The US Navy bragged on social media Tuesday morning that it currently has seven aircraft carriers underway, a major improvement over the situation in late October, when half the carrier fleet was in a non-deployable state.
“The Navy has 7 aircraft carriers underway today. NBD,” the Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) tweeted Tuesday in a humble-brag; “NBD” is an acronym for “no big deal.”
Less than two months ago, the Navy had that many carriers stuck pier-side due to maintenance issues, preparation for mid-life overhauls, unexpected malfunctions, and new construction challenges.
On the East Coast, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) was winding up to a deployment after an extended maintenance availability.
The USS George Washington (CVN-73) was in the yard for its Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH) with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) pier-side, apparently in preparation for its mid-life overhaul.
The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) was in extended maintenance. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was down for an electrical malfunction.
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) was in an extended post-shakedown availability.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
And, on the West Coast, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was in maintenance, leaving only handful of the 11 carriers readily available.
Even with less than half of its carriers available, the Navy still had ready an unmatched carrier force, but the problem is that with that many ships in the yard, it makes it harder to meet the demand for carriers, important tools for the projection of American military power.
“I have a demand for carriers right now that I can’t fulfill. The combatant commanders want carriers,” Richard Spencer, the former Secretary of the Navy, said at that time.
Right now, the Truman is underway in the 6th Fleet area of operations while the Stennis, Ike, and Ford are all underway in the Atlantic. The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) are underway in the 3rd Fleet AOR, and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) remains in the 5th Fleet AOR, the Navy told Insider.
The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is forward-deployed in Japan, but it is currently in port.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.
The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.
Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.
However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.
By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.
Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)
Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.
Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”
“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.
In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.
Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.
(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)
Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.
US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.
The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force F-15 Eagle pilots are helping to guard the skies over Iceland for the eleventh time since NATO’s Icelandic Air Surveillance mission began.
The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron began flying operations here this week in support of the mission, highlighting America’s commitment to NATO and the strength of its ties with Iceland. The squadron is tasked with supplying airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its host’s peacetime preparedness needs and bolster the security and defense of allied nations.
During their rotation, the squadron will maintain an alert status 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of their peacetime mission. This means they are ready to respond within minutes to any aircraft that may not properly identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control or have a flight path on file.
Strengthening NATO Partnerships
“This deployment gives us the opportunity to strengthen our NATO partnerships and alliances and train in a different location while continuing to improve our readiness and capability for our alert commitment,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS commander. “Our overall expectation is to maintain a professional presence in everything we do.”
To remain vigilant, the squadron performs daily “training scrambles” in which they simulate real-world alert notification and execute planned protocols to ensure a speedy response.
More than 250 airmen assigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and 13 F-15C/D Eagles deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, with additional support from U.S. airmen assigned to Aviano Air Base, Italy. Four of the aircraft are tasked with direct support of the Icelandic Air Surveillance mission, while the additional nine aircraft will conduct training missions, providing pilots invaluable experience operating in unfamiliar airspace.
An F-15C Eagle flies over Iceland during a flight in support of the Icelandic Air Policing mission Sept. 15, 2010. The IAP is conducted as part of NATO’s mission of providing air sovereignty for member nations and has also been conducted by France, Denmark, Spain and Poland.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Andrew Rose)
While providing critical infrastructure and support, Iceland has looked to its NATO allies to provide airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its peacetime preparedness needs since 2008.
“Every year, we experience how qualified the air forces of the NATO nations are and how well trained they are to conduct the mission,” said Icelandic Coast Guard Capt. Jon B. Gudnason, Keflavik Air Base commander. “This is what makes NATO such a great partner.”
NATO allies deploy aircraft and personnel to support this critical mission three times a year, with the U.S. responsible for at least one rotation annually. So far, nine nations have held the reigns in support of Iceland: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and the U.S.
As the United States continues to take preventative steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19, the Pentagon has issued number of statements pertaining to the coronavirus and PCS orders, as well as official and non-official travel, in the coming months.
If you have a family member or loved one currently attending recruit training, make sure to check our regularly updated article explaining audience attendance restrictions at graduation ceremonies across the force here.
It’s important to remember that most service members and even their families are not at high risk even if they are exposed to Covid-19. These precautionary measures should be seen as responsible steps aimed at preventing the spread of the infection, but not as cause for significant worry. This story will be updated as more changes manifest.
