Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Military uniforms have been made from a variety of fabrics over the years: Cotton, wool, polyester blends… all have had their turn as what uniforms are made of. Now a new spin on one of the oldest fabrics could come into play.


That fabric, of course, is silk, which first entered the scene in China almost four millennia ago. Only this isn’t the silk that is used for the high-fashion dresses you see on the red carpet. That is from silkworms. According to a report from Marketplace.org, this silk is from spiders.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
A female spider wraps her prey in silk. (Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, before you get carried away – no, this is not quite like the Spider-Man suits. The key, though is that the spider silk is strong. It has to be. Spider silk makes webs, which spiders usually use to catch food.

There’s just one problem. You need a lot of spiders to make silk, and spider’s just don’t get along with each other. We’re not talking things that can be worked out. Face it, when the critters you are counting on to produce material try to eat each other, productivity’s gonna be taking a nosedive. That doesn’t get the uniforms made.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
A small piece of artificial spider silk produced in a lab. (Wikimedia Commons)

So, the answer has been to genetically engineer silkworms to produce spider silk. This is not the only method in operation. Michigan State University researchers have figured out how to make a silk-like product from the deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, of spiders, and DNA sequencing is becoming much cheaper than it was in the past.

Either way, the material that is produced will have far more applications than the Kevlar used in the uniforms of present day. The spider silk could also be used to make protective underwear as well as improved body armor. That’s good news for the troops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This former commander says you can’t just ‘Delta Force’ your way out of terrorism

Retired General David Petraeus shared lessons learned from over fifteen years of combatting terrorists and extremists in the Middle East and Afghanistan at a forum Sept. 13.


The takeaway: even with all the US’s military’s capabilities, you can’t “drone strike your way out of a problem.”

Speaking at the Intelligence Squared US debate at New York University with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot, Petraeus — who commanded US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama — discussed what he views as the five lessons the US should have learned from combatting Islamic extremism.

First, Petraeus said that “ungoverned spaces” in the Muslim world will be exploited by extremists. Second, Petraeus said you need to do something about it, because “Las Vegas rules don’t apply.”

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
Gen. David H. Petraeus. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Joshua Treadwell.

“What happens there does not stay there,” Petraeus added.

Third, the US must lead the charge, Petraeus said, because the US has the assets and the expertise that is “proving revolutionary” even as the military has let other countries’ troops — like the Iraqi and Afghan armies — take the lead on the front lines.

“We are advising and assisting others, and enabling with this armada of unmanned aerial vehicles that a bunch of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan and I very much sought more of,” Petraeus said, adding that it’s not just the hardware that gives the US an edge, but the manpower and technical knowledge of the people that deploy and operate it.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
USMC photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Fourth, Petraeus said, there’s a clear paradox at play when combating extremist movements — like the Islamic State or al-Qaeda — that are explicitly linked to ideology.

“You cannot counter terrorists like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda with just counterterrorist force operations,” Petraeus said. “You can’t just drone strike or Delta Force raid your way out of this problem. It takes a comprehensive approach.”

The comprehensive approach Petraeus advocated involves not only targeted raids and drone strikes, but a coordinated effort among military, diplomatic, and intelligence channels to change “hearts and minds,” impose the “rule of law,” and work towards reconciliation between opposing sides.

And fifth, Petraeus said, is understanding that these conflicts are “generational struggles,” and they’re not going to be solved in a year, or even a decade.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
A US Soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group salutes his fellow Soldiers while jumping out of a C-130 Hercules aircraft over a drop zone. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston

“It’s going to require a sustained commitment,” Petraeus said. “And in view of that, it has to be a sustainable sustained commitment.”

After Boot asked whether President Donald Trump’s administration was up to the task, Petraeus parried that the “generals” within the White House are highly experienced.

Specifically referring to H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and Ricky Waddell, McMaster’s deputy, Petraeus said they understand the complexities of prosecuting the war against Islamic extremists.

“These generals know that every problem out there is not a nail, and you just can’t find a bigger hammer,” Petraeus said. “In fact, you generally need a stiletto.”

Petraeus did say that the state of the US’s diplomatic corps — with many crucial positions at the State Department still unfilled, or with acting leaders — is “definitely a big concern,” adding that it “carries much more weight” to have the Senate confirm people to those positions.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Our 7 most favorite issued items ever

Everyone has their favorite piece of issued gear. It doesn’t matter why you love it, you just do. And chances are good that you loved it so much, it got “lost” during your last deployment.


Military people are good people, so I don’t like to use the word “theft.” We’ll call it the usual, “Strategic Transfer of Equipment to an Alternate Location.”

