Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

The US dispatched the USS Harry S. Truman, a massive Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, to a tour of Middle East on April 11, 2018, as tensions between the US, Russia, and Syria reach a boiling point over a pending US strike.

“The strike group, including aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, USS Normandy (CG-60), several destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28 and German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), is scheduled to conduct operations in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility,” a US Navy statement read.


Though the specifics of the deployment haven’t been revealed, the presence of an aircraft carrier in the US Navy’s 5th and 6th fleets will pose a massive challenge to Russia and Syria.

Rear Adm. Eugene Black said at the ship’s departure, “We’re ready for any mission, anywhere, any time … The president can send us wherever he wants, with whatever mission he’s got, and we’re ready to go.”

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East
USS Harry S. Truman
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristina Young)

The US previously used navy destroyers when it struck Syria in April 2017. This time, experts expect the strike to be bigger. Russia has threatened to shoot down US missiles and the ships that fire them, but the US has a massive advantage over Russia’s forces, should they try to fight back.

Once the Truman carrier strike group arrives, “the US will be able to clean up the eastern Mediterranean in a conventional fight any day,” Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, previously told Business Insider.

Russia, for its part, has not left its navy dormant, and mobilized 11 ships for fear for its safety as the threat of Trump’s strike looms.

The Truman’s strike group should arrive in the region by early May 2018.

In the video below see how the US Navy sailors in Norfolk, Virginia set off the Truman:


MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why there’s no excuse for Hollywood to screw up military uniforms

Every time a new Hollywood blockbuster comes out about the military, veterans and active duty service members get defensive — and for good reason.


The military is very detail-oriented and the veteran community can spot every mistake in technique, procedure, or uniform wear. It pains us watching films that can’t even get the amount of flags on our uniform correct.

Related: 62 glaring technical errors in ‘The Hurt Locker’

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

 

As much of a master craftsman as Stanley Kubrick was when creating films, he’s not without his flaws. For instance, that scene in Full Metal Jacket when Joker is doing pull-ups and then Private Pyle gets hell for not being able to do one.

But Gunny Hartman should have been on Joker’s ass just as much since none of his should have counted (although it could be argued that it was a character choice by late, great R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine Corps Drill Instructor and Hollywood’s truest bad ass, just so he could f*ck with Pyle sooner.)

The film doesn’t exactly shine the best light on the reality of the Vietnam War, but at least in Full Metal Jacket, the uniforms are on point. According to the original Title 10, Chapter 45 section 772 line (f), actors may wear armed forces uniforms as long as it does not intend to discredit that armed force, and in 1970 that condition was removed altogether.

Back in 1967, Daniel Jay Schacht put on a theatrical street performance in protest of the Vietnam War. He and two other actors put on a skit where he “shot” the others with squirt-guns filled with red liquid. It was highly disrespectful but he did manage to get the uniform correct. After being sentenced with a $250 fine and six months in prison, he brought it up to the Court of Appeals and eventually to the Supreme Court.

It was ruled that, as distasteful as it was, his performance was protected under the First Amendment. The Vietnam War protester inadvertently helped troops by taking away any excuse to not get our uniforms right in film, television, and theatrical performances. Now there is no gray area. Hollywood has no excuse to not get the uniforms right.

 

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

So what gives? There are far more films that try to portray troops as righteous as Superman, but have them pop their collar.

The reason films like Full Metal Jacket, Forrest Gump, American Sniper, and Thank You For Your Service get it right is because they handle the military with respect. The producers, director, and costume designers listen when the military advisor speaks. They hire costume designers like Keith Denny who have handled military films before to do it right.

Military advisors have been gaining more and more respect in the industry. Because without them, well, the film turns into a drinking game for troops and vets — and they do not hold back their vitriol.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Leaked audio of Russian mercs describe beat down by US artillery

Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February 2018 involving US forces and Russian nationals.


Published by Polygraph.info — a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news organizations that receive funding from the US government — the audio recordings paint a picture of Russian mercenaries essentially sent to die in an ill-conceived advance on a US-held position in Syria. Polygraph says the audio recordings are from a source close to the Kremlin.

Also read: Russia’s explanation about drone attacks keeps getting stranger

The Pentagon has described the attack as “unprovoked” and started by forces loyal to the Syrian government that crossed over the Euphrates River, which functions as a border between US-backed troops and Russian-backed ones.

The Pentagon says that about 500 men began to fire on the position and that the US responded with air power and artillery strikes. The audio from Polygraph seems to confirm that while giving some insight into the feelings of the defeated forces.

Also apparent in the audio is displeasure with how Russia has responded to the situation. Initially, Russia denied that its citizens took part in the clash. Later, a representative said five may have died. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the fight left “several dozen wounded” and that some had died.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

The audio recordings, in which voices can be heard saying 200 people died “right away,” appear to back up reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Pentagon that roughly 100 — if not more — Russians died in the fight. Reuters has cited sources as saying the advance’s purpose was to test the US’s response.

Related: Putin personally just launched 4 ballistic missiles

Russia is thought to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military — experts speculate it’s to maintain deniability for acts of war and conceal the true cost of fighting from the Russian people. The Washington Post reported last week that US intelligence reports with intercepted communications showed that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance on the US forces.

The accounts in the audio also align with reports of how the battle went down, depicting an unprepared column of troops meeting an overwhelming air response before helicopter gunships strafed the remaining ones.

Here are the translated transcripts from Polygraph:

First clip:

“The reports that are on TV about … well, you know, about Syria and the 25 people that are wounded there from the Syrian f— army and — well … to make it short, we’ve had our asses f— kicked. So one squadron f— lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people … and I don’t know about the third squadron, but it got torn up pretty badly, too … So three squadrons took a beating … The Yankees attacked … first they blasted the f— out of us by artillery, and then they took four helicopters up and pushed us in a f— merry-go-round with heavy caliber machine guns … They were all shelling the holy f— out of it, and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles … nothing at all, not even mentioning shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that … So they tore us to pieces for sure, put us through hell, and the Yankees knew for sure that the Russians were coming, that it was us, f— Russians … Our guys were going to commandeer an oil refinery, and the Yankees were holding it … We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up, it sucks, another takedown … Everybody, you know, treats us like pieces of s— … They beat our asses like we were little pieces of s— … but our f— government will go in reverse now, and nobody will respond or anything, and nobody will punish anyone for this … So these are our casualties.”

Second clip:

“Out of all vehicles, only one tank survived and one BRDM [armored reconnaissance vehicle] after the attack, all other BRDMs and tanks were destroyed in the first minutes of the fight, right away.”

Third clip:

“Just had a call with a guy — so they basically formed a convoy, but did not get to their f— positions by some 300 meters. One unit moved forward, the convoy remained in place, about 300 meters from the others. The others raised the American f— flag, and their artillery started f— ours really hard. Then their f— choppers flew in and started f— everybody. Ours just running around. Just got a call from a pal, so there are about 215 f— killed. They simply rolled ours out f— hard. Made their point. What the f— ours were hoping for in there?! That they will f— run away themselves? Hoped to f— scare them away? Lots of people f— so bad [they] can’t be f— ID’d. There was no foot soldiers [on the American side]; they simply f— our convoy with artillery.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How it feels for an airman to help rescue Thai kids from a cave

The Thai boys saved from a flooded cave endured dives in zero visibility lasting up to half an hour. In places, they were put into harnesses and high-lined across rocky caverns, said a leader of the U.S. contingent involved in the operation, calling it a “once in a lifetime rescue.”