You can follow these links to jump directly to sections explaining different changes pertaining to military snd civilian travel, the coronavirus and PCS orders.
On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced new travel restrictions that will go into affect on Friday, March 13. The restrictions include a 60-day ban on travel to any nation designated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a “Level 3 Location.” This ban includes all TDY and PCS related travel.
“This restriction includes all forms of travel, including Permanent Change of Station, Temporary Duty, and government funded leave,” the Defense Department announcement states. “The Level 3 countries are set by the CDC and may change. The DoD guidance will follow those changes. Service secretaries and commanders may issue waivers to this policy as they determine necessary to ensure mission readiness and address specific cases”
The Pentagon also advises that service members that are traveling to unrestricted nations take specific care to ensure their travel arrangements do not involve stops or layovers in areas designation by the CDC as “Level 3.”
“Authorized Departures are delayed until appropriate transportation and reception procedures are in place for their intended route of travel as prescribed in this memorandum,” the memo states.
Military Families and Civilian Personnel Travel
Military families and civilian personnel are also barred from traveling to “Level 2” locations for 60 days. Some “level 2” designation nations include the UK, Japan, Singapore, and Bahrain — where the U.S. Navy’s Central Command is currently located.
“The Department of Defense’s top priority remains the protection and welfare of our people,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a released statement. “While directing this prudent action, I continue to delegate all necessary authority to commanders to make further decisions based on their assessments to protect their people and ensure mission readiness. While we deal with this fluid and evolving situation, I remain confident in our ability to protect our service members, civilians and families.”
PCS and Transfer Changes
The Department of Defense’ Customer Movement Portal has updated its page to include brief answers to many of the most frequently asked questions among service members and their families pertaining to coronavirus PCS order changes.
Here are the Defense Department’s answers to the questions you have about the Coronavirus and your PCS orders, sourced directly from the Pentagon’s FAQ:
Q: My PCS is rapidly approaching–how do I know if my planned move is covered by this order?
A: Contact your chain of command immediately!
Q: I’ve confirmed that my PCS is impacted by a stop movement order, but I have already submitted my movement request to the Personal Property Office. What will they do with my shipment?
A: It depends.
– If your shipment has not yet been awarded to a moving company, it will be put in a hold status pending further guidance (e.g. either the stop movement order is rescinded or you receive approval from your chain of command to continue with your move).
– If your shipment has been awarded to a moving company, but has not yet been serviced (e.g. packing has not begun), please contact your servicing Shipping Office. They will work with you to change your pickup dates to a future date in coordination with your mover and in line with DOD guidance.
Q: My shipment has already been picked up by the moving company. What will happen to it now?
A: Contact your Shipping Office to determine your shipment’s status. Depending when it was picked up, it may be in storage in the local area, en route to your planned destination, or in storage near your destination.
Q: What about my POV? I have an upcoming appointment to drop my car off at the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). What should I do?
A: If you are unsure if the stop movement order applies to you, contact your chain of command. If the stop movement order does not apply to your PCS—or your chain of command has approved an exception to the order—proceed to the VPC as planned.
Q: I’ve already dropped my POV off, but my PCS has been delayed. Can I get my car back?
A: If you’re interested in retrieving your vehicle, contact the VPC immediately. VPCs are postured to assist customers with changing appointments, vehicle retrieval, and answering any other POV-related questions you have.
The DoD also advises that service members contact their local Personal Property Office for answers to their specific questions, or you may be able to find more answers on their customer service page.
You can also contact USTRANSCOM’s 24-hour hotline Toll Free at (833) MIL-MOVE, (833) 645-6683.
CDC Designated Level 3 Travel Health Notice Nations
The Center for Disease Control currently designates these nations as “Level 3,” barring any travel to these countries for service members for at least the coming 60 days, starting Friday, March 13.
Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself interim president in January 2019, appeared to be in hiding as the country’s military leaders declared their support for his rival, President Nicolás Maduro.
The whereabouts of Guaidó, 35, remains unknown after he symbolically swore in as the country’s interim president on Jan. 23, 2019, before tens of thousands of supporters, promising to remove Maduro from power.
Guaidó has said that he needs support from three groups: The Venezuelan people, the international community, and the military, The Associated Press reported.
He hasn’t passed all three tests yet.
The long list of countries supporting his claim — including the US, the EU, and most of Venezuela’s neighbors — gives him a good argument that he has persuaded the international community.