7. IR patches

Do you know which country’s troops are the toughest in combat? The United States. Now, do you know which country’s troops would be the most lethal for U.S. troops to fight? The United States.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
Those patches on their chests will light up in NVGs.

Those backward flags worn U.S. military uniforms keep blue-on-blue accidents from happening at night. While in the field, they’re worn on the chest or arm. When the wearer transitions to veteran status, it goes on their ball cap.

6. Multi-tools

No matter which brand you prefer, Gerber or Leatherman, this is one of the most useful things troops deploy with. The range of use is astonishing. You can use it for one of its many on-label functions, like a screwdriver. Or maybe you need to bend the lower receiver on a .50-cal back into place. Or maybe you need to pull some shrapnel out of your battle buddy. The multi-tool is what you need.

In your post-military life, your Gerber is likely to end up constructing Ikea furniture.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
Or, in my case, breaking Ikea furniture.

5. Gen-III cold weather fleece

Everyone knows a fleece jacket is both comfortable as hell while making you look 20 pounds heavier. The Army’s extreme cold weather fleece has the same problem with the added benefit of being a part of a bigger cold weather system that actually works.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
I am warmer just looking at this photo.

The old issued M-65 field jackets were just like coats, in that you wear them, but they were about as protective as flip-flops.

4. Angle-head flashlights

In the event of nuclear war, two things will survive: cockroaches and your old, angle-head flashlight. These old things are beloved by veterans of many eras. Sure, they update the issued lights, they switched to surefire flashlights, and they even updated the angled heads on some models, but there’s a reason these are so iconic.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
And it’s not just because of how many movies and video games they’re in.

You may not have a daily use for a signal light, but chances are good this is in your home or car emergency kit — or even your bug-out bag.

3. The KA-BAR

This one only applies to Marines, but the KA-BAR is pretty much the utility knife. For whatever reason they might need a utility knife, Marines will always say their issued KA-BAR is indispensable. And none of them ever want to give it up at the end of the day.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
Do not try to steal one of these from a Marine. You might get to know the pointy end very fast.

2. Woobie

Not every branch refers to the poncho liner as the “woobie,” but everyone can appreciate how useful this blanket is. It now even has a cult following of troops and veterans who turn their woobies into everything from smoking jackets to snuggies.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
This guy looks like he’s running for office and, frankly, I want to vote for him. (Facebook photo from The Woobie Smoking Jacket)

1. Camelbacks

If you don’t think the Camelback is an amazing advance in issued military equipment, try to remember what it was like to haul around a canteen on your LBV.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
Me too.

You know what else is great about taking a camelback on a deployment? Or hiking, or boating, or literally anywhere else where you need to carry a lot of water? It doesn’t taste like sh*tty canteen water.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army, Navy football returns to the field

After months filled with as much uncertainty as tomorrow, Army and Navy are about to begin their respective football schedules.

Air Force will have to wait.

Army is set to kick off against Middle Tennessee State at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, at West Point, New York. Navy is expected to open its season when it hosts BYU at 8 p.m. on Sept. 7 on ESPN in Annapolis, Maryland.


The coronavirus pandemic has forced college football programs to be flexible in myriad ways, none more so than with their schedules. Some conferences and teams will forgo playing this fall, with hopes of returning in the spring, while other schools lost appealing non-conference matchups.

Then there is Air Force, whose schedule consists of two games: Oct. 3 against Navy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Nov. 7 at Army. Air Force belongs to the Mountain West Conference, which postponed fall sports in August.

“We were allowed to look at the possibility to play Army and Navy since we all have similar 47-month physical requirements for graduation, have similar testing protocols and have a cadet population that is secured from the public,” Air Force athletic spokesman Troy Garnhart said in an email.

The Falcons are not looking to add other games, Garnhart said.

Regardless of the pandemic, the service academies have said they plan to play each other this year.

Army and Navy are scheduled to meet for the 121st time on Dec. 12 in Philadelphia. They first met in 1890, when Benjamin Harrison was president, and have played every year since 1930.

Army is scheduled to host eight games at Michie Stadium in 2020, but the Black Knights lost a marquee home matchup against Oklahoma when its conference, the Big 12, canceled non-league road games. The Sooners were scheduled to visit West Point on Sept. 26.

Attendance at Army’s first two home games, the opener against Middle Tennessee State and Sept. 12 against Louisiana-Monroe, will be limited to the corps of approximately 4,400 cadets, athletic spokeswoman Rachel Caton said.

“Attendance at games is typically mandatory for the corps, so all should be expected to be in attendance,” Caton said in an email. “They will just be sitting in a different area of the stadium than usual and will be socially distanced.”

Decisions about fans for the Black Knights’ other home games have not been determined, Caton said.

