Three U.S. Marines received the Purple Heart for wounds sustained during fighting in Syria in support of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, during ceremonies in Twentynine Palms, California, on October 22, 2018, and in an undisclosed location in U.S. Central Command on November 7, 2018.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, receives the Purple Heart, October 21, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)
The awardees were Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines; Cpl. Nathan Rousseau, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; and Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
All three Marines have fully recovered from their injuries, according to a press release from the Marine Corps. U.S. troops have been deployed to Syria since at least 2015, but the exact details of the deployments have often been kept quiet due to security concerns and the tense political situation as Russian, Iranian, U.S., and other forces operate so close to one another.
So, it’s not much of a surprise that the Marine Corps hasn’t offered details of the incident that resulted in the Purple Hearts being awarded to the Marines.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brendon Hendrickson, an anti-tank missile Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, stands by during a Purple Heart ceremony, October 22, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Gabino Perez)
But while the U.S. has taken relatively few losses despite having an estimated 2,000 troops deployed to Syria, that largely speaks to the professionalism of the troops and leaders deployed there as warfighters have found themselves in sticky situations repeatedly.
Five service members have been killed fighting there. And dozens of special operators were forced to kill approximately 100 Russian mercenaries attacking them en masse in a February, 2018, attack.
Cpl. Tyler A. Frazier, a mortar Marine with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is awarded the Purple Heart Medal by Lt. Col. Steven M. Ford, commanding officer, 3/7 at Victory Field aboard the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., November 7, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Preston L. Morris)
The U.S. deployment was originally focused on wrenching as much territory as possible back from the Islamic State, the terror organization that swept Iraq and Syria and made inroads in nearby countries, and has stuck around to help eradicate remnants of the group.
The U.S. deployments to Syria are typically of special operations units like the Army Rangers and Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEALs, but conventional Marines have also been part of the mix, especially infantrymen who employ mortars or missiles and artillerymen.
An extension of the last remaining nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia should include new weapons systems that Moscow is developing, a U.S. State Department official said in a briefing on March 9.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is scheduled to expire on February 2021 and Washington has said a new accord should encompass “slightly exotic new systems such as the nuclear-powered, underwater, nuclear-armed drone called Poseidon; the nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile, air-launched ballistic missile, and that sort of thing,” the official said.
The Trump administration has said it wants an extension of New START to also include China. The United States and Russia are the two signatories of treaty that went into effect in 2011.
China, the third-largest nuclear power, is on track to double its nuclear arsenal over the next decade, Christopher Ford, assistant secretary for international security and nonproliferation, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on December 2, 2019.
However, China’s arsenal would still be less than half of that of the United States and Russia.
The nonproliferation agreement limits deployed strategic nuclear warheads and bombs held by the United States and Russia to 1,550, a reduction of nearly 75 percent from the 6,000 cap set by START 1, according to the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based, nongovernmental organization.
The treaty also allows for the verification of warheads held by each side.
It can be renewed for up to five years if both sides agree. Moscow has already offered to extend the treaty.
They were made of wood, carried no heavy guns, and would sink at the drop of a hat. But they were fast, hard to hit, and could kill nearly anything afloat. Pound for pound, the deadliest boats of World War II weren’t the carriers or the legendary battleships, they were the humble patrol torpedo boats.
Battle Stations: PT Boats (War History Documentary)
America invested heavily in capital ships in the inter-war years, concentrating on battleships and carriers that could project power across the deep oceans. Combined with destroyers and cruisers to protect them, this resulted in fleets that could move thousands of miles across the ocean and pummel enemy shores. It was a good, solid investment.
But these large ships were expensive and relatively slow, and building them required lots of metal and manpower. There was still an open niche for a fast attack craft like the Italian motor torpedo boats that had famously sunk the SMS Szent Istvan in World War I.
Boat builders who had made their name in racing lined up to compete for Navy contracts. They held demonstrations and sea trials in 1940 and 1941, culminating in the “Pinewood Derbies” of July 1941.
PT-658 transits the water at the Portland Rose Festival in 2006. The boat was restored by volunteers and features its full armament and original engines.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ralph Radford)
These were essentially races between different boats with either weapons or copper weights installed to mimic combat armament, allowing the Navy to see what designs were fastest, most nimble, and could survive the quick turns with a combat load.
Not all the vessels made it through. Some experienced hull and deck failures, but others zipped through the course at up to 46 miles per hour. A few boats impressed the Navy, especially what would become the ELCO Patrol Torpedo Boat. Higgins and Hulkins also showed off impressive designs, and all three contractors were given orders for Navy boats.
The Navy standardized the overall designs and armament, though the contractors took some liberties, especially Higgins. They were all to be approximately 50 tons, made of mahogany, and carry two .50-cal. machine guns. Many got up to four torpedo tubes and a 20mm anti-aircraft gun, while a few even got mortars or rockets.
