The Lightning makes its Paris debut - We Are The Mighty
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The Lightning makes its Paris debut

When you make it in Paris, it’s big news.


While many eyes are on Paris Fashion Week, where many of the A-list stars are picking out their awards season wardrobe, the Paris Air Show is also a big deal. In fact, in 2011, over 350,000 people were at the event! By contrast, Paris’s Fashion Week has all of 5,000 attendees.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, is displayed in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The Paris Air Show is where many planes make their big debut onto the world stage. In 1989, the Soviets not only introduced the Buran spaceplane at the Paris Air Show, but the Su-27 Flanker shocked the world with a demonstration of the Pugachev Cobra.

Paris has also seen tragedy, including a MiG-29 crash in 1989, as well as the 1973 crash of the Tu-144 “Concordeski.” B-58 Hustler strategic bombers also crashed there in 1961 and 1965.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, lands after performing a flight demonstration at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. This is the first time the F-35 has performed aerial demonstrations at an international air show. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The Paris Air Show is held every other year in an odd year. For this year, the F-35 made its flight demonstration debut. According to a European Command release, the American delegation to the 2017 Paris Air Show also included two F-16 Fighting Falcons, a CH-47 Chinook, a P-8 Poseidon, a V-22 Osprey, an AH-64 Apache, a C-130J Hercules, and a KC-135 Stratotanker.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
F-35A Lighting II pilots from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, pose for a photo in the U.S. corral at the Paris Air Show June 20, 2017 at Le Bourget, France. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

The star, of course, was the F-35, which was the only fifth-generation fighter at Paris.

The plane made its first aerial demonstration there. You can see it in the video below, from takeoff to landing. It’s about six minutes and 40 seconds, but well worth is to see the F-35 make its mark over Paris.

WATCH

Here’s the Tom Cruise classic ‘Top Gun’ in under 3 minutes

‘Danger Zone,’ Maverick, Iceman, sunglasses, and volleyball – ‘Top Gun’ has almost too much to cram in under three minutes!


This is just an early part of the series! Want to watch the new stuff?

WATM now has exclusive content featured on Verizon’s Go90 streaming app! Just download the app, log in, and search for “Hurry Up and Watch” to find more episodes. Each Wednesday, for the next twelve weeks, a new episode of Hurry Up and Watch will release on Go90 exclusively – you won’t find it anywhere else.

So hurry up, download, log in, and watch!

Humor

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 8th

Just when you thought things were getting nice and boring, a 1st Lt goes and steals an APC and drives it through Richmond. You know, deep down, the mechanic responsible for that vehicle is secretly proud that their M577 managed to keep up in a police pursuit.

The APC started up, managed to get off base and drive 60 miles to Richmond with the cops on his ass within 2 hours — all without breaking down. Sure, that lieutenant is going to be turning big rocks into smaller rocks for a while but, holy crap, someone give that motor sergeant a medal!


The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Air Force Nation)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

“I went where you told me. I took a left on Victory Road and still didn’t see it.”

(It’s funny because every installation has at least two “Victory Road”s.)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
The Lightning makes its Paris debut

I swear that this is the last ACP Joyrider meme… this week…

(Meme via Artillery Moments)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via OAF Nation)

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

A highly classified U.S. spy satellite is missing after a SpaceX launch from Florida on Jan. 7, The Wall Street Journal has reported.


The satellite, code-named Zuma, failed to reach orbit and fell back into Earth’s atmosphere after separating from the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. The Journal suggested the satellite may have been damaged or released at the wrong time.

Officials who spoke with NBC said the missing satellite most likely broke up or landed in the sea.

Related: There’s a new space race heating up, and the military’s being left behind

A SpaceX representative told Business Insider, “We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now, reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally.”

The Journal, which received the same statement, said the language pointed to normal rocket operations, suggesting the cause of any issue came from elsewhere.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter that SpaceX did not supply the payload adapter, which shoots the satellite off the rocket, for this mission. Instead, it was supplied by the customer, so Elon Musk’s SpaceX may not have been the cause of any problem. Those details, however, were not immediately known.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
The Zuma launching. (Image from SpaceX Flickr)

Zuma was built by the defense contractor Northrop Grumman, though it is unknown which U.S. agency would have been using the satellite.