President Nicolás Maduro.
It is difficult to measure Guaidó’s popular support, though his rallies have pulled in huge crowds. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans marched in support of Guaidó in January 2019.
But abuse and maltreatment of recruits did not begin or end with Siddiqui, Military.com has learned.
In all, three different investigations into training inside one Parris Island battalion reveal a culture of hazing and violence that did not end until one recruit’s family sent an anonymous letter to President Barack Obama in April.
The investigations also reveal that drill instructors within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had a history of singling out recruits based on their ethnicity and religion, and that another Muslim recruit had been subjected to severe hazing in 2015 when a drill instructor repeatedly shoved him into a clothes dryer and turned it on, and forced him to shout “Allah Akbar” loud enough to wake other recruits.
That same drill instructor would become a supervisory drill instructor in Siddiqui’s unit, the investigation found, and his treatment of the recruit, including forcing him to complete “incentive training” and physically assaulting and slapping him immediately prior to his death, provided impetus for the suicide, investigators found.
In all, 20 drill instructors and senior leaders from Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment face punitive action or separation from the Marine Corps for participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits. Several drill instructors at the heart of the abuse allegations are likely to face court-martial for their actions.
The contents of the three investigations have not been released publicly as the findings have yet to be endorsed by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. But Marine officials discussed the contents of the investigations and the recommendations of the investigating officers in response to a public records request.
Marine officials said Thursday that the incidents of hazing and abuse were confined to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and not indicative of the culture within the Corps’ boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.
“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.”
A lengthy investigation into the death of 20-year-old Siddiqui found the recruit had died by suicide, jumping from the third floor of the Company K recruit training barracks, slamming his chest against a railing at the bottom of the stairs.
Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself five days before, prior to the first full day of recruit training. He described a plan to jump out a squad bay window, investigators found, but later recanted and was allowed to remain in training.
In the short time Siddiqui was at the unit, investigators found he was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist,” presumably in reference to his Muslim background. One drill instructor also asked the recruit if he needed his turban, officials said.
Findings show recruits were routinely singled out on account of their backgrounds and ethnicity. Drill instructors referred to one recruit born in Russia as “the Russian” and “cosmonaut” and asked him if he was a communist spy, investigators found.
In Siddiqui’s unit, recruits were subjected to unauthorized incentive training, in which they would lift footlockers, day packs and other heavy items and clean the squad bay in uncomfortable positions using small scrub brushes for hours. Drill instructors would also push and shove recruits and use Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training as an opportunity to pit recruits against each other, sometimes in physically unfair matchups.
Drill instructors told investigators that a more experienced drill instructor taught subordinates they needed to “hate” recruits to be successful at training them.
On March 13, Siddiqui, who previously had received a clean mental health evaluation, expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed at the scene and turned over the the depot’s mental health unit, where he recanted and expressed a wish to return to training.
He was given a clean bill of health, described as “highly motivated to continue training,” and returned to his unit with no follow-up requested, investigators found.
Drill instructors would tell investigators that recruits frequently express suicidal ideations as an excuse to get out of training, and thus no serious incident report was made about Siddiqui’s threat. While drill instructors were told to ease Siddiqui back into training, they were not made aware of his suicidal ideations.
The morning of Siddiqui’s death, the recruit presented drill instructors with a note asking to go to medical with a severely swollen throat. He claimed he had lost his voice and coughed up blood overnight and was in significant pain. In response, he was told to do “get-backs” — to sprint back-and-forth the nearly 150 feet between the entrance to the bathroom, the back of the squad bay and the front of the squad bay.
“I don’t care what’s wrong with you; you’re going to say something back to me,” a drill instructor yelled as Siddiqui began to cry.
Shortly after, the recruit dropped to the floor clutching his throat, though it’s not clear if he became unconscious or was feigning to deflect the drill instructor’s abuse.
In an effort to wake him, the drill instructor slapped Siddiqui on the face hard enough to echo through the squad bay. The recruit became alert, ran out of the squad bay, and vaulted over the stairwell railing, sustaining severe injuries in the fall.
Drill instructors called 911. Siddiqui would be taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Charleston, where he would receive blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an unsuccessful effort to save his life. He died just after 10 a.m.
The lawyer for the Siddiqui family, Nabih Ayad, did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigations’ findings.
