Army veteran Jason Kander is running for the US Senate to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and he just dropped an incredibly effective ad pushing back on criticism of his gun rights positions.
He assembles an AR-15 blindfolded while simultaneously talking about his time serving as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “I approve this message, because I would like to see Sen. Blunt do this,” he says, holding up the finished rifle, in what is the political equivalent of a mic drop.
Last week, the National Rifle Association released an ad that criticized “liberal Jason Kander” for a 2009 vote against the defensive use of guns. The spot criticized the Democrat as being weak on Second Amendment rights.
In response, Kander is seen blindfolded in a new ad released Wednesday, pushing back on that view.
“Sen. Blunt has been attacking me on guns. In Afghanistan, I volunteered to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs,” Kander says. “And in the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights. I also believe in background checks so that terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”
Brandon Friedman, a former Army officer and CEO of public relations firm McPherson Square Group, told Business Insider the spot was “a masterpiece.”
Still, Kander has an uphill battle in the race. His opponent Roy Blunt scored the endorsement of the influential NRA in April, and he currently leads the challenger by three points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Missouri’s US senate race.
Nicknamed “Unsinkable Sam,” this German sailor served with the Nazi Kriegsmarine and the British Royal Navy during world War II. Three of the ships on which he served were sunk and he miraculously survived all three.
His first cruise was on the legendary German dreadnaught battleship Bismarck. He boarded with his best friend in 1941 as it departed Germany to wreak havoc on British shipping in the Northern Atlantic. Bismarck was sunk after a fight against an aircraft carrier, three battleships, three cruisers, and six destroyers. Only 118 of the ship’s 2,200 survived. Oscar (the real name of “Unsinkable Sam”) was found floating on a board by the HMS Cossack, and was put to work immediately by the British crew.
After serving on the Cossack for months, Oscar was accepted by the ship’s crew. One day on escort duty near Gibraltar, Cossack was torpedoed by a German U-boat and was heavily damaged. Oscar survived. Although attempts were made to tow the ship back to port, the weather made it impossible and the ship was abandoned and sank near Gibraltar.
Now having earned his “Unsinkable” moniker, he was transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which was itself torpedoed off of the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, and sank thirty miles offshore. Only one member of the crew was lost because the ship sank at such a slow pace.
Sam survived, but his days at sea were over. He spent the rest of the war serving the governor of Gibraltar and would live for another decade after the war’s end. He died in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1955.
Chinese media on Thursday indicated ongoing work on a new long range air-to-air missile that seems tailor-made to give the US Air Force problems when operating in the Pacific.
As Business Insider has previously covered, tensions between the US and China have been steadily ratcheting up over the last few years, and they have spiked since Donald Trump took office after breaking with decades of tradition and taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Photographs posted on IHS Jane’s and on Chinese media show China’s J-11B and J-16 fighters carrying an as-of-yet unnamed missile that Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese state-run media has a range of almost 250 miles — much further than current Chinese or even US capabilities.
“The successful development of this potential new missile would be a major breakthrough,” Reuters reports Fu as telling a Chinese state-run newspaper.
According to Fu, the missile would enable the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets.”
The US’s airborne early warning and control planes (AWACS), basically giant flying radars, are the “eyes” Fu refers to. These planes can detect enemy movements and give targeting data to US fighter jets and bombers. Without them, the US Air Force faces a steep disadvantage.
This echoes analysis provided to Business Insider by Australia Strategic Policy Institute‘s senior analyst Dr. Malcolm Davis, who told Business Insider that “the Chinese are recognizing they can attack critical airborne support systems like AWACS and refueling planes so they can’t do their job … If you can force the tankers back, then the F-35s and other platforms aren’t sufficient because they can’t reach their target.”
The new Chinese missile could grant the PLA Air Force the ability to cripple the US’s airborne support infrastructure, and figures into a larger anti-access area denial (A2AD) strategy the Chinese have been developing for years now.
According to Davis, the US’s advantage over adversaries like China has faded over the last few years. “The calculus is changing because our adversaries are getting better,” Davis said of China’s emerging capabilities.
