The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.
US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.
Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’
The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.
Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.
“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”
Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.
Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.
Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.
Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.
“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”
Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.
Joseph Maguire was, until very recently, the U.S. Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. This was a fitting position, because, in a past life, Maguire was Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire, a Navy SEAL and former commander of SEAL Team Two, bringing American counterterrorism policy home to the bad guys. Now, he’s temporarily taken over the Office of Director of National Intelligence.
Not only did Maguire command one of the teams to take the storied moniker SEAL Team Two, he also would one day command the entire Naval Special Warfare Command based in San Diego, Calif. From there, he oversaw eight Navy SEAL teams, three special boat teams, and their support units, just short of 10,000 people at a time when the United States was engaged in two wars abroad and U.S. special operators were finally beginning to infiltrate and destroy the insurgent networks operating inside Iraq.
But even after his 36 years in the Navy came to a close, he didn’t stop serving the special warfare community. He put his command and administration skills to work, helping the warfighters affected by the wars he oversaw.
One of Maguire’s first post-military jobs was as President and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a nonprofit that specializes in helping special operators and their families get help funding their college tuition. The foundation also works to help the families of fallen warriors in the special operations community get an education by providing scholarships of their own, as well as grants and educational counseling. Maguire is not just a brass hat – he knows a thing or two about getting an education through hard work. He didn’t go to Annapolis, he went to Manhattan College, a small liberal arts college in his NYC hometown.
During his career, he also attended the Naval Postgraduate School and became a Harvard National Security Fellow, where he no doubt brought his hands-on experience in keeping America secure to the cohort.
What you’ll read about Maguire is that his assignment to the post of acting Director of National Intelligence comes “as a surprise to the intelligence community.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean Maguire isn’t qualified to hold the post, only that his ascendance to acting DNI was unexpected. Besides his national security fellowship, the former SEAL and Vice Admiral has worked at the National Counterterrorism Center as Deputy Director for Strategic Operational Planning from 2007 to 2010. This means he was a part of National Security Council’s Counterterrorism Security Group that entire time.
But just because he’s acting in the post of DNI doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll stay there. Many temporary appointments have been very temporary in recent weeks, including the former acting Secretary of Defense.
The bazooka was World War II’s answer to the American soldier’s need for portable firepower that could inflict serious damage on the enemy.
Simple enough for use by rifle squads, powerful enough to shoot high-explosive rounds into bunkers and pillboxes, the bazooka put more bang farther away on the battlefield than the average G.I. could throw in the form of a grenade.
True, Gen. George Patton praised the M-1 Garand rifle as the greatest battle implement ever made. But Gen. Dwight Eisenhower ranked the humble bazooka with the atom bomb, the jeep, and the C-47 transport and cargo plane as one of the four “Tools of Victory” that allowed the Allies to prevail over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
“The bazooka is one of those weapons that has become iconic in spite of its limitations and problems,” said Alan Archambault, former supervisory curator for the U.S. Army Center of Military History. “Even today, most people recognize the name and the weapon.”
Rockets on the battlefield are nothing new. History is full of examples of militaries harnessing explosive force to rocket power with many kinds of results.
The 13th Century Chinese fired rockets at their enemies. The Star-Spangled Banner mentions the “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” – Congreve rockets fired at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 in an effort to burn the fort to the ground.
American space pioneer Dr. Robert Goddard, inventor of the liquid-fuel rocket, even developed a prototype recoilless rocket launcher that he demonstrated to the U.S. Army in November 1918. Unfortunately for Goddard, the Great War ground to a halt just a few days later and the U.S. military lost interest in rocket-powered weapons for a while.
But when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, the only anti-tank weapons in its arsenal were the guns on its tanks and specific kinds of anti-tank artillery. That was a problem considering the U.S. Army faced an enemy in North Africa, later Europe, who relied heavily on Panzer divisions.
U.S. Army Ordnance innovators Capt. Leslie Skinner and Lt. David Uhl experimented with shaped-charge grenades that packed an armor-piercing punch but were too heavy for soldiers to throw. One day, Uhl apparently spied a steel tube on a scrap pile and decided a smooth-bore launch tube was the perfect companion to the grenade/rocket combination he recently developed.
Tube, fin-stabilized rocket, grenade: By May 1942, the combination became known as “Launcher, Rocket, 2.36 inch, Anti-Tank, M-1.”