Unlike Army’s on-campus stadium, Navy does not play its home games on federal land. Because Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is off campus, the Midshipmen are subject to regulations imposed by the Maryland Department of Health, which banned fans from outdoor sports events in June, Navy spokesman Scott Strasemeier said in an email.

“We are still optimistic there will be home football games this season where our season-ticket holders will be extended the opportunity to personally attend,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “Improving conditions may dictate justification to open our gates in a setting with extensive safety protocols being appropriately administered.”

Whether fans will be allowed at Air Force’s home game against Navy is not expected to be decided until mid-September, Garnhart said.

While Navy intends to play a full American Athletic Conference schedule and didn’t lose its games against Army or Air Force, the Midshipmen won’t face Notre Dame because of the pandemic. Navy originally was scheduled to open the season with that matchup in Dublin, Ireland, then it was moved to Annapolis before being canceled.

Navy and Notre Dame had met in football every year since 1927.

Navy and Air Force finished 11-2 in 2019. Army, whose football program does not belong to a conference, went 5-8 last season.

FOOTBALL SCHEDULES

AIR FORCE

Oct. 3 vs. Navy

Nov. 7 at Army, 1:30 p.m.

ARMY

Sept. 5 vs. Middle Tennessee State, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Sept. 12 vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Sept. 19 vs. BYU, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)

Sept. 26 at Cincinnati

Oct. 3 vs. Abilene Christian, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Oct. 10 vs. The Citadel, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Oct. 17 at UTSA, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Oct. 24 vs. Mercer, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Nov. 7 vs. Air Force, 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

Nov. 14 at Tulane

Nov. 21 vs. Georgia Southern, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

Dec. 12 vs. Navy in Philadelphia, 3 p.m. (CBS)

NAVY

Sept. 7 vs. BYU, 8 p.m. (ESPN)

Sept. 19 at Tulane, noon (ABC)

Sept. 26 vs. Temple (CBS Sports Network)

Oct. 3 at Air Force

Oct. 17 at East Carolina

Oct. 24 vs. Houston (CBS Sports Network)

Oct. 31 at SMU

Nov. 7 vs. Tulsa (CBS Sports Network)

Nov. 14 vs. Memphis (ESPN family of networks)

Nov. 21 at South Florida

Dec. 5 AAC championship game

Dec. 12 vs. Army in Philadelphia, 3 p.m. (CBS)

Note: TV and time information have not been determined unless listed. Game times are subject to change.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This drone killed the terrorist who ordered Malala Yousafzai’s death

In 2012, Mullah Falzullah, a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban, ordered his thugs to murder Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl who had become outspoken in her advocacy for women’s education. Yousafzai survived and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Falzullah rose to head the Pakistani Taliban, after the previous two heads had been taken out in drone strikes. On June 14, 2018, in the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, he and two other, unidentified terrorists were killed in an American air strike using an unmanned aerial vehicle.


Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

A pilot was at a ground control station similar to this one when controlling the MQ-9 Reaper that blasted the terrorist responsible for the attack on Malala Yousafzai.

(USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Don Branum)

The exact drone that took the terrorist out wasn’t identified in media reports, but seeing as the MQ-1 Predator was retired in March, 2018, the drone used was likely an MQ-9 Reaper, a larger drone that entered service in 2007. Just as the Predator helped make the world a better place one strike at a time, the Reaper is very capable of doing so as well, famously interrupting an ISIS execution.

The Reaper can carry up to four AGM-114 Hellifre missiles (the Predator was limited to two), and can also be configured to carry GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. It normally flies at about 230 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 1,150 miles.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

MQ-9 Reapers have been operating in Afghanistan since 2007.

(USAF)

The Hellfire missile, the preferred weapon in targeting terrorists, has a maximum range of five miles and travels at Mach 1.3. The missile has been in service since 1984 and was primarily intended as a tank-killing weapon for use by the AH-64 Apache helicopter. The missile has since become the basis for the British-designed Brimstone.

The Reaper/Hellfire combo will likely take out a lot more terrorists in the future, in addition to providing precision strike capabilities against other targets.

MIGHTY GAMING

How effective a chainsaw bayonet would actually be

Bayonets epitomize the warrior mentality. Although it’s been a good while since the last official call was made to “fix bayonets” in an actual combat mission, the ancillary CQC weapon retains a special place in many warfighters’ hearts. Of course, if troops like to attach a sharp, pointy knife to their rifle’s end, then they’d surely love to affix a chainsaw. What could be better?


