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Watch this former Navy SEAL break the world wing suit record for charity

Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.


Please help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.

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How the United States can avoid the next ‘dumb war’

While on the campaign trail, President Trump labeled the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “dumb war,” and the “worst decision” in American History. These statements should have received praise from Americans on both sides of the political aisle. Now, however, I’m not so certain that Trump is following through on his promises to avoid the next “dumb” war.

In May 2018, the president announced his intention to pull out of the Iran Deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The deal was, no doubt, flawed, but it did provide an inspections regime to limit and delay any Iranian attempts to go nuclear. Perhaps, being a creation of the Obama administration, the JCPOA was doomed from the start.


Iran is a mid-level menace. It aggressively pursues its interests through various proxy forces in the Mid-East — a sign of its weakness as much as power. The Islamic Republic has a burgeoning ballistic missile program (not covered by the JCPOA) and sometimes threatens Israel. This is all cause for concern and requires the U.S. military to balance and, perhaps, contain Iran. However, the Islamic Republic is decidedly not an existential threat to the United States. A more realist foreign policy must take this into account and avoid disastrous war.

Iran is nowhere near able to launch a (non-existent) nuclear weapon at Tel Aviv, let alone New York. Furthermore, as I have previously noted, Iran spends about as much on defense annually as the U.S. does on a single aircraft carrier. Iran’s GDP is about $427 billion, and it spent some $11.5 billion on defense in 2016. U.S. allies, like Saudi Arabia and Israel, spend $66.7 billion, and $19.6 billion, respectively. Standing behind them is the U.S., which plans to spend $716 billion on defense in 2019, or $300 billion more than Iran’s entire GDP.

Moreover, the U.S. military faces two significant problems: Iran presents a formidable obstacle to invasion, and American forces are already desperately overstretched.

Remember back when Americans were assured that the invasion of Iraq would be a “cakewalk?” We all know how that turned out. Iran is larger, more populous, and more mountainous than Iraq. It also has a fiercely nationalistic population, which, not-so-long-ago used human wave attacks to clear Iraqi minefields. Any U.S. invasion of Iran will require more troops and more years of patience than Washington or the populace have on hand.

Watch this former Navy SEAL break the world wing suit record for charity
The April 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square in in Baghdad shortly after the Iraq Waru00a0invasion.
(Department of Defense photo)

America’s formidable military is already spread thin, deployed in nearly 70 percent of the world’s countries. Our ground and air forces actively engage in combat in Niger, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The U.S. Army is also busy sending brigades to deter Russia in Eastern Europe and to shore up defenses in South Korea. Meanwhile, the Navy is patrolling the South China Sea, and ensuring access to the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Bottom line: America’s warriors are quite busy.

The last thing Washington should do is take its eye off the ball in some seven ongoing shooting wars to start a new conflict with Iran. ISIS is not yet defeated, Iraq is far from politically stable, and — despite optimistic pleas to the contrary — the war in Afghanistan is failing. The best bet is for the U.S. military to cut its losses, avoid more counterproductive interventions, and cautiously disengage from the region.

The last thing American servicemen and women need is to fight a new, exhaustive war in Iran, with existing enemies to their rear. That would defy just about every sound military maxim on the books. Worse still, if we think Iran’s proxy forces are a problem now, imagine what will happen in the case of war, when Tehran would undoubtedly unleash them against U.S. bases and supply lines across the region.

Personally, this combat veteran trusts President Trump’s instincts more than those of his advisers. Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Adviser Bolton are well-known Iranophobes with an ax to grind. Ditching the Iran Deal was definitely a win for these two. Still, scuttling the JCPOA does not have to mean war.

Trump eventually saw the invasion and occupation of Iraq for what it was: an unmitigated failure. Let’s hope he applies that instinct and avoids what promises to be an even more costly war with the Islamic Republic.

Mr. President, hundreds of thousands of us, overstretched veterans of 17 years of perpetual war in the Mid-East, are counting on a new deal.

One that doesn’t include a new war.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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This Marine sniper threw the enemy’s grenade back to save his brothers

His team spotted by insurgents and forced to take cover in an abandoned compound, Marine sniper Joshua Moore went against his instinct when two grenades landed next to him, throwing one of them back at the enemy and holding off insurgent fire until help could arrive.


Moore, at the time a Lance Corporal, was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.

Moore was part of a scout sniper platoon during a mission in Marjah, Afghanistan, in March 2011, when insurgents targeted his team.