But nobody called it that – the contraption looked like one of the novelty musical instruments of Bob Burns, a popular comedian of the era. Burns called his tubular noisemaker a “bazooka” – from Dutch slang for “loudmouth” – and the name for the joke instrument became the name of the weapon.
Optimally, the bazooka needed two men for proper use: a gunner who aimed and fired the rocket-propelled rounds and a loader who carried the rounds in a cloth bandoleer before loading the bazooka through the back end of the launcher’s tube.
An electric charge from a dry-cell battery ignited the powder charge in the rocket, which sent the round hurtling out of the tube and on its way to the target.
However, early models of the weapon could be downright dangerous. Occasionally, the rocket would fire but get stuck in the tube, leaving the soldier with a live bomb in his shoulder-mounted launcher.
All models of the bazooka produced significant “back-blast”– discharge from the firing rocket that streamed out of the rear-end of the tube – and an obvious smoke trail that often gave away the position of the shooter.
However, improvements to the weapon produced the far-more reliable M-9. It had a light warhead, but it was capable of destroying many armored vehicles because the round could penetrate five-inch armor.
Although intended as an anti-tank weapon, the bazooka could also fire white phosphorous and incendiary warheads for anti-personnel and anti-material use.
For example, Wilbur “Bill” Brunger was an engineer with the U.S. Army during World War II when he received orders in 1945 to demolish three underpasses on the Autobahn near Dortmund, Germany, so the rubble would block any advancing enemy vehicles.
Brunger was with a squad of men trying to take control of those underpasses when they encountered German half-tracks coming their way.
His squad had an M-9 and Brunger fired a round at one of the half-tracks. The round was so efficient he got more than he bargained for.
“It must have had ammunition because it blew, I’d say, a hundred feet in the air,” Brunger said in an 2004 oral history prepared by the Douglas County History Research Center, Colorado. “But it blew up. I was glad we weren’t any closer than we were.”
In fact, the weapon was so effective the bazooka received the sincerest form of flattery: The Nazis copied captured bazookas and also created their Panzerschreck anti-tank rocket launcher using the American bazooka’s basic design.
Although it went through different variants, the bazooka remained in use through the early stages of the Vietnam War. Then, the M-72 LAW (light anti-tank weapon) eclipsed the bazooka and became the rocket-weapon of choice among infantrymen.
However, the bazooka has one remaining cultural influence in American history. According to some sources, Bazooka bubble gum (first introduced to the gum-chewing public in 1947) owes its ordnance-inspired name to the World War II weapon that made a big bang.
Not sure about whether to stay in or get out as your enlistment nears its end within the next six months? Well, depending on your rating, the United States Navy could have as many as 100,000 reasons for you to stick around.
According to a NAVADMIN released February 2018 that was signed by Vice Admiral Robert P. Burke, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education, the Navy has revised Selective Reenlistment Bonus levels for 39 skills across 24 ratings to encourage enlisted sailors to sign up for another hitch. The highest of these bonuses is $100,000, being offered to those sailors who ratings include explosive ordnance personnel, special operators (SEALs), and electrician’s mates with nuclear qualifications, depending on their Navy Enlistment Classification, or NEC.
Military.com notes that these bonuses vary given the needs of the service. Usually, half the bonus is paid out immediately, the other half will be given out in annual installments over the course of the re-enlistment. A servicemember can receive a maximum of two SRBs, totaling no more than $200,000.
Those who are eligible to receive the SRBs are sailors who hold the ranks of Seaman (or Airman, Hospitalman, or Constructionman), Petty Officer Third Class, Petty Officer Second Class, or Petty Officer First Class. Those selected for Chief Petty Officer are not eligible to receive the SRB.
The Navy Personnel Command website notes that to receive the SRB, the request must be made no less than 35 days before and no more than 120 days before the re-enlistment date. Sailors should contact their command career counselor for more information about possible eligibility for the SRB. They should do so quickly because the Navy “will continue to assess retention behavior and adjust SRB award levels accordingly,” according to the NAVADMIN.
The US Navy made history on March 5, 2018, by putting to sea, for the first time ever, an aircraft carrier with F-35B jets.
And by deploying them in the Pacific, it’s a message China and North Korea are sure to hear loud and clear.
The US Marine Corps’s Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed aboard the USS Wasp, a smaller-deck aircraft carrier that used to operate harrier jump jets and helicopters before getting special modifications to field the F-35.
