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This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

The Cold War saw both sides of the Iron Curtain come up with new ways to inflict a nuclear apocalypse on one another — always in the hope that these methods would serve more so as a deterrent than a call to war.


Among the myriad bombs and missiles designed in the United States to counter the surging Soviet missile program was the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile, arguably the most destructive missile system ever conceived in the history of modern warfare.

Designed by Vought in the late 1950s, SLAM was theorized as a viable alternative to nuclear-tipped missiles and bombers, which were slow enough (at the time) to be intercepted and shot down by Soviet air defense systems. Created as part of Project Pluto, which was established to develop new engines for cruise missiles, SLAM quickly became the most advanced weapons project the US military had ever undertaken.

 

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
A Project Pluto prototype nuclear ramjet engine in a test cradle (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Pluto’s real mission was to create nuclear engines for missiles, giving them a nearly unlimited range and the ability to reach any target around the world after being deployed from American launch sites. When equipped with a Pluto-originated engine, a SLAM could literally fly 113,000 miles without stopping — that’s more than four times around the equator with enough gas in the tank left for more flying.

It would carry dozens of small hydrogen bombs in canisters inside its fuselage, and would also be given a terrain contour matching (TERCOM) radar, allowing it to fly close to the earth in order to avoid enemy radar detection.

SLAM would be launched using rocket boosters, pushing the sleek missile up to its cruising altitude so that it could activate its ramjet engine. Once the boosters fell away, the nuclear ramjet would power up, allowing it to loiter indefinitely at high speeds while waiting for the order to attack.

And when that order came, all hell would break loose.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
A mockup of the SLAM missile (Photo Vought)

Once the attack order was transmitted to a SLAM, it would descend down to less than 300 ft over land, flying at supersonic speeds while wreaking havoc with its sonic shockwaves, destroying anything that wasn’t hardened or sheltered along the way.

Its nuclear engine would spew out deadly toxic waste, fatally irradiating anybody and anything near its flight path.

Along the way, SLAM could attack between 14 to 26 targets, releasing one thermonuclear warhead for each objective from compartments on top of the missile while it accelerated away to find its next target. And when SLAM exhausted its nuclear payload, it would become a weapon on its own, flying into the ground and catastrophically melting down its own reactor, further irradiating the area around it.

By the mid-1960s, the project was scrapped. The advent of improved intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could be launched from land bases or submarines, rendered developing the SLAM moot. Once launched, ICBMs were virtually unstoppable, while a SLAM could still hypothetically be shot down.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
SLAM was canceled in favor of ICBMs like this Titan II (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

That, and the SLAM was considered just too destructive. In addition to effecting a nuclear annihilation upon all of Eastern Europe and a hefty chunk of communist-controlled Asia, the missile would also release toxic waste into the atmosphere, potentially contaminating the area above the United States and its allies.

The missile couldn’t even be tested, since it was simply too dangerous. What if the nuclear engine failed in-flight, or the guidance system washed out and it flew over allied territory? Thousands upon thousands would be given a lethal dose of radiation as a result.

Rising costs were the final nail in SLAM’s coffin, ending it and Project Pluto for good in the summer of 1964. Apparently, there really is a thing as too deadly when it comes to weapons of war!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Even ‘limited’ nuclear war between India and Pakistan could trigger global famine

Deadly tensions between India and Pakistan are boiling over in Kashmir, a disputed territory at the northern border of each country.

A regional conflict is worrisome enough, but climate scientists warn that if either country launches just a portion of its nuclear weapons, the situation might escalate into a global environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.

On Feb. 14, 2019, a suicide bomber killed at least 40 Indian troops in a convoy traveling through Kashmir. A militant group based in Pakistan called Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack. India responded by launching airstrikes against its neighbor — the first in roughly 50 years — and Pakistan has said it shot down two Indian fighter jets and captured one of the pilots.


Both countries possess about 140 to 150 nuclear weapons. Though nuclear conflict is unlikely, Pakistani leaders have said their military is preparing for “all eventualities.” The country has also assembled its group responsible for making decisions on nuclear strikes.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

An Indian air force Mirage 2000 fighter jet.

“This is the premier nuclear flashpoint in the world,” Ben Rhodes, a political commentator, said on Feb. 27, 2019’s episode of the “Pod Save the World” podcast.

For that reason, climate scientists have modeled how an exchange of nuclear weapons between the two countries — what is technically called a limited regional nuclear war — might affect the world.

Though the explosions would be local, the ramifications would be global, that research concluded. The ozone layer could be crippled and Earth’s climate may cool for years, triggering crop and fishery losses that would result in what the researchers called a “global nuclear famine.”

“The danger of nuclear winter has been under-understood — poorly understood — by both policymakers and the public,” Michael Mills, a researcher at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told Business Insider. “It has reached a point where we found that nuclear weapons are largely unusable because of the global impacts.”

Why a ‘small’ nuclear war could ravage Earth

When a nuclear weapon explodes, its effects extend beyond the structure-toppling blast wave, blinding fireball, and mushroom cloud. Nuclear detonations close to the ground, for example, can spread radioactive debris called fallout for hundreds of miles.