The Marines fell back to a nearby compound, but enemy machine gun rounds soon sliced through the air, wounding two of them. After taking cover, Moore felt two objects hit him in the back. When he turned he saw two grenades lying in the sand.

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He reached down, grabbed the first grenade, and threw it back out the window where it detonated just a moment later. He went for the second but noticed it was covered in rust and was likely a dud.

The young sniper would later say that he was, “scared out of my mind, but I knew we had to do everything possible to get everyone home.” Despite the brush with death and under the continuing threat of incoming fire, Moore crawled from the building and held off the enemy until a quick reaction force arrived.

Watch this former Navy SEAL break the world wing suit record for charity

He went to the north where the enemy attack was heaviest and began aiding the wounded and returning fire. He used an M4 with an attached M203 grenade launcher to suppress fighters where he could find them.

The arrival of a quick reaction force and another sniper platoon allowed the Marines to finally gain fire superiority, evacuate the wounded and fall back to their patrol base.

Moore was meritoriously promoted to corporal less than two months after the battle and was awarded the Navy Cross in Nov. 2013.

“It’s an honor to receive an award like the Navy Cross. But to be honest, I was just doing my job,” Moore said after the ceremony.

Since then, Moore has been promoted to sergeant and assigned as an instructor at the scout sniper basic course. He told Stars and Stripes that he often shares the story of the engagement with his students, but that he avoids talking about his medal.

“That honestly not the important part,” he said.

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China’s newest infantry fighting vehicle takes a page out of Russia’s armor book

China didn’t just unveil a new tank during a demonstration at a NORINCO-owned range in Inner Mongolia, its military also unveiled a new infantry fighting vehicle. The demonstration of the VN-17 took place alongside that of the VT-5 light tank.


According to a report by Janes.com, the VN-17 is based on the chassis, powerplant, transmission, armored protection, and tracks of the VT-5. This is not a new set-up, as Russia’s Armata family of armored fighting vehicles includes both a tank and infantry fighting vehicle. The VN-17 has a 30mm cannon in an unmanned turret, along with two anti-tank missiles.

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NORINCO VT-5 light tank. (Youtube screenshot)

According to deagel.com, the VN-17 has a crew of three and weighs about 30 tons. No information is available about the number of dismounted troops it can carry, but other Chinese infantry fighting vehicles in service, like the ZBD04 and ZBD05 carry seven or 10 personnel. Janes noted that the VN-17’s turret is similar to that of the VN-12 infantry fighting vehicle, which according to some sources is an export version of the ZBD04.

While the ZBD04 is lighter, it is reported to have a 100mm main gun, a main weapon similar to that on the Russian BMP-3. Russia’s T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle has the Vietnam-era S-60 57mm gun as its primary armament.

IFV turrets can be customized, and many Russian IFVs and armored personnel carriers can be equipped with new turrets featuring a wide variety of weapons.

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A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. A new IFV in development is replaces the combined 100mm gun and 30mm cannon turret with an unmanned turret with a 40mm gun. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

The United States operates the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles using the same concept as the Armata family of vehicles and China’s VT-5/VN-17 combination.

The Stryker family includes an infantry fighting vehicle, a mobile gun system, a mortar carrier, a reconnaissance vehicle, an ambulance, and a command vehicle.

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Parents of Marine killed in latest mishap say the Osprey is still dangerous

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Marines and sailors from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, make their way to a Marine Medium Tiltorotor Squadron 365 MV-22 Osprey | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga


The father of a Marine killed in an MV-22B Osprey crash last year plans to sue the manufacturer of the aircraft, saying design flaws contributed to the tragedy.

Mike Determan lives five miles from Arizona’s Marana Northwest Regional Airport, best-known to some as the site of the deadliest crash in the short history of Marines’ tiltrotor aircraft.

On April 8, 2000, an Osprey attempting to land at the airport stalled and then plummeted in a phenomenon known as vortex ring state, killing all 19 Marines on board. Determan knew the history, but never guessed that tragedy involving the aircraft would strike again much closer to home.

But on May 17, 2015, another Osprey went down — this time at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii. The aircraft had hovered twice for brief periods in severe brownout conditions during a landing attempt, resulting in significant dust intake and “turbine blade glassification,” or the melting of reactive sand at high temperatures, according to an official command investigation obtained by Military.com.

Two Marines aboard the aircraft were killed: Lance Cpl. Matthew Determan, 21, an infantry squad leader with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines out of Camp Pendleton, California; and Cpl. Joshua Barron, 24, an Osprey crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. The other 20 Marines aboard the aircraft sustained injuries of varying severity.