They were powered by aviation fuel and three powerful engines.
U.S. Navy patrol boats zip through the water during exercises of the U.S. east coast on July 12, 1942.
All of this combined to create a light, powerful craft that was fast as hell. Two gunners on a PT boat at Pearl Harbor were credited with the first Japanese kill by the U.S. in World War II when they downed an enemy plane.
But it was during island hopping across the Pacific where the torpedo boats really earned their fame. As Japan’s fleet took heavy losses in 1942 and 1943, it relied on its army to try and hold islands against the U.S. advance, and the Navy’s “Mosquito Fleet” was sent to prey on the ships of the “Tokyo Express.”
Japan’s destroyers and similar vessels could slaughter torpedo boats when they could hit them, but the U.S. patrols generally operated at night and would hit the larger ships with their deadly torpedoes, using their speed to escape danger. It wasn’t perfect, though, as Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy would learn when PT-109 was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, forcing Kennedy and 11 survivors to swim through shark-infested water for hours.
The patrol boats served across the world, from the Pacific to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and thousands of sailors from the Coast Guard and Navy served on these small vessels, downing tens of thousands of tons of enemy shipping.
Russia is admitting it may be forced to scrap its only aircraft carrier as the troubled flagship suffered a catastrophic shipyard accident in 2018.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier which was built during the Soviet-era, was severely damaged October 2018 when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the carrier on board.
The carrier was undergoing an extensive overhaul at the time of the incident.
While the ship was able to pull away from the sinking dry dock, it did not escape unscathed. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large gash in the hull and deck.
By Russia’s own admission, the dry dock was the only one suitable for maintenance on the Kuznetsov, and the sudden loss of this facility “creates certain inconveniences.”
A view shows the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at a shipyard.
“We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov,” Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told the state-run TASS news agency in November 2018.
At that time, observers began to seriously question whether or not it was worth attempting to salvage the carrier given its history of breakdowns and poor performance. As is, the Kuznetsov is almost always accompanied by tug boats, preparation for practically inevitable problems.
The ship is rarely seen at sea. Between 1991 and 2015, the Kuznetsov, sometimes described as one of the worst carriers in the world, set sail on patrol only six times, and on a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.
Now Russian media is discussing the possibility of scrapping the Kuznetsov, putting a Soviet vessel plagued by many different problems out of its misery once and for all, The National Interest reported April 7, 2019, citing Russian media reports revealing that the carrier “may be written off.”
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
“Not everyone considers the continuation of repair to be appropriate,” one military source told Izvestia, a well-known Russian media outlet. “There are different opinions,” the source added, explaining that it might be better to invest the money in frigates and nuclear submarines, a discussion also happening in the US Navy, which is pushing a plan to retire an aircraft carrier decades early.
Another source revealed that even if the ship does return, it may simply serve as a training vessel rather than a warship. Whether or not it will return is a big if given the almost insurmountable challenges of recovery.
The Kuznetsov currently sits along the wall of the 35th Repair Plant in Kola Bay.
Rather than attempt to salvage a ship that offers limited capabilities to the Russian navy, Russia could instead invest more in smaller, potentially more capable vessels that can be maintained more easily than a carrier that has been problematic since it was first commissioned in 1990.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An Israeli company unveiled its next-generation digital rifle sight, designed to work more like a smartphone than a high-powered hunting scope, at SHOT Show 2019.
Sensight US Inc., a subsidiary of Sensight Ltd. in Israel, showed off its new smart scope, which features a wide viewscreen, touch-screen operation and a 1.3-20x zoom capability, according to Hanan Schaap, chief executive officer of Sensight Ltd.
“It’s a very sophisticated system,” Schaap said, but added, “If you know how to work with a smartphone, you can work with this. It’s that simple.”
The sight features dual cameras that operate at 1080p at 60fps and can record and stream to iOS and Android systems, he said.
With the swipe of a finger, the shooter can zoom out 3x, 5x, 8x, 12x, 16x and 20x. Range adjustments and reticle type can also be selected with a simple touch.
“You can choose different reticles. … I can choose different colors, different shapes — an endless variety of reticles,” Schaap said.
The new sight has a ballistic calculator, 3D gyroscope and GPS.
The sight is also “suitable for any light condition,” Schaap said, first describing the low-light mode that “gives you an extra 20-to-25 minutes at dusk.”
“When you go to full darkness, you can remove the [infrared] filter so you can work with an IR illuminator to see in full darkness,” he said.
The main battery powers the sight for eight hours, but there is also an external powerpack that snaps on for an additional 12 hours of operation.
The first generation of the new sight is scheduled to be ready sometime in April or May 2019 for the “low price” of about id=”listicle-2627543725″,000, Schaap said, adding that future generations will get more sophisticated.