But the most frightening effect is intense heat that can ignite structures for miles around. Those fires, if they occur in industrial areas or densely populated cities, can lead to a frightening phenomenon called a firestorm.

“These firestorms release many times the energy stored in nuclear weapons themselves,” Mills said. “They basically create their own weather and pull things into them, burning all of it.”

Mills helped model the outcome of an India-Pakistan nuclear war in a 2014 study. In that scenario, each country exchanges 50 weapons, less than half of its arsenal. Each of those weapons is capable of triggering a Hiroshima-size explosion, or about 15 kilotons’ worth of TNT.

The model suggested those explosions would release about 5 million tons of smoke into the air, triggering a decades-long nuclear winter.

The effects of this nuclear conflict would eliminate 20% to 50% of the ozone layer over populated areas. Surface temperatures would become colder than they’ve been for at least 1,000 years.

The bombs in the researchers’ scenario are about as powerful as the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, enough to devastate a city. But that’s far weaker than many weapons that exist today. The latest device North Korea tested was estimated to be about 10 times as powerful as Little Boy. The US and Russia each possess weapons 1,000 times as powerful.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Photograph of a mock-up of the Little Boy nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945.

Still, the number of weapons used is more important than strength, according to the calculations in this study.

How firestorms would wreck the climate

Most of the smoke in the scenario the researchers considered would come from firestorms that would tear through buildings, vehicles, fuel depots, vegetation, and more. This smoke would rise through the troposphere (the atmospheric zone closest to the ground), and particles would then be deposited in a higher layer called the stratosphere. From there, tiny black-carbon aerosols could spread around the globe.

“The lifetime of a smoke particle in the stratosphere is about five years. In the troposphere, the lifetime is one week,” Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who worked on the study, told Business Insider. “So in the stratosphere, the lifetime of smoke particles is much longer, which gives it 50 times the impact.”

The fine soot would cause the stratosphere, normally below freezing, to be dozens of degrees warmer than usual for five years. It would take two decades for conditions to return to normal.

This would cause ozone loss “on a scale never observed,” the study said. That ozone damage would consequently allow harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun to reach the ground, hurting crops and humans, harming ocean plankton, and affecting vulnerable species all over the planet.

But it gets worse: Earth’s ecosystems would also be threatened by suddenly colder temperatures.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Change in surface temperature (K) for (a) June to August and (b) December to February. Values are five- year seasonal averages.

(Earth’s Future/Michael J. Mills et al.)

The fine black soot in the stratosphere would prevent some sun from reaching the ground. The researchers calculated that average temperatures around the world would drop by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the five years following the nuclear blasts.

In populated areas of North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, changes could be more extreme (as illustrated in the graphic above). Winters there would be about 2.5 degrees colder and summers between 1 and 4 degrees colder, reducing critical growing seasons by 10 to 40 days. Expanded sea ice would also prolong the cooling process, since ice reflects sunlight away.

“It’d be cold and dark and dry on the ground, and that’d affect plants,” Robock said. “This is something everybody should be concerned about because of the potential global effects.”

The change in ocean temperatures could devastate sea life and fisheries that much of the world relies on for food. Such sudden blows to the food supply and the “ensuing panic” could cause “a global nuclear famine,” according to the study’s authors.

Temperatures wouldn’t return to normal for more than 25 years.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Pakistani Missiles on display in Karachi, Pakistan.

The effects might be much worse than previously thought

Robock is working on new models of nuclear-winter scenarios; his team was awarded a nearly million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project to do so.

“You’d think the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies would fund this research, but they didn’t and had no interest,” he said.

Since his earlier modeling work, Robock said, the potential effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan have gotten worse. That’s because India and Pakistan now have more nuclear weapons, and their cities have grown.

“It’s about five times worse than what we’ve previously calculated,” he said.

Because of his intimate knowledge of the potential consequences, Robock advocates the reduction of nuclear arsenals around the world. He said he thinks Russia and the US — which has nearly 7,000 nuclear weapons — are in a unique position to lead the way.

“Why don’t the US and Russia each get down to 200? That’s a first step,” Robock said.

“If President Trump wants the Nobel Peace Prize, he should get rid of land-based missiles, which are on hair-trigger alert, because we don’t need them,” he added. “That’s how he’ll get a peace prize — not by saying we have more than anyone else.”

Kevin Loria and Alex Lockie contributed to this article.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis has tough words for China: ‘We will not be intimidated’

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called on America’s allies to combat Chinese efforts to dominate the contested South China Sea during a trilateral meeting in Singapore Oct. 19, 2018.

“I think that all of us joining hands together, ASEAN allies and partners, and we affirm as we do so that no single nation can rewrite the international rule to the road and expect all nations large and small to respect those rules,” Mattis said during a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, according to The Hill.


“The United States, alongside our allies and partners, will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down, for we cannot accept the PRC’s militarization of the South China Sea or any coercion in this region,” he added.

Mattis doubled down on statements made by Vice President Mike Pence in a forceful speech at the Hudson Foundation in October 2018 that came immediately in the wake of a showdown between US and Chinese warships.

