The Air Force built one of the world's fastest computers out of Playstations - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

When the Playstation 2 was first released to the public, it was said the computer inside was so powerful it could be used to launch nuclear weapons. It was a stunning comparison. In response, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein opted to try and buy up thousands of the gaming consoles – so much so the U.S. government had to impose export restrictions.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

But it seems Saddam gave the Air Force an idea: building a supercomputer from many Playstations.


Just 10 years after Saddam Hussein tried to take over the world using thousands of gaming consoles, the United States Air Force took over the role of mad computer scientist and created the worlds 33rd fastest computer inside its own Air Force Research Laboratory. Only instead of Playstation 2, the Air Force used 1,760 Sony PlayStation 3 consoles. They called it the “Condor Cluster,” and it was the Department of Defense’s fastest computer.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations
Playstation-less children called it “the summer of despair.” (Image by Shlomaster from Pixabay)

The USAF put the computer in Rome, New York near Syracuse and intended to use the computer for radar enhancement, pattern recognition, satellite imagery processing, and artificial intelligence research for current and future Air Force projects and operations.

Processing imagery is the computer’s primary function, and it performs that function miraculously well. It can analyze ultra-high-resolution images very quickly, at a rate of billions of pixels per minute. But why use Playstation consoles instead of an actual computer or other proprietary technology? Because a Playstation cost $300 at the time and the latest and greatest tech in imagery processing would have run the USAF a much more hefty cost per unit. Together, the Playstations formed the core of the computer for a cost of roughly $1 million.

The result was a 500 TeraFLOPS Heterogeneous Cluster powered by PS3s but connected to subcluster heads of dual-quad Xeons with multiple GPGPUs. The video game consoles consumed 90% less energy than any alternative and building a special machine with more traditional components to create a processing center, the Air Force could have paid upwards of $10 million, and the system would not have been as energy-efficient.

It was the Playstation’s ability to install other operating systems that allowed for this cluster – and is what endangered the program.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations
If only Saddam had lived to see this…

In 2010, Sony pushed a Playstation firmware update that revoked the device’s ability to install alternate operating systems, like the Linux OS the Air Force used in its supercomputer cluster. The Air Force unboxed hundreds of Playstations and then imaging each unit to run Linux only to have Sony run updates on them a few weeks later. The Air Force, of course, didn’t need the firmware update, nor could Sony force it on those devices. But if one of the USAF’s Playstations went down, it would be the end of the cluster. Any device refurbished or newly purchased would lack the ability to run Linux.

The firmware update was the death knell for the supercomputer and others like it that had been produced by academic institutions. There was never any word on whether Saddam ever created his supercomputer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps F-35Bs are headed to the Middle East for the first time

About 5,000 U.S. troops are sailing toward the Middle East with an F-35B detachment, marking the first time the American Joint Strike Fighters are likely to conduct real-world combat operations.

Sailors and Marines with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit left San Diego in July 2018 for a six-month deployment to the Middle East and Western Pacific. The three-ship ARG includes the amphibious assault ship Essex, amphibious transport dock Anchorage and dock landing ship Rushmore.


The 13th MEU includes an F-35B detachment from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, based out of Yuma, Arizona.

“This is the newest and most lethal aircraft that the Joint Force has, and the fact that it’s coming into the [U.S. Central Command] theater and potentially seeing some combat operations is a big deal,” Lt. Col. Jaime Macias, chief of plans at Marine Corps Forces Central Command, said in a Marine Corps news release leading up to the deployment.

ARG-MEU deployments are typically publicized by the Defense Department, but this one — the first to leave the U.S. with an F-35 attack squadron detachment — was not. Citing operational security, officials declined to explain the change in policy.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

The F-35B Lightning II

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“The Essex Amphibious Ready Group with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit got underway from San Diego, July 10, 2018,” Lt. Tim Gorman, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman, said in a statement. “For reasons of operational security, we are not publicly disclosing any additional details.”

USNI was the first to report on the ARG-MEU’s quiet departure. Members of the MEU this one is set to replace were sent into Syria earlier this year to fight the Islamic State, The Washington Post reported.

The sailors and Marines conducted a six-month-long certification process before departing. The team is ready to respond to crises that erupt during their deployment, according to a Marine Corps video about the workup.