The investigation into the tragic crash recommended new guidelines limiting cumulative Osprey hover time in reduced-visibility conditions to 60 seconds, called for more advanced technology to mitigate brownout conditions, and ascribed partial blame to the pilots of the aircraft and the commanders of the squadron and Marine expeditionary unit it was attached to, saying better decision making and a more effective survey of the landing site might have prevented disaster.

The Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization program, or NATOPS, would ultimately recommend pilots spend no more than 35 seconds at a time hovering in reduced-visibility conditions.

Suit to name suppliers

But Mike Andrews, an attorney with the Montgomery, Alabama-based law firm Beasley Allen who represents the Determan family, said the problem lies solely with the Osprey. Andrews confirmed he is preparing a lawsuit against Osprey manufacturer Boeing Co. on behalf of the Determans, asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The suit, which he said will also name other manufacturers of V-22 parts, will be filed in Hawaii in coming weeks, though Andrews said he had not determined whether to file it in federal or state court.

Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson declined to comment on the pending litigation.

“I can tell you that this is an unsafe aircraft,” Andrews said. “Our feeling in this case is, our military boys and girls need to have the best equipment possible, and the V-22 is not it.”

He was previously involved in a 2002 lawsuit against Osprey manufacturers Boeing, Textron’s Bell Helicopter unit, and BAE’s U.S. subsidiary following a December 2000 Osprey crash near Jacksonville, North Carolina, which killed all four Marines aboard.

“This is a situation in which we feel the Marine Corps, the military in general, is doing the best they can with a defective product,” Andrews said. “They’ve been sold a bill of goods and they’re trying to work with it. It’s inexcusable.”

A September report from Naval Air Systems Command generated in response to the Bellows crash underscores Mike Determan’s contention that Osprey power loss during reduced visibility landings is far from an isolated incident. The report, obtained by Military.com, highlights three other such events dating back to 2013, one involving the CV-22 Air Force variant of the aircraft.

Two years prior to Bellows on Aug. 26, 2013, a Marine Corps Osprey crashed after experiencing engine compressor stall in a brownout near Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, according to the report. All four crew members walked away, but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair, according to officials.

On Feb. 24, 2015, another disaster was narrowly avoided when a deployed Marine V-22 experienced engine compressor stall in reduced visibility conditions, then recovered and successfully returned to base. Since no mishap occurred, this incident was never reported publicly.

On Dec. 1, 2013, an Air Force CV-22 operating out of North Africa experienced a compressor stall shortly after landing in brownout conditions, resulting in a Class C mishap, signifying damages between $50,000 and $500,000.

Undocumented Incidents

The report also found six additional undocumented aircraft power loss incidents in areas that contained “reactive sand,” or sand containing high levels of elements with low melting points. It also found that a second Osprey at Bellows on May 17 had experienced a “near-miss,” though it ultimately avoided stall in the sand cloud.

Determan said he believes the Marine Corps deserves some of the blame for the Bellows crash because officials were slow to apply lessons learned from previous MV-22 stalls in brownout conditions.

“They knew that there was a problem with restricted visibility; they knew it from Creech Air Force Base a year prior,” Determan said. “To send my son and the other Marines in that morning knowing that the sand is reactive and it’s very dangerous … by not doing the pre-work, they’re just putting these guys at huge risk.”

A former V-22 test pilot who spoke with Military.com under condition of anonymity because he is well known in the aviation community said the Osprey is uniquely susceptible to ingestion of sand and dust, which can melt at high temperatures inside the engine, changing airflow and making the engine less efficient. Because the aircraft can fly like an airplane and then tilt its rotors skyward for take-off and landing like a helicopter, its engine inlets are vertical as it descends, the pilot said, making it even more vulnerable to dust intake.

“The Osprey ingests one hell of a lot of dirt and sand,” the test pilot said, adding that the aircraft had higher disc loading than other helicopters, meaning its smaller rotors had to pump a larger volume of air at a higher velocity. “You hover over that sand and you make one hell of a mess.”

‘Inherent risk’

Mike Determan has a solution for the Marine Corps: Ground the Osprey until a third-generation tiltrotor, the Bell V-280 Valor, is ready to deploy. That aircraft will not have prototypes ready for a first test flight until 2017, and it’s not yet clear what the Corps’ fielding or purchasing plans with regard to the V-280 might be.

