It’s one of the most nerve-wracking moments for a young specialist or sergeant hoping to move up in the ranks: stepping in front of the promotion board. In preparation, troops feel compelled to study and memorize every last question that the battalion’s first sergeants and sergeant major could possibly ask.
Throughout the process, each first sergeant will ask you questions that they believe to be paramount to both your role in particular and to NCOs in general. The subjects span the gamut, ranging from something like handling medical emergencies to spouting off regulations verbatim. And there’s no clear way of knowing what they’ll ask, so it’s best to study everything.
With that being said, you don’t have to go insane trying to fit every last regulation number in your head right before stepping into the board. You should still study and if you say that you didn’t because of an article you read on We Are The Mighty, you will be laughed by your chain of command — and me, as I hold my DD-214. Okay, especially by me, who may or may not screencap the conversation and send it to US Army WTF Moments. I digress.
Passing the board is about much more than your ability to parrot off semi-relevant information to higher ranking NCOs. It’s about your chain of command gauging your competency and potential to lead.
If your squad leader didn’t have faith in you, they never would have put you on that list.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)
Long before your name even appears on any kind of candidate list, your first sergeant will consult your first line supervisor. If they think you’re ready, they will have a quick chat and your squad leader or platoon sergeant will argue for your promotion. If not, they aren’t even going to raise your hopes.
Your squad leader is (or should) always going to fight for you to advance your career. The moment your first sergeant is convinced that you’re ready for the next level of responsibility, you’ve successfully persuaded one-fifth of the board members.
It’s the big moment. Don’t lose your cool or else you’ll get rejected and have to come back again when they think you’re ready.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)
Then it comes time to actually study. Your squad leader can’t cheat for you and give you the answers, but they can find out which topics each first sergeant might ask about. This means you should definitely take their advice if they advise you to study certain areas.
Next, we arrive at the big day: the promotion board. Keep as level of a head as you can. I don’t know if this will help you or stress you out further, but in the time between the previous person walking out and you showing up, they’re discussing you among themselves. It could be nothing more than a simple nod and a “I like this guy” but, make no mistake, they are talking about you.
Something as small as that nod of approval could seal your fate before you march in. The rest of the proceedings are just to convince anyone still on the fence.
Another bit of advice, try to take the board while you’re deployed. The questions tend to be easier (since your deployment is proving your worth to the Army) and you don’t need to get your Blues in perfect order.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)
You’re sitting in the chair now and the first sergeants are hitting you with questions. You find yourself stumped. There are two old tricks I’ve heard from NCOs but, as always, read your audience and choose wisely.
Some say you should give an answer and be confident about it, even if you’re not sure that it’s right.This shows that you’ll stick to your guns — but it could also make you seem like a complete dumbass.
Others say you should be humble, and respond with a respectful, “first sergeant, I do not know the answer to that question at this time.” If you admit you don’t know, it shows that you are honest — but it could also mean you’re unprepared if it was an easy question.
Both are technically good responses, but they could bite you in the ass. It all depends on the board members.
The first sergeants may drop some heavy-hitters on you, but the heaviest of all will come from the sergeant major. Impress him and you’re as good as gold.
Every unit and promotion board is different but, generally speaking, the sergeant major will ask you situational questions to determine your worth as an NCO. One question that stuck out for me was as follows:
You and a friend are drinking heavily by the lake. Your friend gets seriously injured and needs to get to the hospital. It’s fifteen minutes away on a path that no one takes, including law enforcement. Your cell phones are both out of service but you know the park ranger will make their rounds in one hour. Do you take the risk and drive there drunk? Or do you wait it out and risk them bleeding out?
It’s a trick question. You should answer in a way that demonstrates your understanding of military bearing and being an NCO. The only correct answers are, “I would never put myself in a position where myself and a passenger get drunk without having a legal way home” or “I would stabilize their wound then get to a point with better reception.”
Then again, I’ve also heard of a sergeant major asking a quiet and shy specialist to sing the National Anthem at the top of their lungs. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s going on in a sergeant major’s head.
The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.
President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.
The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
But back then he was just Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, a civilian detainee. He was one of some 80,000 detainees who were held at one of four detention facilities throughout Iraq. They were a mix of petty criminals and insurgents captured in house raids over the course of the war.
It was the Iraqi government who released Baghdadi.
Eventually, the 2008 U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq would set the terms for closing the prison system and moving the detainees to Iraqi custody. The American government was primarily concerned with some 200 prisoners they deemed most dangerous.
Baghdadi was not one of them.
