A Virginia teenager has received an appointment to all four major US military academies, a rare feat he’s been working on since he was a child.
Tim Park of Fairfax, Va. recently received appointment letters for the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., according to USA Today.
Getting into just one military academy is an achievement in itself, since it takes a bit more than having good grades and submitting an application. Applicants need to first receive an official nomination from their congressman (with the exception of the Coast Guard Academy), ace an interview with an officer at the school, and have exceptional grades and civic achievements to boot.
Park told USA Today he was inspired by his own family’s service in and around the military, which began with his grandfather — who was a child during the Korean War. Park’s grandfather, who went on to become a doctor, offered free medical care to Korean War veterans in Pennsylvania.
“What he said is he had a debt of honor he wanted to repay,” Park told USA Today.
Park’s father currently serves in the military in the US Army Reserve. That may explain why he’s leaning toward West Point, the academy in upstate New York that has been commissioning Army officers since 1802.
“I would say when I was about 8 years old, there was a documentary on the History Channel talking about these four service academies and I thought to myself that day, I want to do that,” Park told Fox5 DC.
The United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign in Europe involved thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of crewmen. While there were pilots, crew chiefs, radiomen, bombardiers, and navigators on planes like the B-17, about 40 percent of the crew were aerial gunners.
What did it take to get these specialists ready? In some ways, it didn’t take long – maybe a few weeks. But these gunners had to learn a lot. Maintenance of their machine guns was vitally important. But they also had to learn to hit a moving target – because the Nazi fighters trying to shoot the bombers down were not going to make things easy for them.
So, what did it take to teach gunners how to hit a moving target? Well, for starters, there were lessons on maintenance for both a .30-caliber machine gun (mostly used early in the war) and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and how fix them when they jammed. Then, they had to learn how bullets traveled downrange, and how to adjust for the drop of the bullets from the guns.
When that was done, the trainees were started on full-auto BB guns at an indoor range. Once that was mastered, they then did a lot of skeet shooting with 12-gauge shotguns.
Yep, a popular shooting sport was used to train the folks whose job involved keeping Nazi fighters from shooting down a bomber with ten airmen on board.
The training went on to include live-fire of the machine guns, as well as how the turrets used on planes like the B-17 and B-24 worked. Aircraft recognition — including knowing an enemy fighter’s wingspan — was also very important.
Following that, they took to the air, and learned how to fire the guns while wearing the gear they’d need on board a bomber – including a life vest, parachute, and the helmet.
B-17 gunners wearing bulky sheep-shearling flying clothing to protect against the deadly cold at the altitudes typically flown in Europe. At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (U.S. Air Force photo)
As you can imagine, this included a lot of learning and skills to master. You can see an introductory video for aerial gunners made during World War II below.
Each week during the season, Army West Point Football players wear a decal on the back of their helmet honoring an Army division the current cadets may one day serve with.
During Aug. 30, 2019’s season opener against Rice, the team honored the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division with the red, white, and blue AA decal proudly displayed on the back of their helmets along with the American flag.
The commanding general and command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division attended the game, the division’s chorus performed before the review parade and has become the norm over the last couple years soldiers from the division who are eligible to attend the U.S. Military Academy were invited to visit for the game.
This season marks the third year of the Soldier Visit Program where five to 10 West Point eligible soldiers from the honored division for home games are invited to attend the game and learn more about West Point.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division pose for a photo with their host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after the Army vs. Rice football game at Michie Stadium Aug. 30, 2019, at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Cadet Samuel Wehrli)
The visits are structured much in the same way as an official visit for an athlete being recruited by one of West Point’s corps squad teams. The soldiers arrive the Thursday before the game and are paired with a prior-service cadet currently attending West Point who hosts them for the weekend. The soldiers stay in the barracks with their host cadet, attend classes and eat in the cadet mess hall.
They are also given a tour of both West Point and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and the chance to meet with leadership from both West Point and USMAPS.
They then attend the football game with the corps of cadets and are honored along with division leadership on the field during a break in the game.
The goal of the program is to introduce eligible soldiers, meaning those who are under 23 years old, unmarried and have no dependents, to the possibility of applying to attend West Point.
