US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching - We Are The Mighty
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US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The sun has set over the scrubby Savannah. The moon is full. It is time for Ryan Tate and his men to go to work. In camouflage fatigues, they check their weapons and head to the vehicles.


Somewhere beyond the ring of light cast by the campfire, out in the vast dark expanse of thornbushes, baobab trees, rocks and grass, are the rhinos. Somewhere, too, may be the poachers who will kill them to get their precious horns.

The job of Tate, a 32-year-old former US Marine, and the group of US military veterans he has assembled in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa is simple: keep the rhinos and the rest of the game in the bush around their remote base alive.

The men are not mercenaries, or park rangers –they work for Tate’s Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife (Vetpaw), a US-based nonprofit organization funded by private donations. All have seen combat, often with elite military units, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Shejal Pulivarti

Though equipped with vehicles, trail bikes, assault rifles, sniper suits, and radios, the most important weapons in the war against poaching, Tate believes, are the skills and experiences his team gained on successive deployments in conflict zones over the last decade and a half.

“We are here for free. We are not going anywhere. Whether it is cold or hot, day or night… we want to work with anyone who needs help,” Tate says.

The initiative is not without controversy. Some experts fear “green militarization” and an arms race between poachers and gamekeepers. Others believe deploying American former soldiers to fight criminals in South Africa undermines the troubled country’s already fragile state.

But the scale of the challenge of protecting South Africa’s rhinos is clear to everyone, with a rise in poaching in recent years threatening to reverse conservation gains made over decades.

Though rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, a kilo is worth up to $65,000. The demand comes from East Asia, where rhino horn is seen as a potent natural medicine and status symbol, and is met by international networks linking dirt-poor villages in southern Africa with traffickers and eventually buyers. Patchy law enforcement, corruption and poverty combine to exacerbate the problem.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

In South Africa, home to 80% of the world’s wild rhinos, only 13 were poached in 2007. In 2015, the total was nearly 1,200, though losses have declined slightly since.

“These criminal gangs are armed to the teeth, well-funded and part of transnational syndicates who will stop at nothing,” a South African government spokesman said in February.

Tate founded Vetpaw after seeing a documentary about poaching and the deaths of park rangers in Africa. His team now works on a dozen private game reserves covering a total of around 200,000 hectares in Limpopo, the country’s northernmost province. One advantage for local landowners is the protection heavily armed combat veterans provide against the violent break-ins feared by so many South Africans, particularly on isolated rural farmsteads. The team has also run training courses for local guides and security staff.

But if one aim of Vetpaw is to counter poaching, another is to help combat veterans in the US, where former servicemen suffer high levels of unemployment and mental illness.

“Everyone gets PTSD when they come back from war … you are never going to get the brotherhood, the intensity again … [There are] all these veterans with billions of dollars of training and the government doesn’t use them. I saw a need in two places and just put them together,” says Tate.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Vetpaw operates primarily in Limpopo, the northern-most province of South Africa (in red). Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Vetpaw base in the bush in Limpopo, though considerably less spartan than most “forward operating bases”, is familiar to anyone who has spent time with US forces. There is a rack of helmets and body armor, a detailed map pinned to the wall, and banners with the insignia of US Special Forces hung above a dining table. There is the banter, and the jargon. The team talks of tactical missions, intel, and “bad guys”.

Despite lines on a whiteboard reading, “In the absence of a plan move towards the sound of gunfire and kill everything,” Tate says he has selected combat veterans because they will resist the temptation to use lethal force. Poachers are told to put down their arms, and then handed over to the police.

“This is textbook counterinsurgency here. It’s unconventional warfare,” says Kevin, a British-born veteran who quit US Elite Special Forces last year after a decade and a half largely on active duty, frequently in close quarter combat. “Shooting and killing is easy. The hardest thing is not shooting but figuring stuff out… if you kill someone do you turn a family, a village against you?” Like other members of Vetpaw, Kevin did not want to be identified by his full name.

The thinking is rooted in the “hearts and minds” approach developed by the US military a decade ago when senior officers realized their massive firepower was winning battles, but not campaigns.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Tate says poachers coerce local communities into providing safe houses or other support – much as US army officers once explained assistance given to insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Francois Meyer, who grew up in northern Limpopo and runs a local conservation NGO that works with Vetpaw, says villages vary. “In some, the poachers are seen as heroes. They give out money. There is a kind of Robin Hood syndrome. Taking from the rich white man to give to the poor. But in others, the poachers get the living shit kicked out of them,” Meyer said.

There is little consensus on what response to the problem of poaching might work best, and fierce debate rages among conservationists, farmers, and officials.

A moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in South Africa implemented in 2009 was controversially overturned by a court in April. Though there has been an increase in arrest of poachers, there are few convictions and “a lack of political will” means many of the “kingpins” remain untouched.

The complexities of the issue seem distant to the veterans out on patrol in remote northern Limpopo, high on a rocky crag, listening to the grunt of a leopard or the cough of the baboons in the gathering night.

