U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Natasha Lindblom looks over citzenship study test.
Many people dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. The process is notoriously arduous and taxing, but the most nerve-wracking part for many is taking the U.S. citizenship test. It’s so difficult, in fact, that according to NBCNews, only 36% of American citizens could pass the test. That’s like around the same percentage of students at Arizona State that could pass an STD test. Yikes.
Some of the foundational, basic, questions are reportedly missed by as much as 60% of the population. For instance, only 39% of American test takers know how many justices serve on the supreme court. If you’re thinking, “Uhhh… I dunno, like 50…Or 12?” You’re probably in good company. You’re also wrong. It’s nine. That’s a freebie—follow along, and then plug your answers into the key at the bottom to see how well you fare.
If you get at least six correct you pass. No peeking!
How many members are in the House of Representatives?
A.) 435 B.) 350 C.) 503 D.) 69
Who is in charge of the executive branch?
A.) The President B.) Secretary of Defense C.) Speaker of the House D.) Majority Whip
What piece of land did the United States purchase from France in 1803?
A.) Alaska Purchase B.) Gadsden Purchase C.) Louisiana Purchase D.) Hawaii
How many U.S. senators are there?
A.) 50 B.) 100 C.) 200 D.) 400
When was the constitution written?
A.) 1692 B.) 1802 C.) 1776 D.) 1787
How many amendments does the constitution have?
A.) 27 B.) 25 C.) 20 D.) 14
Who was the President during World War I?
A.) Calvin Cooldige B.) Woodrow Wilson C.) Franklin D. Roosevelt D.) Harry Truman
Under the constitution, which of these powers does not belong to the federal government?
A.) Print money B.) Declare war C.) Ratify amendments to the Constitution D.) Make treaties with foreign powers
We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?
A.) Six years B.) Four years C.) Eight years D.) Two years
The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. constitution. Which of these men was not one of the authors?
A.) Alexander Hamilton B.) John Adams C.) James Madison D.) John Jay
If you got at least 6/10 right—congrats you passed the U.S. citizenship test! If you didn’t—you can always just lie in comments section and say you did!
When you think ‘sherpa,’ the first thing that comes to mind is probably the folks who help people climb Mount Everest, not an Army aircraft. Unless you’re a pro, you’re probably not thinking about the Army’s C-23 transport plane.
Wait, the Army has a transport plane? That’s right. You see, the Army operates unarmed, fixed-wing aircraft. After the Army and Air Force split, the Air Force got the armed aircraft in the divorce settlement.
One of the unarmed transports the Army flies is the C-23 Sherpa. According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Sherpa was acquired to serve as an intra-theater transport between U.S. Army bases in Europe. However, the plane soon took on responsibilities beyond that limited role. The C-23 can haul up to 30 troops or three pallets of cargo. The plane is also capable of using smaller runways than the C-130 Hercules and is cheaper to operate than a CH-47 Chinook. With a top speed of 281 miles per hour and a range of 771 miles, this particular aircraft soon found work outside Europe as well.
According to a 2014 United States Army release, the C-23 was used in the American peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula. The plane was also a valuable asset during Operation Iraqi Freedom, moving cargo to places where C-130s couldn’t land, which was particularly valuable in humanitarian relief missions.
Ultimately, the United States bought 62 airframes and, aside from losing one in a crash, the planes remained in service until it was retired in 2014 to be replaced by the C-27J Spartan. Still, the C-23 isn’t going away just yet. Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the Philippines are receiving some of these short-haul airlifters as second-hand assets. As for the C-27J, it was retired by the Air Force and Air National Guard without replacement.
To learn more about this aircraft, check out the video below:
There are some important fundamentals underlying proper shooting techniques that involve cover and what we’ll refer to as half-assed cover, based on hard-learned lessons gleaned from nearly two decades of continuous warfare. And they all fall under the most important principle of patrolling — common sense. Yet, you’ll still see outdated, old-school techniques used in the field and presented all over social media. I always say, “my way isn’t the only way,” but I preach what’s worked for the Special Forces community during the recent wars — nothing validates doctrine and fundamentals like confirmation under fire. Regardless of what you take from this article, at a minimum, do the following: have an offensive mindset, limit your exposure to the enemy, think in terms of near and far, and use what you have to stabilize your shooting platform.