“This is a historic deployment,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, 31st MEU Commanding Officer in a US Navy press release. “The F-35B is the most capable aircraft ever to support a Marine rifleman on the ground.”
The deployment marks the culmination of years of planning. Since its inception, the F-35 has been designed with the idea of accommodating short takeoff, vertical landing variants. Initially, the design compromises forced by the massive tail fan and unique capabilities caused complications, compromises, and long and expensive delays.
But the US has still beaten China, Russia, and the entire world to the punch with a navalized stealth fighter that can fight for air superiority, pull off precision strikes, penetrate enemy airspaces, and coordinate with the two US Navy guided-missile destroyers to guide ship-fired missiles to targets ashore.
The squadron aboard the Wasp has also trained heavily on a new set of tactics meant to keep the US dominant in the Pacific region. Leveraging the short-takeoff, vertical landing ability of the F-35B, the pilots and maintainers drilled on setting up improvised refuel and reloading points, and how to quickly restock the jet for battle, much like mechanics performing pit stops during NASCAR races.
Additionally, the F-35B has the option of equipping a gun and opening it up as a close-air-support platform to support Marines making a beach landing.
The result is a stealth fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet well-suited to the Asia-Pacific region, which US adversaries, like China and North Korea, will be sure to recognize.
US competition in the region and around the world put on notice
“You’re about to put, for the first time ever, fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B squadron commander, previously told Business Insider.
“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”
As Beijing pushes on with its massive land grab in the South China Sea by militarizing artificial islands, intruding in territorial waters of its neighbors, and performing increasingly aggressive fighter jet drills around the Pacific, the F-35B deployment gives the US an advantage in terms of air power at sea.
China has struggled to field its own stealth jets that many see as an answer to US air power in the region.
North Korea, not a powerful nation in terms of air power, will now feel the added pressure of stealth jets it cannot track sitting near its shores in Okinawa or on deployment around the region.
Here’s a video of the F-35B landing vertically on the Wasp at sea:
The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.
The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.
None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.
Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”
In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.
The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.
The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.
In February 1988, the American cruiser USS Yorktown was on a Freedom of Navigation mission in the Black Sea, just south of Crimea. With her was the USS Caron. Though outside of traditional sea lanes, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea allows for warships to leave sea lanes — even in another country’s territorial waters — as long as those warships were on “innocent passage.”
The Soviet Union disagreed.
Though the Russians routinely used their own naval vessels to shadow the Americans in the region, the case of the Yorktown and Caron was different. The Russians held that the two American ships were armed with more firepower than previous treaties allowed while in their territory. They also believed that they had the authority to clear ships entering their waters.
That’s why the Soviet frigate Bezzavetnyi warned the Yorktown it would “strike their ship with own” if the Americans entered Soviet territory. Meanwhile, another Soviet frigate confronted the Caron. The Americans blew off the threat, with the Caron responding: “I am engaged in innocent passage consistent with international law.”
That’s when the second Russian frigate slammed into the Caron’s port side aft. There was no damage except some paint scraping. The Caron pressed on and exited Soviet waters almost two full hours later.
Also in Soviet territory, the Yorktown was being shadowed by the Russian Bezzavetnyi. The Russian closed to within 50 feet of the Yorktown when it turned into the American ship, slamming into its port side. Bezzavetnyi’s anchor fell away, while Yorktown suffered minor hull damage, though with no breaches. The ship’s rear Harpoon missile launchers were damaged and unusable.
Yorktown completed her mission and left in a similar two-hour time frame.
The Russians had no intention of sinking either ship and no weapons were ever cleared for action. In after action interviews, the skipper of the Bezzavetnyi said:
“To be honest, no one in the in the command center put on his lifejacket, although the order had been given… Many members of the crew of Yorktown were on the upper deck, smiling and waving, taking pictures of us with cameras and videocameras. And the commanding officer of Yorktown, for example, appeared on the bridge in parade uniform. In a word, the Americans behaved as if they were participating in a show for entertainment.”
“Are you not entertained?” (U.S. Navy photo)
“Our view is that unless you exercise the right of freedom of navigation, inevitably you lose it,” said then-Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the incident. “If we start backing off we will eventually lose some of the rights that are absolutely essential for our freedom of navigation.”