“After what I’ve done, I couldn’t just go and do a nine to five. I’ve never had nightmares or flashbacks or anything … [but] after years of doing what I’ve done, this is good for the soul,” says Kevin, the former Green Beret. “It’s in a good cause and you get to watch the African sunset.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany turns to foreigners and teenagers to solve shortages

Germany’s military has been struggling with a variety of organizational and technical problems, like equipment shortages, debates over funding, and troop shortfalls.

Manpower in particular is a lingering issue for the Bundeswehr, which has shrunk since the end of the Cold War and further reduced after mandatory military service was ended in 2011.


From a high of 585,000 personnel in the mid-1980s, German troop levels have fallen to just under 179,000 as of mid-2018. In 2017, the Bundeswehr had 21,000 unfilled positions, and half of the force’s current members are expected to retire by 2030.

In mid-2016, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the Bundeswehr had to “get away from the process of permanent shrinking.” (Women weren’t allowed to be in the armed services until 2000.)

Von der Leyen said she would remove the 185,000-person cap on the military and add 14,300 troops over seven years — a total that was upped to 20,000 in 2017.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Ursula von der Leyen with German soldiers during a visit to the Field Marshal Rommel Barracks, Augustdorf.

One method under discussion to bring in those new personnel is recruiting citizens of other EU countries.

That approach has general support among the governing parties, though not without qualifications. Defense experts and politicians have said that any foreign recruits should be offered citizenship, lest the force become “a mercenary army.”

Another strategy that has been underway for some time is the recruitment of minors. The Bundeswehr has mounted a media campaign to bring in Germans under 18.

The military’s official YouTube channel has over 300,000 subscribers, and its videos have garnered nearly 150 million views.

The Bundeswehr Exclusive channel, which posts video series, has more than 330,000 subscribers, and its videos — like the six-week series called “Mali” that followed eight German soldiers stationed with a UN peacekeeping force in the West African country — have drawn more than 68 million views.

The service is also active on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, among other social-media sites. The army’s recruitment spending in 2017, about million, was more than double what it spent in 2011.

And since that year the service has signed up more than 10,000 minors, according to Reuters. 2017 saw a record 2,128 people under the age of 18 sign up, 9% of all recruits and an 11.4% increase over the previous year.

“I wanted to experience something and to get to know my own limits, to see how far I can go,” said Marlon, who joined the Germany army a few months before he turned 18.

Because of his age, he needed his mother’s permission to join, which she was happy to give. He told Reuters that she is now pleased that her formerly messy son is now more organized.

‘This is not a normal profession’

After the destruction of World War II and the division of the Cold War, the military is still a controversial topic for Germans. Many are skeptical of the service, reluctant to spend more on it, and wary of overseas military operations.

The Bundeswehr still struggles with the legacy of the Nazi Wehrmacht, and instances of far-right extremism in the ranks strain civil-military relations. Some military officers wear civilian clothes to and from work to avoid the stigma attached to their duties.

There are also some Germans who don’t see their country as under threat and are ambivalent about military issues.

That attitude may be changing among younger Germans.

A recent survey of 20,000 students there found that the military was the third most attractive place to work, behind the police in first place and sports brand Adidas. Marlon told Reuters that a career in uniform was much more appealing than working on a car-production line.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

A German infantryman stands at the ready with his Heckler Koch G36 during a practice exercise in 2004.

But the recruitment of minors has proved to be an especially contentious issue.

Some politicians and children’s rights advocates have criticized the government for the approach, describing it as misleading and decrying the precedent it could set.

The record recruitment numbers indicate that von der Leyen “clearly has no scruples,” Evrim Sommer, a legislator from the pacifist Left Party, said in early 2018, after requesting Bundeswehr recruitment data.

“Young people should not be used as cannon fodder in the Bundeswehr as soon as they come of age,” Sommer added at the time. “As long as Germany recruits minors for military purposes, it cannot credibly criticize other countries.”

Ralf Willinger from the children’s rights group Terre des Hommes told Reuters in August 2018 that recruiting minors is “embarrassing and sends the wrong signal.”

“It weakens the international 18-year standard, encouraging armed groups and armies from other countries to legitimate the use of minors as soldiers,” he added.

Germany military officials have said their recruitment efforts are in line with international norms and stressed that they need to compete with private-sector employers to attract personnel.

The German military also has rules in place about what minors can do while in uniform. While they undergo training like adult recruits, they are not allowed to stand guard duty or take part in foreign missions, and they are only allowed to use weapons for educational purposes.

The Defense Ministry has also said that minors have the ability to end their service any time in the first six months.

To some, those stipulations don’t change the fundamental nature of what the military is training minors to do.

“This is not a normal profession,” said Ilka Hoffman, a board member of the GEW Union, which represents education and social workers.

“In no other profession does one learn to kill, and is one confronted with the danger of dying in war,” Hoffmann added. “That is the one difference.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This Coast Guard reservist saved an Army-Navy convoy in World War II

The Coast Guard’s USS Glendale served in the Pacific in World War II, and it was commanded by a reservist who earned the Bronze Star for his actions during a Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 5, 1944.