Chainsaw bayonets have become a trope in popular sci-fi, but there is none more iconic, overly-gratuitous, and awesome than those attached to the Mark 2 Lancer Assault Rifle in the Gears of War series. This futuristic weapon is a massive, fully-automatic rifle outfitted with a roaring chainsaw bayonet. It works well in the game, but it wouldn’t stand a chance in the real world.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
The key difference between the protagonists in ‘Gears of War’ and real life troops sums up why they wouldn’t work. Not all of us are nearlyu00a0as massive as they are.
(Microsoft Studios)

There aren’t any official technical specs available for the Lancer, so it’s impossible for us to accurately judge its effectiveness, but we’ve seen a few people try to recreate the chainsaw bayonet themselves. Still, this technique is nowhere near as common as pop sci-fi would have you believe — for good reason.

In real life, the chainsaw bayonet is extremely flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly, there isn’t really any way to store the gasoline needed to power the chainsaw, so it won’t run for long. The workaround here would be to add a larger fuel source, but by doing so, you’d add to the already-bulky weight of the saw.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
As is, they’re barely able to be used as a chainsaw, let alone a chainsaw bayonet.
(Aaron Thiel)

Then there’s the weight-distribution problem. It’s never an issue for the hulking heroes of Gears of War, but real-world troops aren’t so massive. Adding weight to a rifle will likely throw off its center of balance. When the front of a gun is far heavier than the back, it simply won’t fire accurately.

The center of balance is almost always closer to the butt-stock so the user has more control over control the weapon. Firearms without butt-stocks are also balanced in a way so that the recoil doesn’t shift the sight picture. Attachments to the front of a weapon, like suppressors, can help regulate weight distribution, but these are very specialized tools. The bulk of a functioning chainsaw would be incredibly difficult to offset.

Finally, we have a hard time seeing a situation in which a chainsaw bayonet would be more effective — not just more enjoyable — than a standard bayonet.

For a quick rundown on why this weapon would also be a complete safety hazard, check out this video.

Articles

DARPA Is Making A Real Life Terminator (Seriously)

The fantasy world of Skynet and the T-100 is inching closer to reality with DARPA’s Atlas program.


Also Read: The 7 Coolest High-Tech Projects The Military Is Currently Working On

Based on Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN humanoid robot, ATLAS will most likely go through an I, Robot puberty stage before reaching Terminator adulthood. The robot is being developed with some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world through DARPA’s Robotic Challenge. The competition’s goal is to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters, according to DARPA.

Inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a robot like ATLAS could mitigate future accidents by sending in a machine where it would otherwise be hazardous to humans. Like in I, Robot, these humanoids should be capable of opening doors, move debris, turn valves, and perform other human tasks.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
I, Robot (Photo: IMDb)

The fact these robots are being developed to provide relief has done little to mollify the concerns over the threat of killer robots. “At the end of the day people need to remember what the D in DARPA stands for. It stands for Defense,” said Peter Singer, in an interview with NPR. Singer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century:

Singer argues that if researchers build a robot that can drive cars, climb a ladder and operate a jackhammer that they can also be used for war. “That means that that robot can manipulate an AK-47,” Singer told NPR.

The challenge finals will take place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California where robots will be judged on their ability to perform semi-autonomous tasks. The winning team will receive a $2 million prize; runner-up will be awarded $1 million and $500,000 for third place.

Here’s a short of video of the robot’s current capabilities:

NOW: This Is The Vehicle Lamborghini Designed For The Military

AND: Here’s Video Of The US Navy Testing A ‘Game-Changing’ New Missile

Articles

6 weapons systems that are likely to gain from a Donald Trump win

So, now that Donald Trump is President-elect Trump, what weapons will he invest in?


During his campaign, Trump promised to end the sequester that sets limits on spending for the military.

Also read: Here’s who Trump may pick to lead the Pentagon’s nearly 3 million military and civilian personnel

So, what might make it into a Trump defense budget? Will some weapons make it that might have been on the chopping block? Will we see larger production runs of other systems? Here’s a look to see what will happen.

1. Long-Range Land Attack Projectile

While recently cancelled, this GPS-guided round could easily make a comeback with sequestration off the table. The round’s price tag jumped to $800,000, largely because the Zumwalt buy was cut from 32 to three. That said, LRLAP may very well face competition from OTO Melara’s Vulcano round, which is far more versatile (offering GPS, IR, and laser guidance options) and which is available in 76mm and 127mm as well as 155mm.

Figure, though, that a guided round will be on the table.

2. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Zumwalt-class destroyers, Freedom-class littoral combat ships, Independence-class littoral combat ships, and Small Surface Combatants

While the Obama Administration re-started production of these ships, the fleet total is at 272 ships as of this writing. On his campaign website, Trump is pushing for a Navy of 350 ships.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
The future USS Detroit (LCS 7) conducts acceptance trials. Acceptance trials are the last significant milestone before delivery of the ship to the Navy. (U.S. Navy Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin-Michael Rote/Released)

One way to get these additional ships is to increase the current and planned building programs. The Navy has five such programs underway or in RD – and all could readily see more production as Trump looks to make up a 78-ship gap between his goal and the present Navy.

