U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.
“America will always be the first in space,” Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.
“My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” Trump said. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led.”
While the United States has dominated in space since the 1969 moon landing, China recently has made significant advances, while Russia — which at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1950s had the world’s most advanced space progam — recently has mostly stagnated amid budget cutbacks.
Trump said he wants to stay ahead of strategic competitors like China and Russia, but he said he wants to nurture the space ambitions of private billionaires like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the Blue Origin space company.
(Photo by JD Lasica)
“Rich guys seem to like rockets,” Trump said. “As long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good, they can beat us,” he said. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”
In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new American “Space Force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. military — a proposal that requires congressional approval and is opposed by some legislators.
“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said.
The U.S. armed forces currently consists of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.
The Pentagon, where some high-level officials have voiced skepticism about establishing a separate Space Force, said it will work with Congress on Trump’s directive.
“Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
Since his election, Trump has repeatedly vowed to send people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 — this time, he says, as a preparatory step for the first human missions to Mars in coming decades.
He has also promised fewer regulations to make it easier for private industry to explore and colonize space.
The U.S. commercial space sector already is booming under NASA policies that have shifted the role of the government away from being the sole builder and launcher of rockets for decades since the 1960s.
The U.S. space agency now mostly sees its role as working with private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new space capabilities and carry them out.
SpaceX, which NASA currently pays to take cargo to the International Space Station, and Boeing are expected to start regular astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit in 2018.
Since 2012, when NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the U.S. space agency has also relied on Russian Soyuz spaceships to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.
Trump has said he wants to privatize the space station after 2025 — another idea viewed as controversial in Congress — so Washington can spend more on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
“This time, we will establish a long-term presence” on the moon, Trump said on June 18, 2018.
NASA is working with private industry on its most powerful rocket ever, called the Space Launch System, to send astronauts and their equipment to the moon and one day, Mars. It also wants to build a lunar outpost.
While seeking to create a new Space Force at the Pentagon, Trump also signed a directive on June 18, 2018, handing the Pentagon’s current authority to regulate private satellites to the Commerce Department.
He also issued a directive on space-traffic management, which is aimed at boosting the monitoring of objects in orbit so as to avoid collisions and debris strikes.
A statement released by the White House said the move “seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.”
The Defense Department says there are 20,000 pieces of space debris and 800 operational U.S. satellites circling the Earth, a number that grows every year.
When Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger posthumously received a Medal of Honor for his valor and sacrifice during the Vietnam War, retired Air Force Pararescueman SMSgt John Pighini was at the ceremony.
In March 1966, Pitsenbarger was killed in action after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue Army infantrymen pinned down by the enemy during Operation Abilene during the Vietnam War. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions, but the men he saved never forgot what his sacrifice meant.
After 34 years, his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in a ceremony that took place on Dec. 8, 2000, just in time for Pitsenbarger’s father to accept the medal on his son’s behalf.
Nearly 20 years later, The Last Full Measure tells the story of Pitsenbarger’s heroism and the efforts it took to present him with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States of America.
The film recreates the moving Medal of Honor ceremony. John Pighini was there for that, too, which is how his filmmaking journey began.
This is the true story that inspired The Last Full Measure
“We’d known about the movie for years — it took almost 20 years to get it done. They’d always told us [members of the pararescue community] we could be in the remake of the Medal of Honor ceremony,” Pighini recalled. While there he noticed some military details that weren’t quite correct — so he spoke up and found the director and crew willing to listen and make adjustments.
Director Todd Robinson quickly recognized that Pighini was a valuable resource for his film. Pighini served in Vietnam after graduating from his pararescue training program in November 1966. He would earn a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his rescue missions during the war. He would also serve as the first pararescue superintendent for the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and he now serves as vice president of the Pararescue Association.
So, he knows a thing or two about providing medical aid on the battlefield and combat in Southeast Asia.
Todd Robinson, Jeremy Irvine, August Blanco Rosenstein, John Pighini on set for The Last Full Measure in Thailand, 2017. (Photo by Eddie Rosenstein)
His unique experience made him a particularly helpful resource for creating accuracy for the film. “I taught combat medicine so I was very much in tune with setting up exercises and working with people to ensure everything is done correctly. I was also involved in helicopter operations for so many years,” Pighini stated. He was brought on to film on location with the cast and crew as they shot the Vietnam scenes for the film.