Davis said that adversaries like China and Russia are “starting to acquire information edge capabilities that [the US] has enjoyed since 1991 … The other side had 20 years to think about counters to the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). Given the delays, by the time [the F-35] reaches full operation capability, how advanced are the Chinese and Russian systems going to be to counter it?”
As a possible solution, Davis recommended pairing fleets of unmanned vehicles with the F-35 to give the US a quantitative advantage as Chinese advances, like the new missile and plane, erode the US’s qualitative edge.
“We don’t have time to be leisurely about the fifth generation aircraft,” said Davis. “The other side is not going to stand still.”
Every student of history knows that the British won the Battle of Britain in August and September of 1940, and that the Spitfire played a key role. But why was that the case?
The answer is stunningly ironic, and it requires us to look at what both the Spitfire and the Bf 109 were supposed to do.
(Yes, I said Bf 109. Believe it or not, calling Willy Messerschmidt’s signature design a Me 109 isn’t accurate. Messerschmidt worked for the Bavarian Aircraft Works, or Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. Now, Messerschmidt bought the company in 1938, but planes designed before the purchase, like the Bf 109, kept the old designation.)
So, with that out of the way, let’s look at the Bf 109 and Spitfire.
Both planes were really designed to fulfill the same mission profile: that of a short-range interceptor.
The Spitfire Mk VB had a top speed of 370 miles per hour, could climb 2,600 feet per minute, and had a combat radius of 470 miles. The Bf 109G had a top speed of 398 miles per hour, a range of 621 miles with a drop tank, and could climb 3,345 feet per minute.
In 1940, the Germans needed a plane to escort their bombers, and the Bf 109 was their only option. They tried the Bf 110, a twin-engine plane with long range and heavy firepower. The problem was, the Bf 110 was easily killed by the more maneuverable Spitfires, so the Bf 109 found itself pressed into service.
But even with a drop tank, the Bf 109 just didn’t have the endurance to be a good bomber escort.
The Spitfire was also plagued with short endurance, but during the Battle of Britain — and even over Dunkirk earlier in the summer of 1940 — it was fulfilling its role as a short-range interceptor.
In essence, it was doing what it was designed to do. The Bf 109 was also a short-range interceptor…but it was pressed into service as a bomber escort, and it just couldn’t hack it.
When the United States entered the war, one thing they were truly successful at was coming up with the perfect escort fighter, the P-51 Mustang. You could say they had learned from Nazi Germany’s mistake.
The F4U Corsair was, without a doubt, the heavyweight champion of the air war over the Pacific Theater of World War II. It originally had a lot of design problems to work out to be a carrier-based aircraft, but the Navy and Marine Corps still flew it from land-based airfields to devastating effect.
It was a plane known as “Whistling Death” to the enemy and “The Angel of Okinawa” to United States Marines. With a Marine pilot at the stick, there seemed to be little that the unconventional bird couldn’t do, which included taking down enemy aircraft without using its onboard weapons systems.
By the time the United States and Japan were duking it out in the Pacific, Robert Klingman was already a salty Marine. He had joined the Civilian Military Training Program during the Great Depression, learning the ins and outs of military life at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. When he finished there, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and sent his paychecks back home.
After his four years were up, he went back home and opened a successful diner, but found himself bored with the life of flipping burgers, even if he owned the place. His brother suggested he return to the service, this time to join the Navy. He did, and he was assigned to the USS Tennessee and sent to San Diego for further training.
The day Klingman arrived in California, the entire world changed. It was December 7, 1941. He doubled his training efforts and qualified for preflight school. The Navy discharged him as an enlisted man and he became an aviation cadet. He was much older than the other cadets, but he worked hard to succeed and when graduation time came, he was forced to choose between the Navy and the Marine Corps.
He chose the Corps and was sent to Okinawa, where Japanese kamikaze squadrons were wreaking havoc on American ships. But Robert Klingman noticed a funny thing: Japanese reconnaissance planes would make two full passes of an island or fleet before coming home. They were taking photos and assigning kamikaze pilots to individual ships.
Klingman was going to down those enemy planes, but first he had to catch them. They were Kawasaki Ki-45 “Nick” planes that could fly higher than anything the U.S. could fly or shoot at them. The Marines hatched a plan and were airborne, ready for the next “Nick” recon flight.