Derek Anderson, a 32-year-old rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force based in Okinawa, Japan, said the dozen boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their coach, who were trapped for more than two weeks before being rescued, were “incredibly resilient.”

“What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive,” Anderson told The Associated Press in an interview on July 11, 2018.


The scale of the challenge confronting rescuers from Thailand, Britain, Australia and other countries only truly dawned on the U.S. team after it arrived at the cave in the early hours of June 28, 2018, as rain poured down on the region in northern Thailand. The Thai government had requested U.S. assistance.

“The cave was dry when we arrived, and within an hour and half it had already filled up by 2 to 3 feet and we were being pushed out,” said Anderson, the son of missionaries, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Ecuador.

“That was just in the very beginning of the cave and at that point we realized this problem is going to be much more complex than we thought,” he said.

Thailand’s decision to dive the boys out despite their weak condition and lack of diving experience was made when a window of opportunity was provided by relatively mild weather. A massive operation to pump water out also meant air pockets were created at crucial points of the cave, making a rescue possible.

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Falling oxygen levels, risk of sickness and the imminent prospect of more rain flooding the cave complex for months meant “the long-term survivability of the boys in the cave was becoming a less and less feasible option,” Anderson said.

Divers practiced their rescue techniques in a swimming pool with local children about the same height and weight as the members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in the cave.

The aim, Anderson said, was to make each of the boys “tightly packaged” so divers could keep control of them and adjust their air supply as needed. The process lasted hours for each boy, and involved them getting through long passageways barely bigger than an adult body.

Buoyancy compensators that establish neutral buoyancy underwater, hooded wetsuits, bungee cords and special face masks were carried by divers to the cramped patch of dry elevated ground where the boys were huddled.

The positive pressure masks were “really crucial,” Anderson said. Their use meant that even if a boy panicked — perhaps because of getting snagged in a narrow passage — and got water inside his mask, the pressure would expel it.

The complicated operation to bring the boys out of the cave began on July 8, 2018, when four were extracted. Four more were brought out on July 9, 2018, and the operation ended July 10, 2018, with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.

The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world — from the awful news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, 2018, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge.

Initial attempts to locate the boys were twice unsuccessful because the force of cold hypothermia-inducing floodwaters rushing into narrow passages made them unpassable. Even as conditions improved, and divers began laying life-saving rope guidelines through the cave, it was perilous.

“In this type of cave diving, you have to lay line, rope, that’s your lifeline. You have to ensure when you go in you have a way out,” Anderson said. “They were making progress, but it was very little progress and they were exhausting themselves spending maybe five or six hours and covering 40 or 50 meters (yards).”

There were about a hundred people inside the cave for each rescue operation, Anderson said, and each boy was handled by dozens of people as their perilous movement through a total of nine chambers unfolded.

In some phases they were guided by two divers. In some narrow passages they were connected to only one diver. In caverns with air pockets they were “floated” through with the support of four rescuers. Some sections were completely dry but treacherously rocky or deep.

“We had to set up rope systems and high-lines to be able to safely put them in a harness and bring them across large open areas so they wouldn’t have to go all the way down,” Anderson said.

Cylinders placed at locations throughout the cave for replenishing the boys’ air supply were “jammed” with 80 percent oxygen instead of regular air because “that would plus up their oxygen saturation levels and that would be really good for them, their mental state,” he said.

“The world just needs to know that what was accomplished was a once in a lifetime rescue that I think has never been done before,” Anderson said. “We were extremely fortunate that the outcome was the way it was. It’s important to realize how complex and how many pieces of this puzzle had to come together.”

“If you lose your cool in an environment like that, there is a lot of bad repercussions,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Yes, you should keep an E-tool in your trunk

The trunk of a car is its own sort of tool shed. And, among the jumper cables, road flares, tie-downs, bungie cords, first aid kits, and other emergency supplies there should be another woefully under-appreciated tool: the utility shovel. A multi-tool in a shovel’s body, a good utility shovel can dig your car out of trouble. But it’s also handy for chopping away branches, clearing pathways, and battling roving hordes of the undead that happen to ruin your road- or camping trip.

A far cry from your grandma’s gardening shovel, the best utility shovels are made of high-grade materials like carbon, have a wide handle and sharp spade point, and are collapsible or folding. They also feature rows of serrated teeth or a beveled edge so you can hack or saw away when necessary. In short, they belong next to your tire iron and spare. Here, then, are four excellent options.


Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

In the world of specialty knives and tools, SOG is one of the most respected names in the game. Known for cranking out durable, superior quality gear, their Entrenching Tool is no exception.

1. SOG Folding Shovel Survival Shovel

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Made of high carbon steel, the folding shovel is one of the best values around. Users praise its unique triangular handle, which makes it sturdy and easy to operate. Additionally, the tempered blade is lined with a row of sharp teeth, ideal for slashing through whatever gets in its way. Stow it away in its ballistic nylon sheath, throw it your car, or strap it to your belt loop if you’re on the move. Either way, it’ll quickly become an indispensable favorite.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

There’s no denying that the M48 Kommando Survival Shovel looks seriously badass. The shovel head is constructed of tempered stainless steel with a sleek, matte-black oxide coating.

2. M48 Kommando Survival Shovel

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The sharpened shovel serves as dual-purpose tool, with one concave edge great for chopping, and another serrated edge perfectly suited for all of your sawing needs. It also boasts an ergonomic, injection-molded nylon handle that’s 30 percent fiberglass, making it light but virtually indestructible. Especially popular with campers and outdoor enthusiasts, it’s an official “Amazon’s Choice” product and comes highly-rated from legions of satisfied fans.

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3. Iunio Military Portable Folding Shovel

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Built to tackle the extreme, it was specially designed based on feedback collected from intrepid outdoor enthusiasts. The shovel comes with all of the bells and whistles, including a slew of supplemental tools (think hexagonal wrench, pickax, nail extractor, fish scaler, and more). The military-grade multitool is built from high carbon steel, making it completely wear-resistant and hard-wearing. And thanks to its ingenious extension bar, you can adjust the length based on your height and even use it for stand-up digging.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

4. FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel

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When it comes to super impressive multitools, few can compare with this military-grade model from FiveJoy. In addition to being a heavy duty shovel, it’s also outfitted with an axe, hoe, hammer, rescue knife, wire cutter, bottle opener, firestarter, whistle, glass-breaker, paracord, and more. The blade and knife are made from high quality, heat-treated solid carbon steel and the knife itself boasts aerospace grade aluminum. Measuring a smidge more than 21 inches in length when fully extended, the lightweight wonder is just over 2 pounds. It’s safe to say calling this bad boy versatile is a vast understatement.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian show of force fails to impress after U.S. sanctions

Iran carried out a military drill on Sept. 21, 2018, aimed at showing the US how it could shut down oil shipping in the Persian Gulf as more US sanctions loom in November 2018, but the display was underwhelming at best.

The US will slap Iran with sanctions on its oil exports on Nov. 4, 2018, a date that marks six months since the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. Iran essentially responded by saying that if its oil exports are blocked, it will take military measures to block oil exports from other countries, including US allies.

“If the enemies and arrogant powers have an eye on the borders and land of Islamic Iran they will receive a pounding reply in the fraction of a second,” Iranian media quoted Colonel Yousef Safipour as saying of the drills.


But while Iran has some credible naval capabilities that could shut down the waterway for a time, the assets it displayed don’t really seem up to the task.

Iran flew Mirage fighter jets, F-4s and Sukhoi-22s as part of the display. The F-4 and Sukhoi both first flew in the 1960s, and the Mirage first took flight in the 1970s.