Coast Guard Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Harold J. Doebler was commanding the Glendale in a convoy of 35 Army, Navy, and merchant ships on their way to Leyte Gulf the Phillippines. The Glendale was assigned to anti-submarine and anti-air operations for the convoy.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
The USS Glendale (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

On Dec. 5, friendly flights of C-47s began passing over the convoy. At first, this wasn’t of great concern, but Japanese pilots saw the situation and decided to exploit it. They flew their planes into the C-47 formations until they were close to the convoy, and then swooped down to attack the ships.

Doebler maneuvered the Glendale and other ships of the convoy to form a screen that attempted to pick off the Japanese attackers before they could reach the rest of the convoy. But the problems of target identification continued as gunners had to be confident that they weren’t firing at friendly planes before they pulled the trigger.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
The USS South Dakota fired on an incoming Japanese bomber. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

During the battle, multiple torpedo bombers hit the SS Antone Saugrain, and a bomb hit the SS Marcus Daly, but no other ships in the convoy were damaged thanks to the screen led by the Glendale.

In the late afternoon, just after the Marcus Daly was hit, the convoy was joined by four new destroyers. With this greater firepower, the convoy was able to drive off the rest of the Japanese attacks and the rest of the ships were able to continue safely.

The Antone Saugrain later sank from the damage inflicted by the torpedo bombers, but the safe zone established by the destroyer and frigate screen allowed other vessels to rescue 413 crewmembers safely before the ship went down. The Marcus Daly was able to continue with the convoy despite severe damage and the loss of 72 of its crew.

Doebler was later promoted to rear admiral and received the Bronze Star for his actions leading the convoy screen.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns of ‘new path’ if US insists on sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned that his country could seek a “new path” in relations with the United States “if the U.S. does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world…and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic.”

In a New Year’s statement broadcast on Jan. 1, 2019, Kim praised his June 2018 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, where the leaders had “fruitful talks” and “exchanged constructive ideas.”


He also said he was ready to meet again with Trump “at any time in the future.” Kim also called on the United States to extend its halt on military exercises with South Korea.

He added that the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushing ahead with sanctions and pressure.”

At the June 2018 summit, Kim and Trump agreed to a vague pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but little progress has been made on the issue in recent months.

Kim Jong Un warns U.S. in New Year’s speech

www.youtube.com

A meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials was canceled in November 2018 and has yet to be rescheduled.

On Dec. 31, 2018, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim had sent Trump a “letter-like” message that was “conciliatory” in tone.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said Kim had sent a message to Seoul expressing a desire to hold additional Korean summits in 2019 with the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula.

In 2018, Kim used his New Year’s address to open up a new diplomatic initiative with Washington and Seoul that led to three summits with Moon and the historic Singapore summit with Trump.

Kim also met three times in 2018 with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy did its historic flyover for President Bush

The act of conducting a ceremonial flyover is nothing new for naval aviators, but the flyover that occurred Dec. 6, 2018, is one that has never occurred before in our Navy’s history.

At approximately 4:15 p.m. (CST), aviators from various squadrons assigned to Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic (CSFWL) and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) flew an unprecedented 21 jet flyover at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library to honor the former naval aviator and president at his interment in College Station, Texas.


Following six days of national mourning, the ceremony served as the third and final stage of a state funeral for President Bush who was laid to rest alongside his wife of 72-years, former First Lady Barbara Bush and their late daughter, Robin.

Planning of a state funeral typically begins around the time of a president’s inauguration; however, the execution of that plan may not happen for decades and often with little notice of a president’s passing.

Navy Conducts Unprecedented Flyover for President George H.W. Bush

www.youtube.com

The plan for President Bush’s funeral service called for a 21 jet flyover, which was the responsibility of the operations team at CNAL led by Capt. Peter Hagge.

“Before I even checked in to [CNAL] a year and a half ago, this plan was in place.” Hagge said.Following the former first lady’s passing April 17, 2018, Hagge and the CNAL team coordinated efforts with CSFWL to start making preparation for the president’s death. On Nov. 30, 2018, both teams snapped in to action to execute that plan.

“We coordinated with Joint Reserve Base (JRB) Fort Worth and reached out to the commanding officer, executive officer and operations officer to make sure we had ramp space and hangar maintenance facilities,” said Hagge. “Cutting orders for the aircrew and all 50 maintainers and the other administrative details was the easy part. The tactical level detail was a lot more complex.”

All told, 30 jets made the trip to JRB Fort Worth in addition to the ground team on station at the presidential library in College Station. The extra nine jets served as backups to ensure mission success.

“It was reactionary to make sure we had the requisite number of aircraft with spares to make sure we could fill [the request] with 21 aircraft,” Hagge said.

The extra nine jets comprised of five airborne spares with four more spares on ground ready to support.

Cmdr. Justin Rubino, assigned to CNAL, served as the forward air controller on the ground. He remained in radio contact with the aircraft to match the flyover’s timing with the funeral events on the ground.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Naval aviators from various commands under Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, operating out of Naval Air Station Oceana, fly a 21-jet missing man formation over the George Bush Library and Museum at the interment ceremony for the late President George H.W. Bush.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lindahl)

“I like the responsibility and feel like I had the most direct role in ensuring success — other than the aircraft of course,” Rubino said. “I like being the ‘point person,’ communicating what’s happening on the ground, relaying that information and directing when the flyover occurs.”