“China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies,” Pence explained. He called attention to the recent showdown in the South China Sea as evidence of “China’s aggression.”

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

An EA-18G Growler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VFA) 141 lands on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

“A Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, forcing our ship to quickly maneuver to avoid collision,” he said, describing a dangerous encounter that the US military characterized as “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”

The Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance against China, targeting Beijing for perceived violations of the rules-based international order. In the South China Sea, tensions have been running high as the US challenges China through freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and joint drills with regional partners — all aimed to counter China’s expansive but discredited territorial claims.

A pair of B-52H Stratofortress bombers flew through the disputed South China Sea Oct. 16, 2018, in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission, which is notably intended to send a deterrence message to potential adversaries.

Mattis met with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe Oct. 18, 2018, for an hour and a half on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore. The talks, described as “straightforward and candid,” focused heavily on the South China Sea, but it is unclear if the two sides made any real progress on the issue.

“That’s an area where we will continue to have differences,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said after the meeting concluded.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how you definitively rank challenge coins

Challenge coins have a special place in the hearts of many. Enlisted troops keep them as souvenirs to commemorate a specific moment while officers display them at every opportunity to build clout. It’s like a hardened war-fighter’s version of collecting trading cards.


But not all challenge coins are created equally. This is especially important when it comes to the military’s drinking game. If two troops or vets are in a bar and someone calls, “coin check,” whoever doesn’t have one must buy the drinks. If you want to take it to the next level (or if everyone pulls a coin), have the person with the worst coin buy while the troop with the best coin chooses what the group is drinking.

There isn’t a clearly defined ranking system, but here’s the generally accepted hierarchy if you want to call someone out.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Think of these are having a pair of twos in a game of poker.

(Coinsfornothing.com)

8. Any store-bought coin

At the very bottom are the “at-least-I-have-it” coins. There’s no challenge involved in getting these coins. There’s nothing unique about them and they cost a couple of bucks at the Exchange.

They often have just an installation marking, regimental crest, or a generic rank on them. But, hey, they’re better than nothing.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

It only counts if it was given on a military installation, at any military event, or from a military-related company.

(Gregory Ripps)

7. Promotional coins

An obvious but effective marketing gimmick popular among companies who’ve done their homework is to make a branded military challenge coin. Companies will often give these to troops and vets on a whim and it’s more about spreading brand recognition than displaying individual achievement.

Nonetheless, they’re usually pretty nice and we rank them slightly higher than a store-bought coin because you have to be at the right place at the right time to get one.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Some commanders put plenty of thought into their coins. See the exceptions below.

(Photo by Lieutenant Junior Grade Samuel Boyle)

6. Unit coins

This is the category under which most coins fall. Each unit commander can commission their own coin to be made with the unit insignia alongside the names of the senior enlisted and hand them to deserving troops.

Determining where each coin falls within this level is easy. Battalion coins beat company coins. Brigade coins beat battalion. Divisional coins beat brigade. Branch coins may beat divisional coins if and only if they weren’t just bought at a store and were actually given at the Pentagon level.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Some are generic, some are spectacular — hence why they’re in the middle of the list.

(Photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulvada Torres)

5. General officer coins

Each general officer has a coin made specifically for them. Fun side note: Officers who have coins made almost always pay out-of-pocket to have something to give to troops. Since generals have a nicer paycheck than captains, their coins are nicer and more prestigious.

To get a general officer coin, you have to do something outstanding enough to warrant a nice coin. This could be in addition to an official military decoration or officers may just feel like handing them out like candy. It depends on the general officer.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

And a coin from that school’s commandant is higher than just attending that school.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Eugene Christ)

4. School coins

Many military schools also hand a nice challenge coin to each graduate along with their diploma. The troop worked hard to get through it and the diploma will oftentimes end up forgotten in an “I-love-me” book.

School coins rank as high as they do because it takes far more effort to get one than just giving a proper salute to a general.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Impressing the most impressive men in military history at least gets you a beer.

3. Medal of Honor recipient coins

Not all, but many Medal of Honor recipients also have challenge coins that they can give to troops and vets.

Just shaking hands with one of America’s greatest is impressive enough. Getting a coin from one of them means that you will always choose the drink during a coin check.

There are also two exceptions to this ranking system that should also be taken into account should there ever be a tie or an appeal. A really cool unit coin can still beat a school coin if everyone in the group can agree that it meets these two criteria:

• Best design

If the coin is well-crafted and you can tell that the designer put plenty of heart into making such an outstanding coin, that person gets the boost.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
I’m personally a sucker for bottle opener coins, so if I had to pick… you know where my vote is going.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares)

• Best backstory

Every coin should have a story to tell. If your story is something lame like, “I met this person and they gave me a coin,” you don’t lose points but it certainly doesn’t earn you any.

If the coin has some major significance, then you’re clearly the winner.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
Being a soldier in the 101st and receiving a coin from the commanding general is great. Being a Marine and receiving one from him is far more impressive.
(Photo by Spc. Rashene Mincy)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Guam son killed in World War II returns home after 77 years

The solemnity of Taps and smoke from the rifle volley filled the air as Steward Mate 1st Class Ignacio Camacho Farfan’s casket was lowered into the ground to his final resting place at the Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti Nov. 8, 2018.

