The military has a way of ensuring that its troops constantly work, live, and interact with each other. While it’s not uncommon for troops to get off duty and hide away in their barracks or at home, the way the military is structured prevents them from truly shutting themselves off from the rest of the unit.
One of the most mission-critical elements of the military is a foundation of trust and rapport between troops. To that end, the military has a way of forcing its troops into building camaraderie.
1. Basic Training/Boot Camp living conditions
Straight out of the gate, potential recruits are thrown in 30-man bays under the watchful eye of Drill Sergeants/Instructors. Troops will quickly learn the go-to pastime when there’s absolutely nothing else to do: talking to each other.
That quiet kid from a Midwestern suburb will probably have their first interaction with people from nearly every other state, background, economic status, and lifestyle during Basic.
2. Morning PT
You’ll never hear more words of encouragement than you do during physical training. When troops go for a run in the morning, they’ll often shout motivation at one another. “Come on, Pvt. Introvert! You got this!”
This isn’t done solely to lift spirits, but rather to make sure their ass catches back up to the platoon.
3. Working parties
Another perfect way to build mutual understanding is to share suffering. Cleaning the same connex they cleaned out last week may seem boring (because it is), but every time a troop says something like, “man, f*ck this. Am I right?” a friendship is born.
There are few stances shared by troops more than a dislike of mundane, physical labor.
4. Barracks parties
In nearly every comedy about high school or college life, there’s always that one party scene. Those kinds of lavish parties don’t really exist like they do in the movies — college kids are broke. But do you know who gets a regular paycheck on the first and fifteenth of each month and has few bills to spend the money on? Troops.
Actual parties also bring troops together. Everyone is pulled from their barracks room to do keg-stands off the roof of the Battalion Headquarters before staff duty finds them.
5. The “battle-buddy” system
The “battle-buddy” system is a method the chain of command uses to have troops keep an eye on each other. What probably started out as a great PowerPoint presentation given by a gung-ho 1st Lt. gave the military what is, essentially, an assigned best friend. The idea was to prevent troops from getting into trouble, but it’s eventually devolved into simply having two troops stand in the First Sergeant’s office.
This system is even more needed while stationed overseas. Command policies often dictate that a troop can’t leave post without someone keeping an eye on them. Now, instead, there’re two dumbasses let loose on the world.
6. Constant pissing contests
Pissing contests are a weird constant in the military. In the civilian world, people try to one-up each other with made-up stories. In the military, actions speak louder than words, so when troops do awesome things daily, chances are they were trying to one-up the person next to them.
The best way to describe it would be if someone were to say, “Man, I’m awesome. How about you, introvert? How awesome are you?”
Troops stateside can find some room to breathe, but when they’re deployed and end up 30 to a tent with no walking room, well… good luck.
The only privacy you’ll find is in the latrine. Even then, you might have a conversation with the guy in the next stall.
Pranking your buddy in war has been a pastime of bored soldiers since Gen. George Washington slipped Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s hand in warm water while he slept. (Arnold got back at him by selling the plans to West Point’s defenses).
A Middle Eastern fighter got in on the action by dropping a – hopefully fake – mortar round next to his buddy while the other guy was focused on his smartphone.
Check out the action (and the phone junkie’s hilarious reaction) in the video below:
The world’s largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch Launch Systems Stratolaunch, flew for the first time on Saturday, April 13, 2019. The massive aircraft took off from the Mojave Air & Space Port’s Civilian Aerospace Test Center in California at 06:58 Pacific Daylight Time and conducted an initial test flight that lasted 2.5 hours achieving a maximum altitude of 17,000 feet and a top speed of 189 MPH before landing.
The aircraft, designed to carry spacecraft to atmospheric launch, can carry a payload of up to 500,000 pounds or 250 tons according to Stratolaunch Launch Systems. The gigantic Stratolaunch has the largest wingspan in the world at 117.3 meters (384.8 feet), significantly larger than the previous record holder, the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” heavy lift cargo aircraft. The Stratolaunch is powered by six enormous Pratt & Whitney PW4000 jet engines formerly used on the Boeing 747 that only used four engines.
April 13, 2019’s flight was a remarkable moment in aviation history, attended by aircraft enthusiasts and media from around the world. Aviation photographers ringed the outer fences of the Mojave Air Space Port to shoot photos and video of the historic event. Within minutes of Stratolaunch’s takeoff the internet came alive with photos and video of the historic event.
Stratolaunch makes a low pass over the Mojave Air Space Port on Saturday during its first flight. Note the unusual near-vertical flap confirmation for landing.