The Marine Corps’ variant of the Lightning II stealth jet is designed for sea deployments since it can take off and land vertically.

“Throughout the training, we’ve seen this platform increase our ability to gain a foothold for our operations,” the video states. “This is the most capable aviation platform to support our riflemen on the ground.”

In addition to the F-35 detachment, the MEU also includes Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines; Combat Logistics Battalion 13; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166; and a command element.

This marks the second time in four months that the F-35B has deployed aboard a Navy ship. In March 2018, members of the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 patrolled the Pacific from aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp.

The East Coast-based Iwo Jima ARG and 26th MEU are slated to wrap up a Middle East deployment in August 2018 as these Marines and sailors move in.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia upgrades stealth on its attempted F-35, F-22 killer

Russian media announced on Jan. 11, 2019, that it had significantly improved the stealth on its Su-57 fighter jet by applying a coating to the glass canopy on the cockpit, as well as similar upgrades to its Tu-160 nuclear bomber.

Russia’s state-owned defense corporation Rostec told Russian media the new coating “doubles radar wave absorption and reduces the aircraft cockpit’s radar signature by 30%” and added that Russia’s Su-57, Su-30, Su-34, Su-35, and MiG-29K jets already have the upgrade.


But none of those jets, including the Su-57, which Russia explicitly bills as a stealth fighter, are considered that stealthy by experts contacted by Business Insider.

While Russia’s Sukhoi fighter/bombers have enviable maneuverability and serious dogfighting capability, only the US and China have produced true stealth fighters.

A stealth scientist working on US aircraft previously reviewed pictures of the Su-57 and concluded in an interview with Business Insider that Russia had hardly even tried to make the plane unobservable to radar.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

(Russian Embassy via Twitter)

Conspicuous rivets jutting out of the airframe and accentuator humps spoiled any possible stealth in the design, the scientist said.

Radar absorbing materials have been used to disguise fighter planes since World War II and have some utility, but will do little to hide Russian jets which have to carry weapons stores externally.

Other experts told Business Insider the Su-57’s likely mission was to hunt and kill US stealth aircraft like the F-22 or F-35.

TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, described the Su-57 as a “multirole fighter designed to destroy all types of air targets at long and short ranges and hit enemy ground and naval targets, overcoming its air defense capabilities.”

But Russia has declined to mass-produce the jet despite declaring it “combat proven” after limited engagements against rebel forces in Syria that didn’t have anti-air capabilities.

Russia’s next-generation tank, the T-14, also saw its promised mass production run scaled back as Russia struggles with weak oil prices and heavy sanctions on its economy.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a tuba led to the National Guard training allies in Europe

In some ways, the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program — which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide — started with a tuba.

“The Latvian military band needed a big tuba,” said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. John Conaway, the 22nd chief of the NGB and “father” of the SPP. “And we hauled a tuba over there.”


The trip with the tuba was part of the early planning stages for the program, which turns 25 in 2018.

“We delivered that tuba to the Latvian band and they were amazed to get it,” said Conaway. “That started the program with the first, initial visit.”

That first visit lead the way to a program that now has 74 partnerships with countries throughout the world. But it all started with three: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“We were received in grand fashion in all three places,” said Conaway, referring to that initial trip. Where it would go from there, he added, was then still unknown.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “But, we had the visit. That was the start.”

That first visit was the result of a simple directive from Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, then-supreme allied commander in Europe with NATO, and who would be appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993.

“He called me up and said “we’ve got to help these new emerging democracies [in the Baltics],'” said Conaway, adding that after additional planning with Pentagon officials, he formed a small team and they started working with the State Department. That led to meeting with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as military officials in those countries.

“It looked like they wanted our help and we started talking about putting liaison officers from the National Guard on orders with them,” said Conaway. “Our role was to help make the transition [to democracy] as smooth as we could.”

The idea of liaison officers grew into tying specific Guard elements with specific countries.

“The [team] and I huddled and thought, “We’ve got tons of Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans living in Pennsylvania,'” Conaway said. “It fit. We’ll tie Lithuania to the Pennsylvania National Guard.”