Nearly 80 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, and years of temporary internment, Farfan’s recently identified remains were returned to his island of Guam where he was born and raised.


“Petty Officer Farfan, this veteran’s cemetery will welcome you home today to your final resting place, carried on the arms of your Navy brothers and sisters, your coffin swathed in an American flag, escorted by the decendents of your family’s blood line, surrounded today by an entire community,” said Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, commander, Joint Region Marianas. “This is where you belong, where you will be visited, where you will be revered. Petty Officer Farfan, rest easy shipmate, we have the watch.”

Farfan was from the village of Hagåtña and worked for Capt. Henry B. Price Elementary School in Mangilao before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in September 1939 at 19-years old.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

The Guam National Guard funeral honor detail renders a 21-gun salute at the funeral Steward Mate 1st Class Ignacio Camacho Farfan at the Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti Nov. 8, 2018.

He was killed in action at the age of 21 while serving aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was interred with 429 of his shipmates in unknown graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

“To the Ignacio family, to all the people of Guam, our lost sheep has been found,” said Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said in reference to Biblical scripture. “It is now time to celebrate and welcome him home, and to give thanks to him and to so many who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice for the paradise we live in. Eternal rest be granted onto Ignacio.”

Following remarks from military and local leadership, Sen. Therese Terlaje, speaker of Guam’s 34th Legislature, and her colleagues presented a legislative resolution to Farfan’s family, and a final salute was rendered by the Guam Air Force Veterans Association.

As the memorial service ended, six sailors from the JRM honor detail donned in dress whites carried Farfan’s casket to his final resting place as a CHamoru blessing was offered.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Members of the Joint Region Marianas funeral honor detail fold the American flag during a memorial service for Steward Mate 1st Class Ignacio Camacho Farfan at the Guam Veterans Cemetery in Piti Nov. 8, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Alana Chargualaf)

The Guam National Guard funeral detail rendered military honors with a 21-gun salute and a bugler who performed the eight notes of Taps.

Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 1st Class Niels Gimenez, assigned to the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723), held the national ensign to his heart as he approached Farfan’s niece Julia Farfan Tedtaotao, to present her with the American flag as a symbol of gratitude for her uncle’s service and sacrifice.

“This is where he belongs,” Tedtaotao said. “God knows that he served his country well. He died for his country because he loved his country. He’s really a brave man. All the good ones go first. When the time comes, we’ll be there. We love you.”

Farfan’s remains were identified in 2018 as part of a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency project, which sought to identify the service members who died during the Dec. 7 attack. He returned home on the evening of Nov. 5, 2018, escorted by Tedtaotao, and her son and daughter.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

The complete hater’s guide to the US Coast Guard

This is the last in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We featured all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along. This is a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other. When it comes to downrange operations, we put the rivalry behind us. When the ops-tempo isn’t as hectic, that’s when the rivalry resurfaces. That’s what the Hater’s Guide is for.

We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Coast Guard, how they should actually be hating on the Coast Guard, and why to really love the Coast Guard.

The nickname “Silent Service” may have been claimed by submariners, but the Coast Guard is a close second. Serving without glory or even sometimes a mention, it is only fair that they get the last installment of “The Hater’s Guide.”

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

The easiest ways to make fun of the Coast Guard

Puddle Pirates, Shallow Water Sailors, no matter what way you slice it, it’s pretty easy to come up with a nickname or two for the sailors who rarely venture into the deep, open ocean.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Not being part of the Department of Defense has always been a primary reason for the Coast Guard’s weird place in military culture. After falling under the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, and even a brief stint with the Navy, we finally settled into our current place with the Department of Homeland Security, making us the armed services’ version of that kid who has been to five high schools in four years. To make matters worse, when most people think of the Department of Homeland Security, they picture the TSA, not the Coast Guard, and that’s not an association that anyone wants.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
They are at attention.

While the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) gets hate for blending a sailor into the water, the Coast Guard’s uncomfortable and less-than-useful Operational Dress Uniform, or ODU, manages to be even worse than the NWU. Luckily, there are units in the Coast Guard, such as Port Security Units (PSUs) that wear the Navy’s Type III uniform just to look tacticool.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
Maybe no one will notice.

When people start making fun of us and we run out of comebacks, we just kind of throw the “Search and Rescue” card and hope it sticks.

Why to actually hate the Coast Guard

You’re out on the water, having a good time and enjoying a beer or two, and suddenly the blue lights come on and the Coast Guard wants to board your vessel. Before you know it, you’re racking up fines for anything from not having enough lifejackets to drinking behind the wheel of your boat. While they’re just doing part of their job as America’s water cops, no one likes the cops shutting down their party.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Most of the movies made about the Coast Guard have just been flat-out awful, and caused a lot of grief. The Soviet escort vessel in The Hunt for Red October is actually an active Coast Guard vessel that someone allowed to be repainted. The incident reportedly almost got several officers kicked out of the Coast Guard. No one can forget The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, which is the Coast Guard’s version of Top Gun, except without the volleyball scene or any likable characters. For generations past, Onionhead ruined Andy Griffith’s already floundering career.