Iran, under heavy sanction, hasn’t bought new fighter jets or components in a long time, but has shown considerable skill in keeping its stock flying for decades.

But the US maintains a presence in the Persian Gulf, most recently with an aircraft carrier full of F-35 stealth fighters.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

The US has considerable air power in the Middle East and closely monitors the Persian Gulf. Additionally, US allies like Saudi Arabia don’t exactly sail rubber duckies through the gulf either.

On Sept. 22, 2018, Iran will stage a large military drill with up to 600 navy vessels, its state media said. This number likely includes Iran’s fast attack craft, or military speedboats that have harassed US ships in the past.

Already Iran has found itself abandoned by its former oil clients in anticipation of US sanctions. Iran frequently threatens military force against the US or its neighbors, but rarely follows through.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s $13 billion supercarrier is late again

The US Navy’s new supercarrier continues to face major problems that will delay its delivery to the fleet by at least three months as the service bets big on the troubled ship, Navy officials said March 26, 2019.

Following testing and evaluation with the fleet, the USS Gerald R. Ford last July began maintenance and upgrades at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with the expectation that the aircraft carrier would return summer 2019.


The Ford is now set to spend at least another three months in dry dock because of unforeseen problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other areas, USNI News first reported on March 26, 2019, citing testimony by Navy officials before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)

“October right now is our best estimate,” James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, told the committee, according to USNI News.

The weapons elevators, of which the Ford has only two of the necessary 11, have long been an issue, but the propulsion problem is reportedly less understood.

Problems with the ship’s main turbine generators, which use steam from the two onboard nuclear reactors to generate electricity for its four propeller shafts, appear more serious than initially indicated at sea trials, the report said.

Citing sources familiar with the extent of the repairs, USNI News said two of the main turbine generators “needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls.”

The issue appeared May 2018, when the ship was forced to return to port early.

“The ship experienced a propulsion system issue associated with a recent design change, requiring a return to homeport for adjustments before resuming at sea testing,” the service told Navy Times at the time.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The War Zone said that while the billion Ford has experienced numerous problems with things from the arresting gear and catapults to the radar systems, the Navy is pushing ahead with purchases of this new class of carrier while proposing early retirement for an operational Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

In its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, the Navy said it planned to retire the USS Harry S. Truman two decades early rather than refuel the ship’s nuclear cores to power it for another quarter century. The move is reportedly designed to free up billions for a block buy of two Ford-class carriers and investment in untested unmanned systems the service has determined necessary for future combat.

As the Ford faces developmental challenges, the service is moving forward with future Ford-class carriers: the USS John F. Kennedy, the USS Enterprise, and a carrier now identified only as CVN-81, the War Zone report said.

The embattled flagships are expected to play a crucial role in power projection, but setbacks have raised questions about when exactly it will be ready to do that.

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

popular

4 insane things service members can do to stay awake

Not all deployments are created equal. Some troops primarily work at a desk performing critical operational tasks, while others are out and about undertaking various missions in the bush. Regardless, both schedules usually consist of long hours and a heavy workload which can run anybody down.


No matter the nature of the mission, staying in the fight and being alert is the key for any personnel deployed.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East
Cpl Daniel, a fire team leader, 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, posts security while members of the Afghan Narcotics Interdiction Unit search a compound during Operation Speargun in Urmuz, Afghanistan (USMC photo)

So if you’re worried about falling asleep when you need to be at your best, check out these simple tricks of the trade to stay awake whole on deployment.


 

1. Bangin energy drinks

May seem obvious to the average population that drinking a Redbull or pounding a Monster will get their minds firing on all cylinders. But in most cases, deployed troops just don’t sip a single energy drink — they take it to a whole new level by chugging multiple cans of the all mighty Rip-it.

Splashing water on your face works well too — but that’s no fun.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East
US Army photo

2. Coffee lip

One ration the military never seems to ever run off of is coffee.

When you’re occupying a patrol base or sitting in a fighting hole, coffee machines will be scarce. So instead of filtering water through the grounds, pack a solid pinch of instant coffee from the ole handy dandy MREs into your lip. It tastes like sh*t, but it can help you keep shuteye at bay.

stay awake
US Army photo

3. “Spicy eyes”

This doesn’t refer to “the look” that civilian reporter who came by the FOB to interview the colonel gave everyone. It means sprinkling a small amount of Tabasco sauce onto your finger and rubbing the contents under your eyes. Spicy!

If it burns a little and wakes you back up, you’re doing it right.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East
US Army photo

4. Pain

There’s nothing worse than drifting off while on post.

In fact, if you get caught sleeping, that’s a crucial offense. The human body has a natural way of rejuvenating itself by excreting adrenaline into the blood stream. You can accomplish this by pinching yourself, or if that doesn’t work, delivering a light love tap across your cheek.

It might seem a bit extreme, but it could also save your life and the lives of your comrades.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.


Feature image: U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Charles Dickens

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and Syria hate this U.S. base but can’t touch it

Russia and the Syrian regime warned the US in early September 2018 that they planned to carry out counterterrorism operations near a key US garrison in southeastern Syria known as al-Tanf, where several hundred Marines have been stationed since at least 2016.

But the US responded with a live-fire exercise, and the Russians backed down.

In fact, the al-Tanf garrison has long drawn the ire of Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime — but all they’ve been able to do is complain about it.


The US is “gathering the remnants of the Islamic State at this base in order to later send them wage war on the Syrian army,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in late September 2018, according to Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“According to satellite and other surveillance data, terrorist squads are stationed [at al-Tanf],” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told Russia’s Pravda in late 2017. “[Terrorists] are effectively training there.”

Iran’s Press TV also cited Gerasimov’s quote a June 2018 article titled, “US forces training terrorists at 19 camps inside Syria: Russian expert.”

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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem

Without any real evidence, US adversaries have lobbed many rhetorical attacks against the US forces for supposedly harboring or training terrorists at al-Tanf.

Damascus and Russian state-owned media even claimed in June 2018 that the US was preparing a “false flag” chemical attack “identical to the kind that took place in Douma” at al-Tanf.

“The U.S. led Coalition is here to defeat ISIS, first and foremost, and that is the objective of the presence in at al-Tanf,” US Army Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Business Insider in an email.

“No U.S. troops have trained ISIS and that is just incorrect and misinformation, it is truly amazing some people think that,” Ryan said.

The US has trained Syrian rebels at al-Tanf, namely a group called Maghawir al Thawra, which “is fairly secular by regional standards and has been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

Members of Maghawir al Thawra and a US Army soldier repair a water well in an-Tanf.

But the “claim that the US is training ISIS and like-minded groups at al Tanf is certainly absurd,” Lamrani said.

“To the Russians and Iranians, almost any group fighting against the Syrian government can be labeled a terrorist group,” Lamrani said.

So why do Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime care so much about this garrison?

“I’d say that the primary reasons why Iran cares about it so much is, again, it blocks the Bagdhad-Damascus highway,” Lamrani said, which Tehran uses to transport weapons to Damascus, where the Syrian regime is based.

“The reason they want the land route is that it’s easier to bring [weapons] across land in greater quantities, and the shipping route is very vulnerable to Israeli interception, and the air route is expensive and often gets hit by Israeli airstrikes,” Lamrani added.

Moscow, on the other hand, is upset about al-Tanf because “it’s the last area in Syria where the United States is involved with rebels on the ground that are not Syrian Democratic Forces,” Lamrani said.

The Russians and Syrian regime have “open channels” with the SDF, and want to negotiate — not fight — with them, Lamrani added.

But Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian regime’s ire might go beyond just styming the flow of weapons to Damascus and training rebels.