A Marine Corps spokeswoman, Capt. Sarah Burns, said the service has no plans to ground the MV-22, which is quickly becoming the centerpiece of its strategy for crisis response and long-range lift.

“By its very nature, there will always be inherent risk in combat aviation. This is due to the expeditionary nature of U.S. Marine Corps operations and the varied types of missions we fly,” Burns said.

“When mishaps occur we diligently investigate them, and we are transparent with regards to the findings of each investigation,” she added. “In this investigation there were no indications that there is an issue beyond that of the aircraft involved and consequently did not lead to a determination that a grounding of the fleet would be warranted.”

According to figures provided by Burns, the Osprey’s Class A mishap rate, which is calculated based on mishaps involving loss of life or $2 million or more in damage, is roughly in line with or better than comparable aircraft platforms.

Since fiscal 2010, the Osprey has a mishap rate of 3.06 per 100,000 flight hours, Burns said, compared with 3.63 for the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter; 3.09 for the CH-46 “Phrog” retired by the Marines last year; 4.18 for the UH-1 N Twin Huey and Y Venom choppers; and 1.54 for the AH-1 Z Viper and W Super Cobra. These figures, however, don’t take into account the Jan. 15 tragedy in which two CH-53E Super Stallions collided off the coast of Oahu, killing all 12 Marines aboard.

Marine Corps leaders have staunchly supported the V-22 as the revolutionary future of Marine Corps aviation, along with the brand-new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. Recent experiments have highlighted the Osprey’s ability to cover long distances at high speeds for raids and inserts; a squadron of Ospreys is now deployed to the Middle East with the Marines’ crisis response force in the region for personnel recovery missions and support of the coalition fight against Islamic State militants.

‘Where are the Ospreys?’

“The question used to be, ‘Where’s the carrier? Where’s the [amphibious ready group/Marine expeditionary unit]?'” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told an audience at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11. “Now the question is, ‘Where are the Ospreys?'”

Still, some worry that the Osprey may prove increasingly fragile as it replaces other workhorse Marine Corps rotary-wing platforms and weathers more years of deployment wear and tear.

The fact that Naval aviation was still learning about the Osprey’s vulnerabilities and attempting to mitigate them more than eight years after the aircraft was first deemed deployable in 2007 was a function of the platform’s complexity, the pilot said.

“[Ospreys are] encountering things, they’re going places they have not been before” as the Marine Corps becomes more dependent on the platform, the pilot said. Despite Osprey deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2007, the pilot characterized the aircraft’s use to date as “ash and trash” — transportation and lift, rather than combat.

“You can’t go into a hot [landing zone] with the aircraft. If you do, you’ll break it,” he said. “The aircraft has never been tested to do the extreme maneuvering.’

The level of complexity in the tiltrotor aircraft increases the number of “unk-unks” — unknown unknowns — which are very difficult to test for, the test pilot said. And that doesn’t sit well with Determan, who fears more Marines may be lost to tragic mishaps as new vulnerabilities come to light.

“Nobody really knows how the airframe is going to react when it gets older and older,” Determan said. “Learn from the mistakes and make a better aircraft, and don’t hold back on the cost.”

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Coronavirus will delay promotions for nearly 160,000 sailors

Career advancements will be postponed for more than 159,500 sailors and officers as the Navy cancels selection boards, advancement exams and Reserve drill weekends to try to stem the spread of the dangerous novel coronavirus.


The Navy is suspending all active-duty and Reserve advancement selection boards scheduled to meet on or after March 24, manpower officials announced Thursday. The delays will affect all promotion, advancement, milestone and other selection boards.

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The decision was the latest made to “protect the health and safety of our force,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr. said in a service-wide message. The boards are postponed until further notice, he added.

Navy officials announced earlier in the week that Reserve drill weekends and advancement exams would also be temporarily halted. The moves will lead to promotion delays for more than a third of the Navy’s active-duty and Reserve forces.

“COVID-19 mitigation efforts affect the advancement processes of more than 159,500 sailors,” Cmdr. James Stockman, a spokesman for Naval Education and Training Command, told Military.com.

Navy leaders say postponing advancement exams, selection boards and other events is necessary to stop large-group gatherings, cut down on unnecessary travel, and allow personnel to keep safe distances from one another — all of which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say are necessary to reduce the spread of the virus.

Holding selection boards would require members to travel to Millington, Tennessee, where the groups convene, a Navy news release announcing the cancellations states. Once there, sailors could be required to work in large groups.