“In the first generation, we want to make it simple enough for people to use,” he said.
For now, the sight will be geared toward calibers such as .308, .300 Win. Mag., and .338 magnum, Schaap said.
As high-tech as the new sight is, Sensight is not marketing it for military use.
“We are looking at recreational shooters in general; we are not aiming now for military,” Schaap said. “The sight is a tool, an instrument that will help hunters and target shooters enjoy their shooting experience more.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
U.S. Air Force Col. David Skalicky, the 354th Operations Group commander, and Lt. Col. James Christensen, 356th Fighter Squadron commander, taxi the first F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jets assigned to the 356th Fighter Squadron on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, April 21, 2020. The 354th Fighter Wing’s F-35As partnered with the F-22 Raptors stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, will make Alaska the most concentrated state for combat-coded fifth-generation fighter aircraft. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. KAREN J. TOMASIK)
In his last public appearance in 1935, Billy Mitchell, a former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower visionary, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours. Mitchell cited, “Whoever holds Alaska will hold the world.” An Arctic presence enables global reach for whoever holds this region and the same is true today – although the flight times have drastically decreased.
Activity in the Far North is heating up, both environmentally and with competing sovereign interests. With the changing of maritime access due to receding land and sea ice, Russia has been refurbishing airfields and infrastructure, creating new bases, and developing an integrated network of air defense, while seeking to regulate shipping routes. China is also seizing the chance to expand its influence to obtain new sources of energy and faster shipping routes.
“The Arctic is among the most strategically significant regions of the world today – the keystone from which the U.S. Air and Space Forces exercise vigilance,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett.
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, left, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond attend a video conference at the Pentagon with members of the Atlantic Council think tank to discuss the rollout of the Arctic strategy, Arlington, Va., July 21, 2020. They discussed the Department of the Air Force’s first guiding strategy for operating in the Arctic region. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // ERIC DIETRICH)
“This Arctic Strategy recognizes the immense geostrategic consequence of the region and its critical role for protecting the homeland and projecting global power,” Barrett said.
The strategy outlines how the Air and Space Forces will enhance vigilance, reach and power to the nation’s whole-of-government approach in the Arctic region through four coordinated lines of effort: vigilance in all domains, projecting power through a combat-credible force, cooperation with allies and partners and preparation for Arctic operations.
The number one Department of Defense priority is homeland defense.
“The strategic value of the Arctic as our first line of defense has reemerged and (U.S. Northern Command) and (North American Aerospace Defense Command) are taking active measures to ensure our ability to detect, to track and defeat potential threats in this region,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is the commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM.
As the combatant commander charged with homeland defense, O’Shaughnessy is seeing the front line of homeland defense shifting north, making it clear the Arctic can no longer be viewed as a buffer. In a recently published commentary, O’Shaughnessy stated, “The Arctic is a potential approach for our adversaries to conduct strikes on North America and is now the front line in our defense.”
North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO)
When it comes to the Arctic, U.S. Air and Space Forces are responsible for the majority of DoD missions in the region, including the regional architecture for detecting, tracking and engaging air and missile threats. Space Professionals in the region are responsible for critical nodes of the satellite control network that deliver space capabilities to joint and coalition partners, as well as the U.S. national command authority.
“Integrating space capabilities into joint operations fuels the joint force’s ability to project power anywhere on the planet, any time,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond. “The Arctic is no different. Spacepower is essential to Arctic operations, allowing us to see with clarity, navigate with accuracy, and communicate across vast distances.”
Protecting America’s interests in the homeland and abroad entails more than a vigilant defensive posture. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, present combat capability with fifth-generation fighters as well as mobility and refueling aircraft. The Air Force provides the capability to reach remote northern locations via the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing which operates ski-equipped LC-130s that can land on ice.
“Our unique positioning in locations like Alaska, Canada and Greenland are integrated with multi-domain combat power,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “These locations harness powerful capabilities, and their unwavering vigilance to protecting the homeland represents a strategic benefit that extends well beyond the region itself.”
Cooperation with Allies and Partners
Alliances and partnerships are key in the Arctic, where no one nation has sufficient infrastructure or capacity to operate alone. Interoperability is especially critical in the Arctic due to the terrains, limited access, and low density of domain awareness assets. Many regional allies and partners have dedicated decades of focus to the Arctic, developing concepts, tactics and techniques from which the joint force can greatly benefit. Indigenous communities possess millennia of knowledge about the Arctic domain passed down through generations. Working with indigenous communities helps Air and Space Forces understand the Arctic environment, enriches training and exercises, and ensures recognition of their contributions to Department of the Air Force activities.