“I go out to the Army a lot and I’ll talk to command sergeant majors or sergeant first classes who are senior noncommissioned officers and they’ll be like, ‘I had no idea that West Point was an option as a soldier.’ It blows my mind,” Capt. David Mason, the soldiers regional commander and founder of the Soldier Visit Program, said.
As part of each year’s incoming class, West Point has available slots for 85 current active duty soldiers and 85 Reserve/National Guard soldiers. Typically, the full allotment of Reserve/National Guard soldiers are admitted, but less than 50 of the spots for active duty soldiers are filled, Mason said. There are also additional spots available for soldiers to attend the prep school for a year.
According to Capt. Brian Gaudette, an officer in the West Point Directorate of Admissions, on average 53% of prior service applicants are admitted to the academy, a much higher percentage than applicants coming directly from high school.
“They see it as more attainable,” Mason said of the soldiers’ reactions after visiting for a football game. “They learn more about USMAPS because people have this pie in the sky view of what a West Point cadet is, and that it is the all-star captain of the football team, and they’re on all-state and they do all these things. They don’t see themselves as that mold. I think it definitely opens their eyes.”
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point senior enlisted leader during their visit before the Army vs. Rice football game Aug. 30, 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Robert Luna)
Once the soldiers return to their division, even if they don’t end up applying to West Point, the academy still gains a benefit from them telling their friends about the program and spreading the word that West Point is an option for soldiers on active duty.
Pfc. Abdiel Leon was one of 10 soldiers from the 82nd airborne Division to visit for the Rice game. Prior to being invited on the trip, he said he had heard of the prior-service program at West Point but knew next to nothing about it. In the month since being invited, and even before arriving at West Point for the visit, he’d done enough research to compel him to go ahead and apply to the academy.
“So far, after seeing all the things that I saw and all the good opportunities and the things I could do here, I’m definitely going to go through and finish that application,” Leon said. “I never even thought about West Point. I never even thought that I would be given the opportunity. So, now that I was given the opportunity just to even come here, it has definitely changed my mind a lot.”
During the trip, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had the chance to spend time with prior-service cadets, meet with Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the senior enlisted Leader at West Point, and attend a spirit dinner in the cadet mess hall along with going to the season opener for the Black Knights.
“I plan on staying in the Army for 20 years, and there’s no better place to try to stay in than USMA,” Sgt. Levi Aslani said of why he is interested in West Point. “The connections you make here, the opportunities you make, or are given to you, no other place compares.”
Aslani applied to West Point for the Class of 2023 and after not getting in on his first try he is taking this year to improve his application with the hope of being accepted to the prep school for the next academic year. After visiting West Point for the first time, he said his desire to attend West Point has only increased.
“I paired up with a prior service E-5 as well,” Aslani said. “He was in the boat of either staying enlisted or being an officer and he chose the officer route and he’s really reaping the benefits from it.”
The visits are a chance for the soldiers to meet with current cadets who have taken the same path as them and ask questions they couldn’t get answered elsewhere. After being invited to take part in the visit, Pfc. Mackenzie Hochstetler said she talked with officers who are West Point graduates to learn more about the academy. But it was not until she arrived at the academy that she has come to realize why it is special.
“It’s definitely a place that you see a lot of competitiveness,” Hochstetler said. “A lot of times, you don’t really see that in the regular Army, but everyone wants to be the best. I think that’s a really cool atmosphere. I think that’s really important, especially being at West Point and that reputation of being a West Point grad, I kind of understand it now. Because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty prestigious.”
It sometimes seems like military service grants you some sort of extra-sensory bullsh*t detection superpower. This is apparently true in Venezuela, where soldiers were forced to keep a close watch on one another to keep them from deserting as another sham election for the world’s sh*ttiest dictator drew nearer in 2018.
Desertions, rebellions, and treason were rife within its ranks as the army became less and less able to feed and pay its soldiers, much less fight a war with them. The world waited to see what this dumpster fire of a president would do about it.
Nicolas Maduro always looks like he really needs an epi-pen.
When an army is deserting at a rate almost four times as high as previous years, not only does its leadership need to stop the bleeding, but they also need to figure out how to defend their homeland. Nicholas Maduro also needed to figure out how to use them to maintain his grip on power while rigging the 2018 election.