At 13,000 feet, four Corsairs, one flown by Klingman, ditched their drop tanks and ascended to 20,000 feet in anticipation of the Japanese spy plane. Upon seeing the enemy, they fired off some .50-caliber rounds to lighten their plane. Klingman shot 2,000 rounds. They all started to ascend higher. That’s when two of the Corsairs began to freeze up and had to head home.
One of them fired some shot at the enemy, alerting it to their presence. Its second round finished, it took off for home. Klingman, flying the faster plane, went full throttle in pursuit. At 38,000 feet, well above its service ceiling, and with the Nick in his crosshairs, he pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. His guns had frozen. An hour and a half-long hunt was almost for nothing. Then, Klingman told his wingman, “I’m going to hit him with my plane.”
Klingman pulled up behind the Japanese plane trying to close with the tail. He pulled up and brought the propeller down on the Nick’s tail, tearing it up. The tail gunner of the Nick finally started shooting. With bullets ripping through his Corsair, Robert Klingman sawed through the enemy’s rudder, chopping it off.
But Klingman wasn’t finished. He got a second strike on the Nick and as the machine gunner turned to Klingman’s wingman, it tore open the enemy plane and sent the gunner flying out. His third strike cut off its tail, sending both planes down in a spin.
But Klingman was flying the mighty Corsair and managed to recover. He ran out of fuel at 10,000 feet but still managed to coast the F4U onto the airstrip runway. For his daring midair butchering of the enemy plane, he was awarded the Navy Cross.
Amid growing calls for an end to the seemingly never-ending war in Afghanistan, the President of the embattled country is looking for a political solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, Reuters reports the terror group will refuse to participate in any peace talks until after a full U.S. withdrawal from the country.
American officials call this refusal, “unacceptable.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)
“Frankly, it’s Taliban leaders who aren’t residing in Afghanistan who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, a top State Department official in Afghanistan.
In June, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani successfully negotiated a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, the most important religious holiday for Muslims worldwide. It’s a three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which the devout fast during the day. Ramadan is important to the worldwide Muslim community as one of the five pillars of Islam.
It was the Taliban’s first-ever agreement to any ceasefire since the 2001 start of the war in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams)
The ceasefire actually lasted longer than three days and was “98 percent successful.” Reports say Afghans across the country, both military and civilian, were “jubilant.” Afghan government forces and Taliban fighters alike hugged each other and took selfies together in scenes reminiscent of the “Christmas Truce” of World War I, during which German and British troops spontaneously left the trenches to celebrate Christmas together in peace.
But, in both cases, the party had to end. In 1914, British and Germans were shooting at each other again the next day. In Afghanistan, the truce lasted 18 days, but fighting soon resumed.
Still, the ceasefire gave many civilians in the country the hope that a negotiated peace may soon be at hand. That includes President Ghani, who says the jubilation and happiness surrounding the ceasefire is proof that the country is ready for peace.
“I am ready to extend the ceasefire anytime when the Taliban are ready,” he said at a press conference.
The Taliban ordered its fighters back to the trenches. The group says a negotiated peace is playing into the hands of the U.S. In response, President Ghani ordered his troops back to the fighting as well.
The US Army is testing a new fighting load system for paratroopers, designed specifically for airborne operations.
“The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel, or ABN-TAP, was developed with the paratrooper in mind and will allow the paratrooper a greater degree of comfort, mobility, and safety during static line airborne infiltration operations,” said Rich Landry of the US Army Soldier Systems Center laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts.
Previous fighting load system designs interfered with the fit of the T-11 parachute harness and moved T-11 reserve activation handle further away from the paratrooper’s grasp.
The ABN-TAP, which is similar to the old Load Bearing Equipment or LBE, enables soldiers to rig the fighting load under the parachute harness but below the reserve parachute.
“This will allow paratroopers to properly adjust the T-11 parachute harness to their specific sizing requirements and keep the T-11 reserve parachute handle well within reach,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ian Seymour, Test NCO from the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, or ABNSOTD.
The ABN-TAP design actually draws its lineage from the older LBE system used with the T-10 and MC1-1 parachute systems by paratroopers for decades.