Airmen with the 109th Airlift Wing cooperate with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 440th Squadron to load equipment on their Twin Otter aircraft in support of Air National Guard exercise Arctic Eagle February 23rd, 2020. (U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JAMIE SPAULDING)
“Strong relationships with regional allies and partners, including at the local level, are a key strategic advantage for the U.S. in the Arctic,” Barrett said. “U.S. Air and Space Forces are focused on expanding interoperability with peers that value peaceful access in the region, and we appreciate our local hosts that have welcomed Department of the Air Force installations, Airmen and Space Professionals as part of their communities for decades.”
Preparation for Arctic Operations
The Arctic’s austerity requires specialized training and acclimation by both personnel and materiel. The ability to survive and operate in extreme cold weather is imperative for contingency response or combat power generation.
“Spanning the first airplane flights in Alaska in 1913 to today’s fifth-generation aircraft and sophisticated space monitoring systems operating in the region, the Arctic has consistently remained a location of strategic importance to the United States,” Barrett said. “While the often harsh weather and terrain there call for appropriate preparations and training, Airmen and Space Professionals remain ready to bring the nation’s Arctic air and space assets to bear to support the National Defense Strategy and protect the U.S. homeland.”
354th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM) instructors oversee Airmen preparing to fire an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Jan. 9, 2020. CATM instructors are responsible for training Airmen how to use various small arms weapon systems. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN BEAUX HEBERT)
Eighty-five years have passed since Mitchell’s proclamation about Alaska, made just eight days before his death, and his words still ring true. The same could be said about his foretelling of the attack on Pearl Harbor or his vision of building the world’s mightiest Air Force. During his military career, his outspoken predictions were met with ridicule, which ultimately led to him resigning his commission. Mitchell’s strategic foresight on Alaska is no coincidence to the Air Force’s long history and appreciation to the Arctic, which has now led to the forward-looking approach by leadership to stabilize the region for years to come.
“This comes as a surprise,” said no one, ever, of a new analysis that finds military members drink alcohol more than workers in any other job.
A review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s survey data from 2013 through 2017 by a behavioral health company has found that troops spend more days a year consuming alcohol than people in any other industry.
They also binge-drink more, imbibing at least four or five alcoholic beverages a day in one sitting at least 41 days a year, the most of any occupation. That’s the CDC’s definition of binge-drinking, depending on gender. The military personnel surveyed said they binge-drank about a third of the days they consumed alcohol.
At the low end of the spectrum, health care and social assistance workers had a drink roughly 68 days per year.
For those who track the Pentagon’s yearly behavioral health surveys and media reports of arrests of service members for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to cases of sexual assault and even murder, the findings support what has been known for decades: the services have a drinking problem, and according to the Delphi report, it appears to be worsening.
The report noted that military personnel in 2014 reported drinking fewer than 100 drinks per year. Now, that number tops 130.
“People in the armed forces typically have ranked the highest every year since 2014,” said Ryan Serpico, Delphi’s lead researcher. “It’s shocking, but not shocking … [These results] enforce what we already know, but again, they shine a light on this, saying it’s a problem and we need to do something about it.”
The study was based on the CDC’s National Health Interview Surveys from 2013 through 2017, the latest year data was available. As with any study based on survey results, however, it comes with some caveats, including potential bias from respondents who chose to participate and their ability to accurately describe their drinking behaviors the previous years.
Also, of the nearly 27,000 survey participants, only 81 said they were in the military. So the findings could simply reflect the habits of 81 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who like to drink. A lot.
“I don’t know how the CDC executed the surveys,” Serpico said, “but when it comes to sample size number, we typically look for 26 respondents in order to make any judgements on the data.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
Still, the findings echo the results of a survey frequently conducted by Rand Corp., a Washington-based think tank, for the Defense Department called the Health-Related Behavior Survey, or HRBS. While results from the 2018 survey have not been published, the 2015 survey found that 30 percent of troops reported being binge drinkers, and one in three service members met criteria that indicated they engaged in “hazardous drinking or possible alcohol use disorder.”
According to the 2015 HRBS, the percentage of these behaviors was highest in the Marine Corps, where hazardous drinking — described as drinking that results in negative consequences like risky behavior, missed work days or serious personal problems — was reported by nearly half the service.
The Air Force had the lowest percentages of these drinking issues, according to the survey.
Excessive drinking has been estimated to cost the Defense Department id=”listicle-2634691247″.1 billion per year in lost productivity and medical treatment. It also is thought to result in the loss of roughly 320,000 work days a year and lead to roughly 34,400 arrests per year.
Despite the impact of alcohol use, however, 68% of active duty troops said they perceived the military culture of being supportive of drinking, and 42% said their supervisor doesn’t discourage alcohol use, according to the HRBS.
