The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game - We Are The Mighty
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The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

Before kickoff at Dec. 8, 2018’s Army-Navy football game, seven cadets and seven midshipmen will walk to mid field to be traded back to their home academies.

The annual prisoner exchange ceremony is part of the Service Academy Exchange Program where students from each of the four service academies are exchanged to spend the fall semester at an academy other than their own. In 2018, seven U.S. Military Academy cadets and seven Naval Academy midshipmen are taking part in the exchange between the two schools.


The students enrolled in the program spend the semester living at their exchange academy, taking classes and training with fellow future leaders in the American military. The program has roots dating back to 1945 when West Point cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen did a weekend long exchange program. The program expanded to a semester long in 1975 and has continued ever since.

Prisoner Exchange

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Second Class cadets, or Cows, from West Point can participate in the exchange, but must go through a competitive selection process. In 2018, seven cadets are at each the Naval and Air Force academies and five are at the Coast Guard Academy for the fall semester.

“I wanted to participate in the Navy exchange program because it provided a great opportunity to learn more about another service academy and about two other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces,” Class of 2020 Cadet Kevin Rinkliff said. “Despite the rivalry, we are both on the same side of the fight, and I knew that learning more about the experiences of Naval Academy midshipmen would be beneficial if I ever get the opportunity to work with Navy or Marine Corps Officers in the future.”

While they will stay at their exchange academy through the end of the semester before returning to their home academy in January 2019, the cadets and midshipmen will have the chance to sit with their home academy during the Army Navy game Dec. 8, 2018.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

U.S. Military Academy cadets run back to their seating area after the prisoner exchange before the 2017 Army-Navy game.

(US Army photo)

Prior to the start of the game, the midshipmen spending the semester at West Point will be led to midfield by the USMA first captain and the West Point cadets will be brought out by the USNA brigade commander. The two academy leaders will then exchange their prisoners before returning to their seating sections, allowing the cadets and midshipmen to cheer on their teams from friendly areas.

“I’m very excited for the prisoner exchange,” Class of 2020 Cadet Nathaniel Buss said. “My family will be at the game this year, and I’m looking forward to the last about-face before we run back to the Corps of Cadets. I can’t wait to be reunited with my cadet friends that I haven’t seen for a semester.”

Col. Ty Seidule, the head of the West Point history department, said he is unsure when the prisoner exchange itself became a tradition, but he believes it would have started soon after the semester long exchanges became an annual event so cadets and midshipmen wouldn’t be in hostile territory during the rivalry game.

“The prisoner exchange will likely be one of the biggest highlights of my cadet career,” Class of 2020 Cadet Daine Van de Wall said. “Not only do I get to represent my school out on the field, but I also get to then run back and cheer on the Army team with my closest friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Has any passenger ever landed an airplane?

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

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

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


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

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

(Photo by Gerrie van der Walt)

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

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

So how did it turn out?

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

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

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

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

Passenger Lands Plane After Pilot Dies – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

(Photo by Caleb Woods)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

(Photo by Dan Lohmar)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

(Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
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Bonus Facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors in their Own Words: A day in the life of a Vietnam War combat medic

Combat medics courageously fought to save lives as the war raged around them in Vietnam. Helicopters became virtual hospitals in the air, buying the combat medic valuable time to heal the wounded. When lives were on the line, it was a combat medic’s quick thinking that determined the fate of their fellow troop.

Max Cleland, who would later go on to be a US Senator, was saved by such courageous men after losing three limbs to an explosion. This is his story:


You might be wondering — what did these brave ‘docs’ carry with them on a daily basis? They played a vital role in operations, but you just might be surprised by the scarcity of their toolkit. Here’s what they were expected to carry on patrol.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

Hospital Corpsman James Kirkpatrick (my handsome dad, on the right) gearing up to head out on patrol in Vietnam, 1968.

Armor?

No such luck.

For the most part, the ground-pounders wore t-shirts, flak jackets, and many donned WW2-style helmets due to a lack of budget.

The helmets weren’t bullet-proof and were only intended to protect the troop from flying shrapnel — sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Primary weapon system

Just like today, the docs of Vietnam served as riflemen until one of their brothers was injured. Most Corpsmen and medics carried M16A1 rifles with 10-14 magazines of 18 rounds. Their magazines could carry up to 20 rounds, but the majority of the grunts didn’t fill them to capacity in order to avoid a weapons malfunction.