There is no real “bad” duty station in the Coast Guard. Sure, there’s Alaska, one of the most beautiful states in the union. There’s also all the picturesque port cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, like Charleston, Miami, Tampa, San Juan, Honolulu, and San Diego. If there’s a place where people buy vacation homes, you bet there’s a Coast Guard station there.

We’re smarter, and we know it. To join the Coast Guard, you need a higher ASVAB AFQT score to join than you do with any other branch. While the minimum requirements for all the branches change with the needs of the service, a score of a 30-40 will get a prospective recruit into any of the other services, the Coast Guard expects a minimum of 40-50 from their applicants. Even with this, the wait list for Coast Guard boot camp is regularly six to nine months long, and even after boot camp, it can be two years before an E-2 or E-3 ever sees their “A” school.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Why you should love the Coast Guard

While reindeer have become a staple in the culture of wintertime America, there would have been no reindeer – and possibly no Alaska – if it weren’t for the Coast Guard. After a failed attempt by the Army to create order in Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with keeping the territory in line. Over the course of the next 100 years, they would save natives and settlers alike from death by starvation and illness. From Capt. “Hell Roaring” Michael Healy, who brought reindeer to Alaska from Siberia to save starving natives, to the crew of the Cutter Unalga who set up an orphanage for children left parentless by the Spanish Influenza, the Coast Guard has always had the best interest of the people in mind. With a commitment that persists to the modern day, the Coast Guard is closely tied to Alaska, its people, its industry, and its unpredictable weather.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
The Coast Guard in its natural habitat.

After the American Revolution ended, the U.S. Navy was disbanded. From 1790 through 1801, while also acting as the only source of revenue generation for the nation, the U.S. Revenue-Marine was the only naval force that the fledgling nation had to protect them from terrors of the seas like as the Barbary pirates until proper frigates could be commissioned.

Even the Marine Corps needs heroes. On September 28, 1942, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro saved the lives of nearly 500 Marines at Guadalcanal by using his Higgins boat as a shield to protect the last men being evacuated from the beach. He was killed by enemy fire, but his last words were supposedly “Did they get off?”

One of the Marines that he saved that day was none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller. For his bravery, Munro posthumously became the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
Remember: No Coast Guard, no Chesty.

There are less than 43,000 active duty Coasties and 7,000 reservists. The yearly budget is less than $10.5 billion, which is man-for-man 60 percent less funding than the Navy. But every day, in every weather, the Coast Guard will be there to protect and defend the shores, rivers, and lakes of the U.S. Doing so much more than we should be able to with so much less, $3.9 billion worth of drugs are taken off the street every year. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in maritime assets are saved. There are pilots to fly when there are no other pilots willing or able to. Though people may not remember that we’re part of the U.S. military, it doesn’t ever stop us from having pride in what we do.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is now talking tough with its Space Force response

Russia is warning the US there will be a “tough response” if it violates an international treaty barring nuclear weapons in outer space after President Donald Trump ordered the establishment of a “space force” as a sixth branch of the US military, Air Force Times reports.

Victor Bondarev, head of the Russian Parliament’s Upper House Committee on Defense and Security, on June 19, 2018, said, “If the United States withdraws from the 1967 treaty banning nuclear weapons in outer space, then, of course, not only ours, but also other states, will follow with a tough response aimed at ensuring world security.”

Bondarev was seemingly referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

According to the US State Department, the treaty “contains an undertaking not to place in orbit around the Earth, install on the moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise station in outer space, nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction.”


Bondarev also said the militarization of outer space is a “path to disaster,” adding that he hopes “the American political elite still have the remnants of reason and common sense.”

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived
Victor Bondarev

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also expressed concern regarding Trump’s announcement of the creation of a US space force.

“A military buildup in space, in particular, after the deployment of weapons there, would have destabilizing effects on strategic stability and international security,” Zakharova said. She also defended the fact Russia already has a space force, contending it’s a “purely defensive” entity.

Trump on June 18, 2018, directed the Pentagon to establish the space force, which he said would create more jobs and be great for the country’s “psyche.”

“Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” Trump said at the White House. “When it comes to defending America it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

In order for a sixth military branch to be created — joining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard — Congress has to get involved. Some members of Congress have already expressed opposition to Trump’s space force and Defense Secretary James Mattis has also exhibited skepticism on the subject.

“At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint war-fighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,” Mattis wrote in a letter to Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio in 2017.

Mattis has shifted on this somewhat more recently and in May 2018 said, “But to look now at the problem, means we have to look afresh at it, and where are the specific problems, break them down, and if an organizational construct has to change, then I’m wide open to it.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Netflix wants to help you trick your kids on New Year’s Eve

Netflix just released 14 New Year’s Eve countdown specials to help kids ring in 2019 — and still get to bed early. Starting Dec. 26, 2018, the family-friendly shows will be available on the streaming service to be played any time of day or night.

The short segments (each one is about five minutes) star characters from some of the year’s most popular children’s shows, like Super Monsters and Boss Baby, and end with a countdown to 2019.