Expect the Coast Guard to get in on the largesse as well. Of course, if they just bought the Freedom-class LCS as their new Offshore Patrol Cutter, they could probably get a lot more hulls in the water. Licensing some foreign designs might help, too.

3. F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

Trump has promised to build 1,200 fighters for the Air Force alone, and the Navy and Marines need planes too.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich

The F-22’s production was halted at 187 airframes in 2009, but Congress recently ordered the Pentagon to look into re-starting production of the Raptor. A restarted F-22 program (maybe with some of the avionics from the F-35) wouldn’t be a surprise, given the China’s J-20 has taken to the air.

You can also expect that the F-35 and F/A-18E/F will be produced in larger numbers. This will help address the airframe shortfall that lead the Marines to raid the boneyard to get enough airframes after they had to call timeout to address a rash of crashes.

4. XM1296 Dragoon

The Army bought 81 of the recently-unveiled Dragoons to help face off against the Russians. That said, Europe may not be the only place we need these vehicles – and we may need a lot more than 81. It may be that the XM1296 could push the M1126 versions to second-line roles currently held by the M113 armored personnel carrier.

5. V-280 Valor and SB-1 Defiant

The Army is looking to move its rotary-wing fleet into the next generation. The Trump White House will probably make a decision of one or the other option – but Trump may decide to boost manufacturing by going with both airframe options (like the Navy did with the Littoral Combat Ship).

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Trump’s administration may also pick up on unmanned vehicles like the ARES and V-247 Vigilant.

6. Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle met the budget axe at the hands of Robert Gates in January 2011. With Trump’s promise to increase the Marine Corps to 36 battalions, it may not be a bad idea to bring this baby back.

Since most of the RD on this vehicle has already been done, it might make sense to give the Corps a new amphibious fighting vehicle — and it will save time and money.

Mighty Moments

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

Atlanta Falcon offensive lineman Ben Garland knows the meaning of service, but he took the NFL’s Salute to Service program to the next level.


Each year for Veteran’s Day, the NFL pays tribute to our nation’s servicemembers in a number of ways, but one of the most meaningful is during November’s Salute to Service. Players wear the initials of the fallen on their uniforms, the NFL donates money to non-profit organizations like the Pat Tillman Foundation or TAPS, and military families are invited to meet their favorite teams and experience some VIP fun.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
3 year-old Cooper Dean with his new BFF, Ben Garland. (Image via TAPS)

A captain in the Colorado Air National Guard, the Veteran’s Day events are particularly meaningful to Garland. In 2017, he wore the initials of Air Force veteran Robert Dean, who took his own life in June 2016. At the game, Garland met Dean’s wife, Katie, and their 3 year-old son, Cooper, and the meeting left a lasting impression on him.

Related: Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons honored fallen heroes

On Dec. 11, Garland was honored for his community service with his team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and he decided to invite Katie and Cooper as his guests — what they didn’t know was that he had a big surprise in store for them.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
Ben Garland surprises military widow Katie Dean and her son, Cooper, with Super Bowl tickets. (Image via TAPS)

When accepting his award, Garland invited them onstage and presented them with tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl.

“No matter what I’m doing, I give my full effort to that,” said Garland in an interview with CNN.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms
3 year-old Cooper Dean wears a helmet with his father’s initials, borrowed from Atlanta Falcon Ben Garland. (Image via TAPS)

Whether in the military, on the field, or helping others, it’s clear Garland lives by the Air Force Core Value of “Service Before Self.” From visiting cancer patients in hospitals, to fighting human trafficking with SōDE Solution, to helping families like the Deans, Garland proves how impactful service after service can be.

“This incredible connection with Ben Garland and the Dean family is just extraordinary and means so much to Katie and Cooper,” said Diana Hosford, vice president of sports and entertainment at TAPS. “Ben being in the Air Force just like their fallen hero and also being so kind, caring and thoughtful just like the man they loved and lost, makes this bond even stronger.”
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The candy man who revolutionized tank design

The most-produced tank in World War II was fast, powerful, and well protected by sloped armor, and it was made by a candy maker who got tired of confections and decided to make a revolutionary tank instead.

Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.


Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

The Christie tank designs were ultimately a failure in the U.S., but elements of the company’s designs would become part of dozens of tank designs across Western and Russian militaries.