Zuma was initially scheduled to launch in November but was delayed until the rocket and satellite were declared “healthy” for launch last week.

The mission most likely cost billions of dollars, and congressional lawmakers have been briefed on the developments, The Journal reported.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force issues its first Space Force guidance

Air Force leaders have broken their silence following President Trump’s order to create a new military service branch for space.

Leaders issued a message to airmen telling them to stay the course as the process of implementing the president’s guidance moves forward. Trump gave the order on June 18, 2018, during a speech to the National Space Council at the White House.

In a message to all airmen sent June 19, 2018, service brass including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein confirmed that, as rumored, the new “space force” would be established as a military service inside the Air Force.


It’s an idea that Wilson and Goldfein have previously opposed publicly as too costly and presenting too many organizational challenges for the service.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, and Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein, center, speak with 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Airmen and joint coalition partners during a town hall event held at the base theater, Aug. 20, 2017, in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Jonathan Hehnly)

In the new message, the leaders voiced agreement with Trump’s position that the U.S. military approach to the space domain must become more robust to meet current and future challenges.

“The President’s statement to the National Space Council adds emphasis to the Air Force position — space is a warfighting domain and the entire national security space enterprise must continue to enhance lethality, resilience and agility to meet the challenge posed by potential adversaries,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with Department of Defense leaders, Congress, and our national security partners to move forward on this planning effort.”

Trump offered few details about the implementation of a space force in his announcement June 18, 2018, though he did say the Air Force and the proposed new service would be “separate, but equal.”

Air Force leaders told airmen they should not expect any “immediate moves or changes” in the wake of the announcement, saying creation of the new force would take time.

“The work directed by the President will be a thorough, deliberate and inclusive process,” they wrote. ” … Our focus must remain on the mission as we continue to accelerate the space warfighting capabilities required to support the National Defense Strategy.”

Policy experts told Military.com that building a new force could take years and would require major legislation and planning, even if it’s staffed by current service members and takes advantage of existing infrastructure.

The message to airmen concluded on an upbeat note.

“We remain the best in the world in space and our adversaries know it,” it said. “Thank you for standing the watch. We’re proud to serve with you!”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

American, Filipino, and Japanese troops storm the beach

U.S. and Philippine Marines aboard U.S. assault amphibious vehicles launched from the U.S. Navy’s USS Ashland and Philippine Navy’s BRP Davao del Sur as part of a counterterrorism and humanitarian response based exercise. The ship-to-shore movement brought the U.S., Philippine and Japanese militaries together to advance amphibious capabilities.

“This is another step forward in working alongside the Philippine Marine Corps and the Philippine Navy as they advance their amphibious capability,” said U.S. Marine LtCol. Michael K. Chankij, lead U.S. exercise planner for KAMANDAG 2. “Last year was the first time the Philippine Navy’s BRP Tarlac, the LD-601, launched AAVs. This year we continued advancing amphibious capabilities and interoperability as the U.S. Navy launched AAVs alongside the Philippine Navy during an amphibious assault.”


One hour after the U.S. and Philippine forces launched, JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade soldiers aboard Japanese AAVs launched from the USS Ashland to support a distinct humanitarian training mission.

KAMANDAG 2 is a 10-day training exercise designed to improve U.S.-Philippine interoperability, increase readiness, strengthen multinational partnerships, and enhance the ability of U.S., Philippine, and Japanese forces to respond to crises.

After the amphibious landing, U.S. and Philippine Marines conducted follow-on live-fire military operations in urban terrain training, fire and movement drills, and fire team attacks, amplifying their proficiency in counterterrorism operations.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jinho Lee presses a combat rubber raiding craft over his head during KAMANDAG 2 on Philippine Marine Corps base Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

“Amphibious operations are a core competency that shapes who we are as Marines,” said Philippine Marine LtCol. Henry R. Espinoza, Chief of Staff of the Philippine Marine Ready Force. “We are anticipating the arrival of our first fleet of AAVs next year. The training we received from the U.S. Marines provides the Filipino AAV operators knowledge on how these amphibious vehicles operate, which is crucial to how our own AAV operators will effectively conduct future operations.”