Freedom of Navigation missions have been a cornerstone of the US Navy mission and of American foreign policy since 1979. The resolve of the Yorktown and Caron to press on are testament to the dedication to the mission.
A 95-year-old, 29 1/2-year veteran famous for being the single-known ace to achieve victories against both German and Japanese aircraft during WWII and later becoming a stunt pilot for 20th Century Fox film “Tora Tora Tora” in 1969, flew his 100th aircraft above “the birthplace of naval aviation,” July 9.
Retired Cmdr. Dean “Diz” Laird served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, operated in 175 combat and training missions, served on 12 different carriers, flew in the Navy’s first jet squadron, was the first person to land a jet-powered aircraft aboard USS Midway and has the most arrested landings on a straight-deck carrier.
“I want to thank everyone who took part in making this happen,” said Laird. “When I found out that I was going to be able to do this, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.”
Laird added that flying his 100th plane wasn’t for an achievement, medal or trophy. He wanted to set this milestone for himself.
Laird flew in the rear seat of a T-34C Turbomentor with Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Johnson, a fleet replacement squadron instructor pilot with the “Flying Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122.
“I was so excited and honored to fly with a true legend, how many people can say they flew with ‘Diz’ Laird,” said Johnson. “Then he had to make me look bad by being a better pilot at 95 [years old]. It is men like this that paved the way for the rest of us.”
She continued to say that “aviation is a lot different now from what it was, especially when you think about how he is an ace. We train for air-to-air combat our whole career, but very rarely, in this day and age, does that actually happen. It’s phenomenal to have just had a conversation and fly with him. It’s fantastic and an honor.”
She added that flying 100 different aircraft is a tremendous achievement for any pilot. In comparison, Johnson has flown only 15 aircraft in her 12-year career as a pilot.
The 95-year-old legend had some words of advice for younger naval aviators. He said that his “policy has always been that every fighter pilot has two main assets once they’re airborne. One is altitude and the other is speed. Never give up one, without gaining something on the other.”
During the flight Laird and Johnson flew off the coast of San Diego for a little bit of sightseeing followed by conducting a few aileron rolls in a training area before coming in for a landing.
Laird has been recognized on Coronado’s Avenue of Heroes and continues to actively participate in Naval Aviation organizations.
The United Nations has determined that debris from five ballistic missiles launched from Yemen into Saudi Arabia since July 2018, contained components manufactured in Iran and shared key design features with an Iranian missile, a new report says.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report to the UN Security Council, which was seen by media on June 14, 2018, that — while the missile parts are Iranian — the United Nations has been unable to determine whether they were transferred from Iran after UN restrictions went into force in January 2016.
Guterres said the UN was also “confident” that some arms seized by Bahrain and recovered by the United Arab Emirates from an unmanned vessel laden with explosives were manufactured in Iran.
But he said, once again, investigators could not determine whether the arms were transferred from Iran after UN restrictions took effect.
The secretary-general was reporting on the implementation of a 2015 Security Council resolution that endorsed the Iran nuclear deal. The resolution includes restrictions on transfers to or from Iran of nuclear and ballistic missile material as well as other arms.
The latest UN findings are less conclusive than those of a separate UN panel of experts, which reported in January 2018, that Iran was in violation of the arms embargo on Yemen for failing to block supplies of its missiles to allied Huthi rebels in the war-torn country.
The inconclusiveness of the report could deal a setback to the United States, which has repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to take action against Iran over illegal arms transfers to Yemen and elsewhere in the region.
Iran has strongly denied arming the Huthis.
In other key findings, Guterres said the UN is looking into reports from two unnamed countries that Iran received “dual-use items, materials, equipment, goods, and technology” in violation of UN restrictions.
Guterres also said the UN hasn’t had an opportunity to examine a drone that Israel intercepted and downed after it entered its airspace. Israel said it was Iranian.
The secretary-general noted that Iranian media had reported that “various Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles” have been deployed in Syria.
Guterres reported that the Hamas leader in Gaza said on TV on May 21, 2018, that Iran provided the Al-Qassam Brigades with “money, (military) equipment and expertise.” Guterres said any such arms transfers might violate UN restrictions.
He also reported receiving a letter dated May 15, 2018, from Ukraine’s UN ambassador indicating that its security service “prevented an attempt by two Iranian nationals to procure and transfer” to Iran components of a Kh-31 air-to-surface missile and related technical documents.