(Harris Ewing)

Mikhail Koshkin was working in a candy factory until he decided that he wanted to study engineering. Thanks to a series of Josef Stalin’s purges, Koshkin quickly found himself at the top of a program to improve the BT tank. The BT tank series was based on the U.S. Christie design and patents that were sold overseas after the Army turned the Christie down.

Stalin, wanting to see whether his armored forces were worth the price tag, wanted to test the new tanks in combat and got his chance in the Spanish Civil War. The BT tanks proved themselves useful but far, far from perfect. Despite thick armor, anti-tank infantry still often held an advantage against them, and the vehicle engines would burst into flame from light hits or, sometimes, simply from the strain of propelling the tank.

The BT tanks were sent back to Russia by rail for analysis and Koshkin and his team quickly found the flaws in design. The improvements program quickly became a replacement program, and Koshkin started working on a new design in 1934 which he would name for that year, the T-34.

It incorporated a number of design changes being flirted with around the world. It wasn’t the first tank with sloped armor or the first with a diesel engine or the first with a large cannon in a rotating turret, but it was a solid design that incorporated all of these evolutions in design. At the same time that he was working on the T-34, Koshkin had to work on a new BT tank design: the A20.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Mikhail Koshkin worked in a candy factory but then decided to become an engineer before World War II. His inspired T-34 tank design would become the most-produced tank of World War II.

(Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau)

The A20 would later become the BT-20. It, too, sported a number of improvements, including sloped armor and an improved engine, but it still had relatively little armor for the crew or engine — as little as 20mm in some places.

Both designs, the T-34 and the BT-20, reached Soviet leaders in 1939. There, the officers sidelined the T-34 in favor of the BT-20, partially because the proposed T-34 design would’ve required much more steel for manufacture and much more fuel to run. A prototype BT-20 was created.

But instead of accepting the defeat of his design, Koshkin wrote a letter to Stalin and continued making tweaks before creating a full prototype. Stalin requested to see the tank, and Koshkin drove it 800 miles to Moscow to show it off. The tank proved itself fast, effective, and well-protected, and so Stalin sent it into production instead of the BT-20.

Koshkin died of pneumonia soon after, but his tank design would go on to become the most-produced tank of World War II. Russia took part in the invasion of Poland, but later found itself attacked by Nazi Germany in June, 1941.

As history shows, the Soviet Union soon found itself in a fight for its very survival during World War II. Tanks and other weapons would be imported from America, but the best homegrown option the Soviet Union had was still, easily, the T-34.

The final design pressed into production featured a 76mm gun capable of taking out anything Germany had to offer, its thick and sloped armor could survive hits from most German tanks at the time, and it was easy to maintain in the field, meaning the T-34s were nearly all available for the fight.

Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

A T-34 tank during battle re-enactments.

(Cezary Piwowarski CC BY-SA 4.0)

When a clash first came between German tanks and the T-34, the Soviet crew surprised the Germans by piercing the German tank in a single shot. German tank crews had convinced themselves that they were nearly invincible until they faced the T-34.

But the Germans had prepared well for the invasion, and they charged east, deep into Russia, overrunning the original T-34 factory and nearly breaching Moscow’s defenses before they were stopped at the final defensive line as the true Russian winter set in.

The relocated T-34 production lines were able to crank out hundreds of copies before the spring thaw, and those tanks were key parts of battles for the coming years. But German tank designs were evolving as well, and the arms race necessitated upgrades to the T-34.

Over 35,000 T-34s were built during the war, with later models featuring upgraded 85mm guns as space for an additional crew member, allowing the tank commander to give up their gunner duties to keep a better eye on what was happening around the vehicle.

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A German soldier inspects a Russian T-34 knocked out during combat. T-34s were super powerful upon their debut, but German bombers and artillery were always a threat to them, and later German tank designs like the Tiger could shred the T-34.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

The Soviet Union was, eventually, successful in driving the Germans out of Russia and back into Berlin. This success was partially due to America sending so much equipment east as part of lend-lease, partially thanks to the U.S., Britain, and Canada opening a new front with the D-Day invasions, and partially thanks to a candy man who decided to make a world-class weapon of war instead of sweets.

Admit it: You’d watch a Willy Wonka sequel like that.

(Some of the information in this article came from the second episode of Age of Tanks on Netflix. If you have a subscription, you can watch the episode here.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

American’s favorite snacks invented by the military

Snack time is the best time. At least, that’s how it is around here. From sweet treats to crunchy mid-afternoon nosh sessions, America’s obsession with snacks is as old as America itself. Well, not quite. But many of our favorite snacks did get their start in the military as food for deployed service members.

You might already be familiar with plenty of these snacks if you’ve ever found yourself at ten till nine in the morning in line at the shoppette grabbing breakfast because once again, you’re running a little late. Or maybe your idea of comfort food involves a fresh piece of supermarket, pre-sliced bread to make into a grilled cheese. No matter your go-to snack, we’re sure you’ll find some of your favorite in this list of snacks invented by the military.