Bri Godwin, a media relations associate with Delphi, said there appears to be acceptance of excessive drinking in the military but added that service members can take control of their habits — and those of others — by being mindful.
“There needs to be a conversation on drinking and how much it affects you or someone else. Are you mindful of the consequences — how is it affecting you mentally, physically and financially. You have to do a personal inventory, see how it’s affecting you and determine what you need to do to fix it,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Gemini 3 was the first American space mission to be crewed by more than one astronaut. Gemini 3 performed the first orbital maneuver ever by shifting its orbit mid-flight. This breakthrough performance also showed that a re-entry vehicle could change its touchdown point. What it will be remembered for in the annals of NASA history, however, is a corned-beef sandwich.
For just shy of five hours, the Gemini 3 mission experienced very few setbacks — none of them major. From the takeoff aboard a Titan-II Rocket to the capsule’s recovery by the USS Intrepid, the crew would tell you it was a very smooth, well-run mission. The 89th U.S. Congress, however, had a different opinion.
The crew of Gemini 3. Not pictured: pocket sandwich.
Strangely enough, one of Gemini 3’s other mission requirements was to test space food in the capsule — specific food, not just whatever food the astronauts wanted to bring. The mission took five hours, but the non-rated food incident lasted less than a minute. The two astronauts were working in the capsule when pilot John Young, who was on his first spaceflight, pulled out a corned-beef sandwich.
“I was concentrating on our spacecraft’s performance, when suddenly, John asked me, ‘You care for a corned-beef sandwich, skipper?'” Grissom later recounted. “If I could have fallen out of my couch, I would have. Sure enough, he was holding an honest-to-john corned-beef sandwich.”
“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked. Corned-beef sandwiches were his favorite. “I brought it with me,” Young answered. “Let’s see how it tastes. Smells, doesn’t it?” The smell of corned beef did indeed fill the spacecraft. The astronaut picked up the sandwich from a local deli called Wolfie’s inside the nearby Ramada Inn in Cocoa Beach. Wally Schirra gave the sandwich to Young, who stowed it away in a pocket in his spacesuit.
Grissom took a bite, but the sandwich was not holding its integrity in zero gravity. The astronauts opted to put the sandwich away. Young admitted that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to bring the sandwich into low earth orbit. Grissom told him the sandwich was “pretty good, if it would just hold together.” With crumbs of rye bread floating around the cabin, the crew continued their mission.
“It didn’t even have mustard on it,” Young wrote. “And no pickle.”
While mission control at NASA and Young’s superiors were less-than-thrilled with the smuggled sandwich, the rest of the mission went ahead as planned and though the two were given slaps on the wrists and told, in no uncertain terms, that non-man-rated corned-beef sandwiches were out for future space missions, nothing more was really thought of it.
Until Congress stepped in.
Vietnam, civil rights, and corned beef.
It was the height of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Gemini 3 was supposed to be the first orbital mission ever to have more than one astronaut, but the Soviets had beaten NASA to the punch by a week — when it launched the Voskhod 2 mission. Regardless, the United States was behind in the race and the costly program was under close scrutiny.
The House Appropriations Committee began a full review of the incident, concerned that those rye crumbs were a serious threat to the safe operation of the spacecraft. It’s true that the greasy crumbs could have played havoc on the craft’s electronics and computer systems. The sandwich was nicknamed the “-million sandwich.”
A replica of the million sandwich.
(Grissom Memorial Museum)
Congress thought the astronauts were ignoring the space food they were sent to evaluate and were wasting taxpayer money. John Young later wrote that he didn’t think it was that big of a deal and that it was common to carry sandwiches aboard. The offending corned-beef sandwich wasn’t even the first smuggled sandwich — it was the third. These days, astronauts make sandwiches in space all the time, they just use ingredients that keep the crumbs to a minimum.
What they were supposed to be eating.
Young commanded the first space shuttle mission in 1981. And carried aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia was a menu that included corned beef. The smuggled sandwich itself is lost to history, but a good likeness of the original can be found preserved in acrylic at the Grissom Memorial Museum in Mitchell, Indiana.
Ask around Fort Detrick and you’ll probably learn more about Operation Whitecoat — an Army program that exposed human participants to infectious pathogens. But outside the base, the experiments are virtually unheard of, according to Randy Larsen, a former Air Force pilot turned documentary filmmaker.
“I found there are very few people who have ever heard of Whitecoat, which is why there’s a good reason to tell the story,” Larsen said.
Larsen himself became fascinated with the program — which recruited more than 2,300 noncombatant conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church — after a friend suggested it as a documentary topic.
What he anticipated would be a five- to six-month hobby project eventually turned into a 20-month film production, culminating in an eponymously named documentary on the operation and its volunteers.
