Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle - We Are The Mighty
Military Life

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Every military installation has its ups and downs. You could be assigned to a tropical paradise, but you can’t afford anything off-base. You could be assigned to a breathtaking foreign country, but learning the local language will take some time. Or, you could be assigned to Thule Air Base in Greenland, where there’s literally nothing but ice and rock for 65 miles (and, even then, it’s just a remote Eskimo village).


The multinational team stationed there consists of around 400 Danish troops, 150 American troops, and a handful of Canadians. Team Thule is charged with tracking satellites and orbiting debris using a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), a remnant from the Cold War by being strategically placed roughly halfway between Moscow and New York City.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

The BMEWS is still manned and operated by both American and Danish troops. Denmark holds territorial claim over Greenland but gave them “Home Rule” in 1979 and Greenlanders voted for self-governance in 2008. Denmark still handles much of the defense of Greenland, however.

Troops at Thule are locked out from the rest of the world by the ice for nine months, so during the three “summer” months, everyone loads up on supplies that’ll last them the rest of the year. Thule is also home to the Air Force’s only Tug Boat, the Rising Star, which it uses for these resupply missions.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle
Just an average day at Thule Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

The Military One Source Pamphlet hilariously tries to downplay the roughness of Thule while also telling you that there are no ATMs, no commissary, the PX is extremely limited, and there’s all of one bar and a single “base taxi.”

But hey! At least every barracks room comes with free WiFi and it’s kind of accepted that everyone shelters-in-place during the four-month-long Polar Night where winds can reach 200 mph and the temperatures are -28.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Air Force workhorse that proves a C-130 can do anything

The EC-130H Compass Call is an airborne tactical weapon system with a primary mission to disrupt enemy command and control infrastructures limiting adversary coordination and force management.

The aircraft is a heavily modified variant C-130 Hercules, one of the most important and longest flying airframes in Air Force history.

From the outside the aircraft may look like a normal Hercules, but internally the advanced electronic warfare and electronic attack computer systems enables the Air Force to locate, listen and jam enemy communications.


The effect of the non-kinetic denial is not permanent, but it provides the desired result of blocking the enemy across the electromagnetic spectrum.

The effectiveness of the Compass Call is in creating a fog of war for enemy fighters making them easier targets for U.S. ground forces.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle
U.S. Air Force Capt. Frank Von Heiland, 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron co-pilot, checks his oxygen mask on an EC-130H Compass Call aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Sept. 12, 2014.
(Photo by Evelyn Chavez)

The Air Force is the only operator of the EC-130H and the Compass Call has been providing air space superiority over its 35-year operational life. The aircraft has demonstrated a powerful effect on enemy command and control networks in multiple military operations including Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Iraq, Serbia, and Afghanistan.

Development and design

The EC-130H had its first flight in 1981, was delivered to the Air Force in 1982 and reached initial operating capability in 1983.

The aircraft’s EC identifier stands for special electronic installation transport.

A weapon of the Cold War it was original designed to provide suppression of enemy air defenses and spent its early years monitoring integrated air defense systems under the Warsaw Pact.

The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of nearly 2,300 miles.

The airborne tactical weapon system has been modified through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and a more powerful digital signal analysis computers and subsystems.

The EC-130H aircraft carries a combat crew of 13 people. Four members are responsible for aircraft flight and navigation, while nine members operate and employ the EA mission equipment permanently integrated in the cargo/mission compartment.

The EC-130H fleet is composed of a mix of Baseline 1 and 2 aircraft.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle
Tech. Sgt. Shane Kerns, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron expediter, walks the wing of an EC-130 Compass Call aircraft while conducting a pre-flight check at an air base in Southwest Asia.
(Photo by Raheem Moore)

The Block 35 Baseline 1 EC-130H provides the Air Force with additional capabilities to jam communication, Early Warning/Acquisition radar and navigation systems through higher effective radiated power, extended frequency range and insertion of digital signal processing versus earlier EC-130Hs. Baseline 1 aircraft have the flexibility to keep pace with adversary use of emerging technology.

Baseline 2 has a number of upgrades to ease operator workload and improve effectiveness. Improved external communications allow Compass Call crews to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments.

Delivery of Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability,” providing improved aircraft performance and survivability.

A majority of the improvements found in the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline-2 are classified modifications to the mission system that enhance precision and increase attack capabilities.

In 2017 the Air Force announced plans for a Compass Call replacement platform based off the Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft. The new platform has been designated EC-X.

Operation and deployment

All 14 Compass Call aircraft are assigned to Air Combat Command. The 55th Electronic Combat Group consisting of two operational squadrons, the 41st and the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron operates the EC-130H. The 55th ECG is a tenant unit of the 355 Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, which reports to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle
U.S. Air Force Airmen repair engine one of an EC-130H Compass Call during Exercise BUSHWACKER on the flightline at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 26, 2014.
(Photo by Chris Massey)

The 55th ECG recently eclipsed 10,900 combat sorties and 66,500 flight hours as they provided U.S. and Coalition forces and Joint Commanders a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict.

Did you know

  • Since it’s introduction in 1954 there have been 54 modified variants of the C-130
  • The EC-130H was introduced in 1983 and began providing airborne attack capabilities in 1989 supporting U.S. Army Rangers during Operation Just Cause in Panama.
  • The EC-130H is one of four main U.S. electronic warfare aircraft, along with the EA-18G Growler, EA-6B Prowler and the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, which form the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) triad.

EC-130H Compass Call fact sheet:

General characteristics

Primary function: electronic warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses and offensive counter information

Builder:

Lockheed

Power plant:

Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines

Thrust:

4,910 prop shaft horsepower

Wingspan:

132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)

Length:

97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)

Height:

38 feet, 3 inches (11.4 meters)

Speed:

300 mph (Mach .4)

Range:

2,295 miles

Ceiling:

25,000 feet (7,576 meters)

Maximum takeoff weight:

155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)

Armament:

non-kinetic energy waveforms

Crew:

13 (two pilots, navigator, flight engineer, two electronic warfare officers, mission crew supervisor, four cryptologic linguists, acquisition operator and an airborne maintenance technician)

Initial operation capability:

1983

Unit cost:

$165 million

Inventory:

Active force, 14

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Lists

5 reasons why the Volunteer Service Medal is the most ridiculous medal

The awards that decorate a troop’s dress uniform have meaning. If a troop does something extraordinary, there are plenty of awards they might earn, depending on the specific heroics. There are medals for more mundane actions, as well. If they serve at a specific location, like going overseas or even to Antarctica, in support of a military campaign, they’re likely to earn a medal. Enlisting at a certain time during conflict adds the National Defense Service Medal to your ribbons rack. However, there’s one award that sticks out as ridiculous — the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (MOVSM).