Sidearm

The average doc carried a .45 caliber pistol with five to seven magazines of seven rounds each.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

Medics SP4 Gerald Levy and Pfc. Andrew J. Brown with a wounded soldier and a paratrooper of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Bien Hoa, Vietnam.

(Photo by Horst Faas)

Other gear

Docs also carried three to five hands grenades, which were worn either on the flak jacket or stuffed into cargo pockets, two to five flares to properly mark landing zones, and a “woobie” or poncho to stay as dry as possible.

And, of course, you couldn’t go on patrol without bringing enough packs of smokes to last you the duration. In the Vietnam era, patrols could last up to several days, depending on the mission.

Also, just like good docs today, they didn’t forget to stash away plenty of dry pairs of socks.

An unmarked med-bag

These green pouches were stuffed to the brim with abdominal dressings (large bandages), battle dressings (medium-sized dressings), four to five rolls of gauze, and five to ten morphine syrettes.

Today, morphine syrettes are considered serialized gear and a medic can be punished for losing one in the field.

Fluids

Some corpsmen and medics carried an I.V. solution — if they could manage to hustle a bag or two away from the local medical aid station. In some cases, medevac helicopters would transport them to the on-ground medical personnel instead, as needed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This plane was a silent hunter over Vietnam and Louisiana

When you think of stealth aircraft, you probably think of something that’s invisible to radar. Yes, that is a huge component of being difficult to detect in the skies today, but there’s another element that comes into play when it comes to spotting a plane: noise.


Yeah, we know that sounds obvious, but hear us out. Think about any air show you’ve ever attended. You’ve heard just how much noise those planes put out — you’ll often hear them well before you see them. There was one plane, however, that you’d have a hard time hearing — one that saw action over Vietnam. That plane was the YO-3A “Quiet Star” observation plane.

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A total of 11 Quiet Stars were built — and all saw action over Vietnam.

(US Army)

Lockheed’s unique plane was designed in every possible way to be a silent hunter. This plane didn’t pack any weapons. Instead, it carried something even deadlier to enemy troops on the ground: a radio that enabled the two-man crew to call in artillery fire or air strikes.

So, how did they keep this aerial creeper so quiet? The plane was made mostly of fiberglass and used a show-turning propeller. The propeller was turned by using a belt-and-pulley system, eliminating the noise of more conventional systems. The observer sat in front with the pilot in the rear, an arrangement similar to that used on helicopter gunships, like the AH-64 Apache.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

NASA used the YO-3A Quiet Star to measure the sound from other aircraft,

(NASA)

The Army took the Quiet Star to Vietnam in 1970. It operated low, often below 1,000 feet — well within the range of small arms, like the AK-47, that the North Vietnamese had in quantity. Surprisingly, this plane wasn’t even shot at by the enemy — none of these planes took damage during the conflict. A grand total of 11 planes were built and sent to Vietnam, where they served through 1971.

The planes were then returned to the United States and some were acquired by the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game. While with that agency, these planes helped bring a number of poachers to justice. The FBI also used the YO-3A for surveillance on some high-profile cases, like locating Patty Hearst. NASA also used the Quiet Star to help measure the sound from other planes.

The NASA Quiet Star retired and was sent to a museum in 2015. Learn more about this silent hunter in the video below!

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 reasons why vets are the best to go on vacation with

As the summer months come rolling around, families all over the nation will get together and begin planning trips. From hitting sunny beaches to visiting majestic national parks, there are tons of great places to visit this summer. After compiling a list of exciting locations, the next most important part aspect of a vacation is to consider the company you’ll keep.


When coming up with a list of potential vacationers, you’ll need to make sure you well mesh with everyone invited. For the best trip, you’ll want to bring people with a wide variety of characteristics and talents. Here’s a quirky idea: Make sure you invite one of your buddies who served in the military.

Why? We’re glad you asked!

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You’ll always have someone to drink with

Veterans love to drink; it’s no secret. Some of us are beer drinkers while others like to pound a glass of whiskey. While you might have to bribe a veteran to get them to try a new type of food, you can simply put a tasty drink in front of them and watch that f*cker disappear.

It’s like a magic trick — but better.

They’ll have plan ‘b’ through ‘z’ in mind — just in case

Troops are trained to always have contingency plans and that characteristic invariably follows them when they reenter civilian life. Even if you and your buddies are simply visiting a new pub or restaurant, the veteran is going to first locate the exits and identify any potential threats — just in case.

It’s just our way.

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They will always ask for a veteran discount

Who doesn’t like saving money? Having a veteran in the group could knock a few dollars off the bill at the end of the night. If you’re okay with paying full price for everything, then we don’t want to go on vacation with you.