In the wake of Siddiqui’s death, multiple leaders have been relieved for failing to prevent the culture of recruit abuse. On March 31, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was fired in connection with the investigation of prior allegations of recruit mistreatment, including the hazing and assault of another, unnamed, Muslim recruit.
Notably, the Marine Corps’ investigations stopped short of finding that drill instructors’ hazing of Siddiqui and other recruits was motivated by racial bias. They did find evidence that some drill instructors made a practice of exploiting recruits’ ethnicities as a way to harass them.
On June 6, Parris Island officials announced that Recruit Training Regiment’s commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had been relieved in connection with the Siddiqui investigation.
Fifteen drill instructors have been sidelined since April amid allegations of recruit hazing and maltreatment, and two captains may also face punishment for failing to properly supervise drill instructors.
Marine officials said it may be one to three months before disciplinary decisions are made, including possible charges filed, regarding these 20 Marines.
Officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command have also set in motion a host of new policies designed to prevent future mistreatment of recruits, said Maj. Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman.
These include increased officer presence and supervision of recruit training; mandatory suspension of personnel being investigated for recruit hazing or mistreatment; better visibility of investigations above the regiment level, changes to the drill instructor assignment process to prevent chain-of-command loyalty from affecting leadership; creation of a zero-tolerance policy for hazing among drill instructors; and a review of mental health processes and procedures for suicide prevention.
“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller said. “And we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”
From Nov.7 to Nov. 10, over the span of 65 total hours, 58,318 names were read aloud and given life once again. More than 2,000 volunteers traveled from as far away as Alaska to participate in the “Reading of the Names” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A stage with two spotlights was placed right in front of the wall. A podium stood at center stage. Every two minutes, a volunteer walked up to the podium and read a list of names.
Despite downpours and cold weather each night, people continued to read the names. Many volunteers showed up without having a reserved place in the order and helped fill in the gaps to ensure the reading never paused.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the event on [the night of Nov. 9]. The air was misty and chilly, and there were only 30 or so people around at any given time. A few people sat in chairs in front of the stage to listen. Several people pass by to look at the memorial. There’s a handful standing in line waiting for their turn to read. Everyone is there to pay their respects to the fallen.
As I stood in line waiting for my turn, I listened to the others. The more I listened, the harder it was to keep my eyes dry. One woman preceded a name with “my father” and choked up as she read his name. A gentleman that followed her struggled to get through some of the names of his comrades. Every name means something to somebody somewhere. Each name represents service and sacrifice.
The first “Reading of the Names” occurred at the National Cathedral when the memorial was dedicated in November 1982. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the memorial and a reading of the names has been held every five years.
Thank you to everyone that participated in this important event. Stay up to date with news and events happening at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by following the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund at http://www.vvmf.org.
As part of a strategy to develop and deliver new robotics capabilities to future soldiers, Army researchers have partnered with world-renowned experts in industry and academia.
The University of Pennsylvania hosted a series of meetings in Philadelphia, June 5-7, 2018, for principal investigators and researchers from the Army’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, or RCTA.
“We are coming together to tell each other what we’ve done over the last year,” said Dr. Stuart Young, a division chief in the U.S. Army Research Laboratory at Adelphi, Maryland, and the RCTA’s collaborative alliance manager.
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)
The group formed in 2009 to bring together government, industrial and academic institutions to address research and development required to enable the deployment of future military unmanned ground vehicle systems ranging in size from man-portables to ground combat vehicles.
• General Dynamics Land Systems – Robotics • Carnegie Mellon University – The Robotics Institute • Massachusetts Institute of Technology • Florida State University • University of Central Florida • University of Pennsylvania • QinetiQ North America • Cal Tech/Jet Propulsion Lab
Young said the laboratory is focused on transitioning new capabilities to industry partners so they can continue to mature them.
“Since this is a basic and applied research program, we’ll transition it to them so they can get it into an experimental prototype in development,” he said. “Certainly the problem that we are working on is very hard. It is difficult to operate robots in the wild, anywhere in the world, but that’s the kind of problem the Army has to solve.”
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)
The Army’s vision is to make unmanned systems an integral part of small unit teams.
“We’re trying to go from tools to teammates so you can work side-by-side with them,” Young said, continuing with, “In order for robots to be teammates, they must operate in unstructured, complex environments.