As the soldiers guarding polling places kept an eye out for any terrorists, saboteurs, or actual legal votes, what they probably really thought about is how to ditch that awful job and make more than the two dollars a day the Venezuelan government paid them.
Three faces in this photo are screaming to be anywhere else.
One Sergeant Major who has served for 20 years told Business Insider he hasn’t had a full fridge for a long time. His old Christmas bonus used to buy furniture, clothes, and toys for his family but now can only afford three cartons of eggs and two kilos of sugar. With that kind of depreciation, it’s easy to see why Venezuela is losing more than just a few good men. “President” Maduro blames a conspiracy led by the United States for losing his army – He says the U.S. is planning to invade Venezuela.
If the U.S. intends to invade his country, how will he defend it with a poorly paid, fed, and equipped army? Ask his Grandma to help?
Maduro addressed the entire country, slamming President Donald Trump and the U.S. government for its use of economic force and military threats to force Maduro out of power. He launched a two-day military training exercise, encouraging civilians to enter the armed forces reserve or join civilian militias to help repel a military invasion.
Another means of control are another group of armed civilians, called colectivos. These are fervently pro-Maduro militias who have been trained to keep the local populace in line since the days of Hugo Chavez. Unlike soldiers of Venezuela’s regular Army, there’s nowhere they can defect to: It’s Maduro or death for them.
These civilians are funded by the government and act as a paramilitary group and internal security service. If a military intervention from outside ever does come, they will be systematically hunted down and prosecuted by their fellow Venezuelans for their years of violent reprisals against dissidents and extra-judicial killings.
According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”
The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1
The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.
(Pin Up for Vets)
Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.
She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.
In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.
The result is exceptional.
U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”
Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”
While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.
We all know Nine Line Apparel. We wear the gear, we have seen the amazing social media content and perhaps most importantly, we have seen them support the veteran community time and time again.
Well they are coming in clutch once again.
Nine Line announced that they will be shifting operations to produce and distribute masks for doctors and nurses who are working around the clock to care for Americans during the coronavirus outbreak that has gripped the nation. There has been a shortage of masks across the country; hospitals have resorted to using ultraviolet light to ‘clean’ and reuse masks. The most commonly used mask, the N95 mask, is supposed to be used only once. Every time a doctor or nurse sees a patient, they are supposed to discard the mask and use a new one for a different patient.
One big issue is that a lot of masks are being sent from China. With the high demand of masks combined with pricing changes from Chinese manufacturers, there is now a scarcity for nurses and doctors. Masks that used to cost just 70 cents are now being billed at each. And the materials to make the mask that cost ,000 a ton have now seen an increase to 0,000 a ton according to Nine Line Apparel founder and CEO Tyler Merritt.
According to a statement Nine Line put out, the estimated number of masks needed in the next few months will be between 1.7 and 3 billion, but the country currently has a stockpile that only numbers in the millions.
Merritt went on Fox and Friends to discuss what Nine Line was planning on doing.
This outbreak strikes close to home for Merritt, like many Americans.
“I’m an engineer, I’m also a former Army officer, I’m also a member of the special operations community, I’m also the son of a person who will die if he contracts this, I’m also the son of a nurse, I’m also the father of children who could potentially die,” said Merritt. “So, this is not about money. This is about coming together, cutting through the red tape. This is also about identifying those horrible, massive conglomerates that are hoarding materials.” Partnering with Bella+Canvas out of Los Angeles, Nine Line is working to circumvent the red tape from the government as well as corporate conglomerates who may be using this pandemic for financial gain.
Merritt’s vision is to create and sell (at cost) a mask similar or better than the N95 mask and distribute the Personal Protective Equipment to hospitals and health care workers around the country. This mask would be made out of apparel fabric and would be created by both Bella+Canvas and Nine Line using the equipment that makes those awesome shirts that you and I wear.
Nine Line says they can shift operations and create up to 10 million masks in the next few weeks but are limited by waiting on the FDA. They are looking for help from the federal government to speed up testing of their mask and approve it so they can mass produce it and get them to hospitals ASAP.
Nine Line does have a mask (not for hospital use) that is selling to the public which can be purchased here.
Thanks for thinking outside the box and once again, doing your best to serve the public, Nine Line! Bravo.