Of course, anyone who has worked on a film knows that it isn’t always possible to be completely accurate. Budget limitations or storytelling choices will often take precedence.
“The important thing was that we told Pits’ story and it resonated with people. There are those who point out that we didn’t have the right helicopter, but there was only one 43 [Kaman HH-43F] and the guy just wouldn’t let it go so we used the Huey [Bell UH-1 Iriquois]. But the movie wasn’t about the Hueys, it was about Pits. It was about going down and saving lives, knowing full well what was coming his way that night. It was about our creed: these things we do that others may live,” Pighini reflected.
When I asked him about the idea of heroism, Pighini grew solemn. “Pararescuemen…it’s in your blood. Like nurses and doctors — when people want to help people, it’s a calling. To me, it was always about saving a life. I didn’t feel like I was being a hero. The guys that gave the last full measure…they’re the heroes.”
The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21
In late October, two inaugural events brought members of the military entrepreneurial community together in Dallas and the Bay Area. On Oct. 23-24, the Military Influencer Conference hosted hundreds of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs and community leaders that are dedicated to supporting the military. Just a day later, on Oct. 25, Bunker Labs hosted their inaugural Bay Area Muster as part of their Muster Across America Tour.
I had the opportunity to attend the stand-out session of each event, the Shark Tank Survivors Panel. The panels consisted of veterans and military spouses who not only lived to tell the tale of surviving ABC’s Shark Tank, but also walked away with a partnership agreement with business legend, Mark Cuban.
Members of the Shark Tank Survivor Panel at the Military Influencer Conference Oct. 23 included veterans Eli Crane, Founder of Bottle Breacher, Matthew “Griff” Griffin, Founder of Combat Flip Flops, and military spouses Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley, Co-Founders of R. Riveter. Glenn Banton, CEO of Operation Supply Drop, moderated the panel. Two days later, at the Bay Area Muster hosted by Bunker Labs on Oct. 25, I saw Eli and Griff at it again along with and an additional veteran entrepreneur, Kim Jung, CEO of Rumi Spice. Tristan Flannery, co-founder of Zero Hour Media, moderated the Bay Area panel.
Post Shark Tank Success
All four of these start-ups enjoyed wild success after they struck deals on their episodes of ABC’s Shark Tank. However, their AARs of Shark Tank ran deeper than just telling the audience about the deals they landed or how intimidating Mark Cuban can be when he peppers you with questions.
Instead, the Shark Tank Survivors shared their intimate stories with the audience. They shared how they bootstrapped their companies from the ground up in their garages and basements. They explained the realities of entrepreneur life and described their after-show successes. While panel members shared their successes with the audience, they also shared failures and what they learned along the way. Matt “Griff” Griffin, CEO of Combat Flip Flops, revealed supply chain issues he had even after the show.
“Being a part of the panel enables several veteran-owned businesses to share those lessons in the hopes of propelling other veteran entrepreneurs to success,” he said. He expanded, “Shark Tank pushes the limits of any business–marketing, sales, and operations. Through that experience, we learned many lessons, enabling us to be more effective leaders.”
The Warrior Class has what it Takes to Succeed
The back-to-back Shark Tank panels demonstrated how the climate of the military entrepreneurial community is changing. Veterans and military spouses experience adversity, each in their own way. However, when they come out on the other end, they’ve grown, they’ve learned, and they’re poised to do big things. These panels were a perfect example of veteran entrepreneurs showing future entrepreneurs of the military community that they are capable of going after their dreams.
Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher shared his thoughts on the Military Influencer Conference. “I think it was a great conference. They definitely brought in some serious firepower in various verticals.” He added, “all boats rise with the tide and I personally think this country could use way more veterans in influential positions.”
The Shark Tank panelists embody exactly what Crane mentions above. They are showing the American public that veterans and military spouses have what it takes to be successful as entrepreneurs. Hand-outs and sympathy are not what they need; they want a chance to put their skills to the test. They’re not just satisfied with their own personal successes either. They are supporting their peers and showing that the military community is strongest when it works together.
Eli Crane stressed the importance of veteran entrepreneurs mentoring within the military community. He said, “when we exit the service and become successful, it’s imperative that we turn around and guide our brothers and sisters who are behind us looking to do the same.”
Innovating Giving Back
All four of these companies share another unique trait in that they are impactful beyond just the success of their physical products. Their products are unique and innovative, but they are literally changing lives at home and around the world.