That was also a factor for advancement exams, Stockman said. While the number of sailors taking the advancement exam in the same room varies by command, in some fleet-concentrated areas, such as San Diego or Norfolk, Virginia, there could be up to 1,000 people testing in the same location, he said.

Delaying advancement exams is an unprecedented move for the Navy. Stockman said the service has never before implemented fleet-wide rescheduling of the tests.

Nowell said he is committed to ensuring no sailors are harmed by the selection board delays. That includes new policies to ensure that retroactive dates of rank can be set and allowances for back pay made, if necessary, the news release states.

Once the coronavirus risk is lowered and boards can proceed, Nowell said the rescheduled dates will generally follow the originally planned order.

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All the same rules about who’s eligible for consideration before the original boards will still apply, Nowell added. No additional candidates will be considered.

Some smaller selection boards might meet virtually, the chief of naval personnel added.

While there’s no online version of advancement exams, Stockman said the Navy is aggressively pursuing them.

“A pilot for a high stakes [Navy-Wide Advancement Examination] online exam is being explored for 2021,” he said. “However, an E-4 through E-6 advancement cycle includes 90,000 Sailors, so the venues for online testing would still result in group gatherings.”

The Navy also relaxed grooming standards as a result of the virus to help cut down the number of haircuts needed; delayed fitness tests; and canceled boot camp and Officer Candidate School graduations.

The service had at least eight coronavirus cases as of Wednesday.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un said to be crying about North Korea’s economy

A video of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crying about his country’s terrible economy while surveying its coast is said to be making the rounds among the country’s leadership — and it could be a sign he’s ready to cave in to President Donald Trump in negotiations.

Japan’s Asahi Shinbun quoted a defector with contacts inside the country as describing a video in which a narrator explains Kim is crying that he can’t improve North Korea’s economy.


The defector reportedly said the video surfaced in April 2018, and high-ranking members of North Korea’s ruling party viewed it, possibly in an official message from Kim to the party.

In April 2018, North Korea had already offered the US a meeting with Kim and was in the midst of a diplomatic charm offensive in which it offered up the prospect of denuclearization to China, South Korea, and the US.

The defector speculated that the video was meant to prepare the country for possible changes after the summit with Trump.

Really strange video

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(KCNA photo)

In North Korea, Kim is essentially worshipped as a god-like figure with an impossible mythology surrounding his bloodline. Kim is meant to be all powerful, so footage showing him crying at his own inability to improve his country’s economics would be a shock.

Kim’s core policy as a leader had been to pursue both economic and nuclear development, but around the turn of 2018, he declared his country’s nuclear-weapon program completed.

Experts assess with near unanimity that Kim doesn’t really want to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, as he went to the trouble of writing the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution.

Instead, a new report from the CIA says Kim simply wants US businesses, perhaps a burger joint, to open within the country as a gesture of goodwill and an economic carrot, CNBC reports.

Big if true

Trump has made North Korea a top priority during his presidency and has spearheaded the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang. In particular, Trump has been credited with getting China, North Korea’s biggest ally and trading partner, to participate in the sanctions.

As a result, doing business with North Korea became nearly impossible, and its trade deficit with China ballooned.

For a leader who is meant to be seen as the all-powerful resistance to the West, crying about Trump-imposed sanctions would be a big story signaling an about-face.

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

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A Fort Bragg soldier won $2 million and definitely won’t blow it on these 9 things

On Jan. 13, Fort Bragg Army Reserve soldier Johnny Charlestin was celebrating his birthday when he learned that a $3 Powerball ticket he bought was a $2 million winner.


“I didn’t believe it, it was a feeling I’ll never forget,” Charlestin said in a press release from the N.C. Education Lottery. “It’s the best birthday present I’ve ever had.”

Charlestin then decided to leave the public spotlight, which is one of the things experts recommend lottery winners do. Hopefully this means he’s smart enough to invest the money wisely.

But since he’s a Fort Bragg soldier, there’s also a real chance he’ll spend his money this way:

1. Taxes will be taken out

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Photo: flickr/Ken Teegardin, Senior Living Center

30.75 percent, or $615,000 goes right back into government coffers. That leaves the enterprising soldier with $1,385,000.

2. Dip and jerky

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/OAC

The winner’s first stop will be base shoppette where he’ll pick up the proper amount of dip for millionaire soldiers, as well as a little jerky to much on.

3. New car

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GIF: Giphy

This is an obvious stop, but for some reason, the new millionaire will still take out loans of 20 percent or more. Over the next five years, that b-tchin’ Corvette will cost him as much as a Lambo would’ve if he’d paid cash.