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations
Sgt. 1st Class Harry R. Martinez, right, with the New Jersey Army National Guard, demonstrates how to load an ammunition drum on a M249 squad automatic weapon to Albanian Officer Candidate Endri Deda while training at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

The idea grew from there.

“There were a lot of Latvian-Americans in Michigan, so we got with the adjutant general [of the Michigan National Guard] and tied them together with Latvia,” said Conaway. “There are Estonian-Americans in Baltimore, and so we tied [Estonia] together with the Maryland National Guard.”

Conaway added there was little precedent to follow while developing the program.

“We were doing this off the back of an envelope back then,” he said. “It was happening so fast.”

By the time Conaway retired in November 1993, the SPP had 13 partnerships, primarily with former Eastern Bloc countries in Europe.

The following years saw new partnerships added from across the globe.

“It’s grown to 74 partnerships and that’s been an incremental growth of about two to three partnerships a year,” said Air Force Col. Donald McGuire, chief of the international affairs branch at the NGB.

As the program has expanded, the process for adding new partnerships has become more refined.

First, the country has to request to be a member of the program, said McGuire, adding that input from the State Department and the combatant command — the U.S. military command element overseeing specific geographic regions — goes along with that request.

“They collectively decide that this is a good country we want to nominate for selection into the program,” said McGuire, adding that from there staff work is done to determine the best course of action with pairing up elements for a partnership.

“It’s very analytical what the staff here does,” said McGuire. “They put a lot of hard work and brain cells against making sure they’re doing a good analysis to give the chief [of the NGB] the best recommendation they can.”

The long-term success of the program has come about, in part, from that intrinsic relationship with both the State Department and the combatant command, said McGuire. The SPP is nested with the command’s theater security cooperation plan and the State Department’s country study plan.

“It’s in tune with the combatant commanders, therefore, it’s in tune or synchronized with the National Defense Strategy,” McGuire said.

Building relationships, said McGuire, is one of the hallmarks of the program.

“This provides, perhaps, the most well-known and established international partnership capability the National Guard is involved with,” he said. “These are relationships that have grown over the course of time and continue to grow.”

Those relationships have not only seen partners in the program train together, but also work together in the wake of natural disasters and large-scale emergencies.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations
Soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard demonstrate how to properly apply camouflage concealment to the face at Babadag Training Area in eastern Romania

It’s also seen co-deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.

“You wouldn’t have these countries and units deploying together, necessarily, if they didn’t already have this relationship.”

McGuire added that’s a significant element.

“That tells you a lot about the program,” he said. “These co-deployments are real-world operations, named contingencies that represent the next level of collaboration and coordination.”

Building collaboration and coordination is also key to building greater regional security, said Army Brig. Gen. Christopher F. Lawson, the NGB’s vice director of strategy, policy, plans and international affairs.

“In order to promote greater peace and stability in the world long into the future, we will need a program like the SPP because it helps nations transition from security consumers to security providers,” he said.

For Conaway, the continued growth of the program is more than he imagined 25 years ago.

“It is beyond my wildest dreams and imagination that it would be this passionate and this popular and the good the National Guard has done,” he said. “Here we are, 25 years after it started and the National Guard is just as enthusiastic as ever.”

The pairing of the West Virginia National Guard with Qatar was announced in April 2018, and McGuire said additional partnerships are in the coordination phase.

“We have a few more partnerships in the queue,” he said, adding he sees continued growth of the program over the next 25 years and beyond.

“It really is the entry point to a lot of good things that happen,” McGuire said.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Chinese government rejects allegations that its face masks were defective, tells countries to ‘double check’ instructions

The Chinese government is rebuffing the notion that its face masks exported to other countries were “defective” and suggested that the nations did not “double-check” the instructions.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday claimed in a tweet that the “true story” behind the alleged faulty face masks sent to the Netherlands was that the Chinese manufacturer explicitly “stated clearly that they are non-surgical.”


“Masks of various category offer different levels of protection, for day-to-day use and for medical purposes,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the tweet. “[Please] double-check the instructions to make sure that you ordered, paid for and distributed the right ones. Do not use non-surgical masks for surgical purposes.”

The statement comes as the Dutch government recalled 600,000 of the Chinese-manufactured face masks for being defective and not meeting safety standards — over half of the 1.3 million total N-95 protective masks that were delivered to the Netherlands.