Two of the Shark Tank survivors are changing the way people look at American manufacturing. When things get stressful, Eli from Bottle Breacher explained, “we don’t just call up China and increase our order.” Bottle Breacher products are 100% made in the United States and have a 25% veteran hiring rate. Likewise, every R. Riveter bag creates mobile and flexible income for military families through their network of military spouse “riveters.”
Similarly, two other panelist saw the opportunity to manufacture commercial products for peace, where there had once been war. For every pair of Combat Flip Flops sold, a girl in Afghanistan goes to school for a day. Rumi Spice employs private farmers to grow their saffron. They are currently the largest private employer of Afghan women in the world.
Respect, commitment, and working towards a higher purpose are standard behaviors among the military community. These Shark Tank survivors demonstrated to the audience exactly what can happen with persistence, passion, and a lot of grit.
Russia’s armed forces are gearing up for Vostok-18, or East-18, a massive military exercise in the country’s far east from Sept. 11-15, 2018.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in August 2018 that about 300,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft would participate, using all of the training ranges in the country’s central and eastern military districts. Russia’s Pacific and Northern fleets and its airborne forces are also expected to join.
Shoigu said 2018’s iteration of the Vostok exercise would be “unprecedented in scale, both in terms of area of operations and numbers of military command structure, troops, and forces involved.”
But the size of the forces involved is not the only feature that has turned heads.
Forces from China and Mongolia also plan to take part. Beijing has said it will send about 3,200 troops, 30 helicopters, and more than 900 other pieces of military hardware.
China’s Defense Ministry said the drills were meant to strengthen the two countries’ strategic military partnership and increase their ability to respond to threats and ensure stability in the region.
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said China’s participation “speaks about the expansion of interaction of the two allies in all the spheres.”
Chinese forces have already joined their Russian counterparts in some military exercises.
Chinese warships have drilled with their Russian counterparts in the Pacific Ocean and the Baltic Sea. In summer 2018 Chinese warplanes were in Russia for International Army Games 2018, a multinational event.
August 2018, Chinese forces are taking part in Peace Mission 2018, an exercise organized by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional bloc led by Russia and China. (It’s the first exercise to include all eight SCO members.)
China’s Jian-10 fighter jet
But including China in the Vostok exercise hints at a significant geopolitical shift.
“China was seen as the potential threat or target in exercises like Vostok,” Alexander Gabuev, an expert on China at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told The New York Times.
“But it is now being invited to join as a friend and even a quasi-ally,” Gabuev added. “This is really unprecedented.”
The Soviet Union clashed with China along their shared border several times in the 1960s — once in a deadly Chinese raid on a Soviet border outpost that almost kicked off a full-scale war in early 1969.
The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev normalized relations with China in 1989, and some 6 million Russians in Siberia now live alongside roughly 100 million Chinese in northern China, where trade relations have grown.
But eastern Russia’s vast expanse and sparse population make it a vulnerable area, and Russians there have expressed frustration with the growing Chinese presence and with concessions to Chinese commercial interests.
Amid heightened tensions with the West, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a concerted effort to build ties with China. Beijing, for its part, has also embraced Russia. Both have done so with an eye on the West.
United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Valdimir Putin.
The two have said they are building a “strategic partnership” and expressed shared opposition to what they describe as a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.
China’s defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, went to Moscow early 2018 on his first trip abroad, saying the visit was meant to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”
“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” Wei said.
That rhetoric and statements about close ties don’t mean that Russia has dropped its guard, Gabuev said, noting that Chinese troops at Vostok-18 may be limited to training areas near the countries’ shared border with Mongolia, allowing Russian forces deployed elsewhere to carry out exercises designed with China in mind.
The Russian military “is not so naive that it is not preparing a contingency plan,” Gabuev told The Times.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Alleen Cooper’s son Larry was serving in Vietnam during that war — and, like many mothers who children have served in wartime, she set him letters. Her son returned from the war, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but she hasn’t stopped writing.
In fact, according to WHNT.com, her son was not the first serviceman overseas to get a letter. She began writing troops during World War II.
“A lot of soldiers don’t get any mail at all,” Larry Cooper told WHNT.com, adding that Mrs. Cooper’s mission is personal.