As an overseas hub for U.S. military bases, Okinawa, Japan is known among troops for its beautiful coastline, hot and humid weather, and a unique fusion food simply referred to as TRC.
“Tacos had already been introduced to Okinawa by the Americans, but it was more like a snack – not very filling for Americans. And it was something you couldn’t find at a restaurant,” Parlor Senri restaurant’s Sayuri Shimabukuro Shimabukuro told Stripes Okinawa. “Matsuzo decided to substitute the taco shell with rice, which is relatively faster to cook and also filling. Parlor Senri’s customers were 100 percent Americans, and in order for the wait staff to explain the dish, he named it taco rice.”
TRC, or “Taco, Rice, and Cheese,” — a Mexican-Japanese fusion dish that exists only because of the U.S. military presence on the island — is most simply put, a giant taco salad with rice instead of the taco shell. First introduced on the island in 1984, it’s now a staple among U.S. service-members stationed there.
The dish is so popular among troops that most shops that serve it are literally walking distance from the base gates. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to it.
There’s considerable debate among shop owners as to who came up with TRC first. According to Stripes Okinawa, multiple shops in Kin (the town outside Camp Hansen) claim it was their idea. But while we’re trying to figure out who cooked it first, you can always make it yourself at home.
Some people prefer holsters made from Kydex. Others would rather use a rig made from the skin of a dead beast (sad face).
Either way, a good holster isn’t just important to have; if you’re gonna go heeled, it’s vital. Sure, sometimes you don’t have a choice (like you poor bastards what hafta use Serpas), but when you do, you should make an informed, intelligent decision.
Here are threeholsters released recently for your consideration. Note that this is a gear porn bulletin, a public service for those of you epistemophiliacs out there who want to Know Things. It’s neither a review nor a denunciation.
These Glock 17 holsters are open-bottomed (just how we like a bottom to be) and will fit a KKM compensated barrel.
They’re built from .09 Boltoron for Glocks with the X300U aboard; they’re for AIWB carry and utilize IWB (that’s “inside the waistband” for you youngins out there) and softloops or overhooks.
These are an adjustable depth, one piece design built with the seam on top of your slide. This is intended to keep the part that touches your inner leg rounded and smooth — because you don’t want it rough or scratchy unless you’re going for a mustache ride, right? These holsters are available for right or left-handed carry and are handmade in the distant reaches of faraway Ohio. They will fit G17s, G23s, or G34s, and they make use of the RCS (Raven Concealment Systems) claw to help minimize printing.
Gonna carry a blaster? You’re going to want to gas it up. You can do that with one of Bawidamann Industry’s “Uber CC Mag carriers.”
Why? Because, as Andrew Bawidamann says (and we’re not making this up), “…you never know if the exotic woman on your bed is the high priced whore you asked for or an assassin.”
Finally, someone besides us gets it.
Find Bawidamann Industries holsters here and mag pouches for concealed carry are here.
Bawidamann Industries is on Instagram, @bawidamann_industries, but you’d do better to follow Andrew personally, @abawidamann. On Facebook at /bawidamannindustries/.
2. DeSantis Thigh Hide — Guns and Garters
Next up, the DeSantis Gunhide Thigh-Hide. We like this for all sorts of reasons, though admittedly none of our minions have actually tried one.
First, it can be used to carry concealed by women who otherwise might resort to off-body carry (not our preferred method at all, though off-body gun is admittedly better than no gun). Second, it has removable straps to attach it to a garter belt.
Now, this looks like it’d only be truly useful in a skirt- or kilt-wearing situation, and it’s possible it would present the same sort of problems a traditional thigh rig does (serious, it’s not the 90s anymore, quit using them unless you have to)…but it is something worth looking at.
The images on the DeSantis Gunhide website seem to indicate it’s intended for a cross-draw situation, which is less than ideal. If we wind up giving one a try we’ll see if that’s mandatory or an option. They make ’em for something like 30 different firearm manufacturers, usually with multiple models of each. The MSRP is $59.95
Meantime, for more information check out the product page right here or an informative video below:
Plus, Gene DeSantis dual-wields shotties…
That’s enough reason to look at his gear right there. You can check out DeSantis on Facebook here if you’re so inclined, or follow them on Instagram: @desantisholster.