U.S. participants included components of Seventh Fleet, the 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. Philippine participants included the Philippine Marine Corps, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force. Japanese participants included the JGSDF’s ARDB.

The ARDB was introduced to the JGSDF in March 2018. KAMANDAG 2 is the first time Japanese AAVs have ever operated outside of Japan. During the landing, the ARDB responded to a mass casualty humanitarian crisis scenario, facilitated by AAVs for the transportation of personnel and resources.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

U.S. Marines assigned to Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, conduct an amphibious raid during KAMANDAG 2 on Philippine Marine Corps base Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

“This exercise was a good opportunity to enhance the capability to respond quickly to HADR, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, missions,” said JGSDF LtCol. Yoshiji Aoyama, the lead Japanese exercise planner for KAMANDAG 2 of the Bilateral Coordination Department, Ground Component Command. “It provided us the opportunity to strengthen relationships with U.S. and Philippine forces.”

As part of the training evolution, U.S. and Philippine fixed wing assets also provided aerial surveillance of the beach in support of the landing.

Throughout KAMANDAG 2, over one thousand U.S., Philippine and Japanese forces conducted ground, naval and air training, reinforced counterterrorism and HADR capabilities, and supported real-world humanitarian missions in local communities.

“Training with U.S. Marines and the JGSDF is crucial in fostering camaraderie, friendship and the exchange of ideas,” said Espinosa. “KAMANDAG 2 allowed expertise between the U.S. and Philippine forces to be exchanged. Next year we will use our own AAVs in KAMANDAG 3.”

KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the United States and Philippine militaries. KAMANDAG 2 will increase overall U.S. and Philippine readiness, improve combined responsiveness to crises in the Indo-Pacific region, and strengthen both countries’ decades-long partnership.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New era of warfare on brink as Army robots take on more advanced obstacles

Some interesting implications are on the line with the success of new military robots. The U.S. Army has been experimenting with robots in hopes of creating a more competent unmanned instrument for battle. The robots took on a variety of complex tasks, each associated with a real-world battlefield application—like sorting through minefields and clearing anti-tank trenches. Not only were the robots successful, but they actually began to complete the tasks faster with each successive attempt. The exercises took place at Yakima Air Base (WA).


The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Some military robots have mundane uses like these LS3 “robot mules” designed to carry heavy gear and cargo.

The Yakima Air Base exercises were spearheaded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Fursman and Capt. Nichole Rotte of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion. The team was tasked with creating complicated breach obstacles (within the context of “a realistic and plausible scenario”) for the robots to overcome.

According to Defense News, these breaches included: anti-tank trenches, minefields, and razor wire. The robots also had to breach all of the obstacles while under fire while paving the way for a counterattack into enemy lines.

The exercise was also monitored by a quadcopter, deployed under the watch of the Alabama National Guard, to monitor the use of any chemical, nuclear, or biological agents used. Another separate unit, using an unmanned Polaris MRZR vehicle, shrouded the breach with a smokescreen that clouded the field and heavily impaired (human) vision.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

A “battlefield extraction assist” bot prototype designed to transport wounded soldiers.

At the very start of the breach, the U.S. Army robots used two NGCVs to lay down clear lines of suppression fire at the “enemy.” In a bizarre backward glimpse into the future of warfare, a humvee controlling yet another humvee—was equipped with a 7.62mm gun. This robot-meta suppression fire humvee (I’m sure the Army will come up with another alphabet soup acronym for these in the coming years) was accompanied by an M113 armored personnel carrier (actually controlled by a human).

While the “enemy” was hunkered down by suppression fire, two ABVs (assault breacher vehicles) took on the actual obstacles laid out by Fursman and Rotte. These ABVs were controlled by the Marines Corps (as it is quickly becoming apparent that manned robots should be clarified).

The initial ABV led the way and cleared a safe path through the minefield—leaving stakes in the ground to highlight a path of safety through the exercise for the other ABV.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Could we see robot infantry within the decade?