“And then in order for the robots to be a useful teammate, they have to communicate naturally like a human does,” Young said. “We’re doing a lot of work in human-robot relationships, understanding concepts in the same way that humans do, trying to get the robots to understand those concepts in the same way so that the teaming can occur more naturally.”
Over the eight years of the alliance, researchers have achieved many milestones in the robotics field.
“New methods for robots to autonomously interact with and perceive the outside world have been developed to improve reasoning, situational awareness, trust and mobility in challenging battlefield environments,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “In the past eight years, researchers have teamed with academia and industry supported by the Robotics CTA to establish robotics technology critical to next generation Army objectives for multi-domain operation.”
(U.S. Army photo by David McNally)
The alliance conducts research in four technical domains:
Perception: Perceive and understand dynamic and unknown environments, including creation of a comprehensive model of the surrounding world
Intelligence: Autonomously plan and execute military missions; readily adapt to changing environments and scenarios; learn from prior experience; share common understanding with team members
Human-Robot Interaction: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments
Dexterous Manipulation and Unique Mobility: Manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver through 3-D environments
“We’ve certainly come a long way, and yes, we have a long way to go,” Young said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in understanding and developing new theory and techniques for communicating between the robots and the humans. We must generate more novel techniques to be able to address those types of problems.”
Researchers said the meetings in Philadelphia were a valuable experience as they continue to plan for a capstone event at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2019, where they will demonstrate the culmination of their research achievements to Army leaders.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
Remember the greatest scene in Iron Man in 2008? No, it’s not when Tony Stark says “I am Iron Man” and it’s not when he first tests the suit. It’s the part when Jeff Bridges yells at that random dude: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!! With a box of scraps!” And now that bizarrely specific diss has created the entire evil scheme from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Pretty much everyone — including the audience — misses Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Iron Man, the world’s premiere superhero and young Peter Parker’s mentor, sacrificed himself to save the world at the end of Avengers: Endgame and the new Spider-Man film sees Spidey, along with everyone else, dealing with a post-Blip, post-Iron Man world. However, there are some characters from Iron Man who make appearances in Far From Home, including one character whose inclusion is much, much more surprising than Happy Hogan or Nick Fury’s — especially once you realize who plays him.
The big twist in Far From Home comes when Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals that he’s not actually a superhero from an alternate dimension. Instead, he’s a disgruntled ex-employee with a grudge against Tony Stark. He’s aided by other former employees, including a face who only appeared once in the MCU, 11 years ago, but it was a very, very memorable and meme-able moment.
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave…with a box of scraps
Yes, it’s the “Box of Scraps” guy, or to be more accurate, the guy that Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane was screaming at because he couldn’t miniaturize Tony’s Arc reactor in order to power the Iron Monger suit. William Ginter Riva was a scientist at Stark Industries in 2008 when Stane, growing increasingly power-mad, ordered him to do what Tony did.
“I’m sorry I’m not Tony Stark,” Riva squeaks back.
That one scene was all viewers ever saw of Riva, whose name they didn’t even know at the time, and chances are, nobody expected to see him again. That’s why it was such a shocker that he appeared by Mysterio’s side, having also adopted a grudge against Tony Stark.
Perhaps more than anybody except for Beck, Riva was responsible for Mysterio. Beck’s hologram technology — which Tony rechristened B.A.R.F. to Beck’s dismay — provided the illusions and visuals, but Riva’s drones provided the destruction. It was Riva who programmed most of the provided choreography for the Mysterio fights, and it was his drones that actually destroyed parts of Mexico, Venice, Prague, and London. For a character who appeared in one minor scene, Riva is incredibly important to Far From Home, and the MCU at large.
Stark Foundation Presentation | Captain America Civil War (2016) Movie Clip
Riva is clearly a bad guy, which means he should be getting coal for Christmas. That’s a tragedy since the character is, amazingly, played by Peter Billingsley, who is best known for playing Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Yes, the kid from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story grew up to become a Stark Industries employee, and later, a weapons designer who aided a supervillain in killing and deceiving people.
In the real world, Billingsly has been acting here and there in the decades since his most iconic role (Christmas movie fans might recognize him as Buddy the Elf’s superior in the Will Ferrel-led Elf), but he’s mostly moved behind the camera. Billingsley has numerous production, writing, and directing credits for film and especially TV. He was actually an executive producer for 2008’s Iron Man, which might explain why he popped in for that small little role. (He’s not listed as a producer for Far From Home, however).
