thousands of interpreters and service members – until a speech by Al at the local veteran’s hall, where Riley’s dad is a member.
Throughout the episode, we’re given flashes into Riley’s discomfort at being honored at a ceremony at the post. In his dress uniform, Riley arrives at the ceremony, immediately lauded for his bravery, and asked the questions so many veterans face returning from war. Things like, “What was it like over there?” “Did you throw a grenade?” “I heard you’re a hero!” Riley is visibly uncomfortable and walks out before he is supposed to give his speech. While Al has prepped for his “big moment” by reading a speech giving book, his vulnerability and the harrowing truth about the “eyes” steals the show:
“I read a book on giving speeches and it suggested opening with a joke. But I’m not going to. Because there is nothing funny about the 17,000 Afghan interpreters still waiting for visas which were promised them. When we decided to join the US forces, we were not only risking our lives, we were putting the lives of our families in danger. We were the eyes and ears of American troops and that is what the Taliban called us – the eyes. On missions I would hear them over the radio say, ‘Shoot the eyes first.’ And a lot of times, they did.
But not me.
My friend Riley saved my life on three separate occasions. Twice from gunfire, once from red tape. He got my visa application out from whatever pile it was buried under and brought me to America. I know he doesn’t like to be called a hero, but the interpreters who don’t have a friend like him are probably not going to make it here. So if he won’t let me call him a hero, I will call him my brother.”
Al’s speech is all too familiar to interpreters and veterans here at home. An estimated 18,864 Afghans are still waiting for approval in a process that has significantly slowed in the past few years. With violence against civilians and targeted killings increasing in Afghanistan, and with a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan looming in the near future, many SIV applicants worry that their visas will come too late, if at all.
They were our eyes and our ears over there. They gave us everything to aid our fight to advance freedoms across the world – they risked their lives, their families, their stability. We gave them our word we’d bring them home with us. The least we can do is to keep it.
Check out The United States of Al on CBS Thursday nights at 8:30pm EST/PST or stream on Paramount Plus.