Hospitals in the country were requested to return the masks that did not properly fit on faces and prevent COVID-19 virus particles from making human contact. The N-95 mask is able to block out 95% of airborne particles when used properly.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

“When they were delivered to our hospital, I immediately rejected those masks,” one hospital employee reportedly said to Dutch broadcaster NOS. “If those masks do not close properly, the virus particles can simply pass. We do not use them.”

Other countries have expressed concern with medical equipment manufactured in China. After purchasing 340,000 test kits from a Chinese manufacturer, Spain’s government claimed that 60,000 of them did not accurately test for COVID-19.

European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a blog post that the Chinese government was attempting to be perceived as an international ally in the “global battle of narratives.”

“China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the US, it is a responsible and reliable partner,” Borrell wrote. “In the battle of narratives, we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus.”

Representatives from the Communist Party of China (CCP) in recent weeks have shifted the narrative surrounding the coronavirus’s origins by questioning its validity. Despite health officials and scientists widely agreeing that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China — likely from a wildlife market — government officials suggested that the US Army may have shipped the virus to China.

The Global Times, which operates under the Chinese government’s purview, also claimed in a tweet that Italy “may have had an unexplained strain of pneumonia” in November and December — around the same time as China reported its first positive case.

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

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Who was the 1st female smokejumper in the US Forest Service?

In 1979, there wasn’t a single woman working a fire season as a smokejumper in the United States. 

Since their beginnings in 1939, the smokejumpers were exclusively an all-male unit, famously known as the wildland firefighters who parachuted from airplanes to fight forest fires. Throughout the years they encompassed unorthodox programs such as the Triple Nickles, an all-Black US Army Airborne unit, which protected the Pacific Northwest against Japanese balloon bombs during World War II. A detachment of smokejumpers was even contracted by the CIA to work as “kickers” to kick out supplies in remote areas all over the world, including in Tibet and during the secret war in Laos. 

For some 40 years the smokejumpers were a boys’ club, unaffected by the evolving wildland firefighting culture of the 1970s and 1980s — one in which women were proving they belonged. In other highly trained units, such as the hotshots and helitack crews, the women excelled. Then Deanne Shulman came along to show why the smokejumpers should be open to women, too.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations
Deanne Shulman became the first smokejumper in the history of the US Forest Service in 1981. Screenshot courtesy of the Gannett News Service newspaper.

Shulman, a Californian, had begun her career working in the fire community with an engine crew only five years prior. She cut her teeth on a helitack crew rappelling from helicopters to suppress forest fires for the 1975 and 1976 fire seasons. In the two years that followed, she was a valued member of the hot-hots, a hotshot crew where she used chain saws to fell trees and Pulaski tools to dig fire lines. Digging fire lines is a common strategy wildland firefighters employ to set a break between the moving fire and oxygen-enriched vegetation.

When Shulman completed her physical and mental tests to become a smokejumper in 1979, she was kicked out of the program because she was underweight, just 5 pounds below the 130-pound requirement. She filed an Equal Opportunity Commission complaint and was allowed to volunteer again in 1981.

Her rookie training class was at the McCall Smokejumper Base in Idaho. Among the grueling physical tests required for each candidate to pass was carrying a 115-pound pack 3 1/2 miles to mimic the backcountry conditions smokejumpers often find themselves in. She also had to complete eight jumps to be certified, and when she passed she became the first female smokejumper in the country.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

“When I showed up at McCall, some [smokejumpers] were openly supportive and receptive,” she said, reported the East Oregonian in 2015. “Others withheld judgment until they could see how I did. Some would not talk to me the whole five years I was there.”

The smokejumping community has a certain allure, and those outside it often romanticize the profession. Shulman made sure to not attach any elitism to the blue-collar profession.

“I’ve worked on a lot of different crews and stuff and the main difference is just the transportation to the fire,” she recalled in a 1984 interview. “That’s the main difference. And […] you know, that transportation does require some finesse to it, but we’re all firefighters. I worked real hard on the hotshot crew I was on; I’ve worked real hard on all the crews I’ve been on.”