So, there you have it. A minor character from one of the MCU’s most beloved moments 11 years ago appeared unexpectedly more than a decade later to be a surprisingly important villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and he was played by the Christmas Story guy a whole time. Heck, he almost shot Spider-Man’s eye out!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Basic trainees use airsoft M4s at Fort Jackson, SC (U.S. Army)
If you search online for airsoft guns, you’ll find a plethora of replica firearms that shoot 6mm plastic bbs. Airsoft guns can be used in a range of activities from casually plinking soda cans in the backyard to fully immersive military simulation events that can last for days. Naturally, U.S. military firearms like the venerable M4 carbine and M1911 pistol are popular choices for airsofters to carry into their bb battles. As a result, the airsoft market is awash with every conceivable variant of these, and other, real-world firearms. However, one gun has long been coveted by airsoft players for its popularity and rarity.
Used by armed forces, security agencies and police forces in at least 48 countries, Glock pistols are some of the most iconic firearms in the world. Though they are not standard issue with the U.S. military, their use in special forces units and general popularity led to a great demand for airsoft replicas. However, the Glock Company was very wary of their designs and trademark being used without their permission and aggressively combated airsoft replicas coming to the U.S. from Asia as counterfeit products.
U.S. soldiers receive instruction from their British counterparts on the Glock 17 (DVIDS)
Airsoft guns shipped from Asia bearing Glock logos were confiscated by U.S. Customs and were unable to be sold in the United States. To get around this, some retailers selling to U.S. customers would solder the trademarks off of the replica Glocks in order to get them past customs. The occasional entrepreneurial airsofter would make a trip to Japan and bring back a few airsoft Glocks declared only as “toy guns”, and sell them at an inflated price on the Glock-hungry American airsoft market.
However, despite the incredibly high demand for the airsoft version of Gaston Glock’s famous firearms, the replicas that did make it into the states were not perfect copies. Aside from the orange tips and the fact that they shot bbs rather than bullets, the airsoft Glock replicas were slightly wider than the pistols that served as their template. As a result, they did not fit in holsters designed for real Glocks.
Left: Elite Force really wants you to know that they have the Glock license (Author)
Right: If you force an Elite Force Glock into an OEM Glock holster, you’ll have a heck of a time getting it back out…trust me (Author)
In 2017, airsoft history was made when Glock finally gave out the license for Glock airsoft guns. The German manufacturer Umarex and its subsidiary, Elite Force, obtained a worldwide (except France and all French territories) exclusive license. The French company Cybergun obtained the Glock license in France and its territories. It’s a little confusing, but this detail is important.
With its parent company holding the license, Elite Force contracted Taiwan-based airsoft manufacturers Kien Well Toy Industrial Company and Vega Force Company to produce the licensed gas-powered airsoft Glocks. Both KWC and VFC had been making unlicensed airsoft Glocks and simply adjusted some of the markings on their guns to meet Elite Force and Glock’s requirements. However, even these licensed replicas suffered from the aforementioned fault of being too wide and not fitting in Glock holsters.
Credit where it’s due, the Elite Force Glock Gen 4s do have interchangeable backstraps (Author)
Enter Cybergun and its subsidiary, Spartan Military Law Enforcement. Holding licenses in France for FN Herstal, Sig Sauer, Famas, Colt, Kalashnikov, and now Glock, Spartan MLE contracts airsoft manufacturers to supply realistic training tools to military units and law enforcement agencies around the world. Since plastic bbs are extremely inexpensive compared to simunition rounds or other training solutions, many organizations have implemented airsoft as a training tool. Building their products to a high standard to simulate real firearms as closely as possible, Spartan MLE dictates precise specifications to their airsoft manufacturers.
The “Made in Taiwan” sticker rather clashes with the “Austria” marking (Author)
Though the Spartan MLE Glocks are made by VFC like the Elite Force Glocks, Spartan MLE required VFC to update their design to make the guns as close to the real thing as possible. As a result, Spartan MLE Glocks feature a more definitive trigger (Glock triggers are infamously mushy, so that says a lot about the poor triggers in the Elite Force Glocks). Though it’s unnecessary in airsoft, the slide on Spartan MLE Glocks reciprocates the same distance as real Glocks and locks back fully; Elite Force Glocks have a shorter cycle and lock a few millimeters shorter to save gas. Finally, Spartan MLE Glocks are a 1:1 scale replica of real Glocks and fit perfectly into their holsters.