3.Comp-Tack L Line — Lasers and Lights
Lastly, we’ll take a quick look at the new L series holster from Comp-Tac. Coming to you in any color you want (as long as it’s black), the L-Line is a sorta universal: right- or left-handed, strong side modular pancake holster for pistols with WMLs attached.
The L-Line will fit (or so Comp-Tac tells us) blasters with Surefire XC-1, Crimson Trace 201/206, Lasermax Micro, and the TruGlo Micro Tac, but not (not) this thing:
More on that here, if you’re interested — it’s real.
The current L-Line (presumably they’re going to expand it) has adjustable tension and will will fit the Sig P250/320 9.40/45 all lengths and the XD 9/40/45 in all lengths, as well as an assortment of SW MPs and Walthers. It ships with multiple mounting clips (because if you’re like us you like to mount in all sorts of different ways) and is optics-ready. It’s also open at the bottom to accommodate a threaded barrel. MSRP is $79.99.
We like it when the colors match. (Photo: Comp-Tac)
We don’t have much in the way of imagery. Their social media presence kinda sucks balls (like, 793 1/2 posts about Black Friday) and there wasn’t much presented in the press release that went out — don’t let that stop you from giving their gear a look, however.
They’re on Facebook and on Twitter as well (@comptac).
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Airman Natalie Gaston, a 374th Medical Support Squadron bioenvironmental technician, simulates using an ADM 300, an instrument that measures radiation in the air, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 1, 2016. Bioenvironmental engineering first responders use an ADM 300 to protect them from possible contamination while taking samples.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from the flightline at Souda Bay, Greece, Feb. 1, 2016, during a flying training deployment. The training included more than 15 aircraft launches a day as part of the training between the U.S. and Hellenic air forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct sling load operations with UH-60 helicopters from 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry division, part of an artillery raid during Exercise Allied Spirit IV at 7th Army JMTC’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 26, 2016.
A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, provides security using his M240B machine gun during a unit reconnaissance patrol, part of Allied Spirit IV, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 20, 2016.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division, attach a M119A3 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade during sling load operations, part of a division artillery readiness test at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 20, 2016.
TOKYO BAY, Japan (Feb. 05, 2015) Sailors, aboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775), moor the boat to the pier. Texas is visiting Yokosuka for a port visit. U.S. Navy port visits represent an important opportunity to promote stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, demonstrate commitment to regional partners and foster growing relationships.
NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan 30, 2016) –Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Timothy Dunkel directs a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) fire drill in the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is forward-deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operation.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 26, 2016) Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Maxell Reynolds, from Palm Springs, California, takes part in a command swim call aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53). Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Mobile Bay, assigned to the Stennis strike group, is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, radio in a CH-53E Super Stallion as part of their avalanche scenario at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California Jan. 20, 2016. Marines across II MEF and 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade took part in the scenario as part of Mountain Exercise 1-16 in preparation for Exercise Cold Response 16.1 in Norway this March. The exercise will feature military training including maritime, land and air operations that underscore NATO’s ability to defend against any threat in any environment.
A Light Armored Vehicle with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, take part in a mechanized assault course (MAC) during Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Jan. 28, 2016. The training was conducted to strengthen unit coordination and maneuvers during mechanized assaults.
Coast Guard crews routinely train to respond to emergency situations they may encounter while underway. Fire aboard a cutter can cause mass casualties or total loss of the vessel, but proper training can help crewmembers to quickly and safely save lives and the ship.
The Marine Corps is most famous for stripping away one’s individuality at boot camp and spitting recruits out 13 weeks later as Marines, formed into bands of brothers (and sisters).
But those bonds were tested when some of its strongest, toughest competitors battled one other in the second-annual High-Intensity Tactical Training Tactical Athlete Championship. When the dust settled after the fourth day of competition, the top male and female Marines were crowned “Ultimate Tactical Athlete.”
Sgt. Calie Jacobsen chewed up the final obstacle course event and took the top prize among 13 women who competed along 19 men to vie for bragging rights in the Aug. 15-18 service-wide competition at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, California.