Rubino coordinates all of CNAL’s flyovers, but believes this one is special.

“It’s special because not only was he the 41st president, but he was also a naval aviator,” he said. “He flew off aircraft carriers just like we do today and that’s a bond all of us share. He’s one of us. Sure he was the president of the United States, yes, but he was also a naval aviator.”

Coordinating a nationally televised 21 jet flyover for a state funeral is no small task, but Hagge remains humble, giving much of the credit to the Joint Task Force National Capitol Region, which was responsible for the overall planning.

“As far as the complexity goes, for us, we are a really small portion of an incredibly complex machine.”

The “small portion” included executing the Navy’s first 21-jet formation that originated from an Air Force formation already in existence.

“We pretty much took the Air Force plan and put a little Navy spin on it,” Rubino said.

That “spin” included changing the distance between the aircraft and altering the formation to a diamond shape for the first four jets. The last formation utilized the standard “fingertip formation” in order to do the missing-man pull.

Hagge and his team were honored to support.

“A funeral is a family’s darkest hour and a flyover, an opportunity where we can support them in a time of mourning, means the world to them,” said Hagge. “But this one, I think, means the world to our nation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Marine veteran ‘borrowed’ a truck and drove dozens to hospital during Las Vegas shooting

Surrounded by carnage, one thought became crystal clear to 29-year-old Taylor Winston. He needed a truck, and he needed it now.


Winston, of Ocean Beach, was in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when a man opened fire from the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel Resort and Casino on Oct. 1.

At least 59 people were killed, including San Diego attorney Jennifer T. Irvine, and hundreds more were injured.

“People were bleeding everywhere,” Winston said. “Gunshot wounds were everywhere. Legs, torsos, necks, chests, arms — just dozens of people.”

The Marine veteran knew victims needed to get to a hospital right away. He and spotted a nearby parking lot and started running toward it. He knew that festival employees often left keys in work vehicles and he was hopeful. He got lucky.

“The first one we opened had keys inside,” Winston said.

Over the next 40 minutes or so, Winston and a friend would transport between 20 and 30 critically injured people to a hospital in the commandeered truck.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
A more recent picture of former Marine Taylor Winston, who helped dozens of victims during the Oct. 1, 2017 Las Vegas shooting. Photo from his Facebook.

“It was a lot of chaos, but within the chaos there was a lot of good being done and a lot of people rising to the occasion and helping others,” he said.

Just a couple of days removed from the Oct. 1 mass shooting, more stories from survivors, including local residents, are emerging.

Jeffrey Koishor, of San Diego, said it wasn’t until singer Jason Aldean ran off the stage that people realized they weren’t hearing fireworks, but gunshots.

Collective panic set in and people in the crowd around him dropped to the ground. Koishor threw himself over a friend, and, moments later, a piercing pain shot through his leg.

Despite being wounded, Koishor still managed to run to a nearby bar where his leg finally gave out. He was again shielding his friend when he was shot a second time. He said the left side of his body “wasn’t working” so he ran another 50 yards to cover, hopping on one leg.

“I have never ran so fast on one leg in my life,” he wrote on Facebook.

Two strangers helped him get to a hospital, which was absolute chaos, Koishor said.

 

(ediis0nn | YouTube) 

“I was able to get a hold of my mother,” he wrote. “Trying to explain what happened, I just broke down crying so hard. I was so worried and (in) so much pain.”

Doctors told Koishor that one of the bullets had shattered his fibula and the other had fragmented when it hit his hip. Neither the bullet nor the fragments could be removed for fear of damaging surrounding nerve tissue.

A close friend started a GoFundMe account to help support Koishor as he continues to recover.

“Obviously I’m in pain, but I will take the pain tenfold knowing how lucky I am to be alive,” he wrote.

Some other local residents injured in the shooting have been identified, many through social media. They include: Del Mar Deputy Fire Chief Jon Blumeyer, George Sanchez, 54, of San Diego and Zack Mesker of San Marcos.

An unidentified off-duty San Diego firefighter was injured as well. The injury was not life-threatening.

Winston said he and his friends were to the right of the stage when the shooting began. People were getting hit all around them as they ran to a nearby fence. They started throwing people over the other side, eventually climbing over themselves.

 

 

Winston and a friend appropriated the truck soon after.

With gunfire continuing in the background, he and the friend hopped in the truck and started driving around picking up injured people. After driving them away from the shooting, they returned to the concert venue.

Victims were everywhere.

He soon spotted a group of his friends who had set up a makeshift medical area. Strangers were dragging victims there and others were providing emergency first aid.

He pulled up and started loading the most seriously injured into the truck.

“I think the hardest part was seeing so many people who desperately needed help and only being able to take a handful of them at a time,” he said.

It took about ten minutes to get everyone to a hospital. Once the victims were in the hands of medical professionals, Winston looked at his friend and said, “We’re going back for round two.”