At the time of his release, Baghdadi and the others who were released were considered “low level” and not much of a threat. After his release, he gravitated to the insurgent group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which came to be known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. The Americans continued to systematically eliminate AQI’s leadership. In 2010, Baghdadi was promoted to a leadership position in what was left of the network.
No one really knows how Baghdadi rose in the ranks. When his name was revealed as one of the group’s leaders (which then started calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq), no one in U.S. intelligence knew any of their names. The seeds of what would become ISIS were sown.
Army Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short and Navy Adm. Husband Kimmell, the senior Army and Navy defenders at Pearl Harbor, certainly fell short in December, 1941, and their failures compounded others in the weeks leading up to the infamous battle.
But the fact that they received nearly all of the blame for the failures at Pearl Harbor is a miscarriage of justice that overlooks their many requests for additional weapons, land, equipment, and troops. Such requests, if granted, would have allowed defenders on the island to much more quickly and effectively sling lead back at their Japanese attackers.
Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short commanded Army forces in Hawaii for the 10 months before the Pearl Harbor attack.
In the letter, Marshall opens with an assessment of Short’s new Navy counterpart, Kimmell, and how Kimmell had recently complained about shortages of defensive Army materiel.
Marshall explains, point-by-point, when he will provide certain pieces of equipment to Short and why other pieces cannot be found. He acknowledges a shortage of:
Anti-aircraft guns, especially .50-cal. machine guns and 3-inch anti-aircraft guns
Planes, especially fighter and pursuit planes, but also medium bombers
Barrage balloons, of which the U.S. had only just began real manufacture
Short accepted Marshall’s timeline for new equipment delivery and immediately started working with Kimmell on a wishlist for improving their defenses. The list got continuously longer as the men identified additional weak points in their position.
In meetings that also included Rear Admiral Claude C. Bloch, the men decided that they needed additional land over which to disperse aircraft, a move that would’ve drastically reduced the number of planes that could be damaged in a single enemy wave.
Army Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short, left front, and Navy Admiral Husband Kimmell, right front, visit with British and American Navy officers.
Similarly, the group agreed upon new rules for air operations around Hawaii, specially noting how important coordination would be for pursuit and intercept of an enemy air attack as well as how bombers would be controlled when leaving Hawaii to attack an enemy fleet.
As the meetings were going on, Short had already dispatched two of his highest subordinates to the mainland to watch intercept operations. The idea was to learn how to best set up operations on Hawaii with new equipment being put in at Pearl, including radars for identifying attacks from as far as 80 miles from shore. They returned December 4, too late for their ideas to be implemented before the surprise attack.
If you often have to line your aircraft up and can’t properly disperse them, you really want well-trained air defense crews.
As all this was happening, Marshall was recommending to President Franklin Roosevelt that Hawaii was near impregnable and that planes and other important assets could be moved off of the islands to reinforce other positions. As a result, Short lost 9 of his 21 heavy bombers to the Philippines.
Then, Short received the Nov. 27, 1941, “Do or Don’t” message, which essentially told him that an attack could come at any time, but that he must prepare for it while ensuring that absolutely none of his preparations alert the local populace or appear to be aimed at Japan, since that could sway public opinion should war break out.
Negotiations with the Japanese appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese Government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable, but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat cannot be avoided the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act. This policy should not, repeat not be construed as restricting you to a course of action that might jeopardize your defense. Prior to Japanese action you are directed to undertake such reconnaissance and other measures as you deem necessary, but these measures should be carried out so as not, repeat not, to alarm the civil population or disclose intent. Report measures taken. Limit the dissemination of this highly secret information to minimum essential officers.
The delayed warnings on December 7 took it from unlikely to impossible that interceptor planes and bombers could make it into the air before the Japanese planes got to them.
(U.S. Air Force archives)
Finally, though Washington knew for hours before the attack that it would likely start at 1 p.m., they waited to send word to Short and only used telegram when they did.
Short and Kimmell saw the telegram after the attacks.
In the end, American planes on Hawaii were concentrated in too few places for effective dispersal; air defenders were under-trained, under-equipped, and under-supplied; defense infrastructure was underdeveloped; and what improved defense measures Short and Kimmell were able to implement despite supply shortages were still a few months (or, in some cases,a few weeks) from full maturity.
But it is not fair for the American public and Washington to lay the blame solely on them when priorities and complacency in Washington, as well as breakdowns of important communications, left the commands under-supplied and under-informed at the start of American involvement in one of mankind’s bloodiest conflicts.
As debate continues on the impact of President Trump’s executive order which halted the Syrian refugee program indefinitely, and placed a temporary 120-day ban on people coming from seven Muslim-majority countries that President Obama listed as “concerning” in 2015, are the ways the U.S. military has been affected.