Soon after the Global War on Terror began, all branches of the armed services rushed to modernize field equipment to meet the rigors of modern combat and allow for the constant presence of body armor, according to Mike Tracy, deputy test division chief at ABNSOTD.
“With the vest/plate carrier systems seeing overwhelming soldier acceptance, the task of providing the paratrooper with a modern design compatible with current parachute systems is challenging to say the least,” Tracy said.
The ABN-TAP bridges this gap by providing both new and old capabilities to the paratrooper.
Tracy explained that this new fighting load system allows not only for rigging under the parachute harness and reserve, but can be rapidly adjusted to serve as a “chest rig” design upon landing.
“Ground troops consider this to be the most efficient design under current operational conditions,” said Tracy.
“Operational testing using airborne paratroopers, collects data which truly allows the Army to evaluate the suitability and safety of the ABN-TAP when worn during static line airborne operations and follow-on missions,” Tracy said.
Before testing soldiers participated in New Equipment Training, which included familiarization with the system, fitting and proper rigging of the ABN-TAP with the T-11 parachute system.
Soldiers then conducted parachute jumps from a C-17 aircraft at 1,250 feet above ground level over Sicily Drop Zone at Bragg.
Upon completion of testing, the ABN-TAP could potentially be issued to Army airborne forces worldwide.
“Any time soldiers and their leaders get involved in operational testing, they have the opportunity to use, work with, and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact development of systems that future soldiers will use in combat,” said Col. Brad Mock, the director of all the Army’s Airborne testing.
An unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the terrorist group Hamas was shot down by an Israeli fighter today.
According to a report from ynetnews.com, the Israeli fighter shot down the drone as it was departing airspace over the Gaza Strip. Such actions are standard policy for the Israeli Defense Forces. A spokesman for the IDF told ynetnews.com that “the IDF will not allow any airspace violation and will act resolutely against any such attempt.”
An Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP photo by Jack Guez)
Six months ago, an IDF F-16 Fighting Falcon was scrambled to intercept a similar drone, and shot it down off the coast of Gaza.
The use of drones to deliver explosives has already been seen in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. One attack on Oct. 2, 2016, killed two Kurdish troops and wounded French special operations personnel.
The halftime show of Super Bowl LI, in which pop superstar Lady Gaga used 300 drones for a light show, also has drawn attention from the deputy commander of United States Special Operations Command, according to a report by WeAreTheMighty.com from earlier this month. WATM’s report on those concerns also noted that ISIS was using small drones to drop hand grenades on Coalition forces.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 15, 2007, following over a week of violent fighting with Fatah. The charter of the terrorist group, known as the Hamas Covenant, calls for the absolute destruction of Israel.
With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.
The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.
After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.
While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.
“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.
To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.
The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.
“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.
The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.
The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.
Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.
“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.
While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.
The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.
Since 1977, the E-3 Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) has provided airborne surveillance, command, and control functions over battle spaces in conflicts around the globe. Operated by four countries and NATO, the E-3 allows radar to detect low-flying aircraft over land, a capability impossible for previous airborne radars due to an inability to discriminate aircraft from ground clutter. This technological advancement provides more accurate information, with which air operations commanders can gain and maintain control of the air battle. In support of air-to-ground operations, the Sentry can provide direct information needed for interdiction, reconnaissance, airlift and close-air support for friendly ground forces.
In the 1960s, The U.S. Air Force sought proposals for a jet-powered replacement for its piston-engine EC-121 Warning Stars. The new aircraft would utilize new radar technology and computer-aided data analysis. The radar was developed by Westinghouse Electric, who pioneered the design of High-Power Radio Frequency phase shifters. The 18-bit computer and beyond-the-horizon pulse mode allowed the radar to detect ships at sea when the radar beam is directed below the horizon. Boeing decided to base their design on the existing 707 commercial jet airframe modified to mount the radar in a 30-foot wide, rotating dome on top of the aircraft and allow for in-flight refueling.
Today, the E-3 is undergoing modernization to keep it commanding the battlespace for years to come. A complete flight deck modernization program has been initiated to maintain compliance with worldwide airspace mandates. A Radar System Improvement Program has enhanced the radar’s electronic countermeasures and improved the system’s reliability and detection of low radar cross-section targets.