Plenty of people still needed to be taken to the hospital when they returned, so they loaded a second group.

“We were looking for the most critically injured,” he said. “It was hard to gauge, but we tried to make decisions as quickly as possible to hopefully save as many people as possible.”

By the time they went back for a third trip, there were several ambulances in the area.

 

(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police | YouTube) 

He said he doesn’t know if all the people he assisted survived. A couple of them were limp and unconscious by the time they got to the hospital. He said he might be reunited with some of the people he transported later this week.

“I just know I’m super fortunate,” he said. “I just wanted to help as much as possible and, in life, nothing gets done by losing your cool.”

Winston decided to stay in Las Vegas for a little while longer, to continue to try and help.

“I could have easily gone back to San Diego in my safe little area with everyone I know and forget this all happened, but I’d rather be here and help out the best I can and not run from it,” he said.

As for the truck he commandeered, he parked it sometime later and it ended up being towed. Winston and the owner were connected via social media, and they got together Oct. 2 so Taylor could return the keys.

He said they had a heart-to-heart, and the owner didn’t mind “at all” that Winston had borrowed the truck.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA sent a buttload of experiments up on SpaceX rocket

Experiments in forest observation, protein crystal growth, and in-space fuel transfer demonstration are heading to the International Space Station following the launch Dec. 5, 2018, of SpaceX’s 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The company’s Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 1:16 p.m. EST on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It’s carrying more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support the crew, station maintenance and dozens of the more than 250 investigations aboard the space station.


Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives two days later. NASA astronaut Anne McClain will monitor telemetry during the spacecraft’s approach.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, with installation coverage set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Science aboard Dragon

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) will provide high-quality laser ranging observations of the Earth’s forests and topography required to advance the understanding of important carbon and water cycling processes, biodiversity, and habitat. GEDI will be mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module’s Exposed Facility and provide the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure at a global scale. These observations will quantify the aboveground carbon stored in vegetation and changes that result from vegetation disturbance and recovery, the potential for forests to sequester carbon in the future, and habitat structure and its influence on habitat quality and biodiversity.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

NASA’s new laser instrument, the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, or GEDI.

(NASA photo)

A small satellite deployment mechanism, called SlingShot, will ride up in Dragon and then be installed in a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft prior to its departure from the space station. SlingShot can accommodate as many as 18 CubeSats of any format. After the Cygnus cargo ship departs from station, the spacecraft navigates to an altitude of 280 to 310 miles (an orbit higher than that of the space station) to deploy the satellites.

Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) will demonstrate the first transfer and long-term storage of liquid methane, a cryogenic fluid, in microgravity. The ability to replenish and store cryogenic fluids, which can function as a fuel or coolant, will help enable long duration journeys to destinations, such as the Moon and Mars.

Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) crystallizes an antioxidant protein found inside the human body to analyze its shape. This research may shed light on how the protein helps protect the human body from ionizing radiation and oxidants created as a byproduct of metabolism. For best results, analysis requires large crystals with minimal imperfections, which are more easily produced in the microgravity environment of the space station.

Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2019 and return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Vietnam veteran re-enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

Don Nicholas joined the military twice. The second time was for a reason soldiers don’t often give. His first enlistment began as a Marine in 1971. He spent the war on an aircraft carrier and didn’t set foot in South Vietnam until the war was over. He re-enlisted to land a spot as an embassy Marine in Saigon in 1974. He was on the second-to-last American helicopter leaving the city as it fell in 1975. He left active duty in 1978.

In 2004, he came back. The Marines thought he was too old at age 52. But for the Army Reserve, he was just what the doctor ordered. Literally.


It’s really not a fascination with war itself,” Sgt. Nicholas, who became a podiatrist in the intervening years, told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s more trying to keep people from getting killed. I’m taking the spot of some 19-year-old.”

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
The now-Army NCO Nicholas’ Marine Corps Saigon Embassy ID photo. (Don Nicholas)

 

In 2011, he was 59 years old, the oldest of 6,000 troops in the 25th Infantry Division sent to eastern Afghanistan. He tried for years to get back into the military after his service ended. He tried during Desert Storm and again after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It wasn’t until the height of the Iraq War that the Army was ready to take a man of his skill and advanced age.

Though “advanced” is a term used only because the Army’s average age of enlistees back in 2004 was somewhere between 30 and 35. Nicholas’ wife says his return to service actually replenished his youthful vigor.

He doesn’t want the other 19-year-olds to go,” Mrs. Nicholas said. But “it makes him 19 again. He finds youth in the military.”

After his initial re-enlistment in 2004, he was sent to Iraq for 11 months. After a brief stay back at home, he redeployed to Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, among other places. At age 60, he would be ordered out of the battlefields of Afghanistan due to age restrictions. Instead, he fought to stay in Kunar Province of Afghanistan for another year, pushing back against the military’s attempted mandatory retirement. He has only seen 16 years of active service and wants to complete 20 years.