And this year, Netflix is offering an even greater variety of countdowns for parents to choose from, including options for older kids and tweens. In 2018, there were only nine New Year’s specials, five fewer than this year’s record-high of 14.

Netflix’s annual tradition is backed by recent research, too. According to a statement made by the streaming service, “77% of U.S. parents actually prefer to stay in than go out for the biggest bash of the year.” The company added that over the last five years, an average of five million people watch the New Year’s Eve countdown shows each year.

To find the popular holiday specials, which are usually available through the first week of January, parents can simply enter “countdowns” in the Netflix search bar.

2019 New Years Eve Countdowns | Netflix

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Here’s the full list of shows getting New Year’s countdowns in 2018:

  • Alexa and Katie
  • Prince of Peoria
  • Pinky Malinky
  • Motown Magic
  • Larva Island
  • Beat Bugs
  • Skylanders Academy
  • Super Monsters
  • True and the Rainbow Kingdom
  • Tales of Arcadia
  • All Hail King Julien
  • Spirit Riding Free
  • Fuller House

Featured image: Netflix.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran tried and failed for the fourth time in a row to put a satellite into orbit

Iran’s latest attempt to put a satellite in space in spite of US opposition ended in failure, an Iranian defense ministry official told state media, Reuters reported Sunday.


“It was launched with success and … we have reached most our aims … but the ‘Zafar’ satellite did not reach orbit as planned,” the official told state television Sunday.

The latest failure marks the fourth time in a row Iran has been unable to successfully put a satellite in space.

In January 2019, the Iranian rocket carrying the satellite into space failed to reach the “necessary speed” during the third stage of flight, a senior telecommunications official told state media, the Associated Press reported at the time.

The US has criticized Iran’s efforts, arguing that its satellite program is a cover for the development of long-range ballistic missile technology.

President Donald Trump has said that Iran’s space program could help it “pursue intercontinental ballistic missile capability.” Iran argues that the Simorgh rocket is nothing more than a satellite launch vehicle.

In February of last year, Iran made another attempt. Iran’s foreign minister revealed in an interview with NBC News that it failed as well. He added that his country was looking into the possibility of sabotage after a New York Times report suggested the US could be behind the failures.

Iran tried again in August, but the rocket apparently exploded on the launchpad.

In denying US culpability, Trump inexplicably tweeted out an image of the scorched Iranian launchpad from a classified briefing, a photo that appeared to have come from one of the US’ most secretive spy satellites.

After the second failed test, Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NPR that this is a “trial and error” situation, explaining that “eventually they’re going to get it right.”

Iran managed to put a satellite into orbit in 2009, 2011, and 2012, but lately their efforts have been unsuccessful.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers want to give $2,500 bonus to GWOT vets

Two U.S. lawmakers on March 4, 2019, introduced legislation to pay veterans bonuses for serving in America’s longest war.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, introduced the bipartisan American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act to “honor the volunteers who bravely serve our nation by providing bonuses to those who have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and redirect the savings from ending nation-building in Afghanistan to America’s needs at home,” according to an announcement.


If passed, the AFGHAN Service Act would also permanently end America’s involvement in Afghanistan and overturn the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, said the lawmakers, who serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America’s needs first,” Paul said.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

A machine gun crew with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, sets up an overwatch position during a foot patrol May 8, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

“Soon, U.S. service members will begin deploying to Afghanistan to fight in a war that began before they were born,” Udall said. “It is Congress that has failed to conduct the proper oversight of this nearly 18-year war. Now, we must step up, and listen to the American people — who rightly question the wisdom of such endless wars.”

The bill would order the government to pay any and all members of the military who have served in the Global War on Terrorism a ,500 bonus within one year of the legislation passing, according to the AFGHAN Service Act.

“Since 2001, more than 3,002,635 men and women of the United States Armed Forces have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, with more than 1,400,000 of them deploying more than once,” the bill states.

“This would be a one-time cost of approximately billion and an immediate savings of over 83 percent when compared to the current yearly costs. The billion a year can be redirected to domestic priorities.”

The lawmakers argue that the numbers alone give reason to step away from the conflict.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division patrol a small village during an air assault mission in eastern Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2008.

(Photo by Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez)

“Over 2,300 military members have sacrificed their lives in the war, with another 20,000 wounded in action. In addition, the Afghanistan war has cost the United States trillion, with the war currently costing over billion a year,” they said.

The end to the war would come as peace negotiations with the Taliban are ongoing, and al-Qaida’s footprint in the country is shrinking, they added.

“The masterminds of the [Sept. 11] attack are no longer capable of carrying out such an attack from Afghanistan,” they said. “Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and [al-Qaida] has been all but eliminated from Afghanistan.”

If enacted, the legislation gives Pentagon and State Department leaders, among others, 45 days to formulate a plan for an orderly withdrawal and turnover of facilities to the Afghan government.

The goal is to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan within one year of the bill’s passage.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment move into position to support the Afghan National Police.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)

Paul and Udall’s message comes as a coalition of Democratic lawmakers has endorsed a veteran activist organization’s efforts to end the “forever wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other global hot spots, and finally bring U.S. troops home.