The corner of this building provides some cover as well as stability for sending more effective fire downrange. The author braces his support hand and rifle against the edge of the building.
Cover and mindset
First, let’s define cover as the term’s used in military doctrine. Cover is anything that provides protection from bullets, fragments, flames, and nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. Cover can be man-made or naturally occurring. Examples include logs, trees, ravines, trenches, walls, rubble, craters, and small depressions. What’s half-assed cover, then? Well, you really never know… Vehicles are half-assed cover for the most part, but hat’s a whole other topic in itself. And it’s far better to use half-assed cover than to just stand out in the open.
Remember, we don’t hide, we fight, and nothing will ever afford us complete protection. In conflict, you either fight or you hide, period — and we fight! Always maintain an offensive mindset and act accordingly.
Is a mud wall in Afghanistan thick enough to provide cover? Well it all depends where you’re situated. Will a PKM smoke right through it? If someone says you should simply move to a 100-percent solid structure and fight from there, well that’s just not possible in most circumstances. Perhaps you’re next to a wall, the side of a building, or a door frame. They may or may not stop that PKM round, but they’re often sturdy and can provide you some stability. So use what you have as support and deliver faster, more accurate follow-up shots. If you’re behind something, why not use it to support yourself and your firearm? If you’re not using cover to support your position, no matter if it’s half-assed or not, you’re doing it wrong. If you think there’s theory and science behind what bullets do when they ricochet, please show us a scientifically validated study. You can apply techniques based on theory or maintain that offensive mindset. The choice is clear.
Take the sh*t and stop playing peek-a-boo
This isn’t just my opinion, but also that of the Special Operations Forces community, and those who’ve taught in its school house and know what’s right. Years ago, we’d come up to an alleyway and pie it off in a slow, methodical movement. It involved baby steps to clear the alleyway at angles to limit exposure, and we didn’t use the available cover to support our firing position. Was it valid? Perhaps. But what about our shooting position? We weren’t using the edge of the wall to support our shooting platforms. Could we engage someone close? Hell yes, but we weren’t effective at longer distances and weren’t supporting what we currently teach and refer to as a 10-round-string stance; that’s a strong, stable fighting stance from which you can effectively and quickly put multiple rounds on target. We’ve found it’s far more effective and faster to just take the alleyway by force, and then post up on the side of the wall in a stable firing position and collapse that sector.
Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.
The next time you go to the range, put up a barricade and place targets at 10 to 40 and 70 meters away. Pie off the barricade, don’t support yourself, and shoot five rounds at each target while timing yourself. Next, take it by force, post up in a good stable firing position, use the barricade, and execute the same drill. Your hits will be far more accurate, and your time will be much faster. We’ve put in the time using simunitions and teammates playing the peek-a-boo technique — the bottom line is if someone’s waiting for you to break a corner or an alleyway, he’ll see you anyway. Bring a good solid supported stance and shove 10 rounds of lead down his throat rather than slowly pieing off the corner and giving up the extra stability.
There’s a time and place for the pieing technique — save that for CQB. We never know how far our threat will be, and we plan for the worst case. So stop pieing sh*t off. Take it by force and post up while you collapse your sector of that alleyway or when you turn the corner of a house on a raid.
If you’re fighting from behind something, use it. Using your piece of cover or even half-assed cover will further stabilize your firing platform. The goal is to put fast, accurate follow-up shots on target, so use what’s in front of you. It doesn’t matter if you have a rifle or a pistol. Yes, there are a lot of great shooters that could run up to a barricade or position of cover and crush targets without a support. That’s great when running drills on the flat range, but the flat range is not reality. Reality is when you’re pulling security in an isolation or containment position — you’ll definitely benefit from using what’s in front of you to support yourself for extended periods of time. Then add in stress, adrenaline, the dark of night, weather, fatigue, and maybe an injury, like being down to one arm or hand.