The film “Operation Whitecoat” made its debut in Frederick on May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the agency that conducted the tests from 1954 to 1973. But Larsen will also hold two public screenings on June 3 at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Pike.
Gary Swanson and Ken Jones, two Whitecoat participants who attended the screening on May 30, said outreach to the church was especially important. Despite the huge role played by Seventh-day Adventists, knowledge of the project has faded among church members.
“It’s very little-known, I’ve found that to be true,” Swanson said. “Even in the church, it doesn’t come up very often.”
A lasting legacy
Despite the relative obscurity of Operation Whitecoat, civilians around the country — and around the world — can thank the program for the development of several widely used vaccines. Tularemia, yellow fever, and hepatitis vaccines were all tested on participants in the project, Larsen said.
“That’s why I found it interesting to see that the yellow fever outbreak was a front-page story today,” he added at the May 30 screening, pointing out a USA Today article on the spread of the disease in Brazil. “Because the vaccine was developed here at Fort Detrick with the Whitecoat program.”
To research for his documentary, Larsen interviewed participants all across the country and dug deep into the documentation of the program.
Letters between military and church leaders indicate that the Army considered the program a viable alternative to battlefield service for church members, whose religious beliefs urge against combat.
“The general consensus is that it is just not morally responsible to bear arms,” said Swanson, who later worked in publishing for the Adventist church. “That the taking of life is not the business of a Christian.”
There is, however, strong scriptural support for serving one’s country in a peaceful capacity, he added. As a result, most church members served the U.S. either as medics or as Whitecoat volunteers once the program became an option.
While both Swanson and Jones participated in the program, their experiences were slightly different. Jones, 83, served from 1954 to 1955 and then worked as a corpsman for the program until September 1958.
As one of the inaugural volunteers, he distinctly remembers walking across a catwalk at Fort Detrick — then called Camp Detrick — to the “Eight Ball,” where participants were exposed to the pathogens.
He and the other men in his group were dosed with Q fever, a relatively common bacterial disease with flu-like symptoms. None of them got sick, Jones said, but the experiment did help researchers adjust the dose for future volunteers.
“It’s like this — when you start your car, you take little steps to get there,” he explained. “You don’t take one big step and just jump in. Well, the amount they gave us, they knew we handled it OK. Now, the next three that came up, they did get sick.”
Swanson served later, and was part of an even lesser-known aspect of the program — one that benefited scientists at NASA. He reported for service in October 1969, and was part of an experiment to determine how well astronauts could function should they became sick while on a mission.
In his study, teams of five men were exposed to sandfly fever and then trained on a simulated spacecraft console. Eight hours a day, three days a week, the teams pretended to operate the consoles, even while some of them developed nausea and fevers of up to 104 degrees.
“You had to keep calibrated and you had to keep it set,” Swanson said. “When you saw it going wrong, you had to figure out how to fix it. And we were told it was part of a study underwritten by NASA to anticipate astronauts’ ability to operate sophisticated equipment if they were sick.”
Beyond the benefit to NASA, USAMRIID still attributes the development of essential safety gear — including gas masks and biohazard suits — to Operation Whitecoat.
The program even played a small role in the Camp David Accords. In 1977, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Egypt killed thousands of residents and animals. The vaccine for the disease — tested by Whitecoat volunteers — was a major bargaining chip for both Egypt and Israel when leaders met with President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
“That was such a little-known piece of history that the people at USAMRIID didn’t even know about it,” Larsen said.
Larsen and researchers at USAMRIID also tout the program as the harbinger of stringent standards for human testing. Operation Whitecoat set a precedent for informed consent — the policy of clearly educating human test subjects on the details and risks of research experiments — and served as a foil to other horrific experiments conducting on unknowing subjects, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and human radiation exposure by the Atomic Energy Commission.
“It’s a story that all Americans can be proud of,” Larsen said. “The fact is, Operation Whitecoat is one of the highest standards of ethical research out there.”
One of the most striking details of the project, he added, is that military leaders and researchers at USAMRIID exposed themselves to the pathogens before subjecting their participants. Both Jones and Swanson said that it was strong leadership that prevented real fear among the volunteers.
“I’ve thought about this many times, and I can’t give you an answer on what went through my mind as I went across that catwalk,” Jones said. “I was 21 years old. We felt like we had good leadership. We trusted what they were telling us, and we followed.”
For a country that hasn’t been conquered since Tamerlane rolled through, Afghanistan has sure been shaped by all those who tried to control it. Today, there’s even a little strip of land in the country’s northeast that forms a panhandle – strange for such a small strip considering the major powers who fought for control of the area.
It was those major powers who created the panhandle in the first place. Today it borders China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. But during a period of time in Afghan history known as “The Great Game,” those countries were parts of China, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire, respectively.
A treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1873 made the Panj and Pamir Rivers the border between the Russian Empire and Afghanistan’s northern border. In 1893, the Durand Line became Afghanistan’s border with British India. A mostly independent Afghanistan was a buffer zone between the two growing empires.
It’s an area even more ungovernable than the rest of Afghanistan. At elevations as high as 17,000 feet in some areas, the area is inaccessible to most Afghans – and even the Taliban and the Soviet Union were unable (or unwilling) to fully move into the area.
The form of Islam practiced in the Wakhan is very hostile to the Taliban, a further explanation of the lack of central interference from Kabul.
The 3,500-mile area used to be a route along the Silk Road and was traversed by great historical figures like Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. People there still depend on trade, but this remote part of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province sees little in the way of tourists or even Afghan visitors.
Today the area has few roads, no government, and is home to roughly 12,000 nomadic and semi-nomadic people.
Gary Sinise has had a very successful film and television career spanning over four decades.
Sinise starred on the long-running TV series “CSI: NY” and worked on major motion pictures such as “Apollo 13” and “Ransom.” Sinise is a big supporter of the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. He frequently tours across military bases all around the world entertaining troops with his cover band “The Lt. Dan Band.”
Of course, the actor is most remembered for his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 Academy Award winning film “Forrest Gump.”
In the movie, Lt. Dan is a straight-forward Army officer who comes from a long line of military tradition. In the film, it was said that every one of his relatives had served and died in every American war.
Throughout the picture, we see the character evolve into various stages showing anger, depression, acceptance and redemption.
The character is an important part of Forrest Gump’s life and his own development throughout the film. The role earned Sinise his only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Here are eight valuable life lessons from our favorite Lieutenant:
1. Take care of your feet
The first time we see Lt. Dan is in Vietnam when Gump, played by the legendary Tom Hanks, and his best friend Bubba report to their new unit.
Lieutenant Dan comes out of his quarters and introduces himself to the duo. After some small talk, the officer tells them that there is one item of GI gear that can be the “difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt.” He then say “socks” and he stresses the importance of keeping their feet dry when out on patrol.
Clearly Lt. Dan was a student of history. In World War I, many Soldiers suffered from trench foot, a serious problem when feet are damp and unsanitary. If left untreated trench foot can lead to gangrene and amputation.
Our feet are so vital in our everyday life. Listen to Lt. Dan! Change your socks and keep your feet dry.
It was Lt. Dan’s destiny to die in combat for his country. As morbid as it may sound, this is what the character envisioned as his life’s purpose.
Many people do not know what they were put on this earth to do. Many people give up on their dreams never achieving them. Say what you want about Lt. Dan’s destiny, but it was clear what he wanted to achieve in his life.
3. Overcoming self-doubt
After Forrest Gump saved Lt. Dan’s life, Sinise’s character felt cheated out of his purpose. Laying in a hospital bed after his legs were amputated, Lt. Dan holds a lot of self-doubt asking Gump “what am I going to do now?”
His feeling of hopelessness is something many of us experience in life for various circumstances and situations. His doubts remain throughout the movie as the character goes through changes in his life and gathers new perspectives along the way.
Eventually Lt. Dan recognizes that he cannot let his insecurities hinder him. As you will see later on, Lt. Dan sets out new goals to accomplish and eventually stops his self-loathing.
4. Sticking up for your friends
While it seemed Lt. Dan always gave Gump a hard time, deep down he valued the friendship of his former Soldier.
This is clear in a scene where Lt. Dan sticks up for Gump during a New Year’s Eve after party in a New York hotel room. The character backs up his friend after two women start to mock Gump by calling him “stupid.”
Lieutenant Dan kicks them out of the room and tells them to never call him stupid. That is a true friend!
5. Keeping your word
During their time in New York, Gump told Lt. Dan he was going to become a shrimp boat captain in order to keep a promise to his friend and fallen comrade Bubba.
Lieutenant Dan vowed if Gump became a shrimp boat captain the wounded warrior would become his first mate. As the movie progress, we find Gump on board his very own shrimp boat.
The new captain sees his longtime friend on the pier one day while on his boat. In one of the most iconic and hilarious scenes in the Academy Award winning picture, Gump jumps from his boat while it’s still steaming forward to greet Lt. Dan.
When Hanks’ character asked Lt. Dan what he was doing there, he said he wanted to try out his “sea legs” and would keep his word to become Gump’s first mate. It is important to keep your promises!
6. Making peace with himself
The Lt. Dan character lived in a world of bitterness and hatred for so many years. But serving as Gump’s first mate made him appreciate his life. Although the Lt. Dan character always seemed to be a bit rough around the edges, he showed his heartfelt side when he finally thanked Gump for saving his life during the war.
After thanking him, Sinise’s character jumps into the water and begins to swim while looking up to the sky. The symbolism in the scene is clear here as he washing away all of those years of hate and accepted a new path.