They don’t have a problem waiting in lines

In the military, we often do this crappy thing called, “hurry up and wait.” It’s a sh*tty aspect of military service, sure, but it’s a realistic one. If your group wants to get into a club, the veteran among you is the best candidate for waiting out the long line.

Don’t exclusively use your veteran for waiting in lines, though — that’s just plain mean. But it is plus to have a vet who is willing to wait it out for the good of the group.

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They will always find their way

Troops are trained to find their way around to finish their mission. In the civilian world, that mission might be locating a specific pub or a way out of the camping grounds.

Regardless of the situation, the vet will pull their skills together and find their way — especially if there’s alcohol at their destination.

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Taking one for the team

The military instills in its troops the importance of the team in every way, shape, and form. It’s just how we get sh*t done.

So, if one of your fellow vacationers wants to hook up with someone who has a lonely friend, you can rest assured that the vet is going to step in and take one for the team.

Humor

6 of this year’s April Fools’ pranks around the military

April Fools’ Day has come a long way from the silly pranks we pulled in our youth. These days, pranks are much more sophisticated, landing on our news feeds from official sources who are allowed to let loose for a single day of the year. Everyone gets in on the fun — and the military and veteran community is no exception.


Here are some of the highlights from April Fools’ Day 2018:

Marlow White Uniforms

Marlow White Uniforms has been the official manufacturer of Army, Navy, and First Responder dress uniforms since 1879. That’s right, these are the guys responsible for the Army’s “throwback” to Pinks and Greens.

Chances are the people that got hyped by this video are the same people waiting on the sequel to Star Wars: Rogue One.

Ranger Up Military and MMA Apparel

Ranger Up stuck with an oldie-but-a-goodie.

Plenty of folks in the comment section caught on before it was too late. Others now have one of the catchiest 80s songs stuck in their head.

Terminal Lance

Terminal Lance has been setting up this joke for a while now. Previously, they ran a poll on whether the titular character, LCpl. Abe, should re-enlist. Overwhelmingly, fans didn’t want the comics to turn into a story about being a veteran.

Then, Uriarte published some comics about talking to a prior-service recruiter on Mar. 31 — followed by a few posts that said he was talking to a prior-service recruiter.

The joke actually has multiple layers considering it’s been a yearly tradition to give other ranks, branches, and even British Marines their time in the spotlight. Many expected Max to follow suite this year. Nope. April Fools’ Day doesn’t work like that (sorry to all of you still waiting on Terminal Airman comics).

Disgrunted Vets

There’s always been a healthy dose of confusion between Dysfunctional Veterans and Disgruntled Vets. The same thing happens on Reddit when people mix up Terminal_Lance and TLCplMax (Hint: the term isn’t exclusive to the webcomic).

Disgruntled Vets masterfully added to this confusion.

10th Combat Aviation Brigade

The U.S. Army has command over every realm of fighting — except one: underground.

They thought we wouldn’t notice if they took a still from a ShutterStock animation, but we did. Well played, 10th CAB. Well played.

Official Twitter of the U.S. Marine Corps

And the winner of this year’s April Fools’ Day, hands down, goes to the official Twitter of the United States Marine Corps.

While everyone was busy putting an immense amount of time into their pranks, all the Marine Corps social media team needed to do was say they were going to do just one thing like the Army and everyone lost their collective sh*t. Lucky for us, nobody ever actually reads articles on April Fools’ Day before heading to the comment section.

Whoever made this tweet is a credit to the Corps and everything it stands for. BZ.

Articles

Here’s where the term ‘Bravo Zulu’ comes from

Everyone’s a critic. After you complete a job, someone is going to tell you how you did. If you messed up, you’re gonna hear about it.


In the military, if you did good work, you may have heard the term “Bravo Zulu,” which means “well done,” — but…why?

Since the Navy has strong traditions, motivated sailors tend to uphold those traditions and use nautical terms in their everyday dialogue. But why not just say “well done,” right?

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According to the Navy, the popular term comes from the Allied Naval Signal Book created by NATO as a system of signals displayed by either a flag hoist or voice radio to communicate and relay messages back and forth between various naval vessels.

The system is comprised of letters and/or numbers that are represented by flags and pennants which have meaning either by themselves or in different combinations.

Related: Here’s the history behind ‘Reveille’

The Navy uses a system of 68 flags covering the 26 letters of the alphabet, 10 numeral, 10 numeral pennants, 4 substitutes, and 18 special flags and pennants.