“There’s a history at that garrison at al-Tanf,” Max Markusen, associate director and an associate fellow of the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.

“I think that the Syrian regime, the Russians and Iranians, would see it as a [symbolic] victory if the United States pulled out of there than just sort of tactical level objectives,” Markusen said, adding that there’s much resentment for the US having trained rebels at al-Tanf too.

But they’re not foolish enough to kinetically force US troops out because “the costs of escalation are too high,” Markusen said.

So they’re relegated to discrediting the al-Tanf garrison.

Going forward, “we will continue to see an escalation of rhetoric,” Markusen said, but “I don’t there’s going to be a major outbreak of conflict.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Has any passenger ever landed an airplane?

Natapixie asks: Has a non-pilot passenger ever managed to land an airplane?

A common Hollywood trope when dealing with commercial airline-centric plots is inevitably at some point the pilot or pilots will become incapacitated and the lead character, who may or may not have any piloting experience, will be forced to take over, lest they die a fiery death when gravity decides to establish dominance. But has this scenario ever actually played out in real life? And what is the likelihood a passenger with limited to no formal pilot training could actually land a commercial airliner safely if they were being talked through it as is often depicted in movies?

To begin with, as to the first question, when talking large commercial aircraft, yes, a passenger of sorts did once and only once, take over for the incapacitated pilots. This occurred aboard the Helios Airways Flight 522 in 2005. So how did both pilots become incapacitated and what happened after?


In a nutshell, the cabin pressurization switch was set to manual, instead of automatic, and the pilots, who had over 20,000 hours of flight experience combined, didn’t realize there was an issue despite this being something that they should have noticed if they’d done their checklists properly. Later the system alerted them to the pressurization issue as they climbed, but the warnings were misinterpreted. Next, the oxygen masks automatically deployed for passengers at around 18,000 ft, something the pilots were seemingly unaware of. This is curious as when the masks deployed the passengers and the rest of the crew would have put theirs on. When the crew observed the pilots still having the plane climb after this event instead of descending immediately (noteworthy here is the passenger oxygen supplies only last 15 minutes or so), they should have attempted to at the least bang on the locked security door, if the lead flight crew member who had the code to open it was incapacitated or otherwise unable to remember it to get in.

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(Photo by Gerrie van der Walt)

As to why they didn’t do this or if they did and the pilots were simply too out of it for any banging to register, this isn’t known. On that note, at one point the ground engineer who had switched the pressurization to manual during some maintanence before the flight asked the pilot when issues were reported if the pressurization setting was on Auto. The captain at this stage was already a little too far gone mentally from lack of oxygen, and ignored the question. Given his radio communication stopped shortly thereafter when he simply commented about trying to locate some circuit breakers in response, it is presumed he succumbed mere seconds after the question was asked. Had he registered the question an looked, then simply turned the little knob, all would have fixed itself in short order.

Ultimately one of the flight attendants, Andreas Prodromou, did take over flying the plane. There was a problem though. It would seem from the investigation that he had difficulty getting access to the cabin, seemingly only doing so after a couple hours of the plane flying itself and a plane full of passed out people, which we imagine must have been incredibly terrifying for Prodromou on many levels.

So how did it turn out?

Tragically, this ended with the plane crashing and all 121 people aboard killed. Prodromou was actually a pilot himself, though as far as we could tell without any professional experience and certainly not in a Boeing 737. As to why he wasn’t able to bring the plane back down, he wasn’t really given a fair chance in this case. It seems as if moments after he finally got into the cabin, one of the engines ran out of fuel, and then not long after the other died too. Even an extremely experienced pilot in that plane would have had low odds in this case unless in glide range of a suitable airport.

And that’s it. In the over a century old history of commercial aviation, that is the only time we could find that a passenger has had to take over completely in a large commercial airliner. That said, moving on to much smaller planes, it turns out while rare, this sort of thing has actually occurred many times, even in some commercial scenarios.

Perhaps the most notable case of this was when none other than Mr. Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson) chartered a flight for he, his wife, and two children in Kenya in 2001. The aircraft was a little six seat Cessna. Unfortunately for the Atkinson family, at a certain point the pilot lost consciousness. Doing his best not to mimic his clumsy alter ego, Atkinson took over flying the plane. Thankfully for him and his family, they were eventually able to revive the pilot, reportedly after Atkinson slapped him several times. Said pilot then landed the plane without incident.

Moving on from there, perhaps our personal favorite case of a chartered flight resulting in a passenger having to take over is the case of one Doug White, who is a bit of a legend.

Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Dies – Part 1

www.youtube.com

In this case, White had chartered the plane to transport himself, his wife, and two daughters. He did have his private pilot’s license, but flying a small Cessna 172 many years before. He didn’t fly much after up until the weeks leading up to the event itself, when he decided to take the hobby back up. Unfortunately for him, in this case rather than finding himself having to fly a nice little trainer plane like the Cessna 172, he was sitting in a twin engine, turbo prop Beachcraft Super King-Air, which seats up to 10, cruises at near 300 mph, and otherwise makes the Cessna 172 look like a child’s toy.

So what happened? During the takeoff phase of the flight, the pilot, Joe Cabuk, randomly slumped over dead, as White describe, “I looked over and his chin was on his chest… He made a loud, guttural sound, kind of a groan, and his eyes rolled back, and his hands never left his lap. It was quick, it was sudden, and it was final.”

Luckily for the four other souls aboard Cabuk did engage the autopilot directly before his own soul left his body so there was time for assessment of the situation.

Knowing how to use the radio, White contacted Air Traffic Control (ATC) and declared an emergency- the go-to thing to do in this scenario. In a nutshell, this basically means from that point on you can do more or less whatever you want in your attempt to get safely back on the ground and ATC is at your beck and call to help out in any way they can, diverting any other planes as needed, providing you any information they can, getting ground emergency personnel nearby where you’re going to attempt to land, and otherwise organizing help in any way possible. Though it is noteworthy here that most ATC personnel are not pilots themselves, and so there is sometimes a delay getting anyone who actually knows how to fly a plane on the line.

On that note, while the initial ATC contact White found himself talking to wasn’t terribly helpful, they eventually got an ATC employee, Lisa Grimm, who was a pilot herself and would go on to be an absolute superstar during the event, helping White to get the aircraft under control and otherwise helping keep him calm.

Later they were able to track down a King Air pilot, Kari Sorenson, to help with the specifics on how to land the thing. During the whole ordeal, beyond having to figure out how to fly and land the plane, White also had a bit of a worry of the dead pilot potentially slumping over the controls at an inopportune moment. But efforts by he and his wife to remove said body from the pilot seat were unsuccessful, so they simply cinched the seatbelt as tight as they could and hoped that would be good enough.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East
Giphy

We’ll spare you most of the details, as they are best just gone and listened to, other than to mention our favorite part in which ATC asked Doug “Are you using AutoPilot or are you flying the plane?” and he responded with a thick country drawl, “Me an’ the good lord are hand flying this…” Classic Doug.

Another great line during the final moment before touchdown ATC told White, “Looks good from here, good job.” To which White calmly responded in his best impression of John Wayne, “It ain’t over til’ it’s over friend…”

Remarkably, with a lot of help from his angels on the ground, White was able to land the plane not only safely, but in pilot speak he “greased the landing”, meaning it was a rather gentle and uneventful touchdown and pretty much right on center-line to boot.

Said the aforementioned Sorenson who was in the background telling ATC what to tell White, “I don’t think you could have made the plane more complex or the pilot less experienced and have had a successful landing.”