All that’s required by this medal is that a troop (active duty, reserve, or national guard) performs a substantial volunteer service to the local community. The idea behind establishing the award in 1993 was to incentivize troops to do great deeds that would reflect highly on military service. In reality, it’s often seen as just another box to check.

We’re not disparaging charitable action, especially when it shines a good light on military service, but here’s why the award itself is silly.

5. The Humanitarian Service Medal already exists

The Humanitarian Service Medal is given to troops who participate in acts like disaster relief or the evacuation of refugees from a hostile area. The difference between this medal and the MOVSM is that this one is earned while on duty.

The HSM goes to the troops who were sent, let’s say, to New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The MOVSM, however, might go to the troop who helped put together a few potluck dinners. Both are the reward for doing a good deed but, according to the military, both nearly as prestigious as the other…



…which leads troops to not care about helping. (Image via GIPHY)

4. The criteria for earning one is vague

Every other award has clean-cut requirements. Have you been to this location or not? How does this act of heroism compare to other selfless acts? Were you able to be a good troop for three years or at least not get caught? This medal is an exception.

If a troop spends every weekend for a decade helping train the Boy Scouts, that’s a Volunteer Service Medal. If a troop says, “yeah, I got time. I can help you with that.” That act might be just as worthy, according to the nebulous criteria.



Basically… (Image via GIPHY)

3. Standards range from impossible to non-existent

Many units see this award as ridiculous and put unreasonable restrictions on it. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, to earn the MOVSM, one must exceed 3 years and/or 500 hours of service. Many times, a unit will ask for a proof-of-hours sheet that highlights how each of those hours was spent.

On the other side of the coin, the only definitive requirement — as outlined by the DoD — is that the good deed has tangible results and is not a single act. Many troops can tell you that they’ve earned this act simply by preparing and then attending a charity event. Boom. Instant award. Meanwhile, the Soldier who became his son’s Scout Leader has two years, 11 months, and three weeks to go to earn the same accolade.



Chances are that it’ll still get denied. (Image via GIPHY)

2. There’s no citation

The Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal is still a service medal. The award gets put in and, if it’s approved, the troop receives it. A commendation medal, on the other hand, is reflective of a specific, heroic action.

Technically speaking, there doesn’t need to be a formation and award ceremony for a MOVSM. The troop should just add it to their record and move on.

No need to waste everyone’s time with a BS award. (Image via GIPHY)

1. You can do the paperwork yourself and not need proof

By now, you’re probably already thinking about this point. If all that’s required is an hours sheet, how can you make sure a troop actually did what they claim? You can’t, really.

Troops who make a habit of volunteering, time and time again, over the course of three years are clearly not doing it for a single award worth five promotion points. They genuinely care. The guy who put on a couple of community potlucks doesn’t care about the volunteer service — they’re in it for the pat on the back.

Without a uniform standard on how to earn one, the award means almost nothing.



You don’t need to confess. Just know if you lied to get one, you suck. (Image via GIPHY)

MIGHTY TRENDING

How USNS Comfort went from a symbol of hope with the president’s blessing, to heading back from NYC having treated fewer than 180 patients

Earlier this week President Donald Trump announced he would be sending the Navy hospital ship Comfort home from New York City, cutting short a highly-touted but anticlimactic mission.

USNS Comfort arrived in New York City — the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak — on March 30 to aid the city’s hospitals by taking all of their non-coronavirus patients.


But it turned out that the city didn’t have many non-coronavirus patients to take, with only 20 patients were admitted to the 1,000-bed hospital ship in its first day. Meanwhile, New York City hospitals were still struggling to make space for a surge of patients.

The Comfort eventually reconfigured itself into a 500-bed ship to take coronavirus patients, but never came to reaching capacity — by April 21, it had treated just 179 people.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the city no longer needed the ship, and the Comfort is now ready to sail home to Virginia for a new mission.

Scroll down for a timeline of the ship’s short-lived mission.

March 17: New York City was quickly becoming a hot zone in the US coronavirus outbreak. The US Navy dispatched one of its hospital ships, USNS Comfort, to aid the city’s overwhelmed medical centers.

During a March 17 press conference, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying the Comfort to New York “before the end of this month.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed the help as hospitals braced for a tidal wave of coronavirus patients.

“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said the following day. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”

The Comfort is a converted super tanker that the Navy uses to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Its prior postings had taken it to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and to New York City in 2001 to treat people injured in the September 11 attacks.

The ship includes 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and capacity for 1,000 beds. It is usually manned by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 Navy medical and communications personnel.

March 29: President Trump saw off the Comfort as it left its port in Virginia to sail up to New York City. He remarked that it was a “70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York.”

Source: Military.com

March 30: The Comfort arrived in New York City the next day, a white beacon of hope for a city that had at the time seen more than 36,000 cases and 790 deaths. That number has since grown to more than 138,000 cases and 9,944 deaths.

Source: NYC Health

Throngs of New Yorkers broke stay-at-home orders to watch the massive former tanker come into port.

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Sailors work in the ICU unit aboard USNS Comfort in New York City on April 20, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 2: The ship is up and running. The New York Times reported that it had accepted just 20 patients on its first day and that it wasn’t taking any coronavirus patients.

Michael Dowling, the head of New York’s largest hospital system, called the Comfort a “joke.” He told The Times: “It’s pretty ridiculous. If you’re not going to help us with the people we need help with, what’s the purpose?”

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Cmdr. Lori Cici, left, and Lt. Akneca Bumfield stand by for an inbound ambulance carrying a patient arriving for medical care aboard aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort on April 9.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

Source: The New York Times, Business Insider

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The crew of the comfort practice how to bring patients on board the ship after docking in New York City on March 31, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 6: Following the outrage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked Trump for permission to let the ship take coronavirus patients.

Source: New York Post

Trump agreed and the Navy reconfigured the ship into a 500-bed hospital to space out patients and lower the risk of spreading the highly-infectious virus.