When a ship wants to relay a message like “well done,” they will hold up the two flags like shown below.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

If a vessel wants to communicate another message like “action is being carried out” they would hang up the “Bravo Alpha” flag or “action is not being carried out” the “Bravo India” flag will get hoisted.

A hoisted “Bravo” flag by itself means the vessel is “carrying dangerous cargo” which is far different than doing a job “well done.” For more nautical messages click here.

You’re welcome, America.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane way Vlad the Impaler turned back an enemy army

In 1462, the prince of a small area called Wallachia went to war with arguably the most powerful military force on the planet at the time, led by one of the greatest military minds of the time. The one thing that the prince knew for certain was he would need an extraordinary plan to stay alive and keep his principality from being conquered.

That prince was Vlad III, the Impaler and he was going up against Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire, fresh from his resounding victory over the Byzantines, relegating the once-great Roman Empire to the history books, once and for all.


The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

Can’t blame him for feeling cocky, I guess.

In just 53 days, Mehmed II earned the title “Fatih” – or Conqueror – by doing what no Ottoman Sultan before him could: bringing down the vaunted walls of Constantinople and an end to the Byzantine Empire. Now all of Europe was open to the Ottoman Turks, and one of the closest principalities to the new Ottoman Empire was Romania and its small provincial fiefdoms. The Turks would exert their influence by first charging the un-Islamic a jizya, the tax for not being a follower of Mohammed. When Prince Vlad III of Wallachia refused to pay, Mehmed set out to teach him a lesson.

But Vlad Tepes wasn’t about to sit around and wait for the Ottoman Sultan’s tens of thousands of men to come lay waste to his small lands.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

You can probably guess what’s coming.

After a long cat and mouse game, the sultan decided to send an envoy as bait for an ambush. But Vlad got wind of the plot and ambushed the ambush in one of the first European uses of handguns. He took the Turkish uniforms, disguised himself, and moved to the nearest Turkish fortress and simply ordered them to open the gates in Turkish. When they did, Vlad slaughtered the defenders and destroyed the fortress. Then he went on a rampage.

Vlad invaded neighboring Bulgaria and began to split his army up to cover more ground. They systematically rounded up Turkish sympathizers and captured troops in a 500-mile area and slaughtered them. Vlad reckoned killing more than 23,000, not counting those he burned in their own homes. He then routed an Ottoman invasion force 18,000 strong under Mehmed’s Grand Vizier. Only 8,000 walked away from the battle. Mehmed was pissed and decided to go take care of Vlad personally.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

Vlad Tepes, seen here, calling his shot.

The sultan assembled an army so large, historians repeatedly lost count trying to keep it all together. Mehmed requested an army of at least 150,000 men but what he got was anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000 and a naval force to sail up the Danube with them. With this force arrayed against him, Vlad freaked out. He asked the King of Hungary for help, and when none came, he conscripted women and children to fight for him. In the end, he amassed an army about one-tenth the size of the Ottoman invaders. Vlad needed some way to level the playing field and scare the sultan back to Constantinople. When the Ottoman Army closed in on him, he got his chance.

The Impaler poisoned wells and destroyed anything of use that Mehmed might capture. He also sent men infected with the plague and other diseases into the Ottoman ranks to infect as many as possible. But still, the enemy made their way to Târgoviște, where their first night in camp turned out to be an unforgettable one. Vlad and his men infiltrated the camp and wreaked havoc on its sleeping men. As the Wallachians slaughtered the now-confused Turks, Vlad attempted to assassinate the sultan in his tent, missing and hitting the tents of his viziers instead.

But that’s not what drove the sultan out of Wallachia.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

You can probably guess what’s coming.

Sultan Mehmed’s elite Janissaries pursued the Wallachians and managed to inflict casualties numbering in the thousands. The rest of the army pressed on the Wallachia’s capital, prepared to lay siege to the city and destroy it. But instead of a fortified citadel, the Turks found the gates of the city wide open. Inside, as they rode around, they were treated to a “forest of the impaled” along the roadside. Vlad impaled some 20,000 more enemy soldiers and sympathizers. Historical accounts aren’t clear on the sultan’s reaction, if he was horrified or impressed, but they do agree Mehmed decided to leave Wallachia the very next day.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons why ‘Platoon’ should have been about Sgt. Barnes

There are so many war movies out there, but few come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the Vietnam war was strongly opposed in his film Platoon.

Although the film was excellent, did you ever wonder how different it would have been if Sgt. Barnes — the film’s villain — was the star?