When all was said and done and he was later interviewed about how he kept so calm through the ordeal, White simply said in his thick drawl, “There were buzzers, amber lights, horns: It was like a circus. The only thing I was concentrating on was keeping the airspeed up and the wings level. You know, just fly the plane… You just focus your fear and go into a zone… There’s no time to chit-chat, or lock up. Just ‘git er done.’… If you’re gonna die, at least die trying not to…”

We’re pretty sure that last line needs to go on a t-shirt pronto.

Moving on from there to some people with zero flight experience who successfully “got ‘er done”, we have one Henry George Anhalt who was aboard a small Piper Cherokee 6 (as you might expect from that, a six seat plane) with his wife and three sons when the 36 year old pilot, Kristopher Pearce, died. The plane at the time was low on fuel, but thankfully only about ten minutes from their destination of Winter Haven airport in Florida. Shortly after the pilot slumped over, Anhalt keyed the radio and asked for help.

Said Anhalt after taking the controls, “I kept my mind on flying the plane on a course for Winter Haven. I started calling, ‘Mayday!’ over and over and kept praying for Kris to revive. We made it to the airport, but we still hadn’t heard from anybody. I started circling. Becky was hollering that I was going too steep, so I made wider circles. Then I noticed that the fuel was low in the tank we were on. I tried switching to the full tank, but the engine would sputter, and I’d put it back to the nearly empty tank. Finally, somebody gets on the frequency and says, ‘Are you the Mayday?’ ‘Yes, my pilot passed out,’ I said. ‘We’re over the Winter Haven airport.’ Then another pilot came on and said, ‘We’re close by. We’ll be over to help.'”

The person who answered the call was flight instructor Dan McCullough who was giving a flight lesson at the time. After calming Anhalt down, he gave him his first flight lesson and being a bit of a gentlemen, didn’t even charge him.

Said McCullough later, “We flew down closer and got him lined up on a real good glide path to the runway. You can get anybody over the numbers on the ground, but it’s that last five feet that’s tricky. I asked him to fly around the airport a bit to get more used to the aircraft. … The only real disadvantage I had over any other time I’ve done it is I couldn’t actually been in the airplane with him… I just gave him directions how to get it over the runway and then to cut the engine. I had to keep him level. If he came in too steep, he’d dive into the ground. If he came in too far back, he’d stall.”

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

(Photo by Caleb Woods)

In the end, Anhalt was able to get it down, stating, “I had the flaps—or whatever they’re called—up, and I idled the speed down. After that, it happened real quick.”

His wife added, “We bumped twice on the ground and veered a few feet into the grass.”

And if you’re wondering, as this is often asked in these situations, at least in this case, yes- the flight instructor Dan McCullough was happy to endorse the flight and landing as Anhalt’s first solo in a logbook, if Anhalt wanted to get one.

Moving on from there we have one of the more notable cases of a person with zero pilot experience flying in one of the aforementioned Cessna 172s in 2013. The passenger, a then 77 year old John Wildey, had been a member of the Royal Air Force for 24 years, but not as a pilot.

In short, he and his friend, who went unnamed in the reports, were up flying around as they frequently did, when his friend turned to him and, to quote Wildey, “He said he was sick and asked me to take care of the aircraft controls… He set the controls and put me on the right path. Then he was unwell again, completely unresponsive. I called his name but he didn’t answer.”

As flying such a plane, in terms of keeping it straight and level, isn’t actually that terribly difficult, in fact, if the plane is properly trimmed as it apparently was, it should mostly fly itself straight and level without touching the controls at all, there was no real immediate danger.

Thus, he simply held things steady and, being familiar with at least how to queue the radio, did so. And if you’re curious about this, we have more on how to do that in the Bonus Facts later.

What Wildey also had going for him was that a plane like the Cessna 172 is built as a trainer plane and thus is extremely forgiving of bad landings and relatively easy to fly. But you do have to be able to get it over the runway pretty close to the ground before powering back the engine, and then as the plane sinks hold the nose off as best you can to land on the two rear wheels, while trying to time it so you’re extremely close to the ground when you reach stall speed- aka the speed at which the plane will stop flying and more or less fall with style.

In this case, an RAF helicopter was sent to guide Wildey to the airport, and then in the meantime he was being talked through the whole thing by one Roy Murray, chief flight instructor at Frank Morgan Flying School. Wildey ended up making 3 attempts to land the plane and each time failed in a good approach and was instructed to go to full power, climb back up, and try again. Remarkably, he executed reasonably good go-arounds each time without crashing.

On the fourth attempt, he committed and while it wasn’t what anyone would call a pretty landing, it was one in which not only he, but the plane walked away mostly unscathed save apparently some sparks at one point on touch down. Wildey would later describe:

I know you bring back the controls but I didn’t bring them back hard enough. So really I was sort of nose down rather than anything else… Then we touched and there was a right bump – two or three bumps. I suppose it was a controlled crash really. But I just couldn’t get the brakes because I couldn’t reach them. I managed to get them in the end. But then we sort of went off the runway and all I could see was this runway indicator wall coming towards me and I thought: “I am not going to do it”. But we managed to stop in the end. I’m a lucky bloke…

Sadly, his friend was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

In yet another case of someone with no experience, a student pilot from Australia, Max Sylvester, up on his first lesson in August of 2019 in a small two seat Cessna 152 was about an hour into it when his instructor, Robert Mollard, passed out and slumped over on to him in the cramped aircraft. Ultimately while being talked through it, he successfully executed his first ever landing without incident and actually from his cockpit footage almost dead on center-line and reasonable gentle touch down all things considered. His instructor, as far as we could find, later recovered from whatever happened to him.

Trainee pilot lands aircraft with instructor passed out on his shoulder | ABC News

www.youtube.com

Moving on from the sighted among us, we have the case of a legally blind person managing to successfully land a plane…

How?

It helped that he, Charles Law, was a former pilot. Law’s flying days had long since been over as he at this point in his life had 20-200 vision in one eye and 20-400 in the other. He was tasked with one more landing when his pilot friend, an 80 year old Harry Stiteler, passed out on approach to the runway.

Said Law as he came in for the landing, all I could see were “the airport thresholds (white markings)… I just aimed for that… We bounced a little hard and it was a little squirrely, and I guess I was a little crooked. But I thought it was a very good landing.”

Unfortunately, despite landing the plane almost immediately after Stiteler passed out, medical personnel were never able to revive him.

On the other end of things, there are many incidents where the passenger was unable to land the plane and all aboard were killed, but we are choosing to go ahead and omit any specific examples as nobody wants to hear about that. We mentioned it, however, just so you don’t get the false impression that this is somehow super easy to do.

Moving back to the big boy planes, one of the reasons, outside of one exception, this just isn’t a thing is because in many regions of the world, it’s usually required that there be two trained pilots aboard in such airliners. Further, in most countries, said pilots are subjected to extremely rigorous and regular medical checkups, far more so than the already reasonably strict requirements for non-commercial pilots.

Thus, it’s just not terribly likely that something would happen to take out both pilots and leave some passengers still able to do anything. In fact, even when talking just one pilot, according to a study done by the Australian Transport Safety Board, incidents of a pilot on commercial aircraft becoming unable to continue with their duties only occurred in about 1 in every 34,000 flights. While that might seem high to you, in most of these cases, there was nothing seriously wrong with the pilot in question. For example, a full half of these incidents were, to put it bluntly, diarrhea related. We’re guessing if there wasn’t a backup pilot, said pilots in these incidents would choose to poop their pants rather than let the plane crash.