The second ABV used a blade to fill a tank trench and, once filled, led a clean path for allied forces to form an assault on the “enemy.”

According to Defense News, via Rotte, the initial breach exercise took “two and a half hours,” but the subsequent attempt took only two hours. The second, faster, attempt matches the same time frame it would take human soldiers to complete the same task. This leads us to the important question: are we on the brink of seeing robotic warfare replace boots on the ground?

The answer lies only in how quickly these machines can begin to operate efficiently and be productive on a mass scale. There were some hangups in the exercise, such as latency issues (lag, as gamers would call it), camera feed problems, and other hiccups. Reports indicate that none of these posed too much of an issue.

The unmanned machines were easy to control. Finding human soldiers to operate the machines isn’t necessarily a problem, as the machines in this exercise were all operated with a standard Xbox One controller—seeing as most members of the armed forces have trained themselves with the intricacies of an Xbox controller in their spare time.

So as unmanned operations become simultaneously more efficient logistically, and more simple practically—the idea of taking boots off the ground in place of robots isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. If these exercises are any indication of the nearing of that all-important when—then we are well on our way to seeing a new era of battle in which casualties will be measured in gears and bolts.

Articles

VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
Photo: Wikimedia


In 1997, 10 years after retiring from a 34-year career in the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, Edward Kosakoski was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though his last assignment in the Reserve was as commander of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it was during the mid-1970s and early 1980s that Lt. Col. K was exposed to Agent Orange while flying training missions on several C-123 aircraft previously used for spraying the chemical defoliant in Vietnam.

Last week, VA service connected Col. K’s prostate cancer, awarding him compensation for his C-123 Agent Orange claim.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
Photo: Wikimedia

I’ve never met Col. K, but his story is captured in the claim file that his wife, Ingrid Kosakoski, filed on his behalf. That file shows a man who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and, after serving two years in France, had joined the Army Reserve, and who had received a commission in the Air Force Reserve after graduating from the University of Connecticut Pharmacy School in 1959. That file also shows that VA received Col. K’s claim prior to the recent regulation change.

After spending decades searching for proof of a connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine issued a review that provided the supporting evidence VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability.

When the regulation change took effect earlier this summer, it took VA just 16 days to grant Col. K’s claim. Granting this claim represents a welcomed success for hundreds of flight, ground maintenance, and medical crew members who were assigned to certain Air Force and Air Force Reserve units from 1969 to 1986.

“I have only praise for the VA personnel who handled Ed’s claim in Baltimore and St. Paul,” Ingrid said. “They were professional and compassionate, and I would urge others exposed to Agent Orange with known disabilities to file claims as soon as possible.”

In a recent phone conversation, longtime C-123 advocate and close friend of Col. K, Wes Carter, also stressed the importance of not waiting.

“The Secretary and his staff have worked hard, along with C-123 veterans in getting to this point,” said Carter, who also chairs the C-123 Veterans Association. “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill.

“This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.”

If you or someone you know was exposed to Agent Orange (whether in in Vietnam or its inland waterways, an area the Department of Defense has confirmed use of AO, or as in Col. K’s case aboard a C-123) AND you have a condition presumed to be related to AO, please file a claim for compensation.

If you need help filing a claim or want to talk to someone, you have many options:

  • Speak with an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can help you gather records and file a claim online
  • Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 for advice
  • If you want the fastest decision possible, consider filing a Fully Developed Claim through ebenefits.va.gov. An FDC allows you to submit all your evidence up front, identify any federal records for VA to obtain, and certifies that you have no other evidence to submit.

If you (or your loved one) meet certain conditions, such as financial hardship, advanced age, or terminal illness, VA can expedite your claim – just make sure we are aware of your situation. You or your VSO can notify us in writing, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. If your situation is dire, don’t wait!

More from VAntage Point:

This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2015. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Everything you need to know about the Army’s new drone school

Army instructors at Fort Benning, Georgia recently opened a new drone training school to teach young soldiers to become as familiar with these tiny flying devices as they are handling M4 carbines.

The 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade opened its new small unmanned aerial system, or SUAS, course facility June 11, 2018, and recently began giving classes to basic trainees “so they can become familiar with drones before they show up to their units,” Sgt. 1st Class Hilario Dominguez, the lead instructor for the class, said in a recent Defense Department news release.