During PTSD Awareness Month, explore rewarding VA careers that help Veterans take charge of their mental health and pursue fuller lives.
Mental health is a cornerstone of medical care at VA. We’re committed to treating the whole patient – helping Veterans across the country heal their minds as well as their bodies.
With the expertise of numerous professionals – including psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers and crisis line operators – we provide crucial mental health services that millions of Veterans rely on.
“Veterans face unique challenges when transitioning back to civilian life. Our mental health experts are there to help them achieve balance and wholeness,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.
PTSD affects seven out of every 100 Americans at some point in their lives and is often seen in Veterans who have gone through war, dangerous peacekeeping operations or other trauma.
Created in 1989, our National Center for PTSD is a world leader in research and education. Taking a multi-disciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating PTSD, the center rapidly translates research into practice to deliver the latest, cutting-edge mental health care to Veterans.
Experienced, licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, clinical social workers or master’s level clinicians can be part of this groundbreaking work with a career as a PTSD therapist. Fellowships and internships are also available.
With a career at the National Center for PTSD, you can help trauma survivors feel safe in the world and live happy, productive lives.
Helping Veterans in crisis
Compassionate, qualified responders have helped millions of Veterans and their family members through the Veterans Crisis Line since it launched in 2007. The call center stands ready around the clock to take calls and texts from Veterans and active military personnel needing confidential assistance.
Our Veterans Crisis Line responders answer calls, texts and chats from Veterans, active-duty personnel, and their friends and family members. They help diffuse situations that put Veterans’ lives at risk, provide assessments and evaluate potential for suicide or homicide.
“This team is a lifeline to Veterans and military personnel in need,” Sherrard said.
Mental health careers
Beyond the PTSD center and the Veterans Crisis Line, there are rewarding careers in mental health throughout VA.
“It’s been said that the richest people are the ones who have lives filled with great meaning, and I just can’t imagine a job that pays more than this one,” said Joel Schmidt, a VA psychologist of nearly three decades who currently serves as associate director of advanced fellowships in the VHA Office of Academic Affiliations.
Whether you’re a psychologist, a social worker or in another mental health care field, you can help coordinate care that empowers Veterans and helps them reclaim their mental and emotional freedom.
You’ll have limitless room to grow and excel in your career with access to a huge variety of care environments, the chance to conduct research and the support to pursue further education.
Work at VA
Take a lead role in helping Veterans who have experienced trauma or suffer from PTSD. Explore a career at VA today.
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster was 37 years old when she attended Ranger School. While the average age of attendees in the course ranges in the early 20s, that didn’t deter her, and in October of 2015 she graduated from the course.
She was the first woman in the U.S. Army Reserve to do so.
Four years later, her advice to others is simple.
“You have to be ‘all-in,'” said Jaster. “Be willing to give everything you have for the school and maintain your integrity. The first week is published therefore you know what to expect and how to succeed. Once you’ve passed the physical entrance exam (RAP week), you will need to have the mental toughness to push through conditions that could beat a lesser person down.”
“Do not let ‘quit’ in,” she continued. “That means once you allow quitting into your mind as an option, it will move in, live there, steal your motivation, and eventually defeat you from within.”
Maj. Lisa Jaster in late 2015, after her graduation from Ranger School that previous October.
(Courtesy of Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster)
The all-in attitude that Jaster says is the key to success for Ranger school has also been tantamount to accomplishments in other aspects of her life. As a citizen soldier, she demonstrates that one can serve their country while continuing to have a civilian career.
In the past three years, Jaster has been a senior project engineer with Shell Oil Co. before becoming the director of civil engineering for MS Engineering. She also has become a professional speaker with Leading Authorities, holding engagements across the country.
In the Army Reserve, she has been a battalion executive officer, an engineering team lead supporting the Iraqi Security Forces during Operation Inherent Resolve, and is now the brigade executive officer for the 420th Engineer Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command.
Throughout all of her experiences, her definition of leadership and what is expected of leaders has one constant: be consistent in your words and actions, and set the example for others to follow. This definition has served her well in both her military and civilian life.
“Everyone needs to be led as an individual, and each individual brings something to the fight as long as they are vested in the end state,” said Jaster. “A leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better versions of themselves.
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, poses with her family after promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col. Jaster graduated from Ranger School in 2015, the first female officer in the Reserve to do so.