So what happens when one pilot is taken out more seriously in these scenarios? While you and your 1000 hours of flight training on Microsoft Flight Simulator might now be thinking “This is what we’ve trained for…”, waiting for that momentous announcement over the intercom requesting anyone with flight experience to come help out, this is not actually what would likely occur. In many cases, the remaining pilot will simply request one of the crew aboard to come sit in the unoccupied seat, perhaps reading through a checklist for them, or if they have some experience doing a little more. This is something we found a handful of otherwise uneventful cases in our searching, with the passengers rarely ever informed there was an issue.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

(Photo by Dan Lohmar)

That said, as stated by a former pilot at US Airways, “There are thousands of commercial certified pilots who do not fly for the airlines. So having a commercial pilot on board would not be that uncommon… They can handle the radios, they understand the terminology, they can help prepare the airplane for landing, offloading [responsibilities from] the pilot…”

On that note, we did find one instance during a United Airlines flight when Air Force Captain Mike Gongol was requested to come help out when the captain of that flight had a heart attack. In this case, the flight attendants first requested that any doctor aboard please make themselves known. They later asked if any pilots aboard would push their call button to make themselves known- a sequence of requests not exactly geared towards keeping passengers worry free.

As for Gongol, while he had never flown that particular aircraft, a Boeing 737, his extensive flight experience, including mainly flying a B-1B Lancer Bomber at the time, made him an ideal candidate to come help take a little of the workload off the first officer who was tasked with actually flying the plane in this instance. He later stated she mostly just had him take over the radio communication, which he was well skilled at. We’re guessing had she become incapacitated too, Gongol probably had a high probability of being the first ever passenger to successfully land a commercial airliner. But of course, said first officer had little trouble getting the plane down safely, being herself extremely well trained and all.

But this all does make you wonder, outside of our sample-size of one where the circumstances were stacked against him, in the more general case, how likely is it that a random passenger could land a large commercial airplane if they were being talked through it?

First, if literally zero experience flying a plane or using a really good flight simulator, basically no chance. The problem here is that you do need to actually know how to call someone for help on the radio. And with the myriad of buttons and switches all over, it’s unlikely a random person could figure that out, unless they keep reading to our Bonus Facts section.

That said, pro-tip, if you’re under about 10K ft and in a reasonably populated area, your cell phone will probably work just fine as a way to call for help that could then eventually potentially end up telling you how to operate the plane’s radio. Of course, most commercial airliners don’t spend much time under 10K feet, so odds are you’ll be much higher than that, and if lower, probably in a critical phase of flight meaning there’s no way you’re getting up to the cockpit to help out in time anyway unless they’ve set the autopilot pretty quickly after takeoff. And even then, a noteworthy thing, as tragically the aforementioned Andreas Prodromou demonstrated, is getting into the cockpit in today’s large commercial aircraft in flight is easier said than done if the pilots are both incapacitated and a crew member who knows the code isn’t available. So good luck with that.

But in this increasingly unlikely scenario, if the autopilot was engaged giving you time to work with, and you could get into the cockpit, and then figure out how to use the radio, from there, you might have a chance. But not because you could actually land the plane. The odds of that are basically zero if you have no flight experience and pretty slim even if you do unless you have some training in that or a similar aircraft. The reason you might actually have a fighting chance if you can establish communication with someone on the ground is that most large commercial planes are perfectly capable of landing themselves if you know how to setup the system and then help the system along appropriately.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

(Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz)

On that note, if you’d like to see a commercial pilot with a rather excellent YouTube channel walk you through how to do this in a professional level simulator, do go check out MentourPilot’s crash course in the topic titled “How You Can Land a Passenger Airplane- 12 Steps” And, hey, you could always use the airplane WiFi to watch it in-flight…

Finally, if you’re now wondering if any small aircraft have a similar auto-land system, turns out yes some do, the best of which, which is actually superior to the large plane auto-land systems in some ways, is Garmin’s recently launched Autonomi system which is soon rolling out in the approximately million Cirrus Vision Jet under the name Cirrus’ Safe Return system, and will likewise soon be found in the million Piper M600 SLS.

This system is idiot proof and requires only about one sentence of training, which even a three year old could execute. And, truthfully, you’d probably want to tell a 3 year old NOT to do it in most cases, as left to their own devices they’re sure to activate the system on their own randomly. That sentence of training is simply, “Push this big red button.” That’s it.

From there, the system will take over flying, analyze the weather, your fuel, state of the plane, potential terrain in your path, etc, as well as declare an emergency with ATC, and continually update ATC on what it’s doing and its intentions. It will at the same time inform the passengers audibly and on the screen what they should be doing- strap in, enjoy the ride, and don’t touch anything. It will also politely inform the passengers where it’s taking them and when it will be landing.

From there the plane will fly to the destination airport, which will be picked among the safest options within range of your fuel supply. It will then land itself, which in the demos we’ve watched, does a shockingly good job at it, with the worst that can be said is that in one random Piper M600 demo, it was slightly off center line, but otherwise well on the runway and a very gentle landing.

Once down, the system will shut down the engines and inform the passengers when it is safe to exit. Presumably in the coming decade or two this system will rapidly find its way into most smaller aircraft making the stories of passengers taking over for a pilot markedly less dramatic. “I pushed the big red button,” doesn’t have quite the same newsworthy appeal as “Me an’ the good lord are hand flying this…”

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Giphy

Bonus Facts:

If you’re wondering, reportedly approximately 1% of commercial airliner landings are done with auto-land, though in most cases pilots prefer to do it themselves as, among other reasons, auto-land isn’t awesome when there is much wind, particularly if it’s of the gusty variety. The cases where it might be the preferred option for the pros is in scenarios like virtually no wind where visibility is extremely poor, such as in thick fog. In this case, the pilot may deem it safer to allow the auto-land to do its thing while they closely monitor it.

Going back to how to queue up the radio in an aircraft, whether big or small, you can usually do this via putting the headphones on and then pressing a button on the yoke (looks a bit like a steering wheel) or stick. Noteworthy is that in some cases there might be other buttons to do with trim, engaging or disengaging autopilot and the like on that control as well, so not always good to just go pushing buttons without looking close to see if there’s a label. But if there is just one button, that’s going to be what that is for. And if multiple buttons, it’s probably the one positioned for your index finger wrapped around the stick or yolk or a prominent button for your thumb, often red. In large commercial airliners, it also might not be a button, but rather a toggle switch with an up and down position, for example one for transmitting on the radio (probably labeled MIC) and one for the flight interphone (probably labeled INT). You want the MIC position.

Assuming you push the correct button, whatever radio frequency the pilot had queued up already, which is usually the local one you’re flying over, whether a nearby tower or local traffic, or might be a large area ATC frequency, you’ll be talking to someone who can give you more information when you do. Press to talk; release to listen; just like a walkie-talkie.

And if you really want to sound like a pro before your almost certain death when fuel runs out or probably much sooner, structure your talk- Who you are talking to, who you are (as in the plane type and call-sign which will probably be printed somewhere on the instrument panel in front of you), where you are, what you want or are going to do, who you are talking to.

For example- “Deer Park traffic, Archer 7967C, mayday, mayday, mayday, just departed Deer Park and the pilot just died. Me and Jesus are now flying this plane. One soul aboard. Requesting immediate assistance. Deer Park.”

Or, you know, just press the button and freak out. You’re declaring an emergency after all and you don’t know what you’re doing. Nobody is going to care you don’t know how to talk on the radio properly. But just remember this, if you’re in the U.S., odds are strong your radio communication and situation is going to be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, probably even your friends and family, on various YouTube channels that cover this sort of thing… So keep your cool if you want to sound awesome later if you happen to survive.