Source: CBS News

That same day, before the ship started taking coronavirus patients, a crew member tested positive for the disease. This is despite the fact that the crew was ordered to quarantine for two weeks before their departure.

That number grew to four in the following weeks. All of the sick crew members have since recovered and are back to work, a Navy spokesman later told The Virginian-Pilot.

Source: Business Insider

April 21: Even after moving to take coronavirus patients, the Comfort didn’t come close to reaching capacity — even as the city’s hospitals remained overwhelmed. As of Tuesday, the ship had treated a total of 179 patients.

During a meeting with the president, Cuomo said that New York no longer needed the Comfort and said it could be sent to a more hard-hit area.

Trump said he had taken Cuomo up on his offer and would recall the Comfort to its home port in Virginia, where it will prepare for its next posting. The new mission remains unclear.

Trump admitted during a White House briefing that part of the reason the ship was never put to much use in New York City was because its arrival coincided with the opening of a temporary hospital in the Javits convention center.

Source: Business Insider

April 24: The Comfort is still in port in New York City, even though Trump said it will be leaving as soon as possible.

Source: Business Insider, Maritime Traffic

Meanwhile, the situation in New York appears to be improving. Last Saturday Cuomo said New York may be “past the plateau” with hospitalizations on the decline. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he’s seeing “real progress.”

Source: New York Times, New York Daily News

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Air Force Officer accused of spying for Iran

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer for aiding Iran in what Washington says was a cyberespionage operation targeting U.S. intelligence officers.

The indictment said Monica Witt exposed a U.S. agent and helped Iran’s Revolutionary Guards develop cybertargets in the U.S. military after defecting to Iran in 2013.


U.S. officials said Witt, who worked for years in U.S. Air Force counterintelligence, had an “ideological” turn against her country.

As part of its action on Feb. 13, 2019, the United States also charged four Iranian nationals who it said were involved in the cyberattacks.

It also sanctioned two Iran-based companies: New Horizon Organization and Net Peygard Samavat Company.

Former Air Force Intelligence agent charged with spying for Iran

www.youtube.com

The U.S. Treasury said Net Peygard targeted current and former U.S. government and military personnel with a malicious cybercampaign, while New Horizon had staged international gatherings to back efforts by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign participants.

Witt herself was recruited by Iran after attending two international conferences organized by New Horizon, U.S. officials said.

They said Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the air force from 1997 until 2008, and worked as contractor for two years after that.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New Army museum will feature six National Guardsmen

When the National Museum of the United States Army opens to the public outside Washington, D.C. in 2020; six New York Army National Guard soldiers will be a permanent part of it.

The six men who serve at the New York National Guard Headquarters outside Albany and the 24th Civil Support Team at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, are models for six of 63 life-sized soldier figures that will bring exhibits in the museum to life.

Studio EIS (pronounced ice), the Brooklyn company that specializes in making these museum exhibit figures, would normally hire actors or professional models as templates for figures, said Paul Morando, the chief of exhibits for the museum.


But real soldiers are better, he said.

“Having real soldiers gives the figures a level of authenticity to the scene,” he said. “They know where their hands should be on the weapons. They know how far apart their feet should be when they are standing. They know how to carry their equipment.”

Actual soldiers can also share some insights with the people making the figures, Morando added.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald displays the cast made of his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The museum is under construction at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army Historical Foundation is leading a 0 million dollar campaign and constructing the 185,000 square-foot building through private donations. The Army is providing the 84-acre site, constructing the roads and infrastructure, and the interior exhibit elements that transform a building into a museum.

The museum will tell the story of over 240 years of Army history through stories of American soldiers.

The figures of the six New York National Guard Solders — Maj. Robert Freed, Chaplain (Maj.) James Kim, Capt. Kevin Vilardo, 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison, and Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald — will populate two exhibits from two different eras.

Vilardo, Gerdt, and Archibald will portray soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald clutches pipes representing rope as a technician prepares to apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The figure modeled by Archibald, an assistant inspector general at New York National Guard headquarters, will be climbing down a cargo net slung over the side of a model ship into a 36-foot long landing craft known as a “Higgins boat.”

The boats took their name from Andrew Higgins, a Louisiana boat-builder who designed the plywood-sided boats, which delivered soldiers directly to the beach.

Vilardo, the commander of A Troop, 101st Cavalry, who also works in the Army National Guard operations section, was the model for a combat photographer. His figure will be in the boat taking pictures of the action.

Gerdt, a survey section leader in the 24th Civil Support Team, modeled a soldier standing in the boat gazing toward the beach.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt holds a pose while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 14, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The landing craft is so big that it, and three other macro artifacts, were pre-positioned in their space within the museum in 2017 — the museum is being built around them.

Kim, Morrison and Freed modeled for figures that will be in an Afghanistan tableau. They will portray soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment on patrol in 2014, each soldier depicting a different responsibility on a typical combat mission.

The figure based on Morrison, the medic for the 24th CST, will be holding an M4 and getting ready to go in first.

Freed, the executive officer of the 24th CST, modeled a platoon leader talking on the radio.

Kim, the chaplain for the 42nd Division, was the model for a soldier operating a remote control for a MARCbot, which is used to inspect suspicious objects.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed holds a pose with a mock M4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as technicians apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

The process of turning a soldier into a life-sized figure starts by posing the soldier in the position called for in the tableau and taking lots of photos. This allows the artists to observe how the person looks and record it.

When Archibald showed up at the Studio EIS facility they put him to work climbing a cargo net like soldiers used to board landing craft during World War II.

“They were taking pictures of me actually climbing a net with a backpack on and a huge model rifle over my shoulder,” he recalled. “That was uncomfortable because I was actually on a net hanging off this wall.”

The Studio EIS experts take pictures of the model from every angle and take measurements as well, Morando explained.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Heads casted from New York Army National Guard soldiers wait to be matched with their bodies at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Vilardo, who posed crammed into a mock landing craft corner with a camera up to his eyes, said the photography portion of this process was the most unnerving part for him.

“I’m not one to like my picture being taken and to have really close photography of your face and hands was a new experience,” he said.

Next, a model of the individuals face is made. A special silicone based material is used for the cast. The model’s nostrils are kept clear so the subject can breathe.

The soldiers were told what their character was supposed to be doing and thinking and asked to make the appropriate facial gestures.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison holds his pose as technicians apply casting material to his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 5, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Gerdt was told to stare into space and think about not seeing his family for two years.