Students at the SUAS course showed basic trainees how the drones fly and how to describe them if they see one flying over their formation.

Capt. Sean Minton, commander of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment, said his recruits learn how to fill out a seven-line report when they spot a drone and send the information to higher headquarters by radio.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Trainees also learn how to hide from an enemy drone and disperse to avoid heavy casualties from drone-directed field artillery.

“Our enemies have drones now,” Minton said. “And we don’t always own the air.”

Instructors teach Raven and Puma fixed-wing remote-controlled drones and a variety of helicopters, including the tiny InstantEye copter, which flies as quietly as a humming bird, according to the release.

The students who attend the SUAS course are typically infantry soldiers and cavalry scouts who go back to their units to be brigade or battalion-level master trainers, Dominguez said.

Having trained and certified experts from the course builds trust among company and troop-level commanders so they worry less about losing drones because they distrust their drone pilots’ skills, Dominguez said.

Staff Sgt. Arturo Saucedo teaches precision flying at the course. He tells his students to think of the small helicopters as a way to chase down armed enemy soldiers.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut
RQ-11B Raven

“Instead of chasing him through a booby hole, you just track him,” he said. “Now you have a grid of his location, and you can do what you need to do.”

The new drone schoolhouse was created inside a former convenience store.

“This building represents an incredible new opportunity to the small unmanned aerial system course,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Barta, 3-16 commander, during the SUAS building opening event.

“For several years now it was operating in small, cramped classrooms insufficient to meet program instruction requirements. Thanks to the work many on the squadron staff, the 316th Brigade S4 shop, and the garrison Directorate of Public Works and Network Enterprise Center, we were able to turn the vacant structure into a vibrant classroom, training leaders to make the Army better.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Amazon CEO: ‘This is a great country and it does need to be defended’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has defended his company’s work with the American military, saying “this is a great country and it does need to be defended” — an implicit rebuke of Google over its decision to ditch US military contracts.

Speaking at the Wired 25 conference in San Francisco, California on Oct. 15, 2018, the online retail giant’s chief exec strongly spoke out in support of the technology industry’s work for the American military even as some companies reconsider their stance on the practice.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” he said.


The technology industry has been wrestling with its conscience in recent months as workers become increasingly politically active. Google employees revolted over a contract it held to analyze aerial drone imagery (Project Maven), leading the company to decide not to renew it. And a recent Medium post, purportedly by anonymous Microsoft employees, opposes the company’s bid for a billion Pentagon “JEDI” cloud computing contract, which Google has already opted not to bid for.

Amazon is also bidding for the JEDI contract — and unlike some of the other tech giants, it has no intention of backing out. When asked about the actions taken by Google and others, Bezos did not mention the rival company by name — but his remarks can be seen as a criticism of the company.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

“We are going to continue to support the [Department of Defense]. And I think we should,” Bezos said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me… One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision even when it’s unpopular. If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble.”

He added: “I like this country … know everybody is very conflicted about the current politics in this country and so on — this country is a gem. And it’s amazing. It’s the best place in the world. It’s the place where people want to come. There aren’t other countries where everyone is trying to get in. I’d let them in if it were up to me. I like them. I want all of them in.

“This is a great country and it does need to be defended. “

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

Articles

Today in military history: Soviets invade Czechoslovakia

On Aug. 20, 1968, two hundred thousand Soviet troops and five thousand tanks invaded Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovakia was firmly democratic for decades before World War II, but German forces partially occupied it during World War II and, in 1948, it was conquered by the Soviets. The Communists had supporters in the working class and a stranglehold of government leadership, but students and academics kept fomenting the seeds of unrest.

Even when most of the Soviet-aligned countries went through soul searching in 1953 after the death of Stalin, Czechoslovakia basically just marched on. But in the 1960s, leadership changes and an economic slowdown led to a series of reforms that softened the worst repressions of the communist regime.

In 1964, Czechoslovakia began to trend towards liberalization, despite tight Soviet control over the government. Students, intellectuals and activists began vocalizing support for democracy, freedom of speech and religion and the abolition of censorship. 