Also, even for pilots, an almost universal truth you’ll find if you listen to many of these is you can almost always predict which ones are going to end well or not based on, not the exact circumstances of the emergency or experience of the pilot, but how panicky the person flying the plane is. The only exception we’ve personally ever heard is that time a guy was on a whole lot of drugs when he was declaring his engine-out emergency. He might as well have been sipping a beer on a beach as far as his tone was concerned, literally right to the point he crashed and died… So do yourself a favor and try to keep your head. If you’ve got someone talking you through it, flying and landing a lot of types of small planes where at least you can walk away isn’t actually super difficult if you can get over a runway. Landing so the plane itself can be flown again without repairs… well that generally takes some training. But that’s the insurance company’s problem, not yours.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The US just deployed more nuclear-capable bombers than normal to Guam

The U.S. deployed every type of strategic and nuclear-capable bomber to Guam amid soaring tensions between the Washington and Pyongyang in a move sure to rattle North Korea.


The B-1B Lancer bomber, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, and the B-52H — the workhorse bomber that dropped tens of thousands of tons of munitions during the Vietnam War — will be in Guam, the Pentagon has confirmed to Business Insider.

North Korea can’t stand U.S. bomber deployments to Guam, where the U.S. hosts massive military bases in relative proximity to Pyongyang. North Korean media statements usually react strongly and issue threats in response to the U.S. flying B-1 training missions over the Korean Peninsula.

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A B-52G/H cruising above the clouds (Photo U.S. Air Force)

In statements, North Korea refers to the B-1 bomber as a nuclear asset, although the plane has been modified not to carry nuclear weapons as the result of an arms control pact with Russia. The B-2 and B-52 do have nuclear capability, and make up the air-launched component of the U.S.’s nuclear triad.

In August, North Korea threatened to fire intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missiles towards Guam, arcing them to fall just short of the island and instead in the sea. The U.S. responded by saying it would meet any attack on Guam with full force.

Recently, rumblings that North Korea is planning to launch a satellite and that the U.S. is planning to strike a North Korean launch have been making news.

Unlike in-ground nuclear silos and under-sea secretive submarines, the nuclear-capable bombers in the U.S. Air Force’s fleet enable the U.S. to signal its resolve and intentions during times of high tensions.

Also Read: The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here’s why

While some may interpret the deployment of the nuclear-side of the bomber fleet as an escalation, the deployment is part of a mission called Continuous Bomber Presence, wherein the U.S. has maintained a bomber presence in the Pacific at all times to assure allies, enable readiness, and promote regional stability since 2004.

But it’s still rare to find all three in Guam at once. The three bombers first flew together in Guam in August 2016, and this deployment is the first time since that they’ve all been gathered together in the South Pacific.

Sending all three strategic bombers to Guam sends the strongest message bomber deployments could possibly spell out.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these ridiculous photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a photoshoot on a white horse on Mt. Paektu, a symbolically important location for his family and for North Korea.

Kim Jong Un has had similar trips and photo shoots before; during one such trip, North Korean state media claimed that the rotund dictator climbed Mt. Paektu, while photos of the event showed him in leather business shoes.

Of course, the photo caused a stir on Twitter, with some Photoshopping the pictures into prestige drama ads for Netflix:


Or bringing up a similar winter photoshoot:

But apart from looking faintly ridiculous to the outside world, the new photos from the Hermit Kingdom are shot through with meaning, according to experts. Read on to see what Kim Jong Un’s snowy ride means.

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The North Korean leader on the side of Mount Paektu.

(KCNA)

Propaganda images are nothing new for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean propaganda machine is an important part of the regime.

Photos of the North Korean leader climbing the mountain on horseback is “a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” according to KCNA, the North Korean state media.

North Korean propaganda is nothing new; in fact, it’s everywhere in the country. From posters showing the US’s evil aggression toward North Korea, to Kim’s winter wonderland, controlling the message in the hermit kingdom is vital in order to keep citizens obedient and in the dark about the rest of the world.

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(KCNA)

Kim rides an immaculate, snow-white horse to match his surroundings. But it’s not just about equine aesthetics.

The white steed upon which Kim Jong-Un is seated is reminiscent of the legendary creatures Chollima, a winged horse, and Mallima, a horse with incredible speend and indurance, according to Reuters.

Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, was also supposedly visited by a white steed during his guerilla days, according to The Washington Post.

There are postage stamps of Kim Jong Il riding white horses on Mt. Paektu, according to Michael Madden, a North Korea researcher for the Stimson Center, but “no one’s had the balls to take a horse up there,” he said.

Kim Jong Un resembles his grandfather physically, and has had a number of propaganda photos mirroring his grandfather’s. Kim Jong Un’s resemblance of his grandfather allows him to “project power and gravitas,” Madsen told The Guardian in 2014.

Kim Jong Un isn’t the only person harkening the past in the photo shoot, though; in other photos, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is riding a horse like the one her father used to ride, and is dressed like her grandmother, Kim Il Sung’s first wife Kim Jong Suk, who is considered the mother of North Korea and holds vital importance in the country’s mythology.

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(KCNA)

Mt. Paektu is a loaded location for the Kim family — and North Koreans.

Mt. Paektu is an important place for the Kim family, as it cements their status as the rightful rulers of North Korea.

It’s said to be the “location of Kim Il Sung’s mythical guerrilla base,” Joshua Pollack, a North Korea researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies told Reuters. Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, was the first leader of North Korea, and the country’s mythology sees him as a great guerilla fighter against imperilalist Japan, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Of this latest photoshoot, Pollack said, “The location and the clothes are meant to evoke the founder’s legacy.”

And according to North Korean state media, Mt. Paektu is where Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, was born, although it’s more likely he was born in the Soviet Union. It’s also, according to legend, where Dagun, the leader of the first Korean kingdom, was born thousands of years ago, according to the BBC.

There are two Kim family compounds nearby, including one built by Kim Jong Il on Mt. Paektu, Madden told Insider. Somewhere in the vicinity — perhaps at that compound — is the secure facility Madden referred to as the “North Korean panic room,” where the Kim family can head in case of disaster. They also have the option of crossing the nearby border into China.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse during snowfall in Mount Paektu in this image released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 16, 2019.

(KCNA)

While the photos may look absurd, they’re intended to have a very serious message.

“This is a statement, symbolic of defiance,” Pollack told The Washington Post. “The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020.”

North Koreans have suffered from international sanctions due to its nuclear program; the photos seem to show that North Korea will not bow to international pressure.

According to multiple reports, Kim Jong Un has visted Mt. Paektu prior to major announcements or policy decisions before. For example, a 2017 trip came just days after the North Korean military launched its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.

Madden told Insider that the photo shoot most likely portends a military announcement of some kind, possibly that North Korea and China are announcing a long-term strategic aggreement. “A member of the Chinese Military Commission is in North Korea right now, and [talks are] going very, very, very well,” he told Insider.

Madden told Insider that “North Korea in 2020 is either going to launch a rocket, or announce that they have attained the ability to perform sub-critical nuclear tests,” and the photos could be in advance of such an announcement.

Whatever the announcement is, it’s almost certainly not about making concessions to the US or any of its allies, Madden said.

“North Korea has massively regressed in the past few months,” in terms of foreign policy “and I have no idea why,” Madden noted.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army recruiting more soldiers from major cities

Virtual recruiting teams, outreach to civic leaders and 770 more recruiters on the ground are helping the Army sign up more new soldiers this year in some of America’s largest cities.