“I had to hold my facial expression for about 15 minutes while they did that,” he said.

Because his character was talking on the radio, he had to hold his mouth open and some of the casting compound got inside, Freed said.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed poses with a mock M-4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as photos of his pose are taken at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

“It was a bit nerve wracking, “Freed recalled. ” They pour the silicon liquid over your entire face and you have these two breathing holes. Your hearing is limited. It is a bit jarring.”

The material also warmed up.

“It was like a spa experience,” Kim joked. “They had me sit with one of those barber covers on. I had to be still with my head tilted back.”

The material got so warm that he started sweating, Archibald said. “As they did the upper portion (of his body) I got pretty toasty in there,” he said.

Once their facial casts were done the Studio EIS experts cast the rest of their body. The soldiers put on tight shorts and stockings with Vaseline smeared over body parts and posed in the positions needed.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo poses as World War II combat cameraman standing in the corner of a landing craft at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Kim was asked to crouch and hold a controller in his hand. When he got up to move his legs were frozen, he said. “It was four hours and a lot of stillness,” Kim said.

Archibald was positioned on blocks so that his body looked like it was climbing and they used this small little stool supporting my butt.” He also had to clench his hand around rods to look like he was gripping a rope.

Vilardo jammed himself into a plywood cutout so it looked like he was stabilizing himself on a boat. Morrison held an M-4 at the ready as if he were ready to lead a stack of soldiers into a room.

The six New York National Guardsmen and four other soldiers visited the Brooklyn studio during the first two weeks of November 2018.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Major (Chaplain) James Kim poses with the remote control for a MARCbot robot as Paul Morando, the Exhibits Chief for the National Museum of the United States Army, refines his position at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 8, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

They were the last soldiers to be turned into figures, Morando said.

Four active duty soldiers also posed during the process; Chaplain (Major) Bruce Duty, Staff Sgt. Dereek Martinez, Sgt. 1st Class Kent Bumpass, and Sgt. Armando Hernandez.

Next the artists will sculpt sections into a complete figure, dress and accessorize, and paint precise details on the face and skin; crafting it to humanistic and historical perfection. These lifelike soldier figures will help visitors understand what it looked like on D-Day or during a combat mission in Afghanistan, Morando said.

The New York soldiers got their chance to be part of the new, state of the art museum because of Justin Batt, the director of the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.

He and Morando had worked together before, Batt said.

Morando needed soldiers to pose and wanted to use soldiers from the New York City area to keep down costs. So he turned to Batt to help find ten people.

Batt, in turn, reached out to Freed to ask for help in finding guard soldiers.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Soldiers pose for museum exhibits.

(U.S. Army photo)

The museum was looking for soldiers with certain looks, heights, and in some cases race, Freed said.

For the D-Day scene they needed soldiers of certain height and weight who would look like soldiers from the 1940s. The design for the Afghanistan scene included an Asian American and African-American soldier, Freed said.

He recruited Kim, a Korean-American, as the Asian American and Morrison as the African-American soldier. Vilardo, Archibald and Gerdt are lean and looked more like an American of the 1940s.

The six New York Guardsmen that Freed recruited were perfect, Batt said. Not only did they look the part but also they all have tremendous military records, he added.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo holds a pose as a World War II combat cameraman while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

Being part of the National Museum of the United States Army is an honor, the soldiers said.

While their names won’t be acknowledged on the exhibits, it will be great to know they are part of telling the Army story, they all agreed.

He was impressed to find out how much work goes into creating an exhibit and the care the museum staff is taking to get it right, Freed said.

“I have a newfound appreciation of the efforts the Army is making to preserve its history,” he added.

“I think it is pretty cool that they would get soldiers to model as soldiers,” Archibald said. “Part of it is an honor to be able to bring people down there and point at the exhibit and say that is actually me there.”

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

This draft of the landing craft exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Army gives a sense of what the finished result will look like when the museum opens.

(National Museum of the United States Army)

“I feel privileged to have an opportunity to be part of a historic display, “Kim said. ” To be immortalized and to be able to share that with generations of my family. It is a once in a life time opportunity.”

“It’s extremely cool. I feel honored to do it,” Gerdt said, adding that he was looking forward to taking his newborn daughter to see the exhibit.

Vilardo, who has a seven-year old daughter, said she was pretty excited when he showed her photographs of him being turned into an exhibit figure.

“I told her it would be just like “Night at the Museum”, he said referring to the Ben Stiller movie about museum exhibits coming to life, “and that we could go visit anytime.”

“It is extremely humbling to know I am going to be part of Army history, “Morrison said. “I already thought I was part of the Army Story. Now I am going to be part of the story the public gets to see.”

Editor’s Note: The National Museum of the United States Army is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the non-profit organization, The Army Historical Foundation. The museum will serve as the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and provide the comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. The Museum is expected to open in 2020 and admission will be free. www.thenmusa.org

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 Avengers who are not cut out for the military

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Universe, then this year has been one of the most mind-blowing and entertaining of your nerdtastic life. From Black Panther‘s record-smashing release weekend to the heart-breaking ending of Avengers: Infinity War, 2018 has done a lot for comic-book fans.


Starting with Iron Man in 2008, superheroes has taken on a prominent role in lighting up the big screen. Their wide array of high-powered abilities are fascinating to watch — even if they’re obviously not real. The true heroes are our service members, men and woman who risk life and limb each day — even without divine superpowers or extreme genetic mutation.

As anyone who has ever gone through boot camp can tell you, it’s not all bronze that gets you through basic. You need a certain mental fortitude if you’re going to make the cut. With that in mind, let’s break down Marvel’s Avengers and see who wouldn’t cut it in the military.

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Iron Man

“Take away his suit and what do you have left?” Tony Stark would proudly answer back, “a genius, billionaire playboy philanthropist.” Good answer, but these are all characteristics that would make Iron Man an outstanding civilian. How would he fair up in boot?

Let’s see how far daddy’s money will take him when he’s stripped of his suit, money, and nice hair cut. Iron Man is tough — of that there’s no doubt — but we also know how Tony gets when he doesn’t have his way. He’s a problem-solver, but he’s not one for regulations. In short, Tony Stark is not the battle buddy I’d want watching my 6.