Shulman is a trailblazer who paved the way for women in the wildland fire community. “It probably will encourage other women just to know other women are smokejumpers,” Shulman said in 1981 after being accepted into the unit. “It would have helped me. It would have been nice to have someone.”

For the women who make up approximately 15% of the smokejumping community in the United States, Shulman became that someone.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Army vet finds brotherhood through competition

1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.

The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.

“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”

He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.


“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.

He’s only a couple feet away now.

“I took like five steps … “

Major steps down with his right leg.

The enemy pushes the remote control.

The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.

“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”

Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.

“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”

“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.

“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”

They make it back to base.

“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”

Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.

Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.

And his nine years of dark depression begins.

Thirteen years after waking up in that hospital room, Major is one of the most vocal and energetic competitors at the 39th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky, with quad rugby his favorite sport because it’s loud, it’s fast and there’re lots of crashes and smack talk.

“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”

Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.

He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.

“WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.

“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.

“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”

Days turned into weeks, months and years.

His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.

“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”

Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.

“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.

“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”

As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.

“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?

“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.

The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.

“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”

“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.

He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.

“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.

“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”

He hasn’t stopped since.

“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”

Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.

“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”

“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”

He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.

“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.

“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”

It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.

“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”

Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.

“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Russian-made Venezuelan aircraft ‘aggressively’ shadow US plane

United States government security officials announced that a Russian-built Venezuelan aircraft “aggressively” shadowed an American aircraft over the Caribbean sea.

The US Southern Command, which is the agency responsible for security cooperation and operations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, tweeted to condemn the incident, which it said happened during an American mission that was monitoring for illegal trafficking.

“[Venezuela] SU-30 Flanker “aggressively shadowed” a U.S. EP-3 aircraft at an unsafe distance July 19, 2019, jeopardizing the crew & aircraft. The EP-3 was performing a multi-nationally recognized & approved mission in international airspace over [the Caribbean Sea.]”


The tweet also slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin for offering military assistance to the country’s far-left leader Nicolas Maduro. The US, in addition to most Latin American and European countries, recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s claim to be the rightful leader of Venezuela.

“This action demonstrates [Russia’s] irresponsible military support to Maduro’s illegitimate regime underscores Maduro’s recklessness irresponsible behavior, which undermines [the international] rule of law efforts to counter illicit trafficking.”

The US Southern Command reportedly said in a statement that the aircraft was “flying a mission in approved international airspace” when it “was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30 that took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas.”

‘The US routinely conducts multi-nationally recognized and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and those of our partners,” the command added.

Venezuela has been home to widespread chaos and unrest after a US-backed bid by the Venezuelan opposition to remove Venezuelan President Maduro failed in April 2019 after senior Venezuelan government and military officials flaked on promises to switch sides and instead stood by the president.

The movement to oust Maduro had enjoyed widespread civilian support but previously failed to gain support from the military.

The effort came months after Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January and urged the military to turn against Maduro.

President Donald Trump previously said on Twitter in early June 2019 that Russian forces had withdrawn from the country, though the country reportedly denied it discussed with the president withdrawing its defense personnel.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

The National Guard commander of the U.S. state of Iowa has cancelled a visit to Kosovo over Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s refusal to cancel 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Pristina confirmed on Feb. 11, 2019, that Major General Timothy Orr’s visit was canceled “in connection to tariffs of Serbian and Bosnian goods.”

The spokesman added that the embassy had no comment on further visits or scheduled training.


Kosovo Security Forces commander Rahman Rama said he had been told the visit had been scrapped, and then informed Kosovo President Hasim Thaci of the decision in a letter.

“This is a consequence of the fees imposed on Serbia, which prompted the decision of the U.S. government,” Rama told RFE/RL.

Orr was scheduled to arrive for a three-day visit on Feb. 16, 2019, during celebrations for Kosovo’s 11th birthday.

The Iowa National Guard has worked with the Kosovo Security Force as part of the State Partnership Program since 2011.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

Kosovo President Hasim Thaci.

Rama said that cooperation with the National Guard was one of the best partnerships the country has with the United States, not only for its military benefits, but also in the areas of culture and education.

Both Brussels and Washington have pressed Kosovo to repeal the tariff on imported Serbian and Bosnian goods, which has strained international efforts to broker a deal between the former foes.