Weather conditions for Stratolaunch’s first flight were ideal, with early morning temperatures in the 40’s to 50’s, light winds, minimum visibility of 10 miles reported by aviation weather surfaces and temperatures rising to 62 degrees Fahrenheit by 1030 local time.
Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd, who watched the aircraft takeoff for the first time Saturday morning, told reporters, “What a fantastic first flight”. Floyd went on to remark, “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”
April 13, 2019’s first-ever test flight of Stratolaunch was flown by experimental test pilot Evan Thomas. Thomas is a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, F-16 pilot and former Vice Wing Commander of the 46th Test Wing and former Director of NATO Combined Air Operations Center 5. Evan Thomas has also been senior test pilot for Calspan Corporation and has been a test pilot at Scaled Composites for over a year. His specialties in test flight include aviation and test safety, aircraft stability and control testing and operational leadership of flight test teams.
Stratolaunch Chief Test Pilot Evan Thomas, who flew the aircraft on its historic first flight.
Test Pilot Evan Thomas told reporters after the first flight that, “The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want the first flight to be, and for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted, which is again exactly what we want.”
Stratolaunch touches down after a successful first test flight.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Fall and winter are single malt whisky seasons. But, thanks to new Trump administration tariffs, the already pricey Scotch is about to become even more expensive: On Oct. 18, 2019, the cost of a bottle will increase by 25 percent.
Why is your favorite brown spirit taking the brunt of the tariffs? It’s all thanks to a decades-long spat with the European Union over the way member nations had subsidized the airplane manufacturer Airbus. Recently the World Trade Organization deemed European nations ran afoul of international rules, and gave the green light to the US to add $7.5 billion in additional tariffs on a variety of European goods, including Italian cheese, French wine, Spanish ham, and Scotch whisky.
The U.S. is the single largest market for Scotch whisky, importing north of $450 million a year worth of the spirit. That amounts to roughly a third of all the booze the small country produces. Of course, as we know, tariffs are paid by consumers, not by the countries or industries targeted. That means you, my whisky drinking friend. After the 18th, for every four bottles you buy, you could have had five.
This means only one thing: it’s time to head to your local shop stock up on a few bottles before prices jump through the roof — especially if you enjoy drinking and handing out bottles during the holiday season. Here are the 10 bottles of single malt scotch we’d pickup before the tariffs take effect.
1. Glenmorangie Signet
Glenmorangie Signet is one of our go-to special occasion whiskies. This deep amber whisky is beautifully complex thanks in part to the roasted chocolate barley used in the distilling process. After a lengthy time maturing in virgin American oak, the result is flawless and like all great whisky there is something new to discover in every bottle.
2. Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask
After aging for 14 years in traditional oak casks, the Balvenie 14 Year Caribbean Cask is finished with a short stint in ex-rum barrels. The result is a delicious Speyside single malt with subtle notes of tropical fruit and nuts — a great whisky for sipping or whipping up some stellar cocktails.
3. Ardbeg Uigeadail
Easily one of our favorite Islay singe malts, Ardbeg Uigeadail is a smokey treat. Sweet and spicy, notes of honey, cookies and pepper punch through the peaty smoke. A supple dose of chocolate joins the smoke for a finish that can linger into the wee small hours.
4. Aberlour A’bunadh
It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of Aberlour’s A’bunadh on the bar at all times, not just for your own sake, but for any Scotch drinkers that might show up. If they are ‘in the know’ it lets them know that you know and if they aren’t, you get to drop some knowledge and introduce them to something incredible. Thick and rich, it’s a Scotch with tons of dried fruit, chocolate and sugary notes that make it a delightful yet slightly dangerous single malt (each release clocks in at around 120 proof). In fact, one pour of this cask strength gem is the equivalent of a glass-and-a-half of a typical 80 proof dram.
5. Lagavulin 16
Not only is it Nick Offerman’s go-to fireside whisky, but Lagavulin 16 is one of ours as well. Islay whisky can be a bit intense for the novice Scotch drinker. But once you develop an appreciation for the hallmark peaty smoke, you’ll savor every drop. Lagavulin 16 is an Islay classic with loads of subtle flavors to discover and a salty sweetness that balances out the intense smoke.
6. GlenDronach 18
Once you’ve had a dram of GlenDronach 18, you may find yourself totally enamored with this highland whisky. Every glass evokes the warmth of a great, well-worn club chair. It’s soft and rich, with notes full of wood, leather, tobacco, and a finish that keeps you cozy well into the night.
7. Oban 14
Oban 14 is a bottle we like to have on hand at all times. It’s a richly flavored Highland whisky with a touch of salt from the sea and hint of peaty smoke. It’s hard to thrill every Scotch drinker you might entertain, but Oban is a standard nearly everyone can appreciate.