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Scarlet Witch

Scarlet Witch has the power to levitate items at will and hurl them at the enemy. This is a perfect ability to have in any branch. You can deflect bullets from incoming assailants or save a ship from a missile strike. This superpower that could, potentially, save thousands of lives makes Scarlet Witch a powerful asset to any team.

Power, however, has proven itself to be useless without grit. Yes, Scarlet is powerful and has abilities that can quickly upset the balance, but hesitation during battle often makes the biggest difference.

In the real world, battle doesn’t stop for speeches. If Scarlet Witch needs a motivational essay before using her powers, she might as well be carrying an M16 without any 5.56mm rounds.

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Spider-Man

We all know the story: He got bit by a radioactive spider and now he’s fast, strong, and has amazing reflexes. Spider-Man would make the perfect recruit on paper. He’s be an excellent infiltrator and reconnaissance expert.

The problem is that this kid just doesn’t know when it’s time to shut his mouth. Yes, he has the skills, but let’s remember that loose lips sink ships, Mr. Parker.

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Thor

He’s the God of Thunder, Son of Odin, and one of, if not, the strongest Avenger. This blonde-haired, Fabio-looking strongman is not only impenetrable to harm, but also wields a Hammer that grants him the ability to fly.

Thor would make the cut for almost any special operations team the military has to offer. However, good luck getting him to follow orders.

Being an immortal God has a way of turning one into a lone wolf. Thor would find himself in and out the military faster than you can say Mjölnir!

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The Hulk

Last and most certainly not least, we have the man of the hour: The Incredible Hulk. As Bruce Banner, this Avenger would make the perfect troop. He’s smart, he’s cunning, he follows orders, and he’s always ready to help.

Sounds like the perfect recruit, right? Wrong. Bruce Banner is the perfect definition of someone who goes postal. Let’s see how long Bruce can be barked at by drill instructors before the mean green surfaces. He’d be great for a raid, but try finding a redhead in the Middle East to calm this beast down when he’s chocked full of rage.

Let’s just say court=martial is most definitely a part of his near future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wait, now there’s an Army Space Force?

As the Army steadily grows its space force with current Soldiers, a path is now being offered to help cadets quickly become Functional Area 40 space operations officers.

Since its inception in 2008, FA40 has “developed billets and found technically qualified individuals to fill them,” said Mike Connolly, Army Space Personnel Development Office director.

The Army currently has approximately 3,000 billets in its force of space-qualified professionals, including 285 active component FA40 space operations officers. The increased need for space operations expertise within Army formations is resulting in further growth of Army’s space force, officials said.


This is what the Space Force would actually do

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This is what the Space Force would actually do

As the core of the Army space force, FA40s provide in-depth expertise and experience to leverage space-related assets. They also deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, according to a news release.

The goal is to recruit and fill a rapidly increasing demand for Army officers into the FA40 career field each year, Connolly said, with initially 10 of these officers transferring as cadets through the Assured Functional Area Transfer program.

ASSURED FUNCTIONAL AREA TRANSFER

A more guaranteed route for officers to transfer into the Army space force begins before they commission under the A-FAT program. Upon commissioning into their operational basic branch, selected cadets with STEM degrees — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — will be assured a transfer into FA40 Space Operations at the four-year mark in their career.

While in their basic branch, the officers must remain in good military standing, and if selected, sign a contract to transfer into the Army space force as a space operations officer.

Once selected, FA40 officers attend the Space Operations Officer Qualification Course, which includes the National Security Space Institute, the Space 200 course, and seven weeks of Army-focused space training provided by the Space and Missile Defense Command’s Space and Missile Defense School.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

The Army is steadily growing its space force due to an increased need to deliver space capabilities to the warfighter and have the ability to integrate space capabilities into the future, officials said.

(Photo Credit: Catherine Deran)

VOLUNTARY TRANSFER INCENTIVE PROGRAM

The Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program is also accepting applications from eligible officers for a branch transfer into the Army space force at the four-year mark in their career. VTIP is the primary means of balancing branches and functional areas within the Army.

Once applications are received, officers are vetted from the current career field into the Army space operator career field. Subject-matter experts within the respective careers determine the best fit for the Army, by deciding which career best suits the applicant. In addition to technical abilities, applicants are vetted based on their values and leadership abilities.

Due to the needs of the Army, the VTIP program is not a guaranteed process for all applicants hoping to transfer into the Army’s space force, Connolly said.

The Army remains the largest user of space-based assets within the Defense Department, and nearly every piece of equipment Soldiers use “on a day-to-day basis” such as GPS devices and cell phones are space enabled, Connolly said.

In the future, he said, the Army’s prevalence toward space and need for more officers within Army’s space force will continue to grow.

Individuals interested in becoming an FA40 officer should visit the Space Knowledge Management System for additional information.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Revolutionary War musicians wore different colored uniforms

We’ve all seen the famous painting, Spirit of ’76. In it, a young Revolutionary War drummer boy is marching alongside two other musicians. The boy is in his Continental Army uniform, looking up to an older drummer who is not in uniform. Another uniformed musician is wounded, but marching and playing the fife.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle
That is what a ‘game face’ looks like.
(Painting by Archibald Willard)

Today, Civil War veteran Archibald Willard’s 1875 painting still evokes patriotism in many Americans. It was, after all, painted on the eve of the United States’ centennial. Willard was the grandson of one of the Green Mountain Boys who, led by legendary patriot Ethan Allen, invaded Canada and captured Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolution. But there are a few errors in the painting: The scene it depicts never happened, the flag in the background wasn’t approved by Congress until much later, and the musicians are not wearing the right uniforms.

None of that really matters, it’s still a painting that resonates with Americans 100 years later. However, questions remain. What did the musicians wear in the Revolution? And why was it a different uniform from their fellow colonials?

It turns out it was both a tactical decision and an economic one.


In those days, musicians in an army existed to expedite communications on the battlefield. Music was loud enough to be heard over the din of combat and varied enough so that American troops would be able to respond to orders given from battlefield commanders without confusing them for other orders. They could even tell the enemy that the rival commanders wanted a parley. Incredibly (and accurately depicted in the painting), these communications were done by old men and boys who were either too old or too young to fight.

Related: This drummer boy was 12 years old when he became a Civil War hero

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

(Copyright 2010 by Randy Steele)

Boys that were younger than age 16 and men older than age 50 were enlisted as musicians. At the time, the average life expectancy for an American colonist was around 36 years, so a man older than 50 was both honored for his longevity and hard to find. Finding them on a dirty, smokey battlefield was just as difficult, so the uniforms they wore needed to be slightly more visible. There was also an economic component involved with the decision.