Recruiting is up 27 percent in Minneapolis over this time last year. New York City has improved 19 percent and Baltimore is up 17 percent, according to Army Recruiting Command figures for April 2019.

Cities are where the people live, so the Army needs to recruit there, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. Until this year, however, recruiting success typically seen in the rural South was not shared by the big cities.


“We’re trying to bring a lot of balance to our recruiting effort and focus in on the largest metropolitan areas in the country,” McCarthy said.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

A recruiter hands out a water bottle from a table of Army items near the Eutaw Street gate during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

Last year, Army senior leaders selected 22 cities to apply those efforts. These were areas with large populations that had little exposure to soldiers because most were located far from active Army training centers.

Civic engagement

Senior leaders began meeting with mayors of those cities. McCarthy, for instance, first met with the mayor of Chicago, his hometown. He has since met city leaders in Baltimore, Houston and Orlando.

“We’ve got to get out there and forge relationships,” he said.

At the Baltimore meeting, city officials decided that Army interests aligned with one of theirs: keeping youth out of trouble. As a result, the city opened up all 43 of its recreation centers to recruiters.

“It was a great meeting because it opened doors,” said Col. Amanda Iden, commander of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion, who sat with McCarthy at the meeting table.

“They’ve given us carte blanche access” to the rec centers, she said, adding her recruiters “don’t just play basketball and do sports with these kids,” they actually provide educational aids to help students study.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

A young fan slaps five to the Orioles mascot as Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse (left) and Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company watch May 3, 2019.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

Recruiters uploaded the Army’s “March2Success” software on computers at the centers so students could study there for college boards and other entrance exams.

“You want to take the LSAT, LCAT, MCAT, all those other different tests, the GMAT, SAT, AECT, it’s a tool to teach you how to take tests,” Iden said, “and it focuses on your weaknesses.”

Meetings with city officials also help open up schools to recruiters.

“It’s a relationship,” Iden said. “It’s about getting to know leaders, principals and guidance counselors.”

Educating influencers

Recruiters are there to help students and influencers — such as parents and teachers — make “informed decisions,” she said. It’s not just about “trying to pull you into the Army,” it’s about helping students be successful and explaining options, she said.

Many students and influencers don’t know the Army has more than 150 career paths, said Col. James Jensen, director of the USAREC Commander’s Initiatives Group.

They don’t know Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, has the world’s only school that certifies students in handling hazardous material for serious nuclear-biological-chemical threats, he said, adding graduates can get a job at dozens of agencies once they leave the Army.

Recruiting Baltimore

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They don’t know that military police officers are automatically certified in 32 different states and can become state police officers without attending that state’s police academy, he said.

“We’re trying to expand the audience and touch not only the potential applicants, but the influencers, too,” Jensen said. “Especially within the latest generation, influencers hold a huge amount of weight with the decisions to go into the military.”

Influencers are among the target audience for “Meet Your Army” events in many of the cities. These events often include senior Army leaders returning to their hometowns for speaking engagements mixed with editorial boards, meetings with civic leaders and other public forums.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, for instance, returned to Boston April 14, 2019, to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. The next day he ran the Boston Marathon — all part of the first-ever “Boston Army Week” proclaimed by the mayor.

Nearly 30 different events took place during the week, including an expo on the Boston Common that had the Army Special Operations Command “Black Daggers” parachute team jump in. Over 30 Army units and 10 senior Army leaders also took part.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum, a Baltimore area native assigned back to the city as a recruiter, stands on Eutaw Street during an Orioles Game May 3, 2019, to discuss Army opportunities with potential prospects and influencers.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

These events maximize resources, Jensen said.

Beginning later this year, new mobile Army recruiting platforms will participate at events such as the one in Boston, Jensen said. These semitrailers will include video-game terminals where visitors will be able to play against members of the Army’s new esports team, consisting of soldiers who will compete at gaming events across the country.

Virtual recruiting teams

Last year USAREC tested the concept of virtual recruiting teams at some of its battalions. Now each of the Army’s 44 recruiting battalions have VRTs that focus on social media.

The teams consist of three to six soldiers proficient in all types of social media. These VRTs are currently manned at about 80 percent, Jensen said, but he added they will be going up to 100 percent by this summer.

The Baltimore Recruiting Battalion’s VRT stood up in September with three members at its headquarters on Fort Meade. Each of the battalion’s six recruiting companies across Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia also have liaisons who work directly with the VRT, Iden said.

These VRTs are “force multipliers” for recruiters, Jensen said. When a potential candidate responds to a social media post and asks a question, the virtual recruiters will initially respond, then pass the prospect off to a neighborhood recruiter, Jensen said.

“This helps the recruiter on the ground with less prospecting and more processing,” he said, “putting [prospects] in boots.”

The VRTs have access to “segmentation” data from the command’s G-2. The Recruiting Command has identified 65 different types of neighborhoods or “segmentations” based on demographic data from the last U.S. census.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum (left) and Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hand out water bottles as they discuss opportunities in the Army with young fans attending an Orioles game May 3, 2019.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

“There’s a plan for every zip code,” Jensen said.

One of the main segmentations in downtown Baltimore is the “Urban Modern Mix,” Iden said. Characteristics for people in this segmentation include listening to urban adult contemporary music and having an interest in boxing. Virtual recruiting teams use such data to help target their social media posts, she said.

In a Chicago test that began in October, the Army is “micro-targeting” different neighborhoods and changing Internet ads weekly if they don’t resonate with particular segmentations. The pilot program is about to expand to Boston, officials said, and perhaps to more cities in the future.

Partnerships

In another pilot program, the recruiting company in Baltimore is partnering with the Maryland National Guard. In most areas, the National Guard has its own recruiters, but the five recruiting stations in the Baltimore area sign applicants up for the Guard. In return, the Guard provides assets to help recruit at different events, Iden said.

Recruiters also partner with the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks to plan participation in events such as the African American Festival in August.

“It’s inherent when you are amongst the public that you will integrate” and form partnerships, Jensen said.

During the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the mayor signed the city up for the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success program.

Under the PaYS program, recruits are guaranteed two job interviews at the end of their enlistment. For instance, if recruits pick the city of Houston, they might interview for a job with the Department of Public Works and Engineering.

Recruits are 15 percent more likely to sign up with the Army if they are offered the PaYS program, McCarthy said.

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hands an Army water bottle to a young fan at the Eutaw Street concessions of Camden Yards during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.

(Photo by Gary Sheftick)

About 900 different companies and agencies across the country are now part of the PaYS program. The Baltimore Police Department is a partner and Iden said the Maryland State Police are about to sign up.

Future focus

With these initiatives, recruiting is now up in 18 of the 22 focus cities, according to USAREC. But still, “there are cities all over the country where we know we have to do better,” McCarthy said.

Jensen cautions that it will take time. “While these initiatives go on, this is a plane in flight,” he said of the Army’s recruiting force. “We have to deliver every day. So you’ve got to be very cognizant of what you’re doing and how many ripples in the water you do to the recruiting force.”

Since the Army Training and Doctrine Command gained oversight of all accessions in September, he said focus and unity of command has improved.

“Having the TRADOC commander has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “Now it really helps us get after our mission and stay focused on our mission, and they [at TRADOC] handle a lot of the things that we used to have to handle.”

The TRADOC focus has brought more total Army assets to help with recruiting, he said, and more senior leader involvement to help educate influential audiences about the Army.

“I think it’s a requirement for every leader of this institution to get out there and talk about the U.S. Army as an organization, to educate our fellow countrymen, to encourage young men and women to take a hard look at this profession,” McCarthy said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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