8. Glenfarclas 25
At under 0 (for now) a 25-year-old bottle this Glenfarclas is a value proposition. Family-owned since 1865, Glenfarclas ages the whisky in Oloroso sherry casks chosen from a single Spanish bodega. It is a delicious, a classic sherried whisky, with flavors of fruit cake, spice, and a hint touch of cocoa.
9. Bruichladdich Black Arts
Since price of the bottle of Bruichladdich Black Arts at our local shop is about jump nearly . It might be time to pull the trigger. It’s a 26-year-old Islay single malt, but unlike the traditional varieties, it’s un-peated. Sure, the bottle looks like a prop from Rosemary’s Baby, but the contents are extraordinary. It’s a staggeringly complex dram, with notes of mission figs and chocolate that give way to coconut and tobacco.
10. Talisker 25
The Isle of Skye is one of those places on the globe that feels not of this earth. Much like the island on which it was made, Talisker 25 has that same other-worldly quality. After 25 years in American and European oak barrels, the heavily peated whisky’s smoke has been tamed by wood. The result is mature, flavorful mouthful of near perfect whisky, with smoke playing off citrus and salt while a whiff of heather magically whisks you off to Skye with every sip.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.
Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.
In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.
These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.
Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.
She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”
Thule Air Base in Greenland.
(US Army Corps of Engineers)
Thule, Air Base Mission
Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.
The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.
For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.
Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.
Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.
In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.
During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.
The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.
Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.
A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.
Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.
The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.
Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.
Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.
She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.
A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.
Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.
This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.
In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.
“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.
“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.
Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.
Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.
“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.
Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”
Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.
These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.
Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.
With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.
These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.
All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”
A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic
Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.
Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.
This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.
Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.
Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.
Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.
The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.
Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.
When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.
Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.
Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.
Draper’s proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018’s general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.
If a majority of California voters who cast ballots agree to divide the state into three, the plan would need approval from both houses of the California Legislature. Then it would reach the US Congress.
The last time an existing state split up, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out. West Virginia was formed by seceding from a Confederate state over differences in support for slavery.
Draper has reasons for wanting to slice and dice his home state.
With slightly more than 39 million people, California is the most populous US state. Supporters of the initiative argue that it isn’t fairly represented with two senators in Washington. The proposal would give the people of California six senators.
According to the Cal 3 website, partitioning the state would also allow legislatures to make better and more sensible decisions for their communities.
“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Peggy Grande, a representative for the Cal 3 campaign, said in a June 16, 2018 statement. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”
However, the proposal is as radical as it is unlikely to pass.
Critics of the initiative say that having three Californias would diminish the power of Democrats. With its 55 electors in the Electoral College, California has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Three smaller states could change that equation, which worries some Democrats.
Under the proposal, each state would have about one-third of California’s population:
California: This would include six counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito.
Southern California: This would have 12 counties: San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Imperial.
Northern California: This would make up 40 counties including those of the San Francisco Bay Area and those north of Sacramento, the state capital.
This is the third time Draper has tried to get voters to weigh in on breaking up the most populous US state. He backed proposals in 2012 and 2014 to create six California states, but both initiatives fell short of gathering enough valid signatures.
Competitors, celebrities, royalty, and spectators came together Sept. 23 to kick off the 2017 Invictus Games at the sold-out Air Canada Centre here.
Inspired by the Department of Defense Warrior Games, an adaptive sports competition for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans, Britain’s Prince Harry created the Invictus Games in 2014.
The prince, who was on hand at the opening ceremony, flew Apache helicopters in Afghanistan during his military service.
“Invictus is all about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries, confronted hardship, and refused to be defined by their injuries,” he said last night. “Invictus is about the families and friends who face the shock of learning that their loved ones have been injured or fallen ill and then rally to support them on their journey to recovery. Above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women, injured or not, provide about the importance of service and duty.
“We made a great start in London in 2014,” he continued. “We took it to the next level in Orlando last year, and over the next week, in this year, as we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, Toronto is going to put on a games that draws the attention of the world.”
More than 550 wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from 17 nations will compete in 12 sporting events at the Invictus Games, including archery, track and field, cycling, golf, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair basketball. The games run through Sept. 30.
“[There are] more competitors, more sports, more nations, more friends, more families, and more people watching at home than ever before,” Harry said. “With the people in this arena tonight and those watching across Canada and around the world, we have the biggest crowd Invictus has ever enjoyed. In the days ahead, I know that many of you will be experiencing Invictus for the first time. I hope you’re ready for some fierce competition. I hope you’re ready to see the meaning of teamwork that proves that anything is possible when we work together. I hope you’re ready to see courage and determination that will inspire you to power through the challenges in your own life. I hope you’re ready to see role models in action that any parent would want their children to look up to. And I hope you’re ready to see lives change in front of your eyes.”