4. Electronics store

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Photo: Wikipedia/Chris McClave

Every new video game console, 10-20 games for each, a huge TV, and surround sound. A few movies will round out the purchase, about 500 of them. Most of the movies are about World War II paratroopers.

5. Adult “book” store

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Photo: flickr/leyla.a

This is for other movies. We will not explain further.

6. House

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Wikipedia/Andrew (Tawker)

Finally, the soldier will find a new place to live. Unfortunately, he’ll only realize after the fact that his surround system doesn’t properly fill the new entertainment room with sound. Since he threw away the receipts, he’ll buy a new one and give the old system to a groupie (he’ll have those now).

7. Energy drinks

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This will take up more money than any non-soldiers would expect.

8. All the booze

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There are roughly infinity liquor stores at the Fort Bragg perimeter, as well as a Class VI store on base. These will become empty.

9. Noise citations

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Photo: Wikipedia/Highway Patrol Images

Once the party starts, Fayettnam police officers will be visiting every 15 minutes or so and writing a ticket. By the end of the night, the lottery money will be almost played out.

By the second week, the former millionaire will be attending finance classes on base and applying for an Army Emergency Relief loan to make his payments for the Corvette.

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Skiing makes a comeback with revamped Army Arctic training

Learning to snowshoe, ski and stay warm in the cold might sound like a fun hobby.


But for Soldiers at the Cold Weather Leaders Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center here, learning these things can mean the difference between a failed or successful mission and it could also be the difference between life and death.

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Students pull the ahkio during a night movement during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Tanner, an instructor at the NWTC, was deployed twice to Afghanistan, once from 2007 to 2009 and another time from 2014 to 2015.

During one of those tours, he said, he recalls being over 9,000 feet in the mountainous terrain of the eastern part of the country during a heavy snowfall, with snow drifts up to 12 feet tall.

“The snow stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “We were trying to remove snow from equipment with our e-tools.”

During a Black Hawk resupply mission, the helicopter had no place to land so it hovered above the snow while the crew chief jumped out, post-holing himself in the snow shoulder high. Post-holing is a term for sinking into the snow waist or chest high when not wearing skis or snowshoes. The crew chief had to grab the struts of the helicopter to be pulled out, Tanner recalled.

No one had skis or snowshoes and “we couldn’t do our jobs.”

Tanner and the other instructors at NWTC say they are professionally and personally invested in ensuring those kinds of situations never happen to Soldiers again.

Sgt. Sarah Valentine, a medic and an instructor, said most Soldiers that come to the school don’t know how to snowshoe, ski or survive in the cold. Instruction begins with baby steps.

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Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

First, they learn how to wear their cold weather clothing, she said. Then they learn to walk with snowshoes. A little later they learn to walk on snowshoes carrying a rucksack, and finally, they learn to tow an ahkio, or sled, carrying 200 pounds of tents, heaters, fuel, food and other items.

Next, they advance to skis, learning how to walk uphill, how to turn and stop going downhill, and then how to carry a rifle and rucksack going cross-country.

Staff Sgt. Jason Huffman, a student, said that besides enduring the cold, pulling the ahkio was the most challenging aspect of the school.

For that portion of the training, four of about 10 Soldiers are harnessed to the sled like sled dogs. Huffman said going on level terrain is easy, but most of the terrain near the school isn’t level and it is challenging to pull the ahkio uphill, especially from a dead stop.

Going downhill, the challenge is holding the ahkio back so it doesn’t get away, he said. When the students get tired, they are replaced by other students in the squad, who in turn rotate back out once they’re tired.

Spc. Tamyva Graffree, a student from Newton, Mississippi, said pulling the ahkio uphill was the most challenging part of the course. Of going downhill, she said it would have been nice to pile on and ride it down.

Staff Sgt. Manuel Beza, an instructor and medic here, said the students are not allowed to ride the ahkio downhill. “It will definitely go fast. But if they did that, it would be a bad day. The ahkio has no brakes and no way to steer.”

Beza said he sympathizes with the students’ pain. While the ahkio can be handled almost effortlessly over level terrain, going even 500 feet uphill can tire Soldiers out.

But when roads are nonexistent and vehicles break down from the cold, ahkios give the Soldiers the option to move out with their gear, he said.

Once students demonstrate competence on snowshoes, they are given a set of “White Rocket” skis, which can be used in both downhill as well as cross-country skiing.