Related: 7 reasons ‘Top Gun’ should have been about Iceman

Well, we did and here are six reasons why we think the movie should have been about him.

6. We would have gotten the back story on how he got his epic scar. Just look at that thing and tell us you don’t want to know more about it. Is it from a hand grenade or did he knife fight someone or what?

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
We’re betting it’s from a gunshot wound. (Source: Orion)

5. Remember when he shot that woman? We’re not condoning executions, but seeing Sgt. Barnes interrogation methods a few more times could have been cool.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
This interrogation scene was power. (Source: Orion)

4. Besides the scene where Barnes threatens Chris with that cool looking blade, that knife doesn’t make another appearance. If that film were about him, we probably would have seen Barnes use in on the enemy troops once or twice in hand-to-hand combat.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
You could slice and dice the enemy with this sharp and badass looking blade — no problem. (Source: Orion)

3. Pvt. Taylor (Charlie Sheen) would have just been a whiny boot replacement — which he was in the beginning — that no one cares about since the film would have been in Barnes’ perspective.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
You just murdered the star of our fictional version of the film — you better cry. (Source: Orion)

2. Sgt. Barnes is a pretty lethal killer, but we could’ve gotten a glimpse of what made him that way. Although we discussed his epic scar earlier, it would be cool to get a flashback or two focusing on some of this bloody missions he was on before Taylor showed up.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
You know those eyes have seen some sh*t. (Source: Orion)

1. Barnes would have eventually snapped and put his non-alpha male platoon leader Lt. Wolfe in his place — and audiences would have loved to see that sh*t go down.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
It’s about to go down — if the movie was about Barnes. (Source: Orion)

Can you think of any more? Comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 unspoken vows of the military spouse

At a family reunion several years ago, my uncle asked, “What unspoken vows do you have in your marriage?”

He was referring to the vows that respect each other’s pet peeves, and we all laughed as people shared their promises of keeping the cap on the toothpaste or using separate knives for the peanut butter and jelly.

At the time, I’d been married for only a couple of years, and I added that I’d promised not to meddle in my husband’s tools. But over the years, my uncle’s question echoed in my mind. As deployments came and went, I discovered that my unspoken vow was more complex, and in fact, I had more than one.


Deployment adds a unique dynamic to military marriages. As Army spouse and 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Corie Weathers writes in her memoir, Sacred Spaces, “Deployment, by its very nature, creates highly significant yet separate experiences for military couples.”

Deployment ushers us into a strange space, asking us to exist without each other and to accept that we can’t share each other’s experiences or even fully understand them.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

I’ve often thought of it as living parallel lives.

Others have thought of it this way, too. Air Force wife Alane Pearce writes of parallel lives in her piece “Committed,” which appears in Faith Deployed… Again, and Weathers addresses “gaps” that separate couples in Sacred Spaces. Surely, more wrestle with this notion in their hearts.

However we might term it, the awareness of separateness is a reality in deployment, presenting us with a veritable mountain to climb. Although we’ll encounter tough passes of doubt and aloneness, I believe we have the ability to make it through these obstacles with sure footing. In my own experience, the first step is simple but powerful: I give voice to my unspoken vows.

1. I promise I will let you go.

We all know that prior to deployment, our service members become laser-focused on pre-deployment trainings, preparations and briefings. Like kids on Christmas morning, they sit amidst their gear, organizing, packing, unpacking, and repacking.

Meanwhile, we file powers of attorney, wills and crisis notification forms. We make arrangements with friends to be the ones we can call in case of an emergency.

Suddenly, we realize that we are preparing to be alone. That awareness is grim. It can induce fear, crank our grip tighter and make us ask why. It’s a force manipulative enough to make us feel left behind.

But, the power is within us to pause, take stock and refocus our lens.

As I reflected, read and spoke to other spouses, it struck me that by focusing on the aloneness ahead of us, we can set ourselves up for a long, lonely climb. Some spouses recalled that simple expressions of compassion have eased the road toward deployment.

Air Force wife Katie Spain, who has been married for four years and faced two deployments, reflects on the difficulty service members must feel being so far removed from their families: “While the military may be their first responsibility, it is not the first priority in their hearts,” she says, “and I can’t imagine the internal conflict being easy to remedy.”

Weathers echoes such compassion in her book, when she recalls preparing for a unique experience to accompany former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and his staff to visit American personnel deployed to the Middle East.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis)

As she finds herself mirroring her husband’s pre-deployment motions, she realizes that she is also experiencing guilt in leaving her family.