According to WGNTV.com, since she started keeping count six years ago, Mrs. Cooper, a 98-year-old grandmother from California, has written over 7,000 letters by hand, and all of them have been unique and at least four pages long. And let’s just repeat the fact that she’s been doing this since World War II, folks.
Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, she connected with one of the servicemen she had written, Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Cantos. When Cantos deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, his unit had no internet access. Their only lifeline was what gets derisively called “snail mail.”
“She would always send us clippings and jokes. She would tell us about her day,” Cantos told WHNT.com.
One of the other troops who received a letter was a wounded soldier in the hospital. He had lost an ear, and needed to get a new one.
“All of the time I think of these people and their families at home,” Mrs. Cooper told WHNT.com.
These days, she will admit her hands are getting tired. But she will keep writing the troops for as long as she can.
The new red, white, and blue paint job would be a change from the light blue color scheme designed by President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, in the 1960s and which has appeared on every presidential aircraft since.
On October 19, 1962, Boeing delivered a highly modified version of the civilian 707-320B airliner with the serial number 62-26000. It would be tasked with Special Air Missions and get the call sign “SAM Two-six-thousand.”
It was the first jet aircraft built specifically for the US president, and when he was on board the call sign changed to “Air Force One,” which was adopted in 1953 for use by planes carrying the president.
The SAM 26000 would carry eight presidents in its 36-year career — Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton — as well as countless heads of state, diplomats, and dignitaries.
Below, you can take a tour of the SAM 26000, which is now on display at the National Museum of the Air Force and which one Air Force historian said could justifiably be called “the most important historical airplane in the world.”
In addition to the blue and white colors they picked, the words “United States of America” were painted along the fuselage, and a US flag was painted on the tail. Kennedy reportedly chose the font because it resembled the lettering on an early version of the Constitution.
In June 1963, the plane flew Kennedy to Berlin, where he delivered his “Ich bin ein Berliner,” or “I am a Berliner,” speech.
During the flight into Berlin, “The Russians put MiGs (fighter planes) up on both our wings so we would stay in the corridor over East Germany to West Berlin. They didn’t want us to spy,” said Col. John Swindal, who became commander of Air Force One at the start of Kennedy’s presidency.
That afternoon, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson helped staffers pull the the casket into the rear of the plane, where seats had been removed to make space. Johnson was sworn in as president on the plane prior to takeoff.
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. John Hames, who worked as a steward on Air Force One between 1960 and 1975, was one of the crew members who helped remove seats to make room for the casket.
“We served a lot of beverages (Scotch) on the way back,” Hames said in 1998. “It was a long ride back to Washington. Nobody wanted to eat. Mrs. Kennedy was in shock. She still had on the blood-stained clothes.”
“You can stand on that spot where President Kennedy’s casket came in — you think about the horror of what was going on and the shock of what happened,” Underwood said. “You can look forward toward the nose of the aircraft and know that’s where the transfer of power took place, and you can see where Mrs. Kennedy sat near the body of her slain husband.”
The SAM 26000 played a prominent role in the presidencies after Kennedy as well.
In 1998, retired Air Force Master Sgt. John Hames, a steward on Air Force One between 1960 and 1975, said the SAM 26000 “was so much faster that we had less time to prepare meals, but we got the job done.”
Kennedy was a “great person for soup. It was a comfort food for him,” Hames told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1998. “President Johnson was kind of different. He told me that any beef prepared aboard Air Force One had to be well done. He didn’t care for rare beef the way the group from New England did.”
Nixon “ate fairly light … cottage cheese,” Hames said. “President Ford ate almost anything, but he was in such a short time.”
In 1964, Johnson invited reporter Frank Cormier and two colleagues into the plane’s bedroom for an improvised press conference. Johnson, who had just given a speech under the hot sun, “removed his shirt and trousers,” while answering their questions and then “shucked off his underwear” and kept talking while “standing buck naked and waving his towel for emphasis.”
As Nixon exited the plane in China, a “burly” aide “blocked the aisle” to keep staffers from following Nixon, Kissinger said later. Nixon didn’t want anyone messing up his photo with the Chinese premier.
Three months after ferrying him to China, the SAM 26000 took Nixon on an unprecedented visit to the Soviet Union.
Unsuccessful presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey was reportedly given a ride on the plane by President Richard Nixon, according to retired Chief Master Sgt. Stan Goodwin. During the trip between Washington and Minnesota, Humphrey made 150 phone calls to tell people he’d finally made it aboard Air Force One.