Members of Arizona’s Air National Guard have been working with Iraqi pilots since 2012 to fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The program was expected to continue through at least 2020, according to a Department of Defense press release when the program began. Under Trump’s travel pause, no more Iraqi pilots will be able to enter the country.
Arizona Sen. John McCain is working to exempt Iraqi pilots from the executive order, and released a joint statement with fellow Rep. Sen. Lindsey Graham over the weekend.
“At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies,” the statement read. “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred.”
Interpreters for US troops stuck in limbo
Many combat veterans who worked with interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan are angry that the travel ban has compromised the safety of those who they say were instrumental in keeping them safe during combat deployments.
“Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives,” the letter said.
Increased tensions with countries in the Middle East
Several allies in the Middle East sent cables to the White House on Monday, warning that the ban could be used as a propaganda tool for ISIS, and make the area more dangers for U.S. troops and coalition forces.
Qatar was the most critical of the executive order, with a senior official telling U.S. diplomats, “You could not have given our adversaries better propaganda material,” according to CBS News. He mentioned that despite the beginning decline of ISIS, “The timing of this has given the group a lifeline.”
In an interview with CBS, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell echoed the sentiments, saying, “It’s playing right into the ISIS narrative. ISIS has not said anything about this yet, but people around ISIS, who amplify its message, are talking about it, and they are saying, ‘See? We told you, this is a war against Islam.’ So this is going to be a recruitment boon for ISIS.
A Spitfire and Hurricane fly together during a Battle of Britain commemorative flight (Ministry of Defence photo)
The Battle of Britain was a turning point for the allied forces during WWII. After their evacuation at Dunkirk, the British Army was in a poor state, having abandoned much of its warfighting equipment and machinery in France. The Home Guard, the armed citizen militia that supported the British Army, was mobilized in anticipation of a German invasion of the British Isles. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, the British people prepared to fight the Germans on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills. Ferrying an army across the English Channel is no easy task though, and the Germans needed to secure air superiority before their invasion.
In July 1940, Germany began an air and sea blockade of Britain with the goal of compelling her government to negotiate a peace settlement. Initially targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports, and shipping centers, the German Luftwaffe was redirected to incapacitate RAF Fighter Command on August 1. They targeted airfields and infrastructure in an attempt to defeat the RAF on the ground. It was the job of the RAF’s fighter pilots to repel these attacks by the much larger German Luftwaffe. In the words of Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, “Our young men will have to shoot down their young men at the rate of five to one.”
Supermarine Spitfires during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
When people think about the Battle of Britain, they often envision elegant Supermarine Spitfires with their large, elliptical wings, locked in a deadly aerial ballet with German Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Or perhaps a mental image is conjured of those same beautiful Spitfires cutting swathes through formations of Luftwaffe Ju 87 Stuka dive-bombers or Heinkel He 111 level bombers. Either way, the hero aircraft of the Battle of Britain that most people remember is the Supermarine Spitfire. However, the truth of the matter is that the Hawker Hurricane shot down more German aircraft than all other air and ground defenses combined during the Battle of Britain.
Although it was not nearly as pretty as the Spitfire, looking rather like a sad Basset Hound, the Hurricane was a more stable gun platform with its thicker wings. They allowed its eight .303 Browning machine guns to be mounted closer together in the wings and closer to the center of the aircraft, producing more accurate fire. Though the Spitfire was armed with the exact same guns, its thinner wings forced them to be mounted further out from the fuselage which caused the plane to become unbalanced when they were fired.
Hawker Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
The Hurricane, with its wood and fabric construction, was also easier for ground crews to repair and conduct maintenance on. Conversely, the Spitfire’s metal construction meant that skilled metal workers were needed to conduct repairs. This difference in design also meant that the Hurricane could be produced quicker and in larger numbers than the Spitfire. During the Battle of Britain, 32 RAF fighter squadrons flew the Hurricane whereas only 19 squadrons flew Spitfires.
RAF pilots scramble to their Hurricanes (Royal Canadian Air Force photo)
This is not to say that the Spitfire was inferior to the Hurricane; in fact, it was arguably the better dogfighter. Although both planes were powered by the same Rolls-Royce 27-litre liquid-cooled V-12 Merlin engine, the Spitfire could climb faster and turn tighter thanks to its wing design. As a result, Spitfires were generally directed to intercept the Luftwaffe escort fighters while Hurricanes attacked the enemy bomber formations.