Having been in her shoes, her husband empathizes with her position. Weathers describes this interesting role-reversal as an example of the value that spouses’ compassion can have in releasing service members to their mission.

“We play an awesome role to love them that way,” Weathers said in a recent interview. “We do have the ability to release the anxiety that they have not chosen deployment over their family.”

It seems to me that this compassion releases the military spouse, too, as it eases tension and draws us closer to our service members in a shared experience. It helps us understand that we are not alone in our feelings, it reaffirms our love with our service members and it allows us to approach deployment with clearer sight and firmer footing.

2. I promise I will be my best for you.

As military spouses, we know that once our service members leave, our role suddenly changes. We go from being part of a pair to being a “Class-B bachelorette” or a “pseudo-single parent.” Whether we dub it “flying solo” or “geo-baching,” no cute new title fills the emptiness left by our service members. The impact of their sudden absence can knock us off balance, making us struggle to find our grip without them.

All home front responsibilities immediately fall to us, and it seems that the same mystical force visits every household immediately following a service member’s departure, breaking every appliance and infecting every child with the stomach flu. Suddenly, we are swamped trying to work a two-person job, to nurture, discipline, organize, clean, counsel, and perform damage control. The sheer magnitude of this responsibility can be overwhelming.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)

This is the time when the feeling of living parallel lives is perhaps the most acute. The sense of separateness is seemingly insurmountable. Personally, I find myself angry with it. Angry with the feeling of separateness. It’s a strange, unwanted feeling to have in a marriage.

But it doesn’t have to be so bleak. I believe we have the power to overcome the feeling of separateness, to find an intersection, even when that seems impossible.

Reflecting on her experience as a licensed counselor working with military couples, Weathers describes many military spouses as “resilient, positive and resourceful” when going through a deployment.

“They push through and make things happen, and grow in their independence,” she says. “And the service members can trust that. It makes for a trusting relationship. They can focus on their mission.”

Although deployment changes my role temporarily, I am still married to my husband. Whenever I am overwhelmed, I owe it to him to push forward, because the obstacle he is facing doesn’t let him stop to dwell on his aloneness.

A friend once told me that her priest described marriage not as 50-50, but as 100-100. Each spouse must give 100 percent. Never is there a time when this is truer than during deployment. By actively choosing to give 100 percent, I am enabling my husband to do the same.

3. I promise I will seek you out.

When our service members return, many of us might feel out of sync as we try to walk in the rhythm of each other’s footsteps again. While we might expect this after so much time apart, we don’t have to accept our separate rhythms as the new normal; it can be our chance to recommit.

In these times, Weathers says, “Pursue your spouse.”

Army spouse of 16 years and 2015 Fort Huachuca Spouse of the Year Cynthia Giesecke agrees, saying that when couples seek out an “intentional period of reconnection,” they are better able to move forward honestly and lovingly.

Just as showing compassion and pushing forward through struggles can draw us closer despite our separateness, purposeful engagement with each other during reintegration can soon align our footsteps.

Looking back, I don’t know why I never thought of deployment this way before. This mindset allows me to reach past the anxiety of separateness. It empowers me to pick up the parallel lines and lay them back down across each other. It enables me to stand at the intersection with my husband, give voice to my vows and know that we’re a team that no battle – ever – can separate.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army to focus on long-range hypersonic weapons to fight Russia

The Army’s new “Vision” for future war calls for a fast-moving emphasis on long-range precision fire to include missiles, hypersonic weapons, and extended-range artillery — to counter Russian threats on the European continent, service officials explain.

While discussing the Army Vision, an integral component of the service’s recently competed Modernization Strategy, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper cited long-range precision fire as a “number one modernization priority” for the Army.

Senior Army officials cite concerns that Russian weapons and troop build-ups present a particular threat to the US and NATO in Europe, given Russia’s aggressive force posture and arsenal of accurate short, medium and long-range ballistic missiles.


“The US-NATO military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for example, is in the range fan of Russian assets. That is how far things can shoot. You do not have sanctuary status in that area,” a senior Army official told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The senior Army weapons developer said the service intends to engineer an integrated series of assets to address the priorities outlined by Esper; these include the now-in-development Long Range Precision Fires missile, Army hypersonic weapons programs and newly configured long-range artillery able to double the 30-km range of existing 155m rounds. The Army is now exploring a longer-range artillery weapon called “Extended Range Cannon,” using a longer cannon, ramjet propulsion technology and newer metals to pinpoint targets much farther away.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Army leaders have of course been tracking Russian threats in Europe for quite some time. The Russian use of combined arms, drones, precision fires, and electronic warfare in Ukraine has naturally received much attention at the Pentagon.