Camaraderie Among Athletes
Marine Corps Sgt. Ivan Sears, co-captain of the US team, said he thinks his squad will be strongest in rugby, track and field, volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and swimming. The camaraderie among the athletes from the respective service branches and other countries has been good, he added.
“I visited with someone from the Netherlands for about 20 minutes this morning,” said Sears, who said his favorite sport is wheelchair racing on the track. “Everybody’s getting along, laughing, and having a smile on their face.”
His mother, Judy Pullin, said she is proud of her son and his team.
“I’m very proud of Ivan. I’m going to be the bragging momma here. He medaled four times here last year. He medaled four golds, and it was just amazing. I was definitely crying,” she said. “These are all athletes. Yes, they may have a disability. They may have something physical or an invisible wound, but you’ve just got to be proud of them.”
Medically retired Cpl. Melanie Harris of the Canadian armed forces, who is competing in compound archery and sitting volleyball, joked that the Canadian motto is, “I’m not sorry.”
“Canadians are known for being sorry but not sorry; however I want them to know they’re always welcome back here,” she said with a laugh. Harris said Canada’s wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball will be among the Canadian team’s best events.
“It’s going to be a great competition,” she said. “We’re going to do great. We will bring some gold home. We don’t mind sharing, too, but whoever wins wins, [and] we’re going to fight for it.”
Harris said her teammates have been taking care of each other and are like family. “We’re all there for each other,” she added.
Medically retired Lance Cpl. Dennis Resell of Denmark’s special operations forces is competing in archery and sitting volleyball. He said he has confidence in his team as well. “We’re going to do great. You can’t beat the Vikings,” he said. “Team Denmark’s biggest strengths are definitely our team spirit and our brotherhood.”
Resell said he enjoys the camaraderie among the athletes and had been looking forward to the opening ceremony. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said. “Walking in there, people cheering — it’s going to be great.”
The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces from Ottawa and the Royal Regiment Band from Quebec performed as the 550-plus competitors from the 17 participating countries entered the arena. Thailey Roberge of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Elliot Miville-Deschenes of Montreal represented the youth of Canada and hosted the opening ceremonies. They sang “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem, and then “Under One Sky” to celebrate the Invictus Games Flag Tour.
As Laura Wright sang the official 2017 Invictus Games song, “Invincible,” more than 200 members of the Canadian Military Wives National Choir joined her. Canadian Rangers marched in bearing the Invictus Games flag and raised it high.
Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan performed “I Will Remember You” and then spoke of the Lighting of the Flame ceremony, which began in Kabul, Afghanistan. The flame passed from Afghan security forces veteran Maj. Ahmad Shahh to retired Canadian Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, official ambassador of the Toronto Games.
Michael Burns, CEO of the Invictus Games 2017 organizing committee, said the committee is leveraging most of the infrastructure used in the Pan American Games here in 2015.
“We will be up in Scarborough for swimming. Tomorrow, we will be up at York University at their brand new stadium for athletics. The old Maple Leaf Gardens will be a massive hub of activity. We drained the reflective pool at the Nathan Phillips Square to host wheelchair tennis. We’re hosting archery at Fort York, and we’re using Hyde Park for cycling,” Burns said. “This city is going to be lit up over the next eight days. There isn’t anywhere you’re going to be able to turn and not see a banner or sign or sport competition or the competitors throughout the city enjoying themselves.”
He said the closing ceremony and almost every ticketed sporting competition has sold out.
“Over the next eight days, you will be moved; you will be inspired. You will be entertained. You will see things on the playing field you have never seen before,” he said. “These games aren’t about the finish line. These games are all about making it to the starting line. The men and women who will be competing in these games — talk to any one of them — they’ll tell you that they have been injured as a result of their service. Any one of them has been tested many, many times by faith throughout their careers, and yet they remain undefeated, undiminished, proudly and distinctly unconquered.”
Words of Encouragement
First Lady Melania Trump met with the US team before the ceremony.
“On behalf of my husband and our entire country, I want to thank you and your families for all you have sacrificed to keep us safe,” she said to the roughly 100 athletes. “I want to wish you good luck, though I know you won’t need it in these games. Take that fighting spirit that I know you have and bring home the gold.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also offered encouragement to the Invictus Games athletes. “You’re not just here to inspire, you’re here to win,” he said. “Through your athleticism, through your drive and your competitive spirit, you are showing the world that illness and injury can actually be a source of tremendous strength.”