Like a glove (Author)
Unfortunately for many American airsofters, the Spartan MLE Glocks can only be sold to military and law enforcement personnel. In fact, when Spartan MLE first sold the airsoft Glocks in the states, the guns had to be purchased in bulk by military units or police departments. Today, individual military and law enforcement personnel can submit their identification to airsoft retailers and purchase the airsoft Glocks for personal use.
Whether you want to train at home for your duty weapon or just have the most exclusive gun on the airsoft field, the Spartan MLE Glocks offer service members and law enforcement personnel the best replica on the market today.
An Air Force Special Operator fires a Glock 19 (U.S. Air Force)
U.S. Army weapons officials have begun fielding the new Modular Handgun System under a plan to issue the service’s new sidearm all the way down to the team-leader level.
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky. began receiving the new XM17 MHS on Nov. 27 and spent time shooting the new pistol Nov. 29, according to Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the 101st Airborne.
The 101st received more than 2,000 MHS on Nov. 17 and plan to field the new pistols over the next year, O’Donnell said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, attended the initial MHS fielding to about 25 soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, O’Donnell said.
The M17 and M18 use the same polymer grip module and trigger group, with new slides and barrels for full-sized or compact models. (WATM Photo)
The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America, and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the competition for the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, program.
The 10-year agreement calls for Sig to supply the Army with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. MHS comes with Tritium sights as well as 17 and 21-round magazines.
One of the challenges of fielding the MHS will be to develop a new training program since the current plan calls for issuing the XM17 to squad leaders and team leaders, a significant change to a policy that excluded junior leaders from carrying M9s.
“The 101st has realized that this weapon is going into a lot more hands than … what we are authorized to have as equipment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Flynn, the master gunner for the 101st Airborne.
“This weapon is going to go down to the team leader, which is not what we typically have in the 101st or across most light divisions.”
The expanded policy will apply to all Army units receiving the MHS, Debra Dawson, spokeswoman for Program Executive Office Soldier told Military.com.
In addition to a standard operator’s course, “we are going to do an additional course which is basically teaching that soldier how to transition from that pistol to his M4 and the M4 to his pistol,” Flynn said, adding that the 101st is also planning to increase pistol marksmanship training.
“We are putting this weapon into the hands of a lot of younger soldiers who have never fired it,” he said.
First Lt. Andrew Borer said “today is a pretty awesome day” after shooting the new MHS.
“The weapon itself is a very simple handgun; it’s a very easy handgun to shoot,” Borer said. “There is little to no resistance on the trigger. … It’s a very easy weapon to regain our sight picture with and to aim and fire the weapon once we have put a round down range.”
The new M17 is lighter and simpler to use than the Beretta M9. (WATM Photo)
Cpl. Jory Herrmann, a team leader in C Company, said it was a great experience being of the first units to fire the MHS.
“It handled really well, very reliable,” he said. “We slung a lot of rounds down range today had little to no problems out of them. … I think it is going to be a great side arm.”
Herrmann said he was excited about the plan to issue the MHS to team leaders, like himself.
“In the heat of the fight it will give you an opportunity to maybe change up your tactics,” Herrmann said. “It will give us more choices, more options … which is great for a team leader.”
As far as the current M9 pistols, “the Army has decided that in order to maintain that lethality and ensure that everybody has what they need, we are going to maintain the 9mm Berettas until all units have qualified on MHS, Flynn said.
“When you’re spiritually and emotionally fit, you’ll take care of yourself because you love yourself,” said Master Sgt. David Mundy, 35th Infantry Division chaplain assistant.
While sitting on a bench outside the main chapel at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Mundy made it clear that being spiritual is not necessarily the same as being religious, but that spiritual fitness has the ability to bring a peacefulness to anyone.
“Being spiritually, mentally, and emotionally fit will help lead to physical fitness and, ultimately, it all works toward the overall stability, fitness, and readiness of the individual Soldier,” said Mundy.
To build spiritual fitness, Mundy had a few key pieces of advice for Soldiers that he finds helpful whether at home or in a deployed environment.
“As an individual, accept pain for what it is — don’t keep it in,” Mundy said. “Once accepted, become transparent and work through the pain and analyze the situation that brought you to that point.”