Kosovo imposed the import tax in November 2018 in retaliation for what it called Belgrade’s attempts to undermine its statehood, such as spearheading a campaign to scupper Pristina’s bid to join Interpol.

Belgrade has not recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 guerrilla war.

More than 10,000 were killed in the war, which prompted NATO to launch an air campaign in the spring of 1999 to end the conflict.

The possibility that Serbia and Kosovo might end their long-running dispute through a land swap was briefly floated in 2018.

But the proposal was immediately abandoned following a firestorm of criticism from rights groups as well as Haradinaj, who is against ceding any territory to Serbia and recently said the fate of the tax shouldn’t be linked to relations with Belgrade.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Marines rescue downed aircrew in training

Marines in the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response Africa are prepared to rescue American civilians and fellow service members in the massive continent where they operate. And they recently went on an exercise focusing on saving downed aircrews, a mission known as tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel that often requires Marines entering enemy-held territory and providing medical aid.


The mission is simple enough to understand. When an aircrew crashes to earth, the personnel could be spread out, injured, and in imminent danger of an enemy patrol or other force finding them with their pants down. So the SP-MAGTF flies in, conducts search and rescue, renders medical aid, and extracts everyone.

But that simple mission comes with a lot of complications. There’s obviously the problem of enemy forces, since they get a vote on what happens. But aircraft shoot downs and crashes are naturally chaotic events, so the personnel the Marines are looking for could easily be spread out over miles of debris-strewn ground.

And there’s always the chance, though slim, that the enemy will try to get a mole into U.S. forces by having them impersonate a crew member or passenger, so the Marines have to verify everyone’s identity while also caring for the injured, some likely catastrophically.

And extraction is no picnic either. The Marines will have to carry out the litter wounded and possibly guide the ambulatory. They’ll often have to select and prepare their own landing zone and then secure it to keep out baddies. Only when all the wounded are aboard and safe can they collapse their perimeter and withdraw.

That’s why the Marines spend so much time and energy training for this and other emergencies. On game day, there won’t be much time to prepare, and their performance will determine life and death for themselves and potentially dozens of others.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Germany backs up France in calls for European army

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.

“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Nov. 13, 2018.

“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she said.


Merkel said she envisioned a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent’s defense structure.

“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” Merkel said.

Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.

His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

President Donald J. Trump visits Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.

(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)

On Nov. 13, 2018, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China, and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump wrote.

Macron did not publicly respond to Trump’s latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 18th century and criticized Trump for “insulting our oldest ally.”

“Stop tweeting! America needs some friends,” Kerry said.

The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said “more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.”

That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Nov. 13, 2018.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” Mattis said.

France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.

Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.

The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.

Merkel’s speech came days after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends.

The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.

As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.

But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on Oct. 29, 2018, that her current term as chancellor would be her last.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 old school problems today’s troops don’t have to worry about

For decades, our troops have faced awful weather, separation from their families, and a diet consisting of the same daily rations, and yet they still complete their vital missions.

In our eyes, that’s badass!

However, as time moves forward, so, too, does technology. Because of that, many modern troops don’t face the same problems as those that came before them. It’s important to always remember and respect just how tough our brothers and sisters-in-arms had it way back in the day.


To all past, present, and future veterans out there, WATM salutes you for your outstanding service. Be thankful that you don’t have to worry about these problems that once plagued the old-timers.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

Two trusty SAPI plates.

Getting shot by a small-caliber round

We understand that getting shot sounds like a huge deal — because it is. However, allied troops on the modern battlefield wear a particular type of body armor, called “SAPI plates.” The inserts are made from a ceramic material and are worn over vital organs. These plates protect from small-arms fire and they’re a massive step up compared to what troops wore in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, troops wore only the uniforms issued to them as protection. Taking a round to the upper torso was, almost without exception, a profound injury that left long-term effects.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

Lance Cpl. Eric W. Hayes makes a phone call to his mother from the phone center at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

(Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Mark E. Bradley)

Not hearing from your family back home

Back in the day, the art of letter-writing was a troop’s only avenue of communication with family and friends back home. Those letters could take weeks to be delivered.

Today, we still have a mail service up and running, but we also have this thing called “the internet” — ever hear of it? — that can keep deployed troops in the loop. Soldiers, sailors, and Marines today also have access to phones through the USO and, sometimes, satellite phones to connect them with home in a matter of seconds.