There’s no single, best way to support your carbine on a piece of cover. The key is to get meat between your weapon and what you’re using for cover. That means your hands; it’s not a good idea to support yourself with equipment connected to your blaster. There are some exceptions, like laying your carbine flat on its side at 90 degrees. You definitely don’t want the slide of a pistol touching anything; we all know what’ll happen — a lot of shooter-induced malfunctions. Place the meaty portion of your palm against cover and form an L to support and brace your rifle. Use your forearm to brace against awkwardly shaped pieces of cover or half-assed cover like the front end of a vehicle. With a pistol, dig your knuckles into cover or use your support thumb to hook onto cover as well. However, attempt to maintain a solid fundamental grip on the pistol, and don’t let the piece of cover totally support you.
Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.
Square up to your piece of cover as best as you can. This isn’t a USPSA or three-gun match where you can be off balance, rip off two shots, and haul ass to the next position. Establish a solid base, square up to cover, and remember our 10-round-string stance. Squaring up also keeps legs and knees in a tight position so teammates aren’t tripping over legs at night. Who knows how many others will need to share that piece of cover with you.
When kneeling, always keep the outside knee up. Right or wrong? It’s a technique we teach. It provides a stable platform to drop your arm and tuck it into your thigh. It also avoids legs sticking out and tripping teammates as they run past the alleyway you’re posted up on. So, square up and support your firing platform, and remember the 10-round-string stance, no matter what awkward position you might find yourself in.
Limit your exposure
Limiting exposure sounds like common sense, but what it really means is you need to be an ambidextrous gunfighter. People get small and seek cover when it’s raining lead. Whether standing or kneeling, squaring up helps — you don’t want to expose yourself needlessly, yet you must stabilize yourself to support that 10-round string of fire.
Vehicles are half-assed cover, but you should still use them as support.
First, don’t try to conceal yourself so much that you give up both a stable firing position and the ability to fight effecively. Remember, we must have an offensive mindset — we don’t hide. Second, you have to shoot strong and support side — don’t forget we don’t have a weak side (see issue 7 of CONCEALMENT for more on weak sides). If you’re on the left side of something, you should shoot from the left side of your body with a carbine. The same applies for the right side of cover. Your mindset and training philosophy should be to become fully ambidextrous, especially when it comes to shooting around cover. Put in the practice time on the range.
Oh sh*t vehicle tactics
Vehicles aren’t cover; they’re half-assed cover. Yet the philosophy of using them to support yourself still applies. Be offensive and seek better positions like the rear of the vehicle, the engine block, and axles. This philosophy comes from battlefield experience, and is presented as doctrine in SOF and law enforcement training. First, have you seen ballistic data on ricochets? Bullet type, distance, angle, and so on; there are too many factors that influence what bullets will do when they hit sh*t. We used to have beer shoots, skipping rounds off car hoods into the A zone of targets. We knew the distance and where best to try to aim, but the reality is that there’s no telling where that bullet will go.
Kneeling with the outside knee up provides a more stable shooting platform than the alternative. Always have an offensive mindset.
It’s fine to take these things into consideration, but you shouldn’t avoid using the vehicle to support yourself. Most vehicle interdictions in military terms are close range, but not all of them… and not all engagements are at close range. So apply the same techniques for shooting around vehicles as for around walls. Of course, if the bad guy’s 5 feet away, you don’t have to support yourself on a vehicle. But some say that ricochet theories dictate that you shouldn’t support yourself on a vehicle. In my book, that’s not an offensive mindset, and we should always have an offensive mindset.
Outside the vehicle
So, get up close and personal on the outside of your vehicle. Use it to support yourself and your shots. Yes, vehicles don’t stop bullets, but what about armored or military vehicles? Don’t correlate this all to vehicles, but the principles apply to both. If you’re in an engagement, using the engine block or front of the vehicle to fight from, why would you be 3 to 5 feet away from the vehicle? Then, how would you support yourself in a junkyard prone position on the hood? If your threat is 5 feet away, you don’t need support; but what if it isn’t? Think night; think far.
When shooting underneath a vehicle, get close to it.