During a week of meetings with Soviet leaders, Nixon reached a number of agreements. One set the framework for a joint space flight in 1975. Another was the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), which contained a number of measures to limit the manufacture of strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
In October 1981, it took former presidents Carter, Nixon, and Ford on an uneasy trip to Egypt for the funeral of President Mohammed Anwar Sadat, who had been assassinated a few days before. Then-President Ronald Reagan did not attend because of security concerns.
Secretary of State Alexander Haig, as Reagan’s official representative, took the stateroom, leaving other officials with regular seats. The former presidents were “somewhat ill at ease,” Carter said later.
“It was one and only time that I’d seen three presidents and two secretaries of state standing in line to go to the men’s room,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Stan Goodwin, who manned the radio on the flight. Things were also tense among staffers on the trip. They reportedly bickered over who got bigger cuts of steak at dinner.
But it was Nixon, whose resignation in 1974 led to Ford taking office, who “surprisingly eased the tension” with “courtesy, eloquence, and charm,” Carter wrote later. Carter and Nixon’s interaction on the plane led to them developing a friendship.
The Boeing 707 that was acting as Air Force One got stuck in the mud at Willard Airport in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The SAM 26000, waiting nearby as an alternate, was called in to pick up the president.
The SAM 26000 was officially retired in March 1998, after logging more than 13,000 flying hours and covering more than 5 million miles. While it made more 200 trips in 1997 alone, the lack of parts for the plane as well as its high exhaust and noise levels led to its retirement.
Then-Vice President Al Gore took the plane’s final flight, traveling from Washington to Columbia, South Carolina. “If history itself had wings, it probably would be this very aircraft,” Gore said after the trip.
In May 1998, the plane arrived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. In a nationally televised event, the Air Force retired the plane and turned it over to the National Museum of the Air Force.
Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.
A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.
“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”
Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out
The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.
“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”
Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.
Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.
“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”
Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.
“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.
“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”
Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.” “I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”
When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.
Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.
“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”
Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.
“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.
“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”
Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.
Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.
During the Korean War, the North American F-86 Sabre helped the United States keep control of the skies. As aviation historian Joe Baugher notes, the Sabre shot down at least 792 MiG-15s during the conflict (another 118 were scored as “probable” kills). MiGs, on the other hand, had only 78 kills against the Sabre.
That’s about a 10.15-to-1 ratio. If you include the probable kills, that ratio climbs to 11.67-to-1. That’s a pretty decisive edge for the Sabre. So, why was the F-86 so dominant?
First, many American F-86 pilots were World War II vets. Among the better-known dual-war pilots were James Jabara (15 kills in Korea, 1.5 in World War II), Francis Gabreski (6 kills in Korea, 28.5 in World War II), and John W. Mitchell (11 kills in World War II, 4 in Korea. He also lead the mission that killed Isoroku Yamamoto). Pilot quality matters — just ask Japan.
Second, the F-86’s armament was better for the air-superiority mission. The F-86 packed six M3 .50-caliber machine guns. These were faster-firing versions of the M2 machine guns used on the North American P-51 Mustang. By comparison, the MiG-15 had two NR-23 23mm cannon and one N-37 37mm cannon. This was designed to kill a lumbering bomber, not to deal with a fast, maneuvering fighter. Having the right tool for the job matters.
This series of four pictures taken from gun camera film shows the beginning of the end of a Russian-built MiG in an air battle high over North Korea. The “kill” was recorded by the camera in a U.S. Air Force F-86 “Sabre” jet flown by 2nd Lt James L. Thompson, a member of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing who was credited with the destruction. (USAF photo)
Third, the F-86 had a new, crucial piece of technology: the AN/APG-30, a radar gunsight. This made aiming the weapons much easier for the Sabre pilots. It used to be that a pilot (or anyone firing at an enemy plane) needed to judge angle and deflection on their own. With the AN/APG-30, the radar handled all that. All a pilot needed to do was to put the enemy plane in the center of his gunsight, squeeze the trigger, and bam, the MiG becomes a “good MiG.” Making it easier to put lead on-target matters.
In short, the F-86 came in with three big advantages over the MiG-15. Those advantages helped the Sabre keep South Korea free from Communist domination.
As corporate America recruits veterans who have led men and women under fire, Google has skimmed the cream of the crop to manage its global security.