If I have my chance to stay in and complete my 20 years. I absolutely would,” he told the Daily Mail. “Probably would stay in a few more years after that if I could.” As of 2011, he was hoping his podiatry practice could get him attached to a medical unit.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things you had to have known before joining the military

Well, you took the leap and signed on the dotted line. Now you’re standing in your underwear in front of your bed at boot camp holding a camouflage bag in front of your face and some dude is screaming his head off at you. The thought that’s probably running through your head sounds a lot like, “this is nothing like what my recruiter sold me on.” Well, it’s their job is to get you in — what did you expect?

You might go through the rest of your career believing that some dude in a cool-looking uniform lied to you during an otherwise innocent visit to your local shopping mall. And you know what? If this were any other decade, a time before the internet was easily accessible by anyone, you might actually have a believable story.

But in 2018, that just doesn’t fly. Your recruiter didn’t lie to you; you just didn’t do the research.

If you’ve signed up, you’ve got no excuse for failing to know the following:


US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Just make sure it’s the best fit for you, either way.

If you match your branch of service

Not everyone is cut out to join the Marines; it’s a rough-and-tumble lifestyle that requires you to forsake most creature comforts. In fact, you may find that the branch that best suits you isn’t one you were considering at all.

If you’re unsure of what you want out of the military to even the slightest degree, consider each branch carefully. Next, consider the next item on this list.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

If want to join the Marines to purify water, more power to you…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Kyle N. Runnels)

If you match your MOS

This is a big deal. A lot of people join the military and sign up for an MOS they’ve never even heard of because it “sounds cool” only to realize that it’s not at all what it it sounds like (looking at you, 1179 Water Dogs). Granted, some people end up liking their job, even if doesn’t match the title — but those who end being miserable are a detriment to the unit.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Air Force PT in a nutshell.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)

The fitness requirements are (usually) demanding

If you’ve got a big brain but don’t like running a lot, join the Air Force. Rumor has it they only run in boot camp (and from the sound of gunfire, usually back into their air-conditioned buildings). If you want to join the Marines, but have a hard time doing push-ups, you’ll learn — but it will not be a fun experience.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

So, maybe you should decide on how long you want to get yelled at before you sign up.

(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)

Boot camp and basic training suck

Marines call it boot camp because, well, you wear boots and you’re at camp (not the fun kind). The other branches call it basic training. Not only will you experience vary across branches, the amount of time you’ll spend there will, too. The “easier” branches go for 9 weeks at most and the toughest (and, in my non-biased opinion, most handsome) branch goes for 13.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

This may be the thing that changes your mind more than anything.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jeremy D. Wolff)

Real-life experiences may vary

It may do you some good to ask about the experiences of friends or family members who’ve served and don’t look back on it with rose-tinted glasses. If your uncle’s tales seem a little too far-fetched, rummage around on Reddit and other online communities to get an idea of peoples’ general experiences in the branch you’re considering. The facts are out there if you look.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

If you don’t do the research and you feel like you got screwed — that’s on you.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Duane Duimstra)

Recruitment tactics are tactical

Before you set foot into the recruiting office, keep this in mind: Recruiters are essentially the salespeople of the military. They’re not going to outright lie to you, but they’re trying to sell you on the service they represent.

The fact of the matter is that you should be able to recognize the tactics they’ll use to try and get you to sign up. Treat it like you would any other big decision. If the person you talk to is echoing things you’ve found in your research, they’re probably being honest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Subpoenaed former Boeing official is pleading the Fifth Amendment

A former Boeing official who was subpoeaned to testify about his role in the development of the 737 Max has refused to provide documents sought by federal prosecutors, according to the Seattle Times, citing his Fifth Amendment right against forcible self-incrimination.

Mark Forkner who was Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the 737 Max project during the development of the plane, was responding to a grand jury subpoena. The US Justice Department is investigating two fatal crashes of the Boeing jet, and is looking into the design and certification of the plane, according to a person familiar with the matter cited by the Seattle Times.

The Fifth Amendment provides a legal right that can be invoked by a person in order to avoid testifying under oath. Because the amendment is used to avoid being put in a situation where one would have to testify about something that would be self-incriminating, it can sometimes be seen by outsiders as an implicit admission of guilt, although that is not always the case.


It is less common to invoke the Fifth to resist a subpoena for documents or evidence. According to legal experts, its use by Forkner could simply suggest a legal manuever between Boeing’s attorneys and prosecutors.

Forkner left Boeing in 2018, according to his LinkedIn page, and is currently a first officer flying for Southwest Airlines.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

The Justice Department’s investigation into the two crashes, which occurred Oct. 29, 2018, in Indonesia, and March 10, 2019, in Ethiopia, is a wide-ranging exploration into the development of the plane. The investigation has also grown to include records related to the production of a different plane — the 787 — at Boeing’s Charleston, South Carolina plant, although it is not clear whether those records have anything to do with the 737 Max.

Preliminary reports into the two crashes that led to the grounding — Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — indicate that an automated system erroneously engaged and forced the planes’ noses to point down due to a problem with the design of the system’s software. Pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft.