In short, neither the Spitfire nor the Hurricane could have won the Battle of Britain alone. The two planes complemented each other in the sky and worked together to repel the onslaught of German air attacks. In the end, the RAF reported 1,542 aircrew killed and 1,744 aircraft destroyed while the Luftwaffe reported 2,585 aircrew killed or missing, 925 captured, and 1,634 aircraft destroyed in combat. Failing to establish air superiority over Britain, Hitler was forced to postpone his invasion indefinitely. Shooting down a majority portion of enemy aircraft, the Hurricane deserves its fair share of fame alongside the Spitfire in staving off the Nazi threat.
In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.
As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.
On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.
Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.
Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.
In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.
When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”
In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.
Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.
From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.
Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.
The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.
While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.
Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.
“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.
The biggest threat facing the United States in its unending showdown with the Islamic Republic of Iran are the naval forces in the Persian Gulf that could try to shut off access to the Strait of Hormuz. Ensuring worldwide freedom of navigation in the world’s sea lanes is just one of the missions of the U.S. Navy, but never before has America’s sea service encountered such a threat in this part of the world.
HMS Sheffield burns from a direct hit by an Argentinian exocet anti-ship missile.
Anti-ship missiles are a very dangerous game changer in modern naval warfare. They can bring an inferior opposing force into parity with the world’s biggest naval powers. Exocet missiles were used to great effect against the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy in the 1980s Falklands War, sinking the destroyer HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor, a critical cargo ship carrying men and materiel. They also nearly sunk the destroyer HMS Glamorgan, killing 14 sailors.
Argentina had just eight Exocet anti-ship missiles for the entire war, and four of them were used efficiently. If the missiles had destroyed just one of Britain’s aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes or HMS Invincible, the entire war might have been lost for Britain and the Falklands would now be known as the Malvinas.
The Iranian missile test, conducted Feb. 24, 2019.
On Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019, the Islamic Republic’s navy in the Persian Gulf successfully tested its first submarine-launched, short-range anti-ship cruise missile – near the Strait of Hormuz. If a showdown with the United States ever came to pass, the first move Iran’s navy would make is an attempt to block that strait. Iran says all of its subs, Ghadir, Tareq, and Fateh-class Iranian navy submarines now have the capability to fire these cruise missiles.
While Iran reportedly exaggerates its missile capabilities, there is real concern surrounding this latest development. More than 100 Iranian navy ships were performing military exercises from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean as the new missile was test fired. In 2017, the Office of Naval Intelligence issued a warning about Iran developing this capability, as the new subs allow Iranian ships to get dangerously close to American ships before firing at them.
An Iranian Ghadir-class submarine.
Iran’s best chance at taking down the American naval presence in the Persian Gulf is to swarm the ships with small, fast attack craft, hitting them with every weapon they possibly can as early in the conflict as possible. The idea is to cause maximum damage and kill as many Americans as possible in order to break the will of the American people to fight.
“The doctrine manifests itself as hit-and-run style, surprise attacks, or the amassing of large numbers of unsophisticated weapons to overwhelm the enemies’ defenses,” Naval Analyst Chris Carlson told the U.S. Naval Institute. “The amassing of naval forces is often described as a swarm of small boats.”
Iran’s only female Olympic medalist says she has permanently left the country, posting a lengthy Instagram post that begins with “Should I start with hello, goodbye, or condolences?”
Kimia Alizadeh, 21, cited the country’s treatment of women, including her, as the main force driving her defection to Europe. Alizadeh earned a bronze medal in the taekwondo 57-kilogram weight class at the 2016 Summer Olympics and won a silver medal at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships.
On Thursday, Iran’s state-run news media reported that Alizadeh had defected to the Netherlands, according to RadioFreeEurope, which added that she was expected to still try for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo with a different country’s team.
Alizadeh didn’t specify in her Instagram post where she was or what her future athletic plans were, though she did say her only concerns at the moment were taekwondo, her security, and a healthy and happy life.
“I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran, who have been playing with me for years,” Alizadeh wrote, according to an English translation. “They took me wherever they wanted. Whatever they said, I wore. Every sentence they ordered, I repeated.”
She also accused the Iranian government of exploiting her athletic success while condemning her as a woman, writing, “They put my medals on the obligatory veil and attributed it to their management and tact.”
Confirmation of her departure comes days after Saturday’s protests in Iran, after the government acknowledged it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane that took off from Tehran, killing 176 people.
Alizadeh also said she had not been invited to defect to Europe but would “accept the pain and hardship of homesickness” over what she said was the “corruption and lies” in Iran.
“My troubled spirit does not fit into your dirty economic channels and tight political lobbies,” she wrote. “None of us matter to them.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Oct. 18, 2006, Justin Constantine was deployed to Al-Anbar Province, Iraq when a sniper shot him in the head.