Jacobsen, 23, a nondestructive inspection technician at Miramar, spent eight weeks preparing for the championship and held the lead going into the final event, the obstacle course. The other women wouldn’t make that easy, but it was her strongest event. “I wasn’t planning on winning. I just wanted to go out there and do good,” she said. “The females definitely were at a higher level than I was expecting to see.”
Jacobsen and the male winner, Cpl. Ethan Mawhinney, each received a championship belt and 53-pound kettle bell.
Mawhinney, a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, beat 18 other male Marines in his second shot at the service championship. He placed sixth last year in the inaugural contest. “I trained a lot harder for the prelims this year,” said the Marine air-ground task force planner from Camp Allen, Virginia. Winning “was surreal. I had left last year really hoping to take the title.”
HITT is like CrossFit, but for and by Marines. That means using brute strength, endurance and determination to survive tactical battles against fellow Marines on the athletic field, in the water and on the paintball battlefield.
“Competition was tough,” said Lance Cpl. Isaac Namowicz, an admin clerk with Marine Security Guard headquarters and this year’s Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia, HITT champ. “There’s a lot of passion.”
Marines traded tips and even encouraged each other during the championship, but each had a mission: Win. “You’re a brother, but at the same time, you are trying to beat everyone,” Mawhinney admitted. That included the male 2015 Ultimate Tactical Athlete, Cpl. Joshua Boozer.
Boozer, ammo tech with 1st Tank Battalion at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was champ this year at his home base but met his match at Miramar.
“It’s not easy competition,” he said, catching his breath after enduring the “500 Yard Power Shuffle” where competitors did nearly a dozen events including tire flips, box jumps, dummy carry, weighted sled pull and push and a variety of weight lifts — on a sweltering athletic field. It was the longest event, time-wise.
The Marine Corps organized its first HITT competition last year, held at Twentynine Palms. Like last year, Marines learned events’ details at the start of the competition, so they didn’t really know what they’d face.
Ryan Massimo, the Corps’ HITT program manager and event coordinator, said the intent is to include some base-specific events – this year’s “Maneuver Under Fire” took place at Miramar’s paintball park – with physical challenges that reflect the strength and conditioning program. Last year, the run up and down the desert base’s hills while lugging heavy items made “sugar cookies” of a weakened competitor.
This year’s championship included a timed water event, the “Amphibious Tactical Challenge.” Competitors in boots and utes swam multiple laps bearing their pack and rubber rifle, and then they traversed the pool, diving and ducking with a pack under markers before cranking out 10 (men) or 5 (women) pushups wearing the pack. “It did definitely throw a curve ball for some people,” Mawhinney said.
Namowicz said he struggled in the pool.
“I was not expecting all that weight. It felt like cinder blocks,” he said. “My upper body was getting tired.”
At times, he’d talk to himself as he pushed weighted sleds or carried 35-pound ammo cans and 120-pound dummies in the sweltering heat. “I just kept saying, ‘Finish this.’ You have people in the stands pushing you, and it just keeps you motivated,” he said. “You just want to be done.”
Jacobsen hadn’t real plans to become competitive until the Miramar HITT Center coordinator encouraged her to the local HITT combine challenge. “I didn’t know how big it was, that it was Marine Corps-wide,” said the Nebraska native. “We just went in unassuming.”
And she finished first among the women, getting the ticket to compete against other installation winners for the championship.
She’s a HITT convert. The isolation workout she previously did for weightlifting “isn’t applicable to everyday life,” she said. Interval training demands endurance and strength and “is a lot more applicable to everyday life. That’s definitely changed my mindset.”
Thin crowds watched this year’s competition, but Jacobsen said she was glad to see her station commander and sergeant major on the sidelines. “It’s an awesome event, and it needs to be more widely broadcast,” she said.
It’s certainly not as well-known as the military’s most famous tactical-physical competition, the “Best Ranger.”
The 60-hour event at Fort Benning, Georgia, pits Army Rangers against each other in two-man teams to test their skills, including land navigation, small-arms firing, obstacles and, in true Ranger style, parachuting.
Not to be outdone, Marines run the less-known but still grueling and gung-ho “Recon Challenge” at Camp Pendleton, California. After a predawn swim in the Pacific, two-man Marine Recon and Marine Raider (and Navy recon corpsmen) teams run in boots-and-utes with rucksack and weapon, enduring a nonstop series of grueling events in the pool, on the range and along Pendleton’s roller-coaster scrubby hills.