The regular Continental soldier wore a blue coat with red cuffs. Musicians, on the other hand, wore a red coat with blue cuffs. The red made them stand out on a battlefield where visibility was limited. It also made them stand out to the enemy, so if they were discovered, it was immediately clear that the small figure ahead was a musician — unarmed and not a threat (drummers were considered noncombatants). As an added bonus, the inverted uniforms were made from leftover materials in creating soldiers’ garb.

By the time Ohioan Archibald Willard was serving in the Civil War, musicians were wearing the same uniforms as their armed, regular battle buddies. Their purpose on the battlefields and in camp were the same — and Civil War armies still, by and large, used young boys (some as young as age 9) as drummers and buglers, but many also included full bands, with as many as 68 members in some units.

Now Read: Civil War musicians served as battlefield medics

As battlefield communication methods improved, drums soon gave way to the bugle and, eventually, musicians disappeared from the battlefield altogether. Their role has since been replaced by radio and satellite communications, but for the time that musicians served in their battlefield communications role, the boys and men that filled those ranks were some of the bravest who ever marched with an army.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What we know about the B-2 emergency landing in Colorado

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made an emergency landing on Oct. 23, 2018, at the Colorado Springs Airport following an unspecified inflight incident.

A number of local photographers have posted photos of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac at the joint use civilian/military airport located about 12 miles from downtown Colorado Springs.

An Air Force statement from Brig. Gen. John J. Nichols, 509th Bomb Wing commander, read, “Our aviators are extremely skilled; they’re trained to handle a wide variety of in-flight emergencies in one of the world’s most advanced aircraft and they perfectly demonstrated that today.”


Numerous media outlets and local news reports have said the two crew memberson board the aircraft were not injured in the incident.

The incident is unusual since there are only 18 known B-2s currently in operation with one additional aircraft allocated for dedicated testing purposes (and one crashed 10 years ago). The 18 operational aircraft are flown by the historic U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

The unit is descended from the 509th Composite Group, the only aviation unit in the world to operationally employ nuclear weapons in combat using B-29 Superfortresses during the 1945 airstrikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flies overhead after returning from a local training mission at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

The 509th Bomb Wing and its Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit are critical U.S. strategic strike assets. The loss of one aircraft, even if temporary, reduces the global precision low-observable strike capability by 5.5%. Because the aircraft have previously initiated ultra-long range strikes directly from their home base at Whiteman AFB, this reduction in capability is noteworthy.

Social media posts on Facebook shared parts of what is claimed to be radio communications from local air traffic control facilities during the incident. In the recordings, the controller is heard saying, “There is another issue with the aircraft coming in, they are unable to change radio frequencies”. The same tape also says the local fire department at the airport was called.

The B-2 was initially directed to runway 17L but actually landed on runway 35R, a runway at 6,134 feet of elevation that is 13,500 feet long, the longest runway available at Colorado Springs Airport.


B-2 Stealth Bomber emergency landing in Colorado Springs

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The tower controller in the audio relays that, “I’m just relaying through Denver Center, all of the information, but as far as I now it is just the number 4 engine out”. Tower control finally says that he is unable to talk to the aircraft and is going to use a light gun to signal the aircraft, “But I am unable to talk to them. I’m just going to give them the light gun.” What appears to be an additional controller in the communications says, “No, they were unable to switch radio [frequencies] to me. I could only give them the light gun.”

Emergency response team on scene provided the pilot with oxygen, according to the reports but the reason for administering oxygen is unclear and subject to speculations.

On the other side, analysis of the (unusual) back shots of the aircraft: the U.S. Air Force usually prevents shorts at the rear of the aircraft.

“Photos taken of the B-2 on the ramp in Colorado show the aircraft’s auxiliary air inlet doors open on the left side and closed on the right. This is unusual. We don’t know if the right-side inlet doors were stuck closed during landing — they are open during terminal phases of flight — or if the left side failed to close upon shutting down,” Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone noticed.

As of Oct. 24, 2018, plane spotters in the area have since reported the B-2 is “gone”. The aircraft was not seen departing the airport so it is probable it has been moved discreetly to an indoor hangar.

On Feb. 26, 2010, a somehow similar incident occurred with a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber forward deployed in Guam. The aircraft aborted a takeoff with an engine fire. The official USAF spokesperson for the incident at the time, then- Lt. Col. Kenneth Hoffman, characterized the incident as “minor”. A subsequent report published on Jan. 6, 2014, in “War Is Boring” by writer David Axe went on to reveal the B-2 involved in that incident received more than minor damage. It took over two years to return the aircraft to operational flying condition.

Each of the B-2 spirit fleet aircraft has a name designated by state. In the case of the Feb. 26, 2010 incident, the aircraft involved was the “Spirit of Washington”, aircraft number 88-0332. The photos from Oct. 24, 2018’s incident may show aircraft number 89-0128, the “Spirit of Nebraska” being involved in Oct. 23, 2018’s emergency landing.

The future of the small and crucial B-2 fleet will certainly be influenced by the ability to maintain existing aircraft and repair any aircraft damaged in normal operations.

As the B-2 fleet continues to age and remain exposed to normal operational attrition the new, secretive B-21 Raider is expected to assume the low-observable strategic strike mission as it comes on line as early as 2025. Basing options for the B-21 Raider were announced earlier this year and could include Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri as “reasonable alternatives ” to base the new B-21 bomber. These facilities already host strategic bomber assets including the B-1B Lancer long-range, supersonic heavy bomber.

The B-1B is also expected to be phased out in conjunction with the introduction and operational integration of the B-21 Raider. The plans for the B-21 Raider fleet include significantly more aircraft than the operational B-2 Spirit program with some estimates suggesting as many as “100-200” B-21 Raiders could be built. The unit cost of the B-21 could be half the single aircraft cost of the B-2 partially because the B-21 Raider will share the Pratt Whitney F135 engine with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Hump Day: Games I would play in my head while hiking

Humping is a reality for many of us, and I’m not talking about the kind that has a happy ending. In my Marine Corps career, I estimate that I easily hiked 1,000 miles with a full pack — between 50 and 150 lbs. At a minimum speed of 3 miles an hour, that’s over 300 hours of time for the mind to go to dark or funny places.


Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Maybe slip on some ice…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Will Perkins)

Going internal

On a long hump, the mind so often goes dark. I remember envisioning the sweet relief of rolling an ankle so I could ride in the safety vehicle, even picking out the exact rock I was planning to eat shit on.

“That one….seriously, that one. Okay, fine, the next one… Ah, fine, I don’t wanna cause any serious damage. I’ll just take a header into that ditch and cause a concussion instead.”

On my 23rd birthday, I was on an 8-mile movement to a range for a live fire event. It was the second day in a row we were humping, and the entire epidermis of my right foot was already falling off, from the ball of my foot to the start of my heel, from the previous day’s movements. I had spent the previous weekend in Virginia beach drinking homemade Sangria, and the effects were still very much present.

I spent that entire hump in my own head questioning all of my life decisions.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

You know he’s thinking about the next ‘Avengers’ movie.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

Making it fun

Eventually, I got to the point in my career where I just accepted that I would be walking for the next 8 hours and decided to make it fun. Games I played:

  • Reliving every fight I’ve ever been in and how I would Jason Bourne my way to victory if it happened again.
  • During daylight hikes I would make up fake hand and arm signals and try to confuse people who took things too seriously.
  • I would secretly listen to music on my iPod (I’m old) through a strategically placed earbud. #combathunter
  • My roommate would use hikes as an opportunity to eat as much as he could; it was one of the few times you had enough “free time” to eat a full meal. The trick would be to figure out a way to use the heater packet while hiking. You need to jam it between your pack and back and focus on walking level, so it doesn’t fall out. Beware of the high potential for second-degree burns.
Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

“Hey! What was the name of the fat guy in The Office?”…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessika Braden)

  • At one point, I wrote a new phonetic alphabet with just profanities. You can imagine what replaced Foxtrot. It was enlightening.
  • “A cougar is following you.” That’s just a game where you pretend a cougar is going to rip out your jugular as soon as you stop. The trick to this one is to think one step ahead of the mountain cat.
  • I would replace famous movie characters with my mom and see how the story would play out. It was never as entertaining, but always much more satisfying. If my mom took the place of Frodo in Lord of The Rings the opening scene would have also been the closing scene.
    • Gandalf shows up at night after dinner. Mom says, “What are you doing here? I’m busy, get out.” He counters “Lisa, you need to take the ring to Mordor to destr–” And, in classic Lisa fashion, she cuts him off mid-sentence with “That’s not my problem, now is it? Take it yourself.”
    • Roll credits.
Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Humping is a profession nearly as old as prostitution…

(Photo from the Thayer Soule Collection (COLL/2266) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division)

The right answer

Once I matured, I realized the right answer is to become externally motivated. I believe the jobs of the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant are easier than the rifleman, because you are concerned with your Marines, rather than yourself. When your focus is pointed outward, time flies.

This lesson applies to every kind of difficult situation. Caring for others is one of the most selfish and least selfish things you can do. When it comes to hiking, if you focus externally, you get to push your own ailments aside until you are alone in your room, crying like a big dumb baby.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Keep moving forward…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/Released)

In the gym, you are forced to confront your demons directly; there are no troops for you to look out for.

But in actuality, everything you do to make yourself better is also making the lives of those around you better. So, in a way, finishing a workout for your spouse or kids is no different than completing a movement for your unit.

Where are you in your hump day progression? Are you living in a world of regret and grief? Are you writing the next great American novel in your head? Or have you reached the point of hiking enlightenment and started checking on your guys and planning for their success when you reach your objective?

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

In latest dust-up, China sends fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace amid history US official visit

KYIV, Ukraine — China sent fighter jets into Taiwanese airspace on Monday morning amid the first visit by a senior US official to Taiwan in decades, underscoring a steady deterioration in Sino-American relations that is increasingly edging the two countries closer to a military clash, some experts warn.

“The risk of conflict in the Taiwan Strait is rising,” Ryan Hass, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies, told Coffee or Die. “At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that Taipei, Washington, and Beijing each continue to have a strong incentive to manage competition without resorting to force, given the risks of rapid escalation and the catastrophic consequences that any conflict in the Taiwan Strait would create for all parties.”


US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar landed in Taiwan on Sunday afternoon, marking the most significant official US visit to the island country in more than four decades. Around 9 a.m. Monday morning, Chinese J-10 and J-11 fighter jets crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait — the narrow body of water dividing mainland China from Taiwan — and briefly entered Taiwanese airspace.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

A Chinese Su-27 Flanker fighter makes a fly by while the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, visits with members of the Chinese Air Force at Anshan Airfield, China Mar. 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, released.

After the Chinese warplanes ignored Taiwanese warnings, Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighters to intercept the Chinese jets, Taiwanese military officials reported on Monday. Taiwanese missiles were also tracking the Chinese jets, Taiwanese defense officials said.

“Beijing is using its military to demonstrate its capabilities to audiences that are likely watching,” Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told Coffee or Die.

“This is part of the Chinese approach to compellence — which is translated often as deterrence,” Cheng said.

In a release, Taiwan’s air force stated that the Chinese aerial maneuver was a “deliberate intrusion and destruction of the current situation in the Taiwan Strait” and that it “seriously undermined regional security and stability.”

Beijing has not yet commented on the incident, which marked the third time since 2016 that Chinese warplanes have violated Taiwan’s airspace.

“Chinese fighters crossed the [Taiwan Strait] mid-line in 2019 and have done so several times this year,” Cheng told Coffee or Die.

“So, on the one hand, this is part of the new normal, put in place since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in 2016,” Cheng said, adding that the Taiwanese president is “committed to Taiwan independence, so as you can imagine, she — and her party and government — are not seen as friendly to Beijing.”

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base, flies in formation over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, July 18, 2019. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson.

Azar’s visit was meant to signal US recognition of Taiwan’s role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, amid mounting tensions with Beijing, Washington has made it a priority to tighten its ties with Taiwan, including increased arms sales to the island nation.

“We consider Taiwan to be a vital partner, a democratic success story, and a force for good in the world,” Azar said at a meeting with the Taiwanese president Monday.

Rather than a significant, escalatory move by China, some experts say Monday’s aerial incident is further evidence of a new era of strategic competition between Washington and Beijing — an era, experts add, that is fraught with danger due to the risk of an accidental conflict arising from an unintended, escalatory domino chain set in motion either by accident or an ill-conceived military maneuver.