Second, consider fighting in a hostile environment where threats are at the rooftop level. The further you move away from a vehicle, the more exposed you are. You also limit your fields of fire. Try backing away from a piece of cover, then shoot underneath or over it — you better have some good loophole math locked into memory to avoid putting rounds into your cover in a stressful situation! Shooting underneath a vehicle certainly reduces your situational awareness, but you might need to do it at some point. I’ve seen it before — it’s easy with a gun truck, not so easy under a BMW with the tires blown out. When you only have a couple inches to get it done, hug those axles and get that gun up underneath the vehicle to get your shots off. This becomes very difficult when you’re several meters from the vehicle.
Inside the vehicle
When fighting from a vehicle, there are certain areas of the vehicles that afford better protection than others. Probably not the front two seats, though shooting through the front windshield is a viable option, if needed.
When shooting through windshields, don’t be stingy.
I’ve shot numerous types of ammunition through windshields, from inside and out. There’s one rule to remember — P for Plenty, plenty of lead! No matter what type of ammunition you use, it’ll take multiple shots through the same hole to get good hits on target. If a threat’s approaching your vehicle and you must engage through the windshield, put a couple rounds into the same hole and then jam your muzzle into the hole. To adjust your aim and point of impact, move your body. Never walk rounds across the windshield; you won’t make the positive contact you need to eliminate the threat.
Contingencies of gunfighting
Should you ever find yourself injured and in an engagement when behind cover, or half-assed cover, you’ll need that platform to support yourself. Don’t train or think of the best case scenarios at all time. Train and develop techniques that apply to contingencies as well. When rounds are flying, it shouldn’t be your first time figuring out how to fire your pistol one handed from behind a wall or how to support yourself using the wall.
Get meat between your weapon and the support — with a pistol as shown here, you can dig your knuckles into the fender.
There aren’t any right answers when sh*t hits the fan and it’s raining lead. What you do and how you do it on the range is the answer. There are a lot of ways to do things, but if you’re fighting from behind cover (or half-assed cover), utilize the following four fundamentals.
Have an offensive mindset
Limit your exposure
Think near and far for engagements
Support yourself to provide a solid, 10-round string firing position
Also don’t forget common sense, one of the principles of patrolling. If it works at night, in the rain and cold, when you’re exhausted or injured, then you’re on the right track. Fast, accurate shots win the day. Prepare yourself to take advantage of what’s around you and practice supported shooting from behind cover. Apply the fundamentals and push forward; remember that on the range, everything is a rehearsal for something.
Photos by Blake Rea and RECOIL Staff
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.
Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.
In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.
These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.
Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.
She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”
Thule Air Base in Greenland.
(US Army Corps of Engineers)
Thule, Air Base Mission
Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.
The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.
For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.
Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.
Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.
In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.
During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.
The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.
Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.
A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.
Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.
The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.
Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.
Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.
She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.
A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.
Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.
This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.
In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.
“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.
“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.
Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.
Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.
“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.
Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”
Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.
These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.
Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.
With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.
These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.
All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”
A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic
Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.
Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.
This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.
Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.
Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.
Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.
The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.
Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.
When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.
The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.
With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.
The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.
Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.
Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”
id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE
Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.
Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.
The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.
Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.
What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.
A BLUE-SKY OPERATION
The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.
Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.
Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.
Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.
Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.
I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”
FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS
M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.
She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”
To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.
Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.
Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.
Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”
OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY
It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.
Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”
Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”
By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.
On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.
Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”
Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.
Tensions over a potential war between North Korea and the United States are mounting every day.
The “hermit kingdom” is boasting through its state propaganda that it could destroy America. Any claim by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to “create a balance of power with the U.S.” is considered laughable.
But in an astounding claim, Pyongyang’s version of Pravda (fun fact: pravda means “truth” in Russian) says it can destroy the US in many different ways, but most notably with an electromagnetic pulse weapon.
Whether or not this claim is true, here’s a breakdown of what their military actually looks like. They have around a million active duty personnel using cheaper versions of an AK-47 (Type 88), 67 year old fighter aircraft, and dwindling allies.
An impressive claim, by 2017 military standards, is its two satellites in orbit. It’s debatable if they actually have an EMP device on them, but it is known that nuclear weapons also give off an an EMP blast on detonation.