The response was joyous and Czech culture began to flourish. By April of 1968, the population began to enjoy what became known as “Prague Spring.”

The Soviet Union wasn’t having any of it. Alarmed by a potential collapse of Communism in the country, Czechoslovakia was invaded by Eastern Bloc members of the Warsaw Pact. Widespread protests and demonstrations were quelled by an overwhelming show of military force while much of Czechoslovakia’s educated elite fled. 

Communist rule was reinstated by force and held until 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the country separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. 

Articles

These remarkable photos show the physical toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief

Statistically, the American Presidency is the deadliest job in the world. Over 18 percent of those who’ve held the job have died in office.  It’s also arguably the most stressful in the world. Don’t think so? Well, check out these paintings and photos of America’s wartime Presidents before and after their wars:


George Washington – Revolutionary War

Even in a painting, the toll a war takes on the Commander-In-Chief is evident. The first painting was made in 1772. The second was just after the Revolution in 1783. Wigs notwithstanding, the differences between the two men are stark.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Thomas Jefferson – War with the Barbary Pirates

Sure Jefferson was already well-aged by the time he ran for president. He had to go against many of his core beliefs to defend the rights of Americans abroad and to rescue captured U.S. sailors.

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James Madison – War of 1812

Unlike earlier engravings of Madison, the portrait on the right was painted to highlight the toll the War of 1812 (then derisively called “Mr. Madison’s War”) took on the president.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

James K. Polk – Mexican-American War

The left painting of Polk was done in 1846, just before the start of the war. The daguerreotype on the right was taken just before the end of his presidency. Even though the war had been over for a year, President Polk’s health never recovered from the stress.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Abraham Lincoln – Civil War

The 1860 photo on the left was taken just before Lincoln’s inauguration. On the right, an 1865 photo reveals the strain of leading the Union in the Civil War for four years.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

William McKinley – Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War lasted just a few weeks of 1898. McKinley was President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901. Still, the two photos of the him before and toward the end of his term show that even in 1900, just being the American President takes its toll.

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Woodrow Wilson – World War I

President Wilson famously “kept us out of war” in his first term, but events in his second led to the formation of the American Expeditionary Force and U.S. entry into the Great War. Toward the end of his term, while pushing for the Treaty of Versailles, he became unresponsive and suffered a stroke. He was incapacitated for much of 1919.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Franklin D. Roosevelt – World War II

FDR served four consecutive terms, guiding America through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II. It could be argued that he gave his life to the cause. The photo on the left shows Roosevelt as a presidential candidate in 1932, the one on the right was taken the day before his death in 1945.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Harry S. Truman – Korean War

President Truman was 61 when he took office after Roosevelt’s death. He finished WWII and served as President for most of the Korean War, but except for a few more age lines (aka wrinkles), the job didn’t seem to take as much out of the Missouri native. He lived to be 88 and was present when LBJ signed Medicare into law.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

Lyndon B. Johnson – Vietnam War

LBJ was in his 60s when he took over for the assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963 but just like many before him, the wartime Presidency did a number on him. The photo on the left is from LBJ’s “midnight address,” where he discussed the Gulf of Tonkin incident that would lead America to war in Vietnam. The second is LBJ in 1972, five months before he died. After he left office in 1969, he went into a self-destructive spiral.

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Richard Nixon – Vietnam War

Granted, Nixon had a lot more to worry about than just Vietnam, but five years in the White House still aged the President considerably.

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Ronald Reagan – Cold War

President Reagan lived and worked the Cold War for every day of his 1981-1989 term. In his 1980 campaign poster, pictured left, he uses a slogan that is all too familiar for 2016’s presidential election. On the right, in a 1988 photo at the White House, the man who took office in his seventies is significantly more gray but sports the exact same smile.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

George H.W. Bush – Panama, Gulf War

Bush 41 came into the office past middle age as well. But the elder Bush had a lot of experience in Washington and in international affairs. He handled the invasion of Panama and the Gulf War so well, it seems like he’s the only one who actually looked better after the Presidency.