The system engaged because it could be activated by a single sensor reading — in both crashes, the sensors are suspected of having failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in China following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The automated system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), was designed to compensate for the fact that the 737 Max has larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose downward to negate the effect of the engine size.

The plane has been grounded worldwide since the days following the second crash, as Boeing prepared a software fix to prevent similar incidents. The fix is expected to be approved, and the planes back in the air, by the end of this year or early 2020.

During the certification process, Forkner recommended that MCAS not be included in the pilots manual, according to previous reporting, since it was intended to operate in the background as part of the flight-control system, according to previous reporting.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Thursday Threesome: A trio of new blasters

A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear.


We’ve got the scoop on some new blasters for you. Three of them, actually. Because today’s Thursday, and everyone knows that Thursday is good for threesomes.

You’re welcome.

Remember. At the risk of sounding orgulous, we must remind you – this is just an advisement, a public service if you will, letting you know these things exist and might be of interest. It’s no more a review, endorsement or denunciation than it is an episiotomy.

Grunts: Orgulous.

 

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
1. Inland Manufacturing T30 Carbine.

Inland Manufacturing (not Indigo Augustine) has released an M1 Carbine style blaster called the T30 Carbine, complete with “M82 Vintage Sniper Scope.” The T30 is intended to resurrect and revive interest in the WWII- and Korean War-era T3 originally fitted with the (state of the art, by contemporary standards) M3 infrared night vision optic. Inland says the new-old T3 will come fitted with a ‘period-correct’ Redfield-style scope welded to the receiver, as the optics on the original were.

The M82 Hilux scope looks correct for the period, but has been constructed to modern standards, including better guts for improved light transmission and clarity. Apparently it also has better windage and elevation capability. The T30 ships with a period-correct clamp on a conical flash hider, oiler, magazine, and sling.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Unfortunately, although the MKS Supply press release indicated the T3 had been released, it doesn’t appear to be on their website (and they did not provide a direct link to the specific product). Nor are the T3 Carbines (as of this writing) on the Inland Manufacturing website, which is apparently different than Inland Depot.

All three sites are pretty anemic and a little confusing, which is both irritating and frustrating. You might be best served just contacting them here if you want to avoid the aggravation.

Sorry, we don’t have candid imagery or lifestyle shots either. They may make great guns (we haven’t shot any yet) but their comms plan blows.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

Here are the details they sent us.

Specifications:
  • Weight: 5.3 pounds without scope, 6.0 pounds with scope
  • Barrel length: 18 inches
  • Caliber: .30 Carbine
  • Capacity: 15 as sold (one magazine)
  • Stock: Walnut; low wood design
  • Scope: M82 sniper scope – 2 .5 power by Hilux with 7/8-inch tube
  • MSRP: $1,695 with Hi-Lux M82 scope and Redfield style rings
  • MSRP: $1,279 without scope-without rings
  • NOTE: The Inland T30 will also take 1-inch and 30mm Redfield rings.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

2. The Bushmaster Minimalist

Bushmaster (not Bonnie Rotten) has a new rifle out, as long as we’re on the subject of irritating websites and limited information. Take a look at the Bushmaster Minimalist SD. The company describes it as its “latest modern sporting rifle” — i.e. an AR with a more politically correct name — that provides “…exceptional accuracy, reliability, and performance in a rifle that is highly featured, lightweight and economical.”

It’s chambered in 5.56mm NATO or 300 AAC Blackout, and each weighs approximately 6 lbs. Interestingly, they all feature an ALG Defense trigger and Mission First Tactical furniture, which is nice.

Here are the details Bushmaster sent over. First, take a look a this video Bushmaster

Bushmaster Minimalist-SD Feature and Benefits:

  • 16-inch, lightweight, 4150 FNC treated barrel
  • Rifle Length AAC Square Drop Handguard – For attachment of KeyMod accessories at seven different angles
  • ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT) – Consistent, smooth 5.5-pound trigger pull
  • Mission First Tactical Minimalist Stock – Comfortable and versatile with QD cup and rounded rubber buttpad
  • Mission First Tactical Grip and Magazine – High-quality furniture and magazine with similar styling91056 – BFI Minimalist-SD 556 Specifications
    Mag Capacity Barrel Length Twist Rate Overall Length Upper Receiver Barrel Material Barrel Finish Barrel Contour Avg. Weight
    30 16″ 1:8″ 35″ A3 Flattop 4150  FNC Lightweight 6lbs

    90924 – BFI Minimalist-SD 300 BO Specifications

    Mag Capacity Barrel Length Twist Rate Overall Length Upper Receiver Barrel Material Barrel Finish Barrel Contour Avg. Weight
    30 16″ 1:7″ 35″ A3 Flattop 4150 FNC Heavy 6.3lbs

The Bushmaster Firearms website is still under construction, so you’ll need to go to page 2 of their online catalog to get a better look at the Minimalist-SD…which you can’t order from, so you’ll have to figure out a different way to buy one if you’re so inclined (or find a distributor who has them in stock).