The concerns of their nuclear capabilities, non-state allies, artillery and rocket launchers are real. Even if their nuclear warheads could theoretically reach the US, the devastation it would cause to our allies is the only reason they haven’t been obliterated and South Korea hasn’t become a island yet.
Former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) said during hearings before the 2008 Congressional EMP Commision that he believes that a electromagnetic pulse weapon detonated in Nebraska could kill 9 out of 10 people in the aftermath and ensuing chaos.
This lead former CIA director R. James Woolsey to say in an op-ed piece for The Hill that one of two North Korean satellites could deliver such a blast.
Problem with this is that Bartlett was directly quoting an early release of William R. Forstchen’s “One Second After” — a science fiction novel about the collapse of society. But as we all know, emotions beat facts in fear mongering.
In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.
Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.
Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?
We, of course, choose Animal Mother.
Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.
Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…
“Ain’t war hell?”
He was the guest of honor.
So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!
During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.
The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.
A history of the Wild Weasels
The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.
However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.
As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”
When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,
“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”
After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.
As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.
The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.
Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.
The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.
Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.
As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.
This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”
The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.
The first was awarded to Maj. Merlyn Dethlefsen for his actions on March 10, 1967.
Dethlefsen was flying number 3 in a Wild Weasel flight codenamed Lincoln assigned to protect a strike package of F-105Ds on a mission to hit the Thai Nguyen steel factory.
As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.
Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.
As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.
For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.
The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.
However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.
Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.
Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.
Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.
Chemical illumination has been a useful tool for military operations for years in the form of chem lights or glow sticks. However, glow sticks could be a hindrance to carry around. The Air Force Research Lab has exponentially lightened the load to allow chemical illumination in the form of a crayon, making light accessible, transferable and useful over and over again.
Most troops take it easy and try to finish up the last things on their checklists before leaving. For most of us, the final weeks of our military service meant it was time to clean gear, say farewells, and hand off duties to the next guy. Many other short-timers, however, mentally ETS well before crossing the finish line.
The last couple of weeks in the military are often treated as a gentle glide back into the civilian world, but some guys take it to the next level and nosedive into laziness while still wearing their uniform. If you’re looking to make the most of your lazy days, use these tips:
Just say you’re at CIF or you’re cleaning your gear for CIF. It’s enough of a pain in the ass that everyone will just accept it.
(Photo by Spc. Devona Felgar)
Do some next-level skating
This is one of the few moments in your military career where it’s perfectly acceptable to focus on you and what you’ll be doing for yourself after you’re out. In other words, treat yo’ self.
Sham, skate, and be lazy. After a long career in the service, you’ve earned it.
Then again, reminding staff duty that you’ve been gone is fun, too…
(Photo by Chief warrant Officer Daniel McGowan)
Remind everyone of your ETS date
There’s a practical aspect to this. Nobody wants to get calls from staff duty asking why you’re not there when you’ve been out for months.
So, be loud about it. Everyone in the unit should know that you’re almost at the finish line — and that they shouldn’t expect sh*t from you.
No more barracks haircuts for you!
(U.S. Army photo)
Start growing that civilian hairstyle
You can’t start growing that sick, veteran-AF beard just yet, but you can start growing your hair out.
It still needs to be within regulations, but nobody will bother getting in your face if it’s just barely acceptable.
Let some other unfortunate soul handle cleaning connexes.
Hot potato every one of your responsibilities
Before you’re gone, you’ll need to successfully hand off your responsibilities to your replacement. What better way to get them used to your workflow than by giving them all of your work?
Divert all work the expected of you from here on out. If you think about it, you’re really just helping the replacement.
Dental is unsurprisingly expensive in the real world. Get as much done as you can while you’re in.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Rashard Coaxum)
Spend all of your time at health and dental
One of the biggest regrets among veterans is not logging every single service-related pain and injury. If you get a nagging ailment it verified while you’re still in, it’s much easier to get taken care of later.
We know — this is a bit of legitimate advice in an otherwise humorous article. If you’re determined to simply waste time, swing by the aid station all day, every day.
The only hard part of the classes is staying awake.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)
Actually go to out-briefing classes
The classes can be helpful and you will need to go for accountability reasons, but it’s entirely on you how much you care.