The USAF employs 31 operational E-3 Sentry aircraft. Twenty-seven fly within Air Combat Command and four in Pacific Air Forces. The E-3 has proven its worth allowing commanders a detailed, real-time view of the battlespace during operations Desert Storm, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Odyssey Dawn/Unified Protector.
The E-3 has also deployed to support humanitarian relief operations in the U.S. following Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, coordinating rescue efforts between military and civilian authorities. The E-3 can fly an eight-hour mission without refueling. Its on-station time can be increased through in-flight refueling, with only necessary limitations for crew rest.
• 607th, 726th, 728th, and 729th Air Control Squadrons, 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma
• 962nd Air Control Squadron, 3rd Wing, Elmendorf AFB Alaska
• 961st Air Control Squadron, 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan
Did you know?
• During Desert Storm, E-3 controllers assisted in 38 of the 41 air-to-air kills recorded by coalition aircraft during the conflict.
• The Radome is tilted slightly down towards the front to decrease aerodynamic drag
• The E-3 Sentry mission crew of 13 to 19 Airmen monitor 14 consoles inside the aircraft and can track aircraft 400 miles away
Primary function: airborne battle management, command, and control
Contractor: Boeing Aerospace Co.
Powerplant: four Pratt and Whitney TF33-PW-100A turbofan engines
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A C-130J Super Hercules from the 37th Airlift Squadron fires flares as it performs anti-aircraft fire tests during exercise Carpathian on May 9, 2016, in Romania. The 37th AS, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, began participating in off-station training deployments with Romania as early as 1996, allowing the U.S. Air Force to work with NATO allies to develop and improve ready air forces capable of maintaining regional security.
Phase technicians from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on an F-16C Fighting Falcon during routine phase maintenance at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 18, 2016. Phase inspections are performed on aircraft every 300 flight hours and involve procedural maintenance actions that require robust attention to detail.
A 2d Squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment infantryman suppresses opposing forces with a M240B machine gun during Exercise Spring Storm in Voru, Estonia, May 14, 2016. Approximately 6,000 military personnel from the U.S., Finland, German Bundeswehr, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom’sHM Armed Forces and Canadian Armed Forces participated in the annual Estonian Army Land Defense Forces training exercise.
Soldiers assigned to 3rd Infantry Division, move to their battle position in a M1 Abrams during the Strong Europe Tank Challenge (SETC) at 7th Army JMTC’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 11, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (May 17, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Michael Allen, assigned to amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), directs an AV-8B Harrier from Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311 on the ship’s flight deck. America is an aviation centric amphibious assault ship that supports small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group, to forcible entry missions in major theaters of war. The ship is currently conducting maritime training operations off the coast of California.
GUAM (May 17, 2016) U. S. Navy Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 land and retrieve their parachutes in Guam after a high altitude-low opening parachute jump. EODMU5 conducted counter improvised explosive device operations, renders safe explosive hazards and disarms underwater explosives.
A Marine attending the Military Police Basic Course, runs to cover during a field training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., May 11, 2016. The purpose of the course is to provide entry level pipeline and lateral move Marines the knowledge and skills to become disciplined, motivated and capable of performing the duties and responsibilities of military occupational specialty 5811, Military Police.
Marines with I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) provide security while other Marines conduct fast-rope inserts from a UH-1Y Huey with HMLA-267, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 9. 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (1st Anglico), I MEF, facilitated a helicopter rope and suspension technique training package for U.S. Marines and Royal British Commandos.
My name is 1/c Kevin Alvarez and I will be taking you through the events that occur during commencement week leading up to graduation for the class of 2016! Pictured above is the sunset regimental review that took place last night in honor of Rear Admiral Rendon, Superintendent, United States Coast Guard Academy.
Step 1 of 3: 186 First Class Cadets line up and make their way to Cadet Memorial Field where they will soon be handed their diplomas and be commissioned as officers.
Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!
Prep Time: About 30 minutes. Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours. Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.
Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.
How to Play:
The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):
Knock down all the cans.
Jump from block to block.
Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
Crawl through the tunnel.
Drag a heavy thing past the line.
Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.
It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.
To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.
Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.