Actor Mike Myers, Invictus Games 2017 ambassador, said he supports the Invictus Games because they provide the adaptive athletes the ability for rehabilitation, personal achievement and recovery through the power of sports.
“I come from a military family,” he said. “My mother, who passed away in March, was in the Royal Air Force. She’s one of those ladies you see in World War II movies. She would move the fighters toward the incoming Luftwaffe bandits — that’s what my mom would do.
“My father was a royal engineer in the British army and built bridges, cleared minefields,” he continued. “He often recited the unofficial motto of the Royal Engineers: ‘We do the impossible immediately. Miracles take a little longer.’ Mostly, my father spoke about the unbreakable brotherhood of those who served. He remembered the name of every single British soldier he served with, and for every name, [he had] a hilarious story.”
Myers said he’s grateful for those who have and continue to serve.
“Those that serve our country deserve our utmost respect, and all the [veterans] in the Invictus Games have my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude from the bottom of my heart,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion. “Thank you very much. What I do for a living is silly, and without brave people who keep us safe, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. The Invictus competitors represent the very best of the human spirit, and I know my mother and father would have wanted me to support that spirit, the competitors and the thousands of wounded warriors around the world. I want to thank all the competitors in the Invictus Games, all of the soldiers currently serving and all of the family members and caregivers. The caregivers are the unsung heroes of service to this country and to all countries. Thank you for your service.”
Helping in Recovery
Harry said he created Invictus to help veterans in their recovery. “In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic,” he said, “I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light and show us all that we have a role to play, that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbors and communities. That’s why we created Invictus — not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds, but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service in their own lives.”
As the prince closed the ceremony, he spoke directly to the competitors. “For the next week, we entrust you with the Invictus spirit. You have all come such a long way,” he said. “Some of you have cheated death and have come back stronger than before. Some of you have overcome emotional challenges that, until very recent years, would have seen you written off and ignored. And now you are here, on the world stage, flags on your chest, representing your countries again, supporting your teammates, and looking up into these stands and into the eyes of your families and friends.
“You are all winners,” Harry said to the competitors. “Please don’t forget to love every second of it. Don’t forget about our friends who didn’t come home from the battlefield. Don’t forget those at home who still need our support and don’t forget you are proving to the world that anything is possible. You are Invictus. Let’s get started.”
Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey
The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.
“It’s a different space program now,” said astronaut Sunita Williams. “We’re flying in capsules instead of shuttles, and they can land anywhere. You never know when an emergency situation may happen, so we’re grateful to get this training.”
The astronauts were put through the paces of bailing out from a simulated crash landing in water. They learned to deploy and secure a life raft, rescue endangered crew members, avoid hostile forces and experience being hoisted into a rescue vehicle.
“This is the first time we’ve gotten a complete environmental training experience — lots of wind, waves and rain,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “This is a great way to experience how bad it can get and how important it is to be prepared.”
Trained With Course’s Students
The astronauts opted to join in with more than 20 water survival course students, despite being given the option to train alone.
“They didn’t want to train on their own,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Chas Tacheny, the chief of NASA human space flight support in Houston. “They wanted to train with the group, because some of these people may one day be preforming search and rescue for them.”
Other NASA astronauts visited the survival school last year in an effort to research and test the viability of its training course and facilities. The astronauts liked what they experienced, and NASA has since developed its training partnership with the schoolhouse.
“The [survival, evasion, resistance and escape] instructors are advising us in water recovery,” Behnken said. “These experts are the most experienced I’ve ever seen. They are able to spot holes in our training and fill the gaps.”
NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston has a large water training facility built to simulate weightless conditions during space walks, but it’s not properly equipped to simulate water surface conditions for recovery training.
This training is vital for future mission recovery operations, Behnken said, noting that NASA officials are working with the experts here to replicate the survival school water survival training equipment at the Houston facility.
“I’m impressed by the use of the facilities here,” Williams said. “It’s a small space, but they really manage to simulate all kinds of weather conditions and situations we might experience during a water landing.”
The survival school originally had a separate detachment at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, where it conducted water survival training in open ocean waters. The training was brought to Fairchild in August 2015 in an effort to save time and money by consolidating training at one location.
“It was a good decision for the Air Force to streamline our training efforts by moving all portions of water survival training here,” said Air Force Col. John Groves, the 336th Training Group commander. “However, the fitness center pool was designed for recreational use and isn’t suited to the ever-increasing demands placed on it by our training programs. Bottom line, we owe it to our airmen and mission partners such as NASA, who rely on our unique training capabilities, to have a purpose-built water survival training facility.”