He had just stepped out of his Humvee to warn a reporter about the sharpshooter operating in the area when the enemy took the shot.
“He [the reporter] told me later that based on that [Constantine’s warning] he took a big step forward and a split second later a bullet came in right where his head had been and hit the wall between us,” Constantine, who retired a Marine lieutenant colonel, said in the video below. “Before I could react, the next bullet hit me behind the left ear and exploded out of my mouth, causing incredible damage along the way.”
Constantine’s original prognosis was “killed in action,” but thanks to a quick-thinking 25-year-old Navy Corpsman, he lived.
“Even though blood was pouring out of my skull in what was left of my face, George was somehow able to perform rescue breathing on me, and then he cut open my throat and performed an emergency tracheotomy so that I wouldn’t drown in my own blood,” he added.
The Corpsman’s first aid was so perfect that Constantine’s plastic surgeon at the Naval Hospital thought another surgeon had performed the procedure.
He retired from the Marine Corps with a Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.
Despite his recovery challenges and PTSD, Constantine has led an inspiring post-injury life, helping veterans and civilians overcome adversity. He now serves on the Board of Directors of the Wounded Warrior Project, Give An Hour, and others.
Contrary to popular belief, a decent percentage of the human population has known definitely the Earth was roughly spherical for over two thousand years. Hardly impressive, as noted in our BrainFood Show podcast, bees also use this fact in their own absurdly fascinating navigation and in communicating directions to other bees.
As for humans, we took a little longer to realize this, with Pythagoras (6th century B.C.) generally credited with being the first known person to have suggested a spherical Earth, though the idea didn’t exactly catch on at this point. Aristotle (4th century B.C.) agreed and supported the hypothesis with observations such as that the southern constellations rise higher in the sky when a person travels south. He also noted that during a lunar eclipse the Earth’s shadow is round. Much more definitively, the 3rd century BC head librarian at the Library of Alexandria, Eratosthenes, built on their ideas and managed to calculate the circumference of the Earth with remarkable accuracy. How? He simply used the knowledge that at noon on the Summer Solstice there was a well in Syene where the sun shown directly down to the bottom, with no shadow. Thus, at noon on Summer Solstice he used a rod to measure the angle of the shadow made in Alexandria and found it to be about 7 degrees or about 1/50th of a circle. With this information, he now just needed to know the exact distance between Syene and Alexandria to get the circumference of the Earth (about 50 times the distance between Syene and Alexandria). He hired a survey crew, known as bematists, to measure the distance, which they found to be about 5,000 stadia. He then concluded the Earth must be about 250,000 stadia around. Depending on which stadion measurement he was using, his figure was either just 1% too small or 16% too large. Many scholars think it likely that he was using the Egyptian stadion (157.5 m), being in Egypt at the time, which would make his estimate roughly 1% too small.
Moving on to the so called Dark Ages in which Christianity supposedly squashed such outlandish ideas as a spherical Earth, the truth is actually the opposite. In Christian medieval Europe, 7th century Catholic monk and scholar Bede produced an influential treatise that included a discussion of the spherical nature of the world. This work, The Reckoning of Time, was copied and distributed to clerics across the Carolingian empire. Later, in the 1300s, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy also describes the Earth as a sphere and again nobody seemed to have a problem with this.
Dante shown holding a copy of the Divine Comedy, next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above, in Michelino’s fresco.
The Catholics and later other branches of Christianity weren’t the only religious sects that seemed to have its clergy and scholars almost universally think the world was spherical. The Islamic world also concurred. As historian Jeffrey Burton Russell sums up,
With extraordinary few exceptions, no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat.
Beyond the academics of the Western world, even the most empty headed sailor knew the Earth was spherical simply by the fact that ships disappear over the horizon with the bottom first and then the mast the last to be sighted. A similar effect is observed when spotting land from a ship. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize the sea’s surface must curve continually.
Despite this, there really still is a tiny percentage of the populace of the developed world who believe the world is flat.
You might at this point be wondering just how many? While internet comment threads make it seem as if the percentage is large, the reality is probably drastically less. (Comment trolls gonna troll.)
As for some numbers, according to a 2018 poll run by the massive market research firm YouGov, the 8,215 responses which were chosen to have a high probability of accurately representing the wider adult populace, showed,
84% of respondents said they have always believed the world is round
5% stated “I always thought the world is round, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”,
2% stated “I always thought the world is flat, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts”
and 2% went with “I have always believed the world is flat”.
The remaining 7% stated “Other/not sure”.