Common Defense, a grassroots group comprised of veterans and military families that stood up after the 2016 election, has secured sponsorship from lawmakers and presidential hopefuls such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

Both initiatives mirror President Donald Trump’s vision to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and instead focus on counterterrorism and peace negotiations with a smaller footprint in the region.

In his State of the Union address in February 2019, Trump highlighted the need to pull out of Afghanistan.

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha is a good dude

If you know one thing about U.S. Army veteran Clint Romesha, it’s that he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2009 during the Battle of Kamdesh. If you know another, it’s that he wrote a book, “Red Platoon,” about that battle. What most people don’t know — or at least what’s not obvious to the casual observer — is that Romesha doesn’t particularly like the spotlight that being a Medal of Honor recipient has put him in.

“I’ve always been a very quiet personality,” Romesha said during a recent phone interview with Coffee or Die. “I like to have one-on-one conversations with people and not be the center of attention in the middle of a crowd. It’s just not my personality. So that was very much a shock, something I’m still trying to get used to.”


Romesha grew up in a small town in Northern California, and his family has a history of military service. His grandfather served in World War II, his father in Vietnam, and two of his older brothers joined the service when they turned 18. “It wasn’t one of those ‘to be a Romesha, you had to do it,’ but it was just always encouraged,” he said.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)

In 1999, Romesha enlisted in the Army, expecting to “just do three years, check the box, get the GI bill, grow up a little bit, come back home, have some silly stories of being too drunk in Germany and escaping the polizei or something like that.” He wasn’t going to make a career out of it — nor did he think his service would define his future.

The first sign that things wouldn’t be as cut and dry as he expected was the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Romesha was doing maneuvers in Germany when his unit was called into formation in the early afternoon and briefed on the situation. No one had been watching television or knew what was happening.

“We got there and formed up, and our colonel came out,” Romesha recalled. “He gave us a little pep talk like, ‘Hey, they flew planes into the towers there in New York, and everything from this day forward is going to change.'”

Romesha deployed four times during his nearly 12-year career as an armor crewman and cavalry scout. His final deployment was to Afghanistan in 2009, which would be his second sign that his military service would have a bigger impact on his life than he planned. That deployment is where he would earn the highest U.S. military award for valor. However, when asked about the most significant part of his military service, he doesn’t mention the Battle of Kamdesh — he talks about leadership.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Romesha with his unit.

(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)

“It was always pursuing that mentality to just be a good leader,” Romesha said, “to have those young kids look up to you just like when I was a brand-new private coming in, looking up to guys like Sergeant [Joseph] Garyantes, those NCOs. I was like, ‘Man, if I could be half the man those guys were, I’d be a fairly decent leader.’ And that really was the significance of staying in and really building my career throughout 10 years leading into Afghanistan.”

That leadership mentality is also part of what made it difficult for Romesha to accept that he was being awarded the Medal of Honor.

“I’ll be honest — part of it was embarrassment,” he said of his initial feelings about the award. “The fact that you sit there, and you’re about to get nationally recognized for ultimately what’s a really shitty day. And part of that embarrassment came from — I know I did a decent job that day, but we also lost eight guys. They never get to come home anymore. They never get to spend time with their families. They never get to have any more birthdays or Christmases or Thanksgivings. I’m still here. That just weighs on you — why am I getting all this attention when I got to come home and those guys didn’t?

“So, initially, it was, like I said, just a deep down sense of embarrassment because as a leader, as good as you think you are or you feel you are,” he continued, trailing off. “They say I saved a lot of guys that day, which I don’t doubt I did. But I feel as a leader, you almost feel like a failure any time you lose anybody, no matter how hard you try and how good the plan was.”

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Romesha wrote about his experiences in ‘Red Platoon’.

(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha/Facebook.)

When he got the call about the award, Romesha had been out of the Army for almost two years and was working in the oil fields in North Dakota. He managed a smooth transition from military to civilian life by keeping in touch with his Army buddies and throwing himself into a demanding job.

“I think a lot of things are about timing,” he said. “And the [oil] boom [in North Dakota] was going on, and I fell into a job where I worked 42 days straight before my first day off. We were working 12- to 16-hour days, and I never had that low time of, ‘Oh, man. I’ve just left my entire known adult life behind and all those guys behind.’ I just rolled right into work that gave me a sense of purpose, a direction, and kept me super busy enough not to get caught in that reflection.”

Romesha also took advantage of his 76-mile commutes to and from work to call his battle buddies and catch up.

“Even though I didn’t get to see them every day […] I got to talk to at least one of them,” Romesha said. “And still having that connection was just powerful — to still feel part of that group, even though we were hundreds if not thousands of miles apart.”

He was told his life would change after receiving the Medal of Honor, but he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Romesha worked through his unease and natural quietness by continuing to shift the focus away from himself and onto the men who lost their lives during the battle.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)

“For me, Oct. 3, 2009, was just a date that I knew when I talked to my buddies I was there with, and we’d reminisce about it. But the rest of the world never really knew about October 3 until Feb. 12, 2013, the day I received the medal. And then almost overnight, on a national level, everybody knew what happened that day. And now you’re sharing that day with everybody,” Romesha said.