(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)
“Traditionally,” she continued. “I have said that consistency is the most important aspect of leadership to ensure subordinates can perform in the absence of guidance,” After Ranger School, I have created the three Cs – Consistency, Communication and Competence. There are a lot of other aspects to being an effective leader, but these are necessary starting blocks.”
Jaster approaches her personal life with the same care as her professional one. A dual military couple, she and her husband, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, have two children. Their support of each other and their children has been a critical factor in their accomplishments.
“Balancing the Citizen (employee, mom, wife, sister, daughter, and individual) with the soldier is very complicated,” said Jaster. “I used to try to silo both aspects of who I am but found that so much bleeds over from one job to the other that I need to be fluid with those lines.
“What that means,” continued Jaster. “Is that Army conference calls can happen during cheer practice, and I might need to review proposals for work while I am in the field with the Army. It means being open and honest with my spouse, my military boss, and my civilian supervisor about what I can handle and what might be coming up. Having a strong support team with regards to extended family, friends and hired help is critical to ensure nothing at home drops.”
Jaster does not want her Ranger School experience to define her. Since her completion of the course, she has advised to not identify soldiers and civilians by their race, sex or creed, but their skills, attributes and performance.
She created the hashtag #deletetheadjective for social media to emphasize her message, and throughout all of her speaking engagements, she has consistently stated the best teams are those with the highest level of competencies, not just a group identity. Being in the Army Reserve has allowed her to serve her country while creating awareness, and discussion, of the topic.
U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, receives a new patrol cap from her family signifying her promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col.
(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)
“Ranger school was just part of my path,” said Jaster. “It was not an end state. I have a larger public voice because of graduating from Ranger School. My true failure or success is what I decide to do with that voice. If I can live by the Ranger Creed and set an example which brings our community together for a smooth gender integration, then that is the goal I am striving for.”
Looking forward to the future, Jaster continues to strive for excellence. Whether in uniform or out, she has used her previous accomplishments to continue to fuel her drive to succeed and set the example for others to follow. Her discipline and dedication to her family, civilian profession, and military career is a standard she refuses to let falter.
“Ranger School does not make me a good or a bad officer,” said Jaster. “It does mean there are certain external expectations of me that were previously only self-imposed. This gives me an additional drive to continue to train martial arts, strength, endurance and tactics, even when time constraints make it difficult and my current job doesn’t require it.
“I am looking forward to being a battalion commander,” she continued. “After battalion command, I am not sure what the Army holds, but I plan to stay in uniform as long as I can.”
An influential Iraqi Shiite cleric on Dec. 11 urged his fighters to hand state-issued weapons back to the government, following Iraq’s declaration of victory against the Islamic State group.
In a speech broadcast on Iraqi television, Muqtada al-Sadr also called on his forces to hand over some territory to other branches of Iraq’s security forces, but said his men would continue to guard a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
Al-Sadr commands one of several mostly Shiite militias that mobilized after IS militants swept across northern and central Iraq in the summer of 2014. The paramilitaries are state-sanctioned and officially under the command of the prime minister, but have their own chains of command.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over IS in a national address on Dec. 9, after Iraqi forces drove the militants from their last strongholds in the western desert.
Al-Sadr, the scion of a revered Shiite clerical family, commanded a powerful militia that battled U.S. troops in the years after the 2003 invasion. His fighters are today known as the Peace Brigades, and are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the official name of the mostly Shiite militias allied with the government.
During his address Dec. 11, al-Sadr warned members of the paramilitary forces against participating in elections scheduled for May.
Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.
The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets. Dust is dispersed throughout the entire solar system, but it collects at grainy rings overlying the orbits of Earth and Venus, rings that can be seen with telescopes on Earth. By studying this dust — what it’s made of, where it comes from, and how it moves through space — scientists seek clues to understanding the birth of planets and the composition of all that we see in the solar system.
Two recent studies report new discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system. One study uses NASA data to outline evidence for a dust ring around the Sun at Mercury’s orbit. A second study from NASA identifies the likely source of the dust ring at Venus’ orbit: a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with the planet.
“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” said Marc Kuchner, an author on the Venus study and astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is right in our neighborhood.”
In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)
Another ring around the Sun
Guillermo Stenborg and Russell Howard, both solar scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not set out to find a dust ring. “We found it by chance,” Stenborg said, laughing. The scientists summarized their findings in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 21, 2018.