Every day, I am so thankful to live this Coast Guard life and to interact with our incredible members and families. I’m fortunate to know the unique and valuable service that the Coast Guard provides to our country — and, I hope that after reading this, you will too!
The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security.
The U.S. Coast Guard is simultaneously and at all times a military force and federal law enforcement agency dedicated to maritime safety, security, and stewardship missions.
The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government, and until the Navy Department was established in 1798, we served as the nation’s only armed force afloat.
The origins of the Coast Guard date back 1790 – this August 4th marked the Coast Guard’s 228th birthday. From our earliest days as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service — to today, as the Coast Guard, our service has always been Semper Paratus (Always Ready) to serve our Nation.
USCGC Northland in Greenland, 1944.
(US Coast Guard)
The Coast Guard has served in every war and major conflict since our founding.
The Coast Guard has a long and distinguished history of service. During the Quasi-War with France, the first “war” fought by the United States, revenue cutters first upheld the new nation’s dignity on the high seas. On April 12th, 1861, the Revenue Cutter Service cutter Harriet Lane fired the first naval shot of the Civil War. During World War II, the Coast Guard made the first capture of enemy forces by any U.S. service when the cutter Northland seized the Norwegian vessel Buskoe off the coast of Greenland. During Operation Desert Storm, a USCG tactical port security boat was the first boat to enter the newly reopened harbor in Kuwait City, Kuwait. And, just recently, the CGC Nathan Bruckenthal was commissioned in honor of fallen Coast Guard hero, Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal.
The Coast Guard deploys.
As you read this, Coast Guard service members are “standing the watch” — often far from home. Depending on the assignment, members may be gone for several months to a year or more. Many of our members will depart on patrols multiple times per year.
The Coast Guard serves all over the world.
The Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones — the largest EEZ in the world. The Coast Guard has personnel assigned to eight DoD Combatant Commands and often has presence on all seven continents and the world’s oceans.
U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist 2nd Class Glenn Miller, foreground, displays a forward weapons posture during a tactical weapons handling exercise with the visit, board, search and seizure team aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81).
The Coast Guard is a unique, multi-mission, maritime military force.
The Coast Guard manages six major operational mission programs: Maritime Law Enforcement, Maritime Response, Maritime Prevention, Marine Transportation System Management, Maritime Security Operations, and Defense Operations. And these six mission programs oversee 11 Missions codified in the Homeland Security Act of 2002.
The Coast Guard does a lot in one day.
On an average day, the Coast Guard: conducts 45 search and rescue cases; saves 10 lives; saves over id=”listicle-2593975624″.2 million in property; seizes 874 pounds of cocaine and 214 pounds of marijuana; conducts 57 waterborne patrols of critical maritime infrastructure; interdicts 17 illegal migrants; escorts 5 high-capacity passenger vessels; conducts 24 security boardings in and around U.S. ports; screens 360 merchant vessels for potential security threats prior to arrival in U.S. ports; conducts 14 fisheries conservation boardings; services 82 buoys and fixed aids to navigation; investigates 35 pollution incidents; completes 26 safety examinations on foreign vessels; conducts 105 marine inspections; investigates 14 marine casualties involving commercial vessels; facilitates movement of .7 billion worth of goods and commodities through the Nation’s Maritime Transportation System.
The Coast Guard is small, but mighty!
With approximately 40,992 active duty members and 7,000 reserve members, the Coast Guard is the smallest branch of the armed forces, but everyday I am in awe of the incredible things that our members accomplish. I couldn’t be more proud.
Crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Smilax render honors during the Queen of the Fleet ceremony.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelly)
The oldest cutter in active service, Coast Guard Cutter Smilax, was commissioned on November 1, 1944.
As the oldest commissioned cutter, Smilax proudly carries the title the “Queen of the Fleet” and a gold hull number. What an amazing testament to the talented individuals who maintain our assets!
America’s Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive.
Learn more about our Commandant’s Guiding Principles here.
BONUS: The Coast Guard has a Disney connection.
Walt Disney drew the logo for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Corsair Fleet during World War II (featuring Donald Duck). Walt Disney also created a special design for the Coast Guard Cutter 83359.
A Russian court has ordered several of the Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian coast-guard forces during a confrontation at sea off Crimea to be held in custody for two months.
The Nov. 27, 2018, rulings by the court in Simferopol, the capital of Russian-controlled Crimea, signaled the Kremlin’s defiance of calls by Kyiv and the West to release two dozen crew members who were seized along with three Ukrainian Navy vessels following hours of hostility at sea two days earlier.