“And because sitting there talking to the guys and talking to the Gold Star families, it was also an opportunity to make sure, ‘Look, if I’m getting this attention, well, I can use it for good. I can make sure those guys — Gallegos, Scusa, Kirk, Mace, Hardt, Martin, Griffin, Thomson — those guys will never be forgotten. I can talk about them again. And even though they’re not here, they’re going to always be with us. And that’s what really got me over the embarrassment.”

Romesha applied that same reasoning when he decided to write “Red Platoon.” He didn’t want it to be the Clint Romesha story. So he talked to his platoonmates and the Gold Star families, making sure that they were on board to share their stories, too. For two years, he travelled the country, reconnecting with and interviewing those he served with.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)

“A lot of these guys hadn’t even talked about that day before with anybody,” Romesha said. “And it was capturing their perspective, and it was, at first, a very scary thing — how is this going to be received? I don’t even know what to expect from going out and doing this — and how are these guys going to react? At the end of the process, though, it was almost therapeutic.”

“Red Platoon” was optioned for a film the year it was released in 2016; however, there hasn’t been any significant momentum on that project. While he’s waiting for that call, Romesha currently spends his time “totally underemployed or overemployed, depending” on the day, with speaking engagements.

“I don’t want to be a career speaker my entire life, but it’s what pays the bills and gives me the flexibility right now to do a lot with veteran outreach and nonprofits,” he said. “Someday I’m going to have to grow up and figure out what my new occupational life’s going to be — but for right now, that’s what’s filling that spot.”

Whatever that next step is for Romesha, he credits the Army for instilling in him the work ethic and value system to get there. From a “check the box” enlistment to Medal of Honor recipient, Romesha has stepped outside of his comfort zone to be a voice not only for the soldiers he lost in Afghanistan, but for the veteran community as a whole.

“We can never forget about our service,” he said. “We can’t let it control us or dictate the rest of our lives, but we can never forget what we’ve been through and what we’ve experienced. It’s all about that follow-on mission and what we can do next and what we can accomplish going forward.”

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 terrifying things US troops faced in Vietnam’s jungles

Anyone who’s ever deployed can tell you there’s more to worry about in the field than just the enemy. While of course the North Vietnamese were the primary concern of American troops in the Vietnam War, just being in the jungle presented an entirely unexpected series of its own challenges – like giant centipedes.


Rumors persisted about things like fragging, rampant drug use, and even the appearance of Bigfoot in Vietnam. But when US troops weren’t earning the Medal of Honor while completely stoned, they were fighting off things that only previously appeared in their nightmares.

Related: This is the story of US troops who think they saw Bigfoot in Vietnam

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Bring on the flamethrower.

Giant insects

As seen in the cover photo of this post, the creepy crawlers of the jungle have the space and the food necessary to grow to an insane level. That guy in the photo is Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the Vietnamese centipede, Chinese redhead, or Jungle Centipede. It’s extremely aggressive, and its venomous bite hurts like hell, sources say. But the fun doesn’t stop with centipedes, giant scorpions were also known to bother American troops in bivouac.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Weaver ants

Imagine you’re in some kind of tank or armored vehicle, busting down trees in the jungle when suddenly, you bust down the wrong tree, one filled with a nest of red ants. These buggers were reportedly immune to the issued bug spray and, given the choice between NVA small arms fire and dealing with red ants in the tank, tank crews would either bail on the tank or man the vehicle completely naked. They were often referred to as “communist ants” because they were red in color and never seemed to attack the Vietnamese.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Very pretty, but also what the KGB used to kill dissidents.

Debilitating plants

Troops in Vietnam were sometimes lifted right up out of troop carriers and other vehicles by low-hanging vines that seemed innocent at first, but as soon as they were touched, constricted around an unsuspecting driver, grabbing them by the arms or neck. They became known as the “wait-a-minute” vines. But that’s just the beginning.

Vietnam’s most beautiful trees and flowers are also its deadliest. Heartbreak Grass, Flame Lillies, Twisted Cord Flowers, and Bark Cloth Trees are all powerful enough to kill a human or cause blindness upon contact or accidental ingestion, which is more common than one might think.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Bring that flamethrower back over here.

Venomous snakes

You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid place with lots of shade? Reptiles and amphibians, both of which Vietnam has in droves. Vietnam has so many snakes, American troops were advised to just assume they were all deadly – because most of them are. The country is filled with Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and more. The snakes that weren’t venomous were all giant constrictors, still very capable of murdering you in your jungle sleep.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Yes, troops were mauled by tigers.

Large wildlife

Since we’re talking about giant jungle snakes, we should discuss the other giant creatures that inhabit the wilds of Vietnam. Southeast Asia is also home to aggressive tiger species, leopards, and bears. Those are just the traditional predators. There are also elephants, water buffaloes, and gaurs, giant cows, who will go on a murder rampage that an M-16 isn’t likely to stop.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.

“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.


Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.

“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”

That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.

“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.

“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”

After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.

“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”

With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.

“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.

“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”

This was the most destructive nuclear weapon ever conceived

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)

Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.

“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”

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

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