They describe evidence of a fine haze of cosmic dust over Mercury’s orbit, forming a ring some 9.3 million miles wide. Mercury — 3,030 miles wide, just big enough for the continental United States to stretch across — wades through this vast dust trail as it circles the Sun.
Ironically, the two scientists stumbled upon the dust ring while searching for evidence of a dust-free region close to the Sun. At some distance from the Sun, according to a decades-old prediction, the star’s mighty heat should vaporize dust, sweeping clean an entire stretch of space. Knowing where this boundary is can tell scientists about the composition of the dust itself, and hint at how planets formed in the young solar system.
So far, no evidence has been found of dust-free space, but that’s partly because it would be difficult to detect from Earth. No matter how scientists look from Earth, all the dust in between us and the Sun gets in the way, tricking them into thinking perhaps space near the Sun is dustier than it really is.
Stenborg and Howard figured they could work around this problem by building a model based on pictures of interplanetary space from NASA’s STEREO satellite — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory.
Scientists think planets start off as mere grains of dust. They emerge from giant disks of gas and dust that circle young stars. Gravity and other forces cause material within the disk to collide and coalesce.
(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Ultimately, the two wanted to test their new model in preparation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently flying a highly elliptic orbit around the Sun, swinging closer and closer to the star over the next seven years. They wanted to apply their technique to the images Parker will send back to Earth and see how dust near the Sun behaves.
Scientists have never worked with data collected in this unexplored territory, so close to the Sun. Models like Stenborg and Howard’s provide crucial context for understanding Parker Solar Probe’s observations, as well as hinting at what kind of space environment the spacecraft will find itself in — sooty or sparkling clean.
Two kinds of light show up in STEREO images: light from the Sun’s blazing outer atmosphere — called the corona — and light reflected off all the dust floating through space. The sunlight reflected off this dust, which slowly orbits the Sun, is about 100 times brighter than coronal light.
“We’re not really dust people,” said Howard, who is also the lead scientist for the cameras on STEREO and Parker Solar Probe that take pictures of the corona. “The dust close to the Sun just shows up in our observations, and generally, we have thrown it away.” Solar scientists like Howard — who study solar activity for purposes such as forecasting imminent space weather, including giant explosions of solar material that the Sun can sometimes send our way — have spent years developing techniques to remove the effect of this dust. Only after removing light contamination from dust can they clearly see what the corona is doing.
The two scientists built their model as a tool for others to get rid of the pesky dust in STEREO — and eventually Parker Solar Probe — images, but the prediction of dust-free space lingered in the back of their minds. If they could devise a way of separating the two kinds of light and isolate the dust-shine, they could figure out how much dust was really there. Finding that all the light in an image came from the corona alone, for example, could indicate they’d found dust-free space at last.
Mercury’s dust ring was a lucky find, a side discovery Stenborg and Howard made while they were working on their model. When they used their new technique on the STEREO images, they noticed a pattern of enhanced brightness along Mercury’s orbit — more dust, that is — in the light they’d otherwise planned to discard.
“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” Howard said. “All around the Sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the Sun.”
Scientists never considered that a ring might exist along Mercury’s orbit, which is maybe why it’s gone undetected until now, Stenborg said. “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the Sun to capture a dust ring,” he said. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”
With an unexpected discovery and sensitive new tool under their belt, the researchers are still interested in the dust-free zone. As Parker Solar Probe continues its exploration of the corona, their model can help others reveal any other dust bunnies lurking near the Sun.
Asteroids hiding in Venus’ orbit
This isn’t the first time scientists have found a dust ring in the inner solar system. Twenty-five years ago, scientists discovered that Earth orbits the Sun within a giant ring of dust. Others uncovered a similar ring near Venus’ orbit, first using archival data from the German-American Helios space probes in 2007, and then confirming it in 2013, with STEREO data.
Since then, scientists determined the dust ring in Earth’s orbit comes largely from the asteroid belt, the vast, doughnut-shaped region between Mars and Jupiter where most of the solar system’s asteroids live. These rocky asteroids constantly crash against each other, sloughing dust that drifts deeper into the Sun’s gravity, unless Earth’s gravity pulls the dust aside, into our planet’s orbit.
At first, it seemed likely that Venus’ dust ring formed like Earth’s, from dust produced elsewhere in the solar system. But when Goddard astrophysicist Petr Pokorny modeled dust spiraling toward the Sun from the asteroid belt, his simulations produced a ring that matched observations of Earth’s ring — but not Venus’.