Raising the stakes after tensions spiked when Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on the Ukrainian boats on Nov. 25, 2018, the court was holding custody hearings for 12 of the crewmen. A Russian official said nine others would face hearings on Nov. 28, 2018.
So far, four have been ordered held in pretrial detention — which usually means custody behind bars in a jail — until Jan. 25, 2019. Under Russian law, detention terms can be extended by courts at the request of prosecutors, and it was not immediately clear when the sailors might face trial.
Officials identified the Ukrainians as Volodymyr Varemez, the captain of a navy tugboat that was rammed by a Russian vessel, and sailors Serhiy Tsybizov, Andriy Oprysko, and Viktor Bespalchenko.
The Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Ukrainians were charged with “illegal border crossing by a group of individuals acting in collusion, or by an organized group, or with the use of or the threat to use violence.”
The court hearings came hours after Western leaders, speaking on Nov. 26, 2018, condemned what they called Russia’s “outrageous” violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty as well as international maritime treaties, and called on Moscow to immediately release the detainees.
Conflicting reports have put the number of Ukrainians detained at 23 and 24. The court rulings put them in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.
In the running confrontation off Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018, a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian tugboat in an initial encounter, and a few hours later the Russian vessels opened fire before special forces stormed the three Ukrainian boats. Six Ukrainians were injured.
The hostilities injected yet more animus into the badly damaged relationship between Kyiv and Moscow, which seized Crimea in March 2014 and backs armed separatists in a simmering war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since that April.
Those Russian actions, a response to the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by the pro-European protest movement known as the Euromaidan, have also severely damaged its ties with the West.
The confrontation came days before Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump ion the sidelines of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2018.
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea, that is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.
On Nov. 26, 2018, Ukraine declared martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — following what it called a Russian “act of aggression.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned “this aggressive Russian action,” and called on Moscow to return the vessels and crews, and abide by Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.”
Pompeo said both sides should “exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations and commitments” and said Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, should “engage directly to resolve this situation.”
Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Nov. 26, 2018, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and a “reckless Russian escalation” of its conflict with Ukraine.
Britain’s Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen said Russia “wants to consolidate its illegal annexation of Crimea and annex the Sea of Azov.”
The international community will not accept this, he said, insisting that Russia “must not be allowed to rewrite history by establishing new realities on the ground.”
Martial law will come into force on Nov. 28, 2018, in 10 Ukrainian regions that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia,” and will be in place for 30 days.
The measure includes a partial mobilization of forces, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and other unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime.”
Putin expressed “serious concern” over the Ukrainian decision in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said on Nov. 27, 2018.
The Russian leader also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” a statement said.
“The imposition of martial law in various regions potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region, in the southeast” of Ukraine, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later told reporters.
Hours before the court hearings, Russian state-run TV channel Rossia-24 showed images of several of the detained Ukrainians that were apparently recorded during interrogations by Russia’s security services.
One of them parroted the version of events put forward by Russian authorities, saying, “The actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocative character.”
One of the detained appeared to be reading his statement. Russian law enforcement agencies frequently provide state media with footage of suspects being questioned under duress.
In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) confirmed that a number of its officers were among those captured.
One of them was seriously wounded after a Russian aircraft fired two missiles at the Ukrainian boats, SBU head Vasyl Hrytsak said in a statement.
Calling Russia’s capture of Ukrainian crews “unacceptable,” the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged Russia to “immediately release” those detained and provide them with medical aid.
She also called on both sides to use “utmost restraint” to prevent the only live war in Europe from escalating.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia “has to understand that its actions have consequences. We will remain in contact with the Ukrainian government to underline our support.”
Unlike other U.S. officials, who vocally backed Ukraine and criticized Russia, President Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation.
“Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it, too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.
Russia’s acting UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, accused the Ukrainian Navy of “staging an aggressive provocation,” which he claimed was aimed at drumming up public support for Poroshenko ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election in March.
“They have no hope to remain in power otherwise,” he said, while condemning Western leaders for condoning what he called their “puppets” in Kyiv.
“I want to warn you that the policy run by Kyiv in coordination with the EU and the U.S. of provoking conflict with Russia is fraught with most serious consequences,” Polyansky said.
At the outset of the UN Security Council meeting on the incident, Russia suffered a setback after it sought to discuss the clash under an agenda item that described the incident as a violation of Russia’s borders.
This was rejected in a procedural vote, with only China, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan siding with Russia. The Security Council then discussed the clash under terms laid out by Ukraine.