Frequent weapon jams during a firefight

Those of us who’ve fired a weapon or two in our lives may have experienced a jam at some point. Even those of us who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan rarely experience weapons malfunctions while sending rounds downrange because modern weapons are so well-manufactured and well-maintained.

It hasn’t always been this way. Ask any Vietnam veteran and they’ll tell you that their weapons would jam “just by looking at them.” We can’t imagine anything worse than losing your primary weapon when fighting the enemy on their home turf.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

Staff Sgt. Bryan Robbins calls in for mortars during a live-fire exercise.

(Photo by Cpl. Jonathan Wright)

Communication issues between troops

Today, calling a service member from another platoon or company is as easy as picking up the comms gear headset and requesting someone’s call sign.

Although troops have had verbal communication systems in place for decades, they weren’t nearly as mobile or readily available as they are today. Back then, the radioman was in charge of carrying the proper equipment and usually stuck closely to their superior to make sure they maintained quick access. If that unit’s radio was down, replacing it wasn’t as easy as going to Radio Shack and buying another.

Today, many key members of the infantry platoon carry vital gear, making communication easy as f*ck. If a radio goes down, you can have it replaced in a few hours.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

MilSpouse and NASA’s last living ‘Hidden Figure,’ Katherine Johnson, dies at 101

NASA legend, mathematician, race barrier breaker, women’s rights advancer, mother, military spouse: Katherine Johnson was truly out of this world. The once in a generation mind passed away at age 101 on February 24, NASA announced.

We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://go.nasa.gov/2SUMtN2 pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW

twitter.com

Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. From an early age, she demonstrated a love of counting and numbers far beyond her peers and well beyond her years. By age 10, Johnson was already through her grade school curriculum and enrolled in high school, which she finished at 14. She enrolled in West Virginia State College at only age 15 and started pursuing her love of math.

According to NASA, while at WVSC, Johnson had the opportunity to study under well known professor Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor. Claytor guided Johnson in her career path, once telling her, “You’d make a great research mathematician.” He also provided her guidance with how to become one. In an interview with NASA, Johnson recalled, “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path. Professor Claytor made sure I was prepared to be a research mathematician.” Claytor’s spirit of mentorship was something that Johnson paid forward. “Claytor was a young professor himself,” she said, “and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday’s lesson. But sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what he was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.”

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

upload.wikimedia.org

Johnson became the first black woman to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school. Following graduation, she became a school teacher, settled down and married. She spent many years at home with her three daughters, but when her husband became ill, she began teaching again. In the early 1950s, a family friend told Johnson that NACA (the predecessor to NASA) was hiring. According to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics were specifically looking for African-American females to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department. In the 1950s, pools of women at NACA did calculations that the engineers needed worked or verified.

Johnson applied but the openings were already filled. The following year, she applied again, and this time she was offered two contracts. She took the one as a researcher. She started working at NACA in 1953. In 1956, her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959, Johnson remarried James A. Johnson, an Army captain and Korean War veteran.

Johnson was a pioneer for multiple reasons. Not only was she a working woman in the 1950s, an era during which women were generally secretaries if they worked at all, she was also a black woman. In an interview for the book “Black Women Scientists in the United States,” Johnson recalled, “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.”

If Johnson was intimidated, she never showed it. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained in an interview with NASA. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

NASA photo

Johnson was so well known for her capabilities, that John Glenn personally asked for her before his orbit in 1962. According to NASA, “The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to ‘get the girl’—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. ‘If she says they’re good,” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, ‘then I’m ready to go.’ Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.”

Johnson was an instrumental part of the team and was the only woman to be pulled from the calculating pool room to work on other projects. One of those projects: putting a man on the moon.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations

live.staticflickr.com

Johnson lived a remarkable life and had a prestigious career. Her awards and decorations are numerous, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, honorary doctorate from William and Mary, a facility being named after her at NASA’s Langley campus and even a Barbie made in her image. She had a fervor for learning and a love of life.

“Like what you do, and then you will do your best,” she said.

Rest in peace, Ms. Johnson.

The Air Force built one of the world’s fastest computers out of Playstations
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