The Lightning makes its Paris debut

George W. Bush – Global War on Terror

The present-day brings us to presidents who spent almost their entire terms at war. President Bush was in office only a few months before the September 11, 2001 attacks altered his plan to preside over the United States. The resulting War on Terror lasted until well after his successor took over. The photo below shows President-elect Bush in 2000 and former President Bush in 2009, after 8 years of war.

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Barack Obama – Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, War on ISIL

President Obama spent his entire presidency managing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He campaigned on ending the war in Iraq, then ended up having to send U.S. troops back to fight the Islamic State terrorist organization that rose up there. The War in Afghanistan will be inherited by his successor as well. The photos below show Obama on the campaign trail in late 2008 and at the March 2016 Chief of Missions conference.

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The ‘most hated units’ in the Army are some of the best

They’re the units that everyone wants to beat, that every commander wants to squash under their heel, and that most average Joes accuse of cheating at least once — the “Opposing Forces” units at military training centers.


The OPFOR units are comprised of active duty soldiers stationed at major training centers and are tasked with playing enemy combatants in training exercises for the units that rotate into their center. They spend years acting as the adversary in every modern training exercise their base can come up with.

 

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American Army Pfc. Sean P. Stieren, a rifleman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), fires a mock Stinger missile launcher at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 19, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A), act as insurgent and conventional opposing forces during decisive action training environment exercises at JRTC. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

So while most units do a rotation at a major training center every couple of years, soldiers assigned to OPFOR units often conduct major training rotations every month. This results in their practicing the deployed lifestyle for weeks at a time about a dozen times per year.

Through all this training, they get good. Really good.

And since they typically conduct their missions at a single installation or, in rare cases, at a few training areas in a single region, they’re experts in their assigned battlespace.

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A U.S. Army soldier with 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) fires blank rounds at soldiers from a rotational training unit during an exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 22, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A) role-play as multiple enemy forces including a near-peer military, insurgent cells and a crime family. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

 

All this adds up to units with lots of experience against the best units the military has to deploy — units that are at the cutting edge of new tactics, techniques, and procedures; units that have the home field advantage.

“The first time you fight against the OpFor is a daunting experience,” Maj. Jared Nichols, a battalion executive officer that rotated through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said during a 2016 training iteration. “You’re fighting an enemy that knows the terrain and knows how American forces fight, so they know how to fight against us and they do it very well.”

So yeah, despite typically fighting at a 2-to-1 or even a 3-to-1 disadvantage, OPFOR units often decimate their opponents.

 

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An OPFOR Surrogate Vehicle from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, travels through the city of Dezashah en route to the objective, during NTC rotation 17-01, at the National Training Center, Oct. 7, 2016. The purpose of this phase of the rotation was to challenge the Greywolf Brigade’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense of an area while being engaged by conventional and hybrid threats. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

 

For the military, this arrangement is a win-win. First, rotational units cut their teeth against realistic, experienced, and determined opponents before they deploy. This tests and stresses deploying units — usually brigades — and allows them to see where their weak points are. Do their soldiers need a tool they don’t have? Are there leaders being over or under utilized? Does all the equipment work together as expected?

But the training units aren’t expected to get everything right.

“One of the largest challenges I face as the OPFOR battalion commander is conveying the message to the other nations that it’s OK to make a mistake,” Lt. Col. Mathew Archambault said during a 2016 training rotation. “When they come here it’s a training exercise, and I want them to take risks and try new things. I want them to maximize their training experience; it helps them learn and grow.”

 

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A UH-72 Lakota helicopter from the OPFOR Platoon, NTC Aviation Company provides air support to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment ground forces during an engagement during rotation 16-08 at the National Training Center, Aug. 3, 2016. The Lakota aircraft participated in an exercise that challenged the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

But the military also gets a group of soldiers that, over a two or three-year tour of duty at a training center as opposing forces, have seen dozens of ways to conduct different missions. They’ve seen different tactics for resupplying maneuver forces in the field, different ways of hiding communications, different ways of feinting attacks. And, they know which tactics are successful and which don’t work in the field.

When it’s time for these soldiers to rotate to another unit, they take these lessons with them and share them with their new units.

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