Veteran Chris Rackow heads the team that protects the company’s 80,000 employees, its offices and property, in more than 150 cities across almost 60 countries. Google tapped Rackow’s experience just over a year ago, recognizing the value the former warrior would bring to the search powerhouse. He had spent years in two of the most elite military and paramilitary organizations in the world: the U.S. Navy SEALs and the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.
Rackow’s leadership illustrates how corporate America has caught on to the resource created by veterans of U.S. foreign interventions. An ability to manage complex, risky, and dynamic problems, especially in the rapidly changing technology industry, carries a premium.
Google brought Rackow on board in September 2016 as vice president of global security. He is one of many veterans at Google, which does not disclose the number it hires, but says they’re employed in every job category, including software engineering, sales, finance, and security.
“One of the highest values of veterans is leadership just because it is such a core element within the military, from junior-enlisted all the way up to senior officers,” Rackow said. “Everybody’s expected to exert some type of leadership, and that is baked into recruits from day one all the way through.”
“It’s a quality that I have seen to be slackening across the business world,” Rackow said. “That’s, I think, where veterans really can play a huge part – coming in and providing positive, respectful, and dignified leadership for organizations, especially multinationals.”
Rackow’s military career started in 1988 when he joined the SEALs, a Navy special forces unit known for its punishing selection program and high-stakes covert missions. He was a SEAL for nearly 23 years. He also spent 13 years in the FBI, for five years as a member of the Hostage Rescue Team, a counter-terrorism unit operating at home and abroad, and, like the SEALs, famed for its harsh induction and commando-style operations.
Now he works in an industry where the weapons of battle are code and silicon chips.
“I know I’m not the smartest guy in the room,” Rackow said. “In fact, I’m probably at the very low end of the totem pole based on the amazing skills we have here at Google.”
And for veterans, the corporate world has some significant differences from the armed services.
“The government and the military really are quite homogeneous. It really is not as truly diverse as a company is, and especially a global company,” he said.
“You really are presented with 360 degrees of various belief systems and ideas and concepts. That’s probably just the unique challenge for veterans, is to understand … the larger landscape that they need to be able to understand and learn how to operate within.”
Still, his service gave him deep expertise in areas where the skills needed for military operations overlap with those required in a global technology firm — teamwork, for example.
“A team is really a group that understands that we are sacrificing a small part of our individuality, but we’re coming together for a common good, a common goal,” Rackow said. “Whether you call it a common goal or you call it a mission, it’s all the same thing.”
“True leadership really means there’s no one model, and oftentimes within a team, let’s say of 10 people, you might have to exercise 10 different leadership styles … without it looking as if you’re catering to individual needs,” he said.
Along with his background in warfare, Rackow brought into the tech industry a solid civilian education – thanks to realizing during his time with the FBI that he was getting intellectually out-gunned.
“I was coming to the conclusion that I was going after people that were way smarter than I was, and I needed to go back to school,” he said.
He spent two years getting two degrees simultaneously: an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and a master’s in global management from Arizona State’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, the latter teaching him “how to be successful across different cultures and belief systems.”
Rackow, married with a teenage daughter, has bounced around the world for decades, mostly in the Middle East and the western Pacific. Now, working at Google and living in Half Moon Bay, he’s not so far from where he spent his formative years. Born in Los Angeles, he lived in Lake Tahoe from kindergarten through fourth grade.
When he was in fifth grade his family moved to San Diego. “I grew up pretty much a California water kid. I was always out in the water, surfing, sailing, diving. Surfing stuck with me – I go out when it’s appropriate for my age,” he said. “I’m not charging anything big anymore. But I love to go out and stand-up paddleboard, or go out and surf.”
He considers his hiring by Google “a stroke of luck” that started with a call from one of the company’s recruiters.
“It was of great interest to see if I could actually come and work and provide value here, and especially after doing the research on what Google believes and what they think they can do for the planet in general, I looked at it as another service-based environment,” he said.
Google supports veterans through grants to an education group and scholarships. It also hosts a veterans’ network among employees and resume-writing workshops pairing Google employees with veterans entering the civilian workforce, Rackow noted.
Though a commando for most of his career, he had prefaced his service with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I’m an engineer at heart,” he said. “But as my counselor in college told me, I probably should never practice engineering.”
Iran is expected to launch a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf intended to show it can close the Strait of Hormuz, according to CNN, citing two US officials.
“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman,” Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for Centcom, said in a press statement. “We are monitoring it closely and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways.”