The naval confrontation took place as the Ukrainian vessels were approaching the Kerch Strait, the only access to the Sea of Azov.
A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.
But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.
“I have to emphasize that, according to the international law, Crimea and respective territorial waters are the Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told the Security Council.
“Hence, there are no Russian borders in the area where the incident happened. I repeat — there are no Russian state borders around the Crimean Peninsula,” he said.
Every 80 seconds, an American woman dies of cardiovascular disease. That’s more than every type of cancer combined. We live in a society that has put a great amount of emphasis on educating the masses to identify a heart attack in men, but women present differently. Often the symptoms are misdiagnosed as panic attacks.
The documentary Ms. Diagnosed, sheds light on the problem that women’s symptoms are often not recognized because diagnostic testing has been developed to detect how the disease manifests in men. The documentary highlights a large health disparity between men and women in terms of the care they receive in the United States. Cardiologist Sharonne Hayes, M.D. stresses the importance of women advocating for themselves because, unfortunately, no one else is. This disparity of care translates into even further divisions in professions, like the military, whose statistics are male-dominated.
For one female veteran featured in the documentary, Kelsey Gumm, it took ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses to discover her heart condition. Her first fainting spell occurred in boot camp. Prior to that, she had been a healthy, active teenager involved in dance and athletics throughout high school. At the age of 17, when medical professionals told her she was experiencing anxiety and dehydration, she defaulted to trust. After all, she was in the middle of boot camp, anxiety and dehydration came with the territory. It would take ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses before she was sent to a cardiologist.
At the age of 27 Gumm’s military career, the only path she had ever wanted, was over. She was fitted with a defibrillator and pacemaker and began her new civilian life feeling defeated, angry, and scared. All of this could have been avoided. Had Gumm received an EKG prior to enlisting the heart defect would have been discovered, and she would never have gone into cardiac arrest. True, she also wouldn’t have been allowed into the Navy, but she would have been equipped with the knowledge to pursue a healthy life with the heart she had. Knowledge and prevention make for good bedfellows. Today she is living a strong healthier life equipped with a viable plan forward based on facts, a passion for bike riding, and a desire for heart advocacy.
The military does not give the proper test for detecting heart disease when potential cadets go through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Physical deformities are screened but not the heart. A simple EKG takes only a few minutes. Those few minutes could save countless lives of men and women.
Gumm’s story is one of survival. Kelsey Nobles of Mobile, Alabama, did not have the same good fortune. In 2019, at the age of 18, she died of cardiac arrest during boot camp. Her’s is not the only story. There are other names, other lives cut short. In 2006 a study published by the American Journal of Cardiology found that between 1977 and 2001, the sudden deaths of women recruits, within 25 days of arriving for training, 81% were due to “reasons that may have been cardiac in origin.”
When Gumm was asked why military hearts matter she responded by saying, “Our heroes, our warriors, people serving our country deserve the best health care provided to them. They deserve to have their hearts checked. We are in a stressful job and stress is a leading factor in heart disease. In the military stress is so increased yet we default to thinking these men and women are young and healthy so they can’t be at risk. It simply isn’t true. Anyone can experience this. For something that is so easily tested it is inexcusable for heart health to not be provided for all military—for those in processing, for those serving, and for all veterans.”
The solution is simple. MEPS and yearly physicals should include EKGs.
In football, fullbacks are used to bring hurt to the opposing team. They provide lead-blocking for the running backs and, at times, serve as offensive threats, running the ball or catching short passes. But one fullback can bring the hurt on the battlefield — both to threats in the air and on the ground.
Well, to be honest, this ‘fullback’ is an airplane. To be precise, it’s the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. The plane is intended to replace the Su-24 Fencer, an all-weather strike aircraft comparable to the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. The Fullback is, in essence, a heavily modified Su-27 Flanker. Here’s what’s changed:
A Russian Air Force Su-34 Fullback intercepted by Royal Air Force Typhoons over the Baltic Sea.
(Royal Air Force)
The Su-34 has a top speed of 1,134 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,485 miles. It can carry over 17,000 pounds of bombs, maintains wingtip rails for the AA-11 Archer, and packs a 30mm cannon. The plane can also carry the AA-12 Adder, a medium-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile.
Like its predecessor, the Su-24, the Fullback has a tandem seating arrangement that comfortably fits both the pilot and a weapons operator.
The Fullback had an unusually lengthy time between its first flight in 1990 and its entry into service. The Russians introduced the Su-34 in 2014 – a full 24 years after its first flight. The collapse of the Soviet Union made it extremely difficult to find funding for this project. As cash slowly started to flow once more, so, too, did progress on this airframe’s production.