While the good people at YouGov certainly know their stuff with respect to getting accurate data that represents the wider populace, we were curious as to what a larger sample of our own audience would reveal, though with the caveat that a general internet poll can sometimes be notoriously inaccurate. But for the curious and for whatever it’s worth, our poll asking more or less the same questions received over 72,000 votes. What were the results? Approximately
96% of respondents stated they “firmly believe the world is round”,
1% went with “I used to firmly believe the world is round, but now have doubts”
1% voted for “I firmly believe the world is flat”
0% stated “I used to firmly believe the world is flat, but now have doubts”
1% noted “I am not sure what I believe on this issue.”
These numbers seem surprisingly reasonable for an online poll when compared to something a little more rigorously implemented like the YouGov poll. While our numbers skew more towards Round Earthers, this is perhaps to be expected given we know definitively that our audience skews towards being much more educated than the general populace.
And just because we were curious about the many, many online trolls who, as stated, it’s our pet hypothesis are actually making it seem like there are a lot more Flat Earthers than there actually are, we did a follow up poll which got 54,000 votes. For whatever it’s worth, in this one, approximately
9% of respondents stated “I believe the world is round, but sometimes say online it’s flat”
2% stated “I believe the world is flat and advocate this position online”
The remaining 89% stated “Neither applies to me.”
(And, yes, we know those numbers don’t add up to exactly 100% in either case, but YouTube’s polling system rounds to the whole number, so here we are.)
Those numbers out of the way, this finally brings us to who started the relatively modern Flat Earth movement and how on God’s oblate spheroid Earth this movement is actually growing in an era where nearly all human knowledge is almost literally at everyone’s fingertips?
The genesis of the modern Flat Earth Society started in the mid-19th century thanks to one Samuel Rowbotham of London, England. Dropping out of school at the tender age of 9, Rowbotham would eventually become convinced, or at least claimed he was, that not only was the Earth flat, but that everything we see in the heavens is actually only a few thousand miles from the Earth- stars and all. While his ideas were absurd for an incredible number of reasons, even given the technology and scientific knowledge of his era, what Rowbatham had going for him was he was reportedly incredibly quick on his feet in debates and an extremely charismatic speaker, able to twist the words of even the best academics. It didn’t matter if he was actually right or not, only that he was better at convincing laypeople than the academics he regularly debated, or at least good at creating reasonable doubt. As noted by a contemporary article published in the Leeds Times,
One thing he did demonstrate was that scientific dabblers unused to platform advocacy are unable to cope with a man, a charlatan if you will (but clever and thoroughly up in his theory), thoroughly alive to the weakness of his opponents.
Besides making a small fortune public speaking, he also wrote various works including a book aptly titled Earth Not a Globe. Rowbotham ultimately created the Zetetic Society, which, besides advocating for a flat Earth, also advocated that only facts one could prove themselves could be accepted as true. On the side, Rowbotham also began going by “Dr. Samuel Birley” and making money selling people on cure-alls and life extenders of his own invention, among other such activities.
While by the early 20th century the society he started had gradually faded into even more obscurity than it already was at its peak during Rowbotham’s lifetime, all was not lost. The truth cannot be killed so easily! In 1956 when mankind was on the verge of putting a satellite in orbit, Samuel Shenton of Dover, UK, came across the former works of the Universal Zetetic Society, the successor to Rowbotham’s, and was hooked. He then established the International Flat Earth Research Society (IFERS) which adopted some of the ideas of the Zetetic Society before it, most notably, as you might have guessed from their new name, that the Earth is flat.
A “flat-Earth” map drawn by Orlando Ferguson in 1893.
Of course, his timing wasn’t exactly ideal given the launch of Sputnik in 1957 which, beyond being in orbit, put out a signal that anyone with a little know-how could track, very clearly demonstrating the spherical nature of the Earth.
This didn’t phase him in the slightest, however. He simply noted that satellites circled over the disc of the world and that, “Would sailing round the Isle of Wight prove that it were spherical? It is just the same for those satellites.”
When pictures of the Earth were taken from space clearly showing the planet’s spherical nature, the man who strongly advocated trusting what you can see with your own eyes stated, “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”
When astronauts came back still believing the Earth wasn’t flat, he went with the catch-all explanation for any conspiracy theory when no other suitable explanation can be thought up- “It’s a deception of the public and it isn’t right.”
Despite the giant, roughly spherical mound of evidence staring the members right in the face, including the variety easily confirmed by anyone with a modicum of knowledge in physics, the society did not die completely, though by 1972 had dropped from a peak of about 3,000 members down to around 100 spanning the globe.