“We also continue to advocate for all maritime forces to conform to international maritime customs, standards, and laws,” Urban added.
The Strait of Hormuz is a sea passage into the Persian Gulf between Iran and Oman, through which about 30% of the world’s oil supply passes.
Iran’s fast-attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships.
(Fars News Agency Photo)
President Donald Trump has lately been in a war of words with the leaders of Iran.
In June 2018, Trump threatened sanctions on countries that purchase oil from Iran, to which Tehran responded by threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz.
CNN reported that US officials viewed the expected Iranian military exercise as alarming for three reasons: It comes as rhetoric between the two nations heats up, it will be a larger exercise than previous ones, and Tehran usually holds such exercises later in the year.
The US thinks the Iranian military exercise will include about 100 naval vessels, most of which are small boats, as well as air and ground forces, CNN reported.
Iran has repeatedly used small fast-attack craft to harass US Navy warships over the past several years.
Nevertheless, these Iranian threats are most likely a bluff.
“In the event Iran choose to militarily close the Strait of Hormuz, the US and our Arabian Gulf allies would be able to open it in a matter of days,” retired Adm. James Stavridis previously told CNBC.
And Iran most likely knows this, prompting the question of whether Iran has other intentions.
James Jeffrey, a former US ambassador to Turkey who now serves as an expert at the Washington Institute, previously told Business Insider that Tehran was bluffing about closing the Strait of Hormuz to rattle markets and raise the price of oil.
“They’re doing this to spook consumers,” Jeffrey said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.
Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.
Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.
Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.
“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”
Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility
Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.
The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.
“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”
For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.
“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”
Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.
“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.
“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”
Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.
Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.
“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”
Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”
Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.
“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”
Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”
For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.
“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.
Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.
Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.
“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.
Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.
Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.
“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.
Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.
“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”
Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.
“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.
A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.
“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.
“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.
“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Think back to literally any time you’ve sat on a plane as you travel for the holidays. Each time, you’ve been greeted by an all-too-familiar voice. The PA system hisses to life and you hear, “ladies and gentlemen, ehhh, good morning. Welcome aboard. This is, ehh, your, uhhh, captain speaking…” before the rest of the relevant travel information is droningly rattled off.
It doesn’t matter who the pilot is, where you’re taking off from, or what the country of destination is — every single one of the 850,000 plus pilots out there take on the exact same speech pattern and pseudo-West Virginian accent.
That’s all thanks to one man.
Civilian pilots and co-pilots follow a very thorough script before each flight. This rehearsed speech checks every required box and lets passengers know what to do in any given situation. It’s a speech we’re all used to hearing by now and, honestly, if we didn’t, it’d feel a little weird.
As we all know, plane passengers come from all walks of life — and the airlines must do their best to accommodate everyone. So, pilots are instructed to speak as clearly (and consistently) as possible. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as speaking “without an accent,” so pilots do the next best thing, which is to adapt the most “neutral” accent: the Rust Belt or the Upper Midwestern accent.
Not only is this neutral accent easy to understand, it’s also comforting. A 2018 study showed that over 50 percent of all passengers have more confidence in a pilot with an Upper Midwestern, Southern Californian, or Great Lakes accents (all notably neutral accents). Passengers have the least amount of confidence in a pilot that speaks with a Texan, New Yorker, or Central Canadian accent (all notably thick accents).
But that accent doesn’t explain the slightly staggered speech pattern that pilots use to tell us about the weather conditions waiting for us at our destination. Many recognize that as a nod to the aviation world’s biggest badass: Brigadier General Chuck Yeager.
The story of Chuck Yeager reads almost like a comic book superhero. A young aircraft mechanic became one of the first to fly the P-51 Mustang, earned a Bronze Star for saving his navigator after being shot down and captured, was put back in the sky by a direct action from Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Eisenhower, and then went on to achieve “ace-in-a-day” status in the first victory over a jet fighter… And that’s all before he became an officer and test pilot and the first man to break the sound barrier.
In addition to his laundry list of notable accomplishments, Chuck Yeager also holds the distinction of being one of the coolest and most admired pilots in history.
And there’s no denying that Chuck Yeager’s middle-of-nowhere, West Virginia accent is stoic and calming. When he speaks, everyone listens. Other military pilots have been imitating his twangy voice ever he was a test pilot and, as his legend grew, more and more pilots took on his accent.