This, in Mundy’s experience, helps an individual clarify the problem and work toward a healthy resolution.
In order to successfully work to resolve life’s problems and maintain our mental fitness, Mundy explained that there are four types of people we need to surround ourselves with.
“The first type are prophets — everyone needs a person who can hold their feet to the fire and make them own up to their mistakes,” said Mundy. “The next type of person is the cheerleader — we need to be surrounded by friends who can cheer us on regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves.”
“Teasers are the friends who won’t let us beat ourselves up and also make sure to show us a good time,” said Mundy. “Finally, we need encouragers. Encouragers help you find the good in your life and expand on that.”
After a Soldier establishes these friendships and recognizes the different types of people in their lives, Mundy suggests getting into a workout routine with someone who will help drive them.
“Once you find those people, work out with someone in better shape than yourself in order to push yourself to be better,” Mundy continued. “Everyone needs friends who are like-minded, who can encourage yet challenge.”
Like any military installation, there are plenty of avenues to work on physical fitness at Camp Arifjan. Options for workouts include anything from volleyball, basketball, swimming, and weightlifting to 5Ks, marathons, flag football, and soccer.
The key is maintaining a routine. Attaining spiritual fitness, according to Mundy, is no different.
“There are chapels and a mosque on Camp Arifjan if a person is looking for religious support,” said Mundy. “It’s all about finding and making the time to participate.”
If Soldiers are not necessarily religious in their beliefs, Mundy also encourages meeting with behavioral health support specialists to help lift or ease burdens.
“Both chaplains and behavioral health support will help you on your way to establishing spiritual and emotional fitness,” said Mundy. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Soldier stability, but Soldiers should be aware that they have all the resources available to them to stay strong.”
We’ve all seen the famous painting, Spirit of ’76. In it, a young Revolutionary War drummer boy is marching alongside two other musicians. The boy is in his Continental Army uniform, looking up to an older drummer who is not in uniform. Another uniformed musician is wounded, but marching and playing the fife.
(Painting by Archibald Willard)
Today, Civil War veteran Archibald Willard’s 1875 painting still evokes patriotism in many Americans. It was, after all, painted on the eve of the United States’ centennial. Willard was the grandson of one of the Green Mountain Boys who, led by legendary patriot Ethan Allen, invaded Canada and captured Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolution. But there are a few errors in the painting: The scene it depicts never happened, the flag in the background wasn’t approved by Congress until much later, and the musicians are not wearing the right uniforms.
None of that really matters, it’s still a painting that resonates with Americans 100 years later. However, questions remain. What did the musicians wear in the Revolution? And why was it a different uniform from their fellow colonials?
In those days, musicians in an army existed to expedite communications on the battlefield. Music was loud enough to be heard over the din of combat and varied enough so that American troops would be able to respond to orders given from battlefield commanders without confusing them for other orders. They could even tell the enemy that the rival commanders wanted a parley. Incredibly (and accurately depicted in the painting), these communications were done by old men and boys who were either too old or too young to fight.
Boys that were younger than age 16 and men older than age 50 were enlisted as musicians. At the time, the average life expectancy for an American colonist was around 36 years, so a man older than 50 was both honored for his longevity and hard to find. Finding them on a dirty, smokey battlefield was just as difficult, so the uniforms they wore needed to be slightly more visible. There was also an economic component involved with the decision.
The regular Continental soldier wore a blue coat with red cuffs. Musicians, on the other hand, wore a red coat with blue cuffs. The red made them stand out on a battlefield where visibility was limited. It also made them stand out to the enemy, so if they were discovered, it was immediately clear that the small figure ahead was a musician — unarmed and not a threat (drummers were considered noncombatants). As an added bonus, the inverted uniforms were made from leftover materials in creating soldiers’ garb.
By the time Ohioan Archibald Willard was serving in the Civil War, musicians were wearing the same uniforms as their armed, regular battle buddies. Their purpose on the battlefields and in camp were the same — and Civil War armies still, by and large, used young boys (some as young as age 9) as drummers and buglers, but many also included full bands, with as many as 68 members in some units.
As battlefield communication methods improved, drums soon gave way to the bugle and, eventually, musicians disappeared from the battlefield altogether. Their role has since been replaced by radio and satellite communications, but for the time that musicians served in their battlefield communications role, the boys and men that filled those ranks were some of the bravest who ever marched with an army.