Also, the Russian violations of the INF Treaty, using medium-range ballistic missiles, continues to inform the US European force posture. Russia’s INF Treaty violation, in fact, was specifically cited in recent months by Defense Secretary James Mattis as part of the rationale informing the current Pentagon push for new low-yield nuclear weapons.

The Arms Control Association’s (ACA) “Worldwide Inventory of Ballistic Missiles” cites several currently operational short, medium and long-range Russian missiles which could factor into the threat equation outlined by US leaders. The Russian arsenal includes shorter range weapons such as the mobile OTR-21 missile launch system, designated by NATO as the SS-21 Scarab C, which is able to hit ranges out to 185km, according to ACA.

Russian medium-range theater ballistic missiles, such as the RS-26 Rubezh, have demonstrated an ability to hit targets at ranges up to 5,800km. Finally, many Russian long-range ICBMs, are cited to be able to destroy targets as far away as 11,000km — these weapons, the ACA specifies, include the RT-2PM2 Topol-M missile, called SS-27 by NATO.

The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game
Russian SS-21 Scarab

It is not merely the range of these missiles which could, potentially, pose a threat to forward-positioned or stationary US and NATO assets in Europe — it is the advent of newer long-range sensors, guidance and targeting technology enabling a much higher level of precision and an ability to track moving targets. GPS technology, inertial navigation systems, long-range high-resolution sensors and networked digital radar systems able to operate on a wide range of frequencies continue to quickly change the ability of forces to maneuver, operate, and attack.

While discussing the Army Vision, Esper specified the importance of “out-ranging” an enemy during a recent event at the Brookings Institution.

“We think that for a number of reasons we need to make sure we have overmatch and indirect fires, not just for a ground campaign, but also, we need to have the ability to support our sister services,” Esper told Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon, according to a transcript of the event.

The Army’s emerging Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF), slated to be operational by 2027, draws upon next generation guidance technology and weapons construction to build a weapon able to destroy targets as far as 500km away.

LRPF is part of an effort to engineer a sleek, high-speed, first-of-its-kind long-range ground launched attack missile able to pinpoint and destroy enemy bunkers, helicopter staging areas, troop concentrations, air defenses, and other fixed-location targets from as much as three times the range of existing weapons, service officials said.

Long-range surface-to-surface fires, many contend, could likely be of great significance against an adversary such as Russia — a country known to possess among most advanced air defenses in the world. Such a scenario might make it difficult for the US to quickly establish the kind of air supremacy needed to launch sufficient air attacks. As a result, it is conceivable that LRPF could provide strategically vital stand-off attack options for commanders moving to advance on enemy terrain.

Esper specifically referred to this kind of scenario when discussing “cross-domain” fires at the Brookings event; the Army Vision places a heavy premium on integrated high-end threats, potential attacks which will require a joint or inter-service combat ability, he said. In this respect, long range precision fires could potentially use reach and precision to destroy enemy air defenses, allowing Air Force assets a better attack window.

“This is why long-range precision fires is number one for the Army. So, if I need to, for example, suppress enemy air defenses using long-range artillery, I have the means to do that, reaching deep into the enemy’s rear. What that does, if I can suppress enemy air defenses, either the guns, missiles, radars…etc… it helps clear the way for the Air Force to do what they do — and do well,” Esper said.

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Army Photo of Army Secretary Mark Esper
(Photo by David Vergun)

In addition, there may also be some instances where a long-range cruise missile — such as a submarine or ship-fired Tomahawk — may not be available; in this instance, LRPF could fill a potential tactical gap in attack plans.

Raytheon and Lockheed recently won a potential $116 million deal to develop the LRPF weapon through a technological maturation and risk reduction phase, Army and industry officials said.

Service weapons developers tell Warrior a “shoot-off” of several LRPF prototypes is currently planned for 2020 as a key step toward achieving operational status.

Esper also highlighted the potential “cross-domain” significance of how Army-Navy combat integration could be better enabled by long-range fires.

“If we’re at a coast line and we can help using long-range weapons …. I’m talking about multi-hundred-mile range rockets, artillery, et cetera, to help suppress enemies and open up the door, if you will, so that the Navy can gain access to a certain theater,” Esper explained.