A close parallel to the HITT championship may be the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition, a four-day contest where soldiers complete tactical challenges, written exams and fitness events in more battlefield-like environments. The top 10 soldiers and 10 noncommissioned officers who’ve bested their local competitors will vie for the title at this year’s contest, to be held Sept. 26-Oct. 3 at Fort A.P. Hill, Virgina. The Army National Guard held its own contest on June 22 at Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Events included a 14-mile ruck march.
The Air Force’s 1st Air Support Operations Group put airmen through grueling individual challenges and 22 events over a week in July for “Cascade Challenge 2016.”
The contest, held at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska this year included navigating the wild Alaskan forests with body armor and 50-pound rucksack.
The Navy takes a different tack in sailor competition. Its surface fleet of destroyer, cruiser and frigate crews each year showcase their athletic and professional naval skills during “Surface Line Week.” Sailors went toe-to-toe in firefighting drills, valve packing, welding, small-arms shooting, sailing and stretcher-bearer races. Team events include dodgeball and soccer, so fun is the operative word.
The future Baseball Hall of Fame first baseman and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson was a young lieutenant facing court-martial in August 1944 for refusing to give up his seat on a bus near Camp Hood, Texas, while training as a tanker.
The segregation situation at Camp Hood was arguably one of the worst for black service members in the country. The civilian buses contracted to work the routes onto and off of post were fully segregated as were nearly all of the base facilities. While there for training, Robinson had fairly regular confrontations with other officers over racial issues on the base.
Robinson was assigned to a black armored unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, as a second lieutenant. He was one of the few black officers in a unit with mostly white leadership.
On July 6, 1944, near the end of a two-year training pipeline, Robinson took a seat on a civilian bus next to a white woman on Camp Hood and the driver ordered him to move to the back of the bus.
Robinson refused and the military police were called to arrest him. While waiting for the MPs and again at the camp’s provost marshall office, Robinson was called “nigger” by both civilians and military personnel whom he outranked.
Angry from his treatment and frustrated at the rampant discrimination on the post, Robinson refused to wait in the provost marshal’s office and was escorted to the hospital under guard and under protest.
The prosecution did not charge Robinson for his actions on the bus, but they did charge him for disrespecting a military police captain and for disobeying an order from the same captain.
His trial opened on Aug. 2 and ran for 17 days. Bates testified that Robinson was an outstanding officer. Bates even told the military panel that Robinson was traveling on the bus on July 6 at his request. Robinson had reported to a civilian hospital for a medical evaluation to see if he could ship out to Europe with the 761st.
Meanwhile Robinson’s defense attorney, Capt. William A. Cline, managed to highlight inconsistencies in the prosecution’s witness testimonies and prove that Robinson’s actions only took place after he was repeatedly disrespected by lower-ranking soldiers.
Gunner Cpl. Carlton Chapman of the 761st Tank Battalion poses in his M4 Sherman tank near Nancy, France, Nov. 5, 1944. (Photo: National Archives)
The defense won its case and Robinson was freed. Rather than fight to rejoin the 761st or train with the 758th, he decided to accept the Army’s assessment that he should be medically retired from service due to a bone chip in his ankle that sometimes caused the joint to seize up.
BRUSSELS — EU monitors have identified a “trilateral convergence of disinformation narratives” being promoted by China, Iran, and Russia on the coronavirus pandemic and say they are being “multiplied” in a coordinated manner, according to an internal document seen by RFE/RL.
The document, which is dated 20 April, says common themes are that the coronavirus is a biological weapon created in the United States to bring down opponents and that China, Iran, and Russia “are doing much better than the West” in fighting the epidemic.
It also states that Iranian leaders — amplified by Russian media — continue calling for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Iran, claiming that they are undermining the country’s humanitarian and medical response to COVID-19.
The document says this is part of a wider Russian, Iranian, and Chinese “convergence” calling for a lifting of sanctions on Russia, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela — all countries that have seen U.S. economic sanctions against them increase under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
In the case of Syria, the COVID-19 disinformation is used “to reinforce an anti-EU narrative that claims the bloc is perpetrating an “economic war” on the Middle Eastern country.