That same year Shenton died and Californian Charles Johnson more or less took over the remnants, creating the International Flat Earth Research Society of America. Johnson also advocated that there was a global conspiracy with regards to the very flat Earth, not just today, but spanning millennia. To quote him, this was a conspiracy that “Moses, Columbus, and FDR all fought” against. Beyond that Columbus most definitely thought that the Earth was roughly spherical, simply misjudging its circumference, we’re guessing Moses didn’t have to fight anyone on this one as the Ancient Egyptians firmly believed in the concept of a flat Earth, as did seemingly the Hebrews around the time he supposedly lived.
A close-up view of the Babylonian map of the World. This partially broken clay tablet contains both cuneiform inscriptions and a unique map of the Mesopotamian world. Probably from Sippar, Mesopotamia, Iraq. 700-500 BCE.
So what exactly do the world’s governments and countless scientists and high school physics students throughout human history have to gain by convincing people the world is spherical instead of flat? Well, Johnson advocated that this is a tool used by scientists to get rid of religion. Of course, as noted, Christian scholars throughout history on the whole advocated for the very spherical Earth and we’re not aware of any major religious denomination the world over today that goes with the flat Earth model, so no apparent conflict… But, hey, we guess Eratosthenes must have really had it in for those Ancient Egyptian and Greek gods…
In any event, despite Johnson’s less than compelling arguments, over time this new society actually gained followers up to a peak of about 3,500 members under his leadership. Disaster struck, however, when a fire at headquarters destroyed some of the records of membership in 1997. Ultimately Johnson himself passed away in 2001 and the society was temporarily just as dead.
All was not lost, however, as there is no medium greater than the Internet at giving humans ability to discover the truth in anything for themselves… if we weren’t all so lazy and our monkey brains not so chock full of cognitive biases.
And so it was that in 2004, one Daniel Shenton created a discussion forum home for the mostly dead Flat Earth Society and by 2009 a new wiki website was created in its place, with the society slowly growing from there to apparently around 500 members to date. There are also many Flat Earth pages and channels on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sometimes exceeding 100K members or subscribers of a given page, channel, or profile, for whatever that’s worth.
In the latest incarnation of the society, as with their forebears, the modern group strongly advocates for only accepting that which you can see with your own eyes and prove with your own efforts. As they note on their website,
The simplest is by relying on ones own senses to discern the true nature of the world around us. The world looks flat, the bottoms of clouds are flat, the movement of the Sun; these are all examples of your senses telling you that we do not live on a spherical heliocentric world. This is using what’s called an empirical approach, or an approach that relies on information from your senses. Alternatively, when using Descartes’ method of Cartesian doubt to skeptically view the world around us, one quickly finds that the notion of a spherical world is the theory which has the burden of proof and not flat earth theory.
As for the model of the Earth they go with, while there is some dissension among the ranks over exact details, the current belief advocated by the Flat Earth Society is that the the Earth is disc shaped. The North Pole lies at the center of this disc and there is an ice wall surrounding the outer most parts of the Earth that keeps the oceans contained. This wall is nearly impossible to reach owing to the fact that NASA is closely guarding it, ensuring no one ever gets close enough to see it for themselves. NASA also is extremely active in generating satellite photos of the Earth and generating other data all meant to keep people believing in a spherical Earth. Seemingly the Google Earth team must be in on it too, clearly abandoning the company’s long held unofficial mantra of “Don’t be evil.”
As evidence of this conspiracy and how far reaching it is, they also point out on their website that the United Nations emblem strongly resembles the Flat Earth Society’s view of what the Earth actually looks like.
(We guess clearly showing the logo design team, led by industrial designer Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, in 1945, didn’t get the memo that the true shape of the Earth was supposed to be a secret. You had one job Lundquist!!!
To be fair, however, when his team designed it, it was originally just supposed to be used on the badges at the United Nations Charter signing conference, so only for people who already knew the Earth was flat… Fun fact, Lundquist did, however, make up for the screw up by later designing the classic blue and white Q-tip box.)
In any event, you might at this point be wondering how the Flat Earth Society believes commercial airlines and ships the world over continue to seemingly travel in one direction and manage to circle the globe. Well, this is because these ships and planes are literally circling. They state, “circumnavigation is performed by moving in a great circle around the North Pole.”
As for how the ship and plane captains don’t seem to be aware of this, in modern times it’s because GPS devices and autopilots are designed in software to simply make it seem like the craft is circling a globe and not continually turning slightly. Of course, it’s not clear how they account for people tricking themselves when navigating before or without GPS, which has only been ubiquitous for a couple decades or so.