While Long-Range Precision Fires is specified as the number one priority, the Army Vision spells out a total of six key focus areas: Long-Range Precision Fires; Next-Generation Combat Vehicle; Future Vertical Life; Army Network; Air and Missile Defense; Soldier Lethality.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Prince Harry’s military career makes him a hardcore noble

Many veterans chose the military life in search of something bigger than themselves. This rings true even for British royalty. Just like his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, Prince Harry served in the British military — except his war stories from Afghanistan are far more impressive than most royals.


Prince Harry entered military service in September 2004 and went to The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in May 2005. During his 44-week intensive training, he went under the name “Officer Cadet Wales” since royal British surnames don’t work like regular folk and he didn’t want any special treatment — despite the fact that everyone at the academy swore loyalty to his badass grandmother.

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In case you didn’t know, he’s got badassery in his blood.

(War Archives)

After graduating in April 2006, he became an armored reconnaissance troop leader in a unit scheduled to deploy to Iraq. When Defense Secretary John Reid stopped him from deploying, Prince Harry is quoted as saying

“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Prince Harry didn’t just accept this order. He was determined to fight with his brothers and lead his troops. He finally got that chance in June 2007 when he was secretly allowed to deploy to Helmond Province, Afghanistan as a forward air controller — similar to the American joint terminal attack controller.

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Even his living conditions were on par with his fellow soldiers.

(The Royal Family YouTube)

When his unit and his Gurkha allies were attacked by the Taliban, Prince Harry himself jumped on the .50 cal to hold the line. He successfully repelled the attack all while the Britons back home knew nothing.

Prince Harry returned to England in May 2008 and began his training as an Apache pilot — as is an unofficial tradition among the House of Windsor — and he was damn good. He returned to Afghanistan, now as “Captain Wales.” The Taliban leaders got wind of his return and called for his head. That didn’t scare this badass and his missions were more ramped up.

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In true veteran fashion, he was straight out of f*cks to give.

(The Royal Family YouTube)

He returned to England with an untold number of combat missions under his belt (but, supposedly, there were a lot). He left active military service in 2015 but he continues to champion the military and veteran community through his countless organizations. He launched the Invictus Games in 2014 and has been a key figure of Walk With the Wounded, HALO Trust, and London Marathon Charitable Trust.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the big takeaways from the latest Space Force press conference

What started as wishful thinking by a bunch of vets hoping to one day become space shuttle door gunners is starting to take shape as the next steps in establishing a Space Force are underway.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence held a conference at the Pentagon on Aug 9 to discuss the latest plans and updates on the creation of the United States Space Force. To clear some of the fog surrounding it, it’s not about sending armed troops into space nor is it an over-the-top plan to fight aliens.

There is a real and current strategic advantage in using space to aid with Earthly conflicts through satellites operations and missile defense — both of which would fall under the purview of the new Space Force.


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Vice President Mike Pence has championed our current space commands within the Air Force and the Navy.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Hoffman)

Secretary Mattis opened up the briefing and announced that the Pentagon will release its latest space report to Congress, reinforcing the specifics on how they will move forward. He then welcomed Vice President Pence to take the podium.

Vice President Pence reiterated both the desire to push mankind back into space exploration and to utilize space for the rapid advancement of technology. He likened the establishment of the Space Force to that of the Air Force when it was first created.

“In 1939, at the start of the second World War, the U.S. Army Air Corps was still a fledgling organization… By 1945, the American military had nearly 30 times the number of planes and 85 times the number of pilots and support crews compared to just six years earlier and our allies emerged victorious from WWII because of the strength of our armed forces and because our armed forces adapted to meet the emerging threats of the day,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
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Once you realize just how many U.S. satellites are in space, how little protection they have, and just how dependent our society is on their safety… you’ll stop thinking of the Space Force as a joke branch.

(Air Force illustration)

Our current military does, in fact, have a space command and has had one for decades. Expanding the space command into a full branch would give the tens of thousands of troops and civilian contractors currently working on the space mission far greater spending to continue and expand upon the responsibilities of the domain.

Founding the Space Force will firmly establish America’s leadership in space. In President Trump’s own words,

“It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. And so we will.”

One of the first technologies announced was the fielding of a new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communication satellites. This also comes along with a new missile defense satellite that is “smaller, tougher, and more maneuverable than ever before.”

The need for dominance over space is growing by the day. China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed a test satellite in 2007. Russia has been designing an airborne laser that is said to disrupt satellites and claim to be creating missiles that could be launched mid-flight to destroy satellites. Both have claimed to have ability to move their satellites closer to our own — which could pose an unprecedented new danger.

Many more details about the new branch’s establishment will come soon as we move forward towards its eventual creation with a possible date set for 2020.

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