The difference between a dedicated downhill or Nordic ski and the White Rocket ski is that the heel in the White Rocket isn’t locked into the ski binding so the foot can move similar to walking, said Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor.

A Soldier can learn to use snowshoes in two hours, but about 40 hours is allotted for ski training at the school.

Because training time is limited, Soldiers learn just the basics, Bruner said. For instance, they learn to stop and turn going downhill using a wedge movement instead of a more advanced technique like turning or stopping with skis parallel.

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Students cross-country ski during the bivouac portion of the Cold Weather Leaders Course, Feb. 9-14, 2017. The CWLC is taught at the Northern Warfare Training Center at Black Rapids, Alaska. The entire course ran Feb. 2-16, 2017. (Photo Credit: David Vergun)

A wedge consists of bringing the toes of the skis together and the heels of the skis out and carving into the snow on the inner edges of the skis by rotating the ankles inboard.

Skipping the fancy art of parallel skiing cuts down on injuries as well, he said, because there’s less chance of them crossing.

Going uphill involves side-stepping or walking up in herringbone fashion, which is the opposite of the wedge, with toes of the skis outboard, heels in.

To assist with uphill climbing, Soldiers apply special wax to the bottom of their skis.

Sgt. Dustin Danielson, a student, explained that the wax goes on just the middle third of the ski where the person’s weight is. He made hatch marks with the wax on his skis and then took a piece of cork to spread it evenly all around.

After skiing just a few kilometers, the wax tends to come off and more has to be applied, he said.

Sgt. Jessica Bartolotta, a student, said they were not given wax on the first day. On the second day of training, students were allowed to wax their skis. The point, she said, was to illustrate just how important the wax is in providing friction to grip the snow going uphill. She said the wax had no noticeable effect on slowing the skis going downhill.

Another thing the instructor did early on during the first day of ski training was to observe how well the Soldiers were skiing and to break them up into three groups of skill levels so the slow learners wouldn’t hold back the more natural skiers, she said.

Bartolotta said skiing was her favorite part of the course and she plans to take it up as a hobby.

Sgt. Chris Miller, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, said this was his first time skiing and he fell a lot. “I’m a big guy and it’s hard to keep my balance.”

Miller measured his progress by the number of falls. The first day he said he fell 12 times and just once after three days. He said he’s still trying to perfect the art of stopping using the wedge.

Sgt. Shamere Randolph, another student, said he fell a bunch of times as well, but prefers skis to snowshoes because it’s much faster to get from point A to point B.

Sgt. Bruno Freitas, a student, said that his skis were difficult to use on the last day of training when the temperature rose and the snow turned to slush. In below freezing conditions, the skis work much better than they do in slush, he said.

About four years ago, the Army decided to do away with ski training at the NWTC, said Steven Decker, a training specialist. He said he’s not sure why the decision was made, but said he’s glad that skiing was reintroduced this year.

Canadians and Japanese go everywhere on skis, he said. They find it very relevant to mobility. In fact, “when the Japanese attend the course here, they can ski circles around us.”

The downside to skiing, he said, is that it takes a while to learn. For an entire platoon or company to move out on skis, it might take an entire winter and a lot of training time dedicated to making that happen.

But he and the other instructors all agreed that learning to ski is worth the time and effort.

Sgt. Derrick Bruner, an instructor, said snowshoes are “loud, slow and clunky” to use compared to skis and that skis provide better floatation over the snow. “Skis are a million times better once you get the technique down.”

Staff Sgt. Jack Stacy, an instructor, said when he first arrived at NWTC, he went out into the terrain in a vehicle that broke down. He didn’t have skis or snowshoes with him and ended up having to walk back to headquarters, “post-holing” it back all the way.

“It was the most miserable time I’ve ever had here,” Stacy said. “I’ve always made sure my skis or snowshoes are handy ever since.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tyndall gets QF-16 drone as operations resume

The recent delivery of a QF-16 from Boeing to the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron marks an important milestone on the road to recovery for Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

“The arrival of this QF-16 brings us one step closer to resuming operations,” said Col. Steven Boatright, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group commander. “It is vital to the warfighter that we resume operations when it is deemed safe to do so.”

The QF-16 enables live fire weapons testing in the Joint Gulf Range Complex, which is made up of 180,000 square miles that stretches from Key West to northwest Florida, and allows for joint test and training exercises.


The 82nd ATRS currently has 18 QF-16s assigned to Tyndall AFB. Six QF-16s are unmanned, but all of them are modified to be flown remotely. The manned configuration of the aircraft can be used with a pilot in the cockpit to train the remote pilots flying from the ground station.