There’s also the fact that fuel burn on these ships and airplanes are carefully calculated, particularly important for planes where weight and balance is always an essential consideration if one doesn’t want to die a fiery death. Thus, if they were really traveling in the way the Flat Earthers claim, the fuel requirements would be different, sometimes vastly so. (No surprise here that Big Oil must be involved…)
As for, you know, the whole day and night thing, this is explained on their website “The sun moves in circles around the North Pole. When it is over your head, it’s day. When it’s not, it’s night. The light of the sun is confined to a limited area and its light acts like a spotlight upon the earth… The apparent effect of the sun rising and setting is…a perspective effect.”
The Sun, as seen from low Earth orbit overlooking the International Space Station.
How exactly the light from the Sun only works as a spotlight isn’t clear. It’s also not clear how the phases of the Moon and lunar and solar eclipses work given this spotlight model and given they believe the Sun is always above the Earth…
Moving on — as for the many people who claim to be able to see the curvature of the Earth when on high altitude commercial flights, well, the Flat Earth Society, who advocated trusting your own senses over what anyone tells you. tells these people, to quote, “Quite simply you cannot… the windows on commercial aircraft are small and heavily curved. Even if they flew high enough for a person to see curvature, it would still not be visible to passengers.”
As for the issue of someone with even a half way decent telescope being able to see the spherical nature of other planets in the solar system, including them spinning away, the Flat Earth Society claims,
Planets are orbiting astronomical objects. The Earth is not a planet by definition, as it sits at the center of our solar system above which the planets and the Sun revolve. The earths uniqueness, fundamental differences and centrality makes any comparison to other nearby celestial bodies insufficient – Like comparing basketballs to the court on which they bounce.
As for how gravity works in the flat Earth model, it turns out that, “The earth is constantly accelerating up at a rate of 32 feet per second squared (or 9.8 meters per second squared). This constant acceleration causes what you think of as gravity. Imagine sitting in a car that never stops speeding up. You will be forever pushed into your seat. The earth works much the same way. It is constantly accelerating upwards being pushed by a universal accelerator (UA) known as dark energy or aetheric wind.”
You may have spotted a problem with this explanation given the whole issue of eventually exceeding the speed of light. In fact, if constant acceleration at 9.8 meters per second squared, it would only take about a year for the Earth to reach the speed of light.
Well, they’ve got you covered, explaining: “Due to special relativity, this is not the case. At this point, many readers will question the validity of any answer which uses advanced, intimidating-sounding physics terms to explain a position. However, it is true. The relevant equation is v/c = tanh (at/c). One will find that in this equation, tanh(at/c) can never exceed or equal 1. This means that velocity can never reach the speed of light, regardless of how long one accelerates for and the rate of the acceleration.”
Anyway, as to what lies below the Earth, this is heavily disputed among Flat Earthers. But it doesn’t really matter as you can’t get there anyway. You see, to quote Flat Earther Robbie Davidson in an interview with Forbes, “We don’t believe anything can fall off the edge, because a big portion of the flat earth community believes that we’re in a dome, like a snow globe. So the sun, moon and stars are all inside. It’s very high but all contained inside. So there’s no way to actually fall off of the earth.”
Given it only takes a modicum of effort to disprove pretty much everything said on their website and prove definitively for one’s self that the Earth is roughly spherical without needing to trust any scientist or government, you might think the Flat Earthers just aren’t trying. Well, you’re kind of right, but there are exceptions! Case in point — limo driver Mike Hughes who managed to raise about ,000 thanks to a Flat Earth fundraiser. Why? To build a rocket to reach the heavens with to once and for all prove the Earth was flat.
Reportedly the final hilariously fitting steam powered rocket and launch platform cost around ,000 and took about ten years to build. With it, Hughes managed to achieve an altitude of almost 1,900 feet, which while kind of impressive for an amateur built home made rocket that could carry a human, was nonetheless not able to achieve his objective of getting him to space.
If only it was possible to build more powerful rockets… Or if there existed a balloon designed to be able to soar into the heavens with some sort of device on board that could capture and store what it sees through an eye like apparatus… Or, stick with us here people, if a human going along for the ride was a requirement to show NASA hadn’t tampered with this futuristic visual capture device, some sort of bird-like machine that could carry humans above 1,900 feet…
All joking and head scratching aside, it’s always important to note that many of the core psychological quirks that see Flat Earthers intractably convinced the Earth is flat in the face of all evidence to the contrary exist in all of us. Monkey brain gonna monkey. We further all have many beliefs we firmly cling to just as tenuously supported by our level of knowledge on a subject, though thankfully for most of us the absurdity isn’t quite so easy to spot, allowing us to safely continue to think of ourselves as superior to mere mortals with alternate ideas…
In the end, we all firmly believe many things that aren’t true at all and no amount of evidence could ever convince any of us to change our minds on some of these things. Food for thought.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.