Picking up breakfast 

You already know that coffee is the number two beverage among service members (ranked after water and beer, respectively), but did you know that the U.S. military helped herald in the age of instant coffee? During WWI, Big Military saw the need to keep service members caffeinated on the go, so they invested heavily in purchasing lots of powdered instant coffee – to the tune of 37,000 pounds of it by the war’s end. Before instant and pre-ground coffee came to market, folks would have to grind beans by hand and then set them to boil in water. After the inclusion of coffee in the earliest MREs, not only did the military embrace the need for caffeine, but so did the rest of America. By the end of WWII, drip coffee was as ubiquitous to American meals as ever.

Chef Boyardee

Pre-made kinds of pasta got their start as lunch items for the American military. During WWII, Big Military tapped a restaurant in Cleveland to produce their canned food as part of military rations, which helped launch what we now know as Chef Boyardee.

Cheetos

As you’re enjoying your pre-made pasta, why not add some Cheetos and Pringles to round out your snack and make it really decadent? Cheetos, America’s favorite bright orange corn-puffed snack, got their start during WWI when culinary industrialists figured out how to make shelf-stable, dehydrated cheese dust. Kraft Foods then sold the product to the Army, who used it on just about everything – pasta, sandwiches, eggs and yes, even potatoes.

Pringles

The crunchy texture of Cheetos is addictive, for sure, but so too are Pringles. Pringles were born from a project between the Quartermaster Corps and the USDA to develop dehydrated potato flakes. The entire goal of Pringles was to find a way to dehydrate the flakes and then, later on, form them into chips.

Speaking of lunch, what’s a sandwich without sliced bread? Thanks again to a partnership between the Quartermaster Corps and Kansas State, now we no longer have to worry about bakery bread going stale before we can enjoy it. Supermarket bread stays fresh because of bacterial enzymes that tolerate the heat of baking and can live for weeks, helping to keep bread fresh and soft.

Dinners and Sweet Treats

Bomber crews on long overseas flights during WWII needed something to eat, so an Army contractor invented the earliest iteration of what we now know as TV dinners. These nascent iterations were pretty basic and didn’t have much flavor, but they kept the bomber crews from going hungry.

After that TV dinner, why not enjoy a handful of MMs? These candy-coated chocolates were first introduced in WWII, so service members could carry chocolate with them during warmer weather.

These snacks might not be on your go-to meal list for every meal, but it’s still an amazing bit of culinary history to know that many of the snacks we love today got their start as rations for the military.

Articles

Corps to update social media rules in wake of scandal

The Marines’ top officer has sent a “White Letter” to all senior leaders in the service ordering them to support self-identified victims of Facebook harassment and illicit photo sharing, and to educate troops on what is expected of them in their conduct online. Sent out March 10, nearly a week after news broke that Marines had been sharing nude and compromising photos of female colleagues on a 30,000-member Facebook page called Marines United, the message also promises new guidance to Marines concerning the boundaries of appropriate online behavior.


The two-page letter, sent by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller to all commanding generals, unit commanding officers, and senior enlisted leaders across the Corps and obtained by Military.com, does not mince words.

Related: Mattis speaks out on Marine Corps’ nude photo scandal

“In the past week, our core values have come under attack,” Neller wrote. “… This inappropriate, disrespectful, and in some cases criminal behavior has a corrosive and negative effect on our Marines and on the Marine Corps.”

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Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Jones

To prevent future social media fallout, Neller said Marines must be educated, not only on the service’s expectations for their online behavior, but also on the dangers and vulnerabilities inherent in online activity. The Marine Corps will soon publish an update to its 2010 guidance governing Marines’ social media activity to further this goal, Neller said.

The current guidance dictates the Marines should use their “best judgment at all times and avoid inappropriate behavior” when using social media, adding that defamatory, libelous, abusive, threatening or hateful posts may result in disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. While the White Letter does not make clear how the guidance will be updated and to what extent, the new guidance will likely provide additional specifics on what behavior is out-of-bounds and how violations will be addressed.

“Leaders should remind our Marines they are not anonymous in the virtual world and remain accountable for their actions,” Neller wrote. “Where we find criminal behavior, we will take appropriate action.”

Related: Commandant on nude photo scandal: ‘Do you really want to be a Marine?’

For Marine victims of photo sharing and other online harassment, who, Neller noted, are primarily female, he gives an order to Marine leaders: support them at every level. Commanders and senior enlisted leaders are tasked with communicating with the Marines under them and encouraging victims of online attacks to come forward. Witnesses to online misconduct should report it as well, the letter states.