Put in enough effort and maybe take a few extra classes, just to be safe. Your leadership won’t want to stop you from trying to improve your odds in the civilian world.
The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Hawaii have been so massive that astronauts can see them from space — and the pictures are incredible.
Ricky Arnold and AJ Feustel, US astronauts stationed on to the International Space Station, posted dramatic photos to Twitter of the ash plume emerging from the Kilauea volcano on the east of the Big Island.
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
The volcano erupted on May 10, 2018, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The crater is already emitting noxious fumes which can make breathing difficult for children and elderly people. The ash cloud has reached as high as 12,000 feet about sea level.
Feustal wrote: “It is easy to see the activity on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano from the International Space Station. We hope those in the vicinity of the eruption can stay out of harm’s way.”
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
Lava and molten rock bursting from the volcano’s fissures also destroyed at least 26 homes and four other buildings over the weekend, forcing 1,700 people to evacuate.
The US Geological Survey issued a rare “red alert” warning, which means a major volcanic eruptions is imminent or underway, and that the ash clouds could affect air traffic.
Here’s a shot of the volcano from a lot closer to the ground:
(Kevan Kamibayashi / US Geological Survey)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Navy pilots reported seeing UFOs (unidentified flying objects) traveling at hypersonic speed and performing impossible mid-air maneuvers off the east coast of the United States, The New York Times reported May 26, 2019.
Several pilots told the outlet that they saw the UFOs several times between 2014 and 2015, and reported the sightings to superiors.
UFO is a technical classification for anything in the air which is unexplained. The pilots did not claim the objects were extraterrestrial in origin. Many UFOs turn out to have logical explanations.
According to the Times:
“Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.”
The technical definition for “hypersonic speed” is any speed more than around 3,800 miles per hour, five times the speed of sound.
Pentagon confirms existence of m UFO program, releases incident videos
The pilots claimed the objects were able to accelerate then make sudden stops and instantaneous turns — maneuvers beyond the capacity of current aerospace technology.
“These things would be out there all day,” Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet Navy pilot, who reported his sightings to the Pentagon and Congress, told the Times.
“Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”
No-one at the Defense Department interviewed by the Times is saying the objects are extraterrestrial in origin.
But the Pentagon is reportedly intrigued by the sightings of the objects, and recently updated its classified guidance for reporting sightings of UFOs.
Graves and four other pilots told the Times that they had seen the UFOs repeatedly between 2014 and 2015 while engaging in training maneuvers off the coasts of Virginia and Florida from the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
“There were a number of different reports,” A Navy spokesman told the Times, remarking that in some cases “we don’t know who’s doing this, we don’t have enough data to track this. So the intent of the message to the fleet is to provide updated guidance on reporting procedures for suspected intrusions into our airspace.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
On June 8, 1956, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Fitzgibbon died of gunshot wounds sustained in South Vietnam. He was the first casualty of what would be known to history as the Vietnam War.
Except it wasn’t a Viet Cong bullet that killed Fitzgibbon — it was a fellow airman.
Fitzgibbon was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group, training South Vietnamese airmen in Saigon. A crew chief, he confronted the plane’s radio operator when they came under fire mid-flight, making sure the operator did his job.
After the mission, the radio operator stewed over the altercation, heading to a bar to have a few drinks and loosen up. Except he drank heavily, and the incident only intensified his anger.
Later that day, the man approached Fitzgibbon on the porch of his barracks room as he handed out candy to Vietnamese children and shot the crew chief to death.
Fitzgibbon was a Navy veteran of World War II who later joined the Air Force. His son Richard joined the Marines and fought in Vietnam. He was killed in combat near Quang Tin in 1965.
Technical Sergeant Fitzgibbon’s name wasn’t added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall until 1999, after a lobbying campaign from his family, with the help of Senator Ed Markey. The Department of Defense had to first change the criteria for adding a name — specifically identifying the start of the war.
The DoD now recognizes the date the MAAG was set up, Nov. 1, 1955, as the start of the conflict in Vietnam — the earliest date to qualify for having a casualty’s name added to the memorial wall.