The 25-page document was written by the strategic communications division of the European diplomatic corps, the European External Action Service (EEAS).
It is a follow-up to an April report stating that Russia and China are deploying a campaign of disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic that could have “harmful consequences” for public health around the world.
The new report says Russia and to a lesser extent China continue to amplify “conspiracy narratives” aimed at both public audiences in the EU and the wider neighborhood. It further notes that official Russian sources and state media continue running a coordinated campaign aimed at undermining the EU and its crisis response and at sowing confusion about the health implications of COVID-19.
The document also states that most of the content identified by the EEAS continues to proliferate widely on social-media services such as Twitter and Facebook. It alleges that Google and other services that deliver advertisements “continue to monetise and incentivise harmful health disinformation by hosting paid ads on respective websites.”
Representatives of those companies did not immediately respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment.
According to analysis by the team, disinformation about the virus is going particularly viral in smaller media markets both inside and outside the EU in which technology giants “face lower incentives to take adequate countermeasures.”
It adds that false or highly misleading content in languages such as Czech, Russian, and Ukrainian continues to go viral even when it has been flagged by local fact-checkers.
With the use of a massive ship and a cover story involving billionaire Howard Hughes, the CIA pulled off one of the most epic heists of the Cold War during the 1970s.
The story begins in 1968, with the sinking of a Soviet submarine. In September of that year, the nuclear-armed K-129 and all of its crew sank 16,500 feet to the bottom of the Pacific ocean. The Soviets conducted an unsuccessful search over the next two months — and that’s where the CIA comes in.
After the Soviet Navy failed to pinpoint the location of the wreckage, the US Navy found it. So the CIA decided to raise it off the seabed. They called this mission “Project Azorian,” and its details have been an official secret for decades. It took three years for retired CIA employee David Sharp to get permission to publish in 2012 his account of the mission and his role.
Onboard the sub were live nukes, secret documents, electronics, and cryptography equipment that could help the Americans crack Soviet codes, according to Maritime Reporter. But the CIA couldn’t just build a massive recovery ship emblazoned with “US Navy” on its side and get to work in the middle of the Pacific. The Soviets would be very suspicious.
Long before the CIA concocted the fake movie “Argo” to rescue hostages in Iran, it brilliantly bullsh–ted the Soviets with the help of an eccentric billionaire. The agency approached Howard Hughes, and recruited his help in providing the cover story: The ship, called the Glomar Explorer, would be conducting marine research “at extreme ocean depths and mining manganese nodules lying on the sea bottom. The ship would have the requisite stability and power to perform the task at hand,” according to the CIA’s account of the operation.
The massive 618-foot-long ship took four years to build, and was incredibly complicated. Meanwhile, Hughes was talking up the mining effort in the press, enjoying headlines like “SECRET PLAN: HUGHES TO MINE OCEAN FLOOR.”
While Moscow had no idea what was going on, in August 1974 the Explorer wrapped its mechanical claw around the K-129 and began raising it up from its three-mile depth. Unfortunately, the operation did not go exactly as planned: As it neared 9,000 feet below the surface, the claw failed and a large part of K-129 broke apart and fell, according to PRI. But the CIA still managed to bring up the ship’s bow, with the bodies of six Russian sailors.
The CIA could have given it another try (and planned on it) if it had time to build a new claw, except the secret operation was exposed in the press shortly after Hughes’ L.A. headquarters had a break-in. The thieves had stolen a number of secret documents, one of which linked Hughes, Glomar, and the CIA. The Los Angeles Times broke the story in 1975.
There’s are a few interesting post-scripts to the story. The bodies of the Russian sailors were buried at sea in a secret ceremony, video of which was later shared with the Soviets in 1992 as a gesture of goodwill. And the Glomar Explorer was later bought by TransOcean and converted for deepwater oil drilling, though it’s soon headed to the scrapyard after 40 years of service.
But perhaps most famously, the incident highlighted the CIA’s standard “Glomar Response,” an incredible non-answer that has annoyed everyone from average Joes to journalists alike: “We can neither confirm or deny the existence of such an operation.”
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.