This discrepancy made him wonder if not the asteroid belt, where else does the dust in Venus’ orbit come from? After a series of simulations, Pokorny and his research partner Marc Kuchner hypothesized it comes from a group of never-before-detected asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Venus. They published their work in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 12, 2019.
“I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed,” Kuchner said. If Pokorny and Kuchner can observe them, this family of asteroids could shed light on Earth and Venus’ early histories. Viewed with the right tools, the asteroids could also unlock clues to the chemical diversity of the solar system.
Because it’s dispersed over a larger orbit, Venus’ dust ring is much larger than the newly detected ring at Mercury’s. About 16 million miles from top to bottom and 6 million miles wide, the ring is littered with dust whose largest grains are roughly the size of those in coarse sandpaper. It’s about 10 percent denser with dust than surrounding space. Still, it’s diffuse — pack all the dust in the ring together, and all you’d get is an asteroid two miles across.
Using a dozen different modeling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modeled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations. The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.
“But none of them worked,” Kuchner said. “So, we started making up our own sources of dust.”
Perhaps, the two scientists thought, the dust came from asteroids much closer to Venus than the asteroid belt. There could be a group of asteroids co-orbiting the Sun with Venus — meaning they share Venus’ orbit, but stay far away from the planet, often on the other side of the Sun. Pokorny and Kuchner reasoned a group of asteroids in Venus’ orbit could have gone undetected until now because it’s difficult to point earthbound telescopes in that direction, so close to the Sun, without light interference from the Sun.
Asteroids represent building blocks of the solar system’s rocky planets. When they collide in the asteroid belt, they shed dust that scatters throughout the solar system, which scientists can study for clues to the early history of planets.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)
Co-orbiting asteroids are an example of what’s called a resonance, an orbital pattern that locks different orbits together, depending on how their gravitational influences meet. Pokorny and Kuchner modeled many potential resonances: asteroids that circle the Sun twice for every three of Venus’ orbits, for example, or nine times for Venus’ ten, and one for one. Of all the possibilities, one group alone produced a realistic simulation of the Venus dust ring: a pack of asteroids that occupies Venus’ orbit, matching Venus’ trips around the Sun one for one.
But the scientists couldn’t just call it a day after finding a hypothetical solution that worked. “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works,” Pokorny said. “We got excited, but then you realize, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.'”
They needed to show that the very existence of the asteroids makes sense in the solar system. It would be unlikely, they realized, that asteroids in these special, circular orbits near Venus arrived there from somewhere else like the asteroid belt. Their hypothesis would make more sense if the asteroids had been there since the very beginning of the solar system.
The scientists built another model, this time starting with a throng of 10,000 asteroids neighboring Venus. They let the simulation fast forward through 4.5 billion years of solar system history, incorporating all the gravitational effects from each of the planets. When the model reached present-day, about 800 of their test asteroids survived the test of time.
Pokorny considers this an optimistic survival rate. It indicates that asteroids could have formed near Venus’ orbit in the chaos of the early solar system, and some could remain there today, feeding the dust ring nearby.
The next step is actually pinning down and observing the elusive asteroids. “If there’s something there, we should be able to find it,” Pokorny said. Their existence could be verified with space-based telescopes like Hubble, or perhaps interplanetary space-imagers similar to STEREO’s. Then, the scientists will have more questions to answer: How many of them are there, and how big are they? Are they continuously shedding dust, or was there just one break-up event?
In this illustration, an asteroid breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, a white dwarf star located around 145 light-years away. Scientists think crumbling asteroids supply the dust rings surrounding this old star.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)
Dust rings around other stars
The dust rings that Mercury and Venus shepherd are just a planet or two away, but scientists have spotted many other dust rings in distant star systems. Vast dust rings can be easier to spot than exoplanets, and could be used to infer the existence of otherwise hidden planets, and even their orbital properties.
But interpreting extrasolar dust rings isn’t straightforward. “In order to model and accurately read the dust rings around other stars, we first have to understand the physics of the dust in our own backyard,” Kuchner said. By studying neighboring dust rings at Mercury, Venus and Earth, where dust traces out the enduring effects of gravity in the solar system, scientists can develop techniques for reading between the dust rings both near and far.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.