7. Invest your money
Lieutenant Dan invested the money from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Corporation in a “fruit” company. That company of course was Apple. This life lesson is pretty simple. If you can invest some money wisely go for it! You just might become a “gazillionaire.”
8. The joys of life
At the end of the film, we see a clean shaven Lt. Dan walking with his prosthetic legs, which Gump referred to as “magic legs.” With his fiancé by his side, Lt. Dan has a new lease on life.
Much like Lt. Dan, we all encounter ups and downs throughout our lives in one form or another. However, all of those experiences are part of the journey that can make life joyful in the end.
This is clear when Sinise’s character looks at Gump and gives him a big smile.
When you think of six-shooters, the classic .38 Smith & Wesson Special revolver comes to mind, as made famous by classic cop shows, like Adam-12, Dragnet, and CHiPs, and countless Westerns. But there was one six-shooter that packed a lot more punch than the cowboys’ gun of choice.
The six-shooter in question was the M50 Ontos — and it certainly wasn’t a revolver. This tracked vehicle packed six M40 106mm recoilless rifles. It was intended to serve a tank-killer for use by light infantry and airborne units when it entered service in 1955, facing off against the then-new Soviet T-55 main battle tank. Like a revolver, it was meant to quickly end a fight.
Six M40 106mm recoilless rifles gave the Ontos one heck of a first salvo,
The Ontos had a crew of three — a driver, gunner, and commander. It held a total of 24 rounds, 6 loaded and 18 in reserve, for its massive guns. The vehicle ended up being used primarily by the Marine Corps — not the Army airborne units for which it was originally intended.
This system proved very potent in Vietnam. Its six recoilless rifles could do a lot to knock infantry back — and the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong found that out the hard way. The Ontos also carried a pair of .50-caliber spotting rifles to improve accuracy and had a World War II-era .30-caliber M1919 machine gun attached (the same used by grunts in WWII).
A Marine escapes the cramped confines of his M50 Ontos to catch a break.
The Ontos was retired in 1970, largely because while it looked mean as hell and packed a punch, it had a few severe drawbacks. One of the biggest being that the crew had to exit the vehicle in order to reload the big guns — which sounds like a quick way to shorten your life expectancy. Then again, if you’ve tried to reload a revolver, you know that process can take a while. In that sense, the Ontos was very much a true six-shooter.
Learn more about this unique powerhouse in the video below.
In May we celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. The military lifestyle is one of constant change and uncertainty. This alone can be a trigger for mental illness. As a nation, we are now facing unimaginable mental illness triggers as quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing continue. Throughout this month, let us focus our attention on this issue and ask:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
Mental Health Facts
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness is defined as a condition which affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood. Mental health conditions can be triggered by influences in one’s environment, lifestyle, and/or develop as a result of genetics. A USO study conducted in 2018 reported military spouses expressed a lack of identity and sense of purpose. The same study highlighted their difficulty maintaining networks and support systems. In addition, military spouses felt a lack of control over their lives and expressed an inability to plan for their futures. A 2017 DOD study found that military spouses experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and unemployment than their civilian counterparts. Think about these statistics and ask:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
Barriers to Seeking Treatment
What barriers exist that prevent military spouses from seeking mental health treatment? There is a stigma associated with mental health disorders and a lack of knowledge regarding available treatments and resources. Some people may not even recognize they have an issue. Military spouses may have an additional fear of their condition negatively affecting the active duty member’s career. Could it affect opportunities for promotion, potential for future assignments and/or duty locations? There is a fear of family, friends, and colleagues being judgmental. In order to remove the barriers to seeking treatment, we need to remove the barriers to discussing mental health within the military spouse community and ask:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
Changing the Mental Health Landscape
How do we change the landscape surrounding the mental health of military spouses? We can begin by supporting each other and fostering a culture of inclusiveness. Be an active part of the solution amongst our own by lending an ear, asking questions, and encouraging others to ask for and accept help. We need to increase our knowledge of available resources and share them with others. A list of free, confidential mental health resources is included at the end of this article. We have the ability to change the stigma. Let’s be the voice for those who aren’t able to speak by asking:
Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?
No matter how resilient we are, there will always be aspects of our lives that are beyond our control. However, we need to recognize that we do have the ability to control our own identity, purpose, wellbeing, and mental health. It takes courage to ask for help and there is no shame in needing it. Military spouses have a duty to advocate for their active duty members and their families. In order to be able to help others, we must first take care of ourselves. Therefore, we must advocate for fellow spouses, ourselves, and our own mental health.
Mental Health Resources
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of hurting themselves or others, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room to get help immediately. Please don’t let a cry for help go unheard. Included below are several mental health resources.