“When Marines do report, they must have the full support of their leadership, from NCOs up to the commanding officers and commanding general,” Neller wrote. “They must have a viable means to report and have immediate resources available to support them.”

These resources, the letter states, includes chaplains, attorneys through the victim legal counsel program, uniformed victim advocates, equal opportunity advisers and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response resources and personnel.

“Technical assistance is also available to help remedy or mitigate the harm they have suffered,” Neller notes.

While the letter doesn’t clarify what this technical assistance includes, sources told Military.com last week that Marine officials are considering a move to offer reputation management software to self-identified victims, to allow them to cleanse damaging or sensitive information from their online profiles.

Neller ended his message to commanders with a note of optimism.

“The recent attacks on social media can be overcome if we address the behaviors and attitudes that caused these unacceptable actions in the first place,” he wrote. “We are better than this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The awesome reason some Air Force fighters have green stars

In the Air Force fighter community, there is a coveted and rare marker painted near the cockpit of certain planes, just beneath the pilot’s name, rank, and call sign. It’s 6-inch green star with a 1/2-inch black border that signifies that the aircraft has emerged victorious against an enemy jet in aerial combat.


Why this Air Force marking is so rare

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A U.S. P-51 with the decals showing aerial victories of Nazi, Italian, Japanese, and U.S. planes.

(Pima Air and Space Museum)

The Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force have allowed pilots to mark their victories on their fuselages for decades, but the height of the tradition was during World War II when the frequent aerial combat combined with the sheer numbers of planes in the air at once led to dozens of pilots having to kill or be killed on any given day.

In that era of fierce fighting, the U.S. Army Air Corps allowed most pilots to mark their aerial victories with a small replica of the enemy pilot’s flag, placed beneath the pilot’s name on the fuselage. This was typically either a decal or a bit of paint from applied by the ground crew. There were also some cases of fighter groups painting the silhouettes of the planes they had shot down.

One U.S. pilot even boasted every Axis flag — as well as a single U.S. flag — on his cockpit. Yes, he shot down a U.S. plane and got a medal for it.

But, eventually, the use of flags, silhouettes, and some other markings fell out of favor when it came to aerial victories, though the Air Force does still allow bomber crews to use bomb silhouettes to mark their missions.

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F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487, the only F-15E to achieve an air-to-air kill, sports the green star on its fuselage while parked at Bagram Air Field in 2008.

(U.S. Air Force James D’Angina)

But for fighter pilots, it’s now all about the green star, standardized in Air Force Instruction 21-205 as:

“Aerial Victory Marking. Fighter aircraft awarded a verified aerial victory are authorized to display a 6-inch green star with a 1/2 inch black border located just below and centered on the pilot’s name block. The type of aircraft shot down shall be stenciled inside the star in 1/2 inch white lettering. For aircraft with multiple aerial victories, a star is authorized for each aircraft shot down. No other victory markings are authorized.”

Modern aerial victories are rare, not because the U.S. loses but because the Air Force dominates enemy air space so hard and fast that typically only a handful of pilots will actually engage the enemy in the air before the U.S. owns the airspace outright. In Desert Storm, about 30 U.S. pilots achieved aerial kills in about 30 aircraft. At least two of those aircraft, the F-14s, have since retired.

Meanwhile, there are almost 2,000 fighter aircraft in the U.S. inventory. So, yes, the green stars are very rare. So rare, the air wings occasionally brag about the green-star aircraft that are still in their units.

The 455 Air Expeditionary Wing history department released an article in 2008 bragging that a green-star aircraft from Desert Storm was then in active service over Afghanistan. The aircraft on display above is the only F-15E to ever achieve an air-to-air kill, a feat it pulled off by bombing a helicopter as it took off, destroying the helicopter and the troops it had just dropped off.

In 2010, the 353rd Special Operations Group historian released an article about their F-15C with its own green star. The plane was used by a Marine pilot in an exchange program who shot down one of two MiG-29s attempting to attack an F-14 flying all alone and unafraid during Desert Storm.

Of course, aerial victories are even rarer today. In 2017, the Navy claimed America’s first air-to-air kill of an enemy aircraft since 1999. Or, in other words, we’ve had only one aerial victory in almost 20 years. In the 2017 engagement, two U.S. Navy FA/-18E Super Hornets attacked a Syrian Su-22 fighter that was dropping bombs near forces friendly to the U.S.

For anyone wondering about how we invaded two countries at the start of this century without shooting down any enemy aircraft, Iraq lost most of its aircraft during Desert Storm and the following year while Afghanistan had no real air force to speak of in 2001. Most aircraft destroyed in Syria were killed on the ground.

So, no green stars there.

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