When the 1983 film, The Right Stuff, was released, moviegoers were pulled into his life’s story. Audiences watched as he was denied the chance to go into space despite overwhelming qualifications because of a lack of a college degree. Sam Shepard‘s portrayal of Yeager was so spot-on and captivating that he stole the show, even if Chuck wasn’t the main character. Since then, nearly every single aspiring pilot has, consciously or otherwise, started adapting his accent.
But while we’re here: let’s set the record straight. The long, drawn-out pauses aren’t necessarily a “Chuck Yeager” thing. Like all imitations, the characteristics of his speech have been greatly exaggerated over time, but Yeager is undeniably the origin.
Visiting France for the first time as an 18-year-old from the Midwest was a trip I will always treasure. After spending several days in and around London. I was ready to put my high school French to the test, and immerse myself in the French culture. I traveled by train from London to the southern coast to board a ferry to Northern France.
As the ferry got further away from the English coastline, the gray skies began to clear and I could see France in the distance. There was a subtle breeze blowing across the English Channel, which created a serine feeling. When the ferry slowed, signaling the final moments of the ride. I gazed at the beauty before my eyes. The lush green fields and trees on top of the slopes leading onto the beaches looked like a slice of heaven.
My first few steps in France were ushered in by the smell of freshly cut flowers being sold on the street. It was only a matter of minutes before the pastel hues of the flowers and landscape revealed their inspiration for the birthplace of Impressionism. For a moment, I felt I had been transported into a Manet painting.
Turning back around to look at the English Channel, I was overcome with an eerie stillness. It had been 55 years since Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, known as D-Day.
There were two contrasting French coasts viewed by an 18-year-old in 1999, and an 18-year-old in June of 1944. In those waters off the French coast, thousands of Americans boarded transporters that resembled an open-air commercial sized dumpster on water. There were young men from every corner of the country, split between the transport boats. On some of those small boats there were 18-year-old boys, who had never traveled far from home until that moment.
It’s likely they weren’t focused on the beautiful scenery they were about to disembark upon. Their final thoughts before stepping down the ramp into the choppy waters of the Channel weren’t of eager anticipation to sample the French cuisine, or leisurely strolls through street markets of small French villages. They were of their families back home, who were unaware of the impending horror their loved ones were about to endure, or unaware that by the end of the day, history would change course. Within hours, thousands of American families would be forever changed. Sons, brothers, husbands and fathers would meet their destiny on the shores of Northern France.
At the top of those slopes leading to the beach, Nazi forces opened fire on the thousands of Allied forces storming the beaches. Suddenly, dreams of owning a home or business paled in comparison to the hope of surviving long enough to feel the grass beneath their feet as they continued the bloody campaign inland.
For the American GI’s lucky enough to survive long enough to reach the sandy beaches. The water washing ashore was bright red. It became impossible to tell if the blood shed by Allied forces had overtaken the waters of the Channel.
If a famous Impressionist artist like Cezanne were to capture the moment in a painting, the landscape in the artwork would be void of any gentle pastels. Instead, grey, brown and red would capture the ominousness of the harrowing invasion.
Before the horror besieging the shores, the dark, early morning sky was littered with planes depositing thousands of American paratroopers scattered throughout Normandy. Many planes were shot from the sky as paratroopers leaped from them. Some blasts were so violent they knocked weapons out of the paratroopers’ possession. For those who landed safely on the ground, many found themselves alone in a foreign and hostile land. As they dodged German fighters, paratroopers began to link up to form a stronger offensive force.
The invasion took years to plan, and careful coordination between American, British and Canadian forces comprised of over 150,000 troops. Among the 150,000 troops, 14 Comanche “code-talkers” relayed critical messages in their Native American tongue, which German forces were unable to translate.
By the end of June 6,1944, the Germans had been bombarded by air, land and sea from Allied forces. The Atlantic theater began to shift from Nazi control of Europe to a liberated Western Europe. More than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion.
The success of D-Day was the turning point, and beginning of the end for the Nazis.
In the 76 years since D-Day, millions of people have blissfully explored the rich history, beauty and diverse cultures of Europe. It was the bravery and sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Allied forces on D-Day that helped save the world.
I was privileged to experience all the beauty Europe offers as an 18-year-old, because thousands of 18-year-olds on June 6, 1944 had the courage to face evil directly in the face.
Winston Churchill summarized it best, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”