“The risk of a clash is trending upward,” said Steve Tsang, director of SOAS University of London’s China Institute. “In the run up to the US presidential election, I do not expect Beijing to want to create an incident involving Chinese and US military forces. […] But the risk of an unintended incident is trending higher.”

According to the Defense Department’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and, ultimately […] global preeminence in the long-term.”

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

Ens. David Falloure, from Houston, uses a rangefinder to determine the ship’s distance to the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Stuart (FFH 153), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) from the port bridge wing aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) during a trilateral photo exercise, July, 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Hong.

Greater sway over the Pacific region would expand China’s regional economic and military influence — it would also help China undercut Taiwan’s network of regional allies, experts say. Thus, in the minds of America’s military leadership, the larger contest between the US and China for global dominance is currently playing out in the Indo-Pacific region.

Highlighting the region’s newfound importance to the US, the White House National Security Council recently created the new position of director for Oceania and Indo-Pacific Security. And, looking forward, the Pentagon is set to beef up the US military’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, taking advantage of existing partnerships and developing new ones to pre-position US forces and equipment.

Across the entire Indo-Pacific region, both China and the US are jostling for influence over island nations for the sake gaining strategic military advantage over the other.

Establishing a far-reaching footprint across the region will allow US military forces to forward deploy military forces — including long-range, precision strike weapons — which are meant to deter China from aggressive power grabs that threaten the status quo balance of power.

Some warn, however, that tensions between China and the US are edging away from innocuous diplomatic sparring and increasingly toward military competition. Thus, as the China and the US continue their tit-for-tat military maneuvers in the Indo-Pacific region, the danger of a military clash is trending upward.

“Sending fighter jets into Taiwan’s airspace should always been considered significant but given the context of Secretary Azar’s visit, it symbolizes something else,” said SOAS University of London’s Tsang.

“The impotence of the Chinese state in its response to something that it would have seen as unacceptable,” Tsang told Coffee or Die. “Sending the jets is clearly meant to show how tough Beijing is, but Beijing knows perfectly well that it will have no effect on the USA or Taiwan, so it remains essentially a gesture.”

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

An MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to the Golden Eagles of Helicoper Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 12, approaches the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a trilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea, July 21, 2020. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erica Bechard.

China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, opposed Azar’s visit, calling it an escalatory move. Ahead of Azar’s arrival in Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged Washington to cut off all official contact with Taipei to “avoid serious damage to China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

“Foreign Minister Wang’s statement last week confirms my assessment that Beijing would prefer to lower the temperature at the moment,” Tsang said. “Hence, the gesture in the response to Secretary Azar’s visit to Taipei. Beijing cannot afford not to respond in a way that can be presented as robust.”

Also on Monday, China announced it had placed sanctions on 11 high-profile US senators and officials in response to American criticisms of Beijing’s authoritarian crackdown on Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s protests began in June 2019 over a new bill allowing the extradition of the special autonomous-city’s citizens to mainland China. In November, Washington passed a new law — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act — that supports the Hong Hong protesters and the city’s democratic autonomy from the rest of China.

After months of protests, Beijing announced in May that it would tighten its grip on Hong Kong under a new “national security” law.

On Friday, President Donald Trump enacted new sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as law enforcement personnel. Then on Monday Chinese authorities arrested Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai, who has been a staunch supporter of Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protest movement.

“In response to those wrong US behaviours, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reportedly said, according to multiple news outlets.

Why the US has a base 695 miles north of the Arctic Circle

F-15C Eagles fly in formation over the East China Sea Dec. 11, 2018, during a routine training exercise out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt.

At the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Chinese national forces under the command of Chiang Kai-shek retreated from the Chinese mainland and established an autonomous government on Taiwan called the Republic of China. Communist China has continued to claim Taiwan as its sovereign territory.

In 1971, Taiwan was booted from the United Nations and many countries have refused to officially recognize the autonomous island nation for fear of sparking reprisal from Beijing. The US does not recognize Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. And even though Washington officially ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, the US has sold military hardware to Taipei — including missiles, missile defense systems, and F-16 fighters.

Despite the escalating tensions, The Heritage Foundation’s Cheng remained skeptical about the possibility of an imminent armed clash between US and Chinese forces.

“I don’t think this signals that there is a greater likelihood of military conflict,” Cheng said of China’s warplane incursion into Taiwanese airspace on Monday. “It does reflect China’s greater willingness to employ the military to signal others, a natural outcome as China’s military becomes mores sophisticated and more capable.”

Cheng added: “Beijing seems to have a far different view of crisis stability compared with Western nations. It seems to think that it has the ability to unilaterally escalate and deescalate crises. It is this attitude, if it were transferred to the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, or the East China Sea, that might precipitate a military confrontation.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force claims latest sky penis was the result of a dogfight

US Air Force F-35s accidentally left behind phallic contrails in the sky after air-to-air combat training this week.

Two of the fifth-generation stealth fighters went head-to-head with four additional F-35s during a simulated dogfight, Luke Air Force Base told Business Insider.

In the wake of the mock air battle, the contrails looked decidedly like a penis. Media observers out in Arizona said it “vaguely resembles the male anatomy.”

But unlike a rash of prior sky penis sightings, the base has concluded that this was not an intentional act. “We’ve seen the photos that have been circulating online from Tuesday afternoon,” Maj. Rebecca Heyse, chief of public affairs for the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, told Air Force Times in an emailed statement.


“56th Fighter Wing senior leadership reviewed the training tapes from the flight and confirmed that F-35s conducting standard fighter training maneuvers Tuesday afternoon in the Gladden and Bagdad military operating airspace resulted in the creation of the contrails.”

“There was no nefarious or inappropriate behavior during the training flight,” the base explained.

There have been numerous sky penis incidents in recent years, with the most famous involving a pair of Navy pilots created a phallic drawing in the air with an EA-18G Growler. The 2017 display was the work of two junior officers with Electronic Attack Squadron 130, according to Navy Times’ moment-by-moment account of the sky drawing.

Last year, an Air Force pilot with the 52nd Fighter Wing was suspected of getting creative with his aircraft, as some observers believed the contrails left behind were intentionally phallic. The flight patterns, according to Air Force Times, were standard though.

The latest incident is the first time a fighter as advanced as the F-35 has left behind this type of sky art.

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

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