There’s more on their “official fan page” if you’d like to take a look. Find that here. They have an IG account (@bushmaster_firearms) but they haven’t posted anything there yet.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

3. The Chiappa Little Badger rifle

The Chiappa (not Charity Bangs) Little Badger Rifle looks interesting. Now available in 17 WSM and .17HRM (both increasingly popular calibers as .22 becomes ever harder to find), the Little Badger is described as an “ultra-compact, lightweight, break-open rifle designed to go anywhere at any time.”

Seems reasonable enough.

The rifle is only 17-inches long with the action opened and weapon folded. This should make it easy to stow away in your road bag or the pouch doohickey it ships with.

Chiappa says,

“The wire frame stock keeps weight to a minimum and the integrated shell holder in the back holds twelve cartridges so ammo is always at the ready. The Little Badger comes equipped with an M1 Carbine style front and rear sight. Picatinny rails are mounted top, bottom and on both side just forward of the receiver for mounting optics and accessories. An optional handle/cleaning kit combination accessory screws into the bottom of the receiver. Compact length and weighing only 2.9lbs, the Little Badger can truly be taken almost anywhere when the situation calls for a lightweight, versatile rifle.”

The barrel of this single-shot little blaster is 16.5 inch carbon steel with six groove RH 1:16 twist, with muzzle threads at 1/2 in. -28TPI. Sights are fixed, weigh is less than three pounds and overall length is 31 inches.

Apparently there’s a cleaning kit that stows in the pistol grip too.

All the different versions of the Little Badger can be found right here…unfortunately, the new 17WSM isn’t on this website yet either, so you’ll have to just keep your eye out or check their dealers.

The 17HRM isn’t on their home page either, but it looks like it can be found on some other sites if you want to do a little digging.

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump reportedly thought N. Korea would ‘pull out’ — so he beat them to it

President Donald Trump took North Korea’s recent provocative statements into account when he canceled his planned summit with the country’s leader Kim Jong Un. Trump believed Kim would cancel the meeting first, US officials said, according to NBC News.

“There was no hint of this yesterday,” a US official familiar with the summit preparations told NBC News on May 25, 2018.


Trump reportedly began seriously considering withdrawing from the summit on May 23, 2018, and consulted with Vice President Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly, and national security adviser John Bolton. The president also spoke with defense secretary Jim Mattis on May 24, 2018.

Trump eventually released a letter addressed to Kim on May 24, 2018, citing what he described as Pyongyang’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in its recent public statements. North Korea sent out heated missives in response to controversial remarks from Pence and Bolton on the fate of the North Korean regime.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching

According to a Washington Post report, Trump was reportedly worried that North Korea would back out of the meeting first, and in an effort to prevent the US from looking desperate, he beat them to the punch.

“I was very much looking foward to being there with you,” Trump said in the letter.

Trump’s abrupt decision took lawmakers and allies, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, by surprise. It also contradicted a letter from the State Department on the constructive talks Pompeo was having with other Asian leaders ahead of the summit, which was sent nearly two hours before Trump’s letter to Kim.

US military veterans find peace in protecting rhinos from poaching
President Donald Trump andu00a0South Korean President Moon Jae-in

Pompeo has taken a prime role in US-North Korean diplomatic relations, after he traveled to North Korea and helped secure the release of three Korean-American prisoners. But according to some US officials, Bolton, who is viewed as a hawkish policy advisor, clashed with some of Pompeo’s ideas and floated the notion of scuttling the Trump-Kim meeting.

Following Trump’s decision, North Korean officials released a statement saying they were still willing to meet with the US to “resolve issues anytime and in any format.”

“I want to conclude that President Trump’s stance on the North-US summit does not meet the world’s desire for peace and stability both in the world and on the Korean Peninsula,” a North Korean official said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Today in military history: Russia tests ICBM

On Aug. 26, 1957, the Soviet Union announced the successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Both the United States and the Soviets had been in a race to perfect a nuclear-capable long-range missile since World War II. 

In July of 1957, the U.S. launched an ICBM called the SM-65 Atlas, which was as successful as a modern North Korean missile test or a sloppy hookup after too many drinks: It was just an embarrassing failure to perform.

A month later, the Soviets announced their own ICBM test had gone swimmingly…though no details were given, leading to some dubious though wary reactions from the US. 

The launch of Sputnik two months later, however, would give the Russians the edge in the space race, causing the U.S. to accelerate its efforts to close the “missile gap.”

Today, Russia has an agreement on space cooperation with the United States until the end of December 2030 (in spite of the United States’ newly formed Space Force).

According to DW, “The agreement was first signed in 1992 and has since been extended four times. The pact included joint work on the International Space Station, which Russia said at the beginning of March will continue until 2028. It also included cooperation between Roscosmos and NASA — the two countries’ space agencies — as well as Russian rockets ferrying astronauts and supplies to the ISS, after NASA shelved its space shuttle fleet.”

At a time when political relations between the U.S. and Russian remain tense — the U.S. has accused Russia of hacking and election interference, among other actions — many still believe that science must transcend politics.

Featured Image: Atlas 2E Ballistic Missile on display at the San Diego Aerospace Museum, Gillespie Field, El Cajon, California.

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