“It is important that we continue to accept new target aircraft into the fleet to keep test programs on schedule and to deliver capability to the warfighter,” said Lt. Col Ryan Serrill, 82nd ATRS commander. “Our people are safe and are eager to get the flying mission back off the ground. Our mission is one that will continue at Tyndall and we look forward to getting back to flying operations.”

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A QF-16 is prepared for takeoff during an unmanned live fire exercise at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., June 25, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Montoya)

In addition to supporting the test community, the WEG hosts visiting fighter aircraft units from around the globe to participate in Combat Archer. During their two week stay at Tyndall AFB, units are evaluated on all phases of air-to-air combat operations including an end-to-end kill-chain evaluation of man, weapon, and machine in a realistic combat environment.

“No other Air Force in the world comes anywhere close to the same scale of weapons testing as the Air Force,” said Serrill. “We recognize the importance of this data to continually improve our warfighters ability which is why it’s so important that the WEG mission continue.”

Government civilians and contractors provide the backbone of QF-16 operations in both its manned and unmanned configurations. They are critical to our unique unmanned mission, as they are the only ones that operate the target in its final unmanned configuration.

“Our group is comprised of military, civilians and contractors,” said Boatright. “These are men and women who have called Panama City home for decades, and have poured so much of their life into Tyndall AFB and Panama City. We couldn’t do what we do in the WEG without them. I am proud to be able to serve alongside not just our uniformed military, but our local civilians and contractors. It is devastating to see what the hurricane did to this community, but we will rebuild. The men and women who survived Hurricane Michael are just as eager as I am to be fully mission ready again.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New leadership course brings officers closer to the fire

The Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) implemented a new change to its capstone exercise, Red Leg War, giving students a more realistic experience before entering their respective units.

This change now allows students to approach the impact zone while calling in fires during the Fires Support Coordination Exercise.


“We want them to have the experience of fires impacting much closer than they have in the past,” said Lt. Col. Terry Hilt, 1st Battalion, 30th Field Artillery commander. “They will now be able to potentially walk through the craters as they move from objective to objective.

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Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course students conduct a walk-through of the impact zone during a fire support coordination exercise (FSCX) Jan. 17, 2019, at Fort Sill.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

“We have a safety on Dailey Hill counting rounds as the lane [of soldiers] advances,” he said. “We also have an EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] team out there.”

If a round doesn’t explode and it’s in the path of the soldiers, then the lane is stopped and the EOD team takes care of the unexploded ordnance, Hilt said.

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2nd Lt. Anderson Simmons approaches the impact area Jan. 17. He and his classmates graduated Jan. 23, 2019, to become the Army’s newest field artillery officers.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

In the past, after planning, briefing and rehearsing, students had been brought to an observation point where they would call in fires on designated targets.

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Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course students do a quick huddle as they approach the impact zone Jan. 17, 2019.

(Photo by Daniel Malta, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

Now, students get to fully realize the effects of that planning by getting as close as 750 meters from impacting rounds, while simultaneously calling in fire from mobile positions.

This also allows students to more realistically adapt their fire commands while moving to contact, and exposes them to the devastating effects of those artillery rounds, Hilt said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s capture of Ukrainian sailors threatens meeting with US

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina this week over Russia’s detention of Ukrainian sailors.

His comments in an interview with The Washington Post published late on November 27 came as the Ukrainian president warned of a “threat of full-scale war” with Russia while European leaders said they were considering a new round of sanctions against Russia because of its capture of three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews following a confrontation at sea off Crimea on November 25.


Will President Trump hold Russia accountable over Ukraine?

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Trump told the Post he was awaiting a “full report” from his national security team about the incident before going through with a Putin meeting that had been expected to address a range of issues from arms control to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

“That will be very determinative,” Trump told the Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting … I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all,” he said.

Trump was due to meet Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30 and December 1.

His comments came after a Russian court on November 27 ordered 12 of the 24 Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian forces to be held in custody for two months.

Russia has claimed that Ukraine provoked the naval clash in what it has called its “territorial waters” near Crimea, which Moscow forcibly annexed from Ukraine in March 2014 in a move not recognized by most nations.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned late on November 27 that the conflict threatens to turn into a “full-scale war,” citing Russia’s “dramatic” build-up of forces in the area.

“I don’t want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia,” the president said in an interview with Ukrainian national television.

“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” he said, while the number of Russian tanks has tripled.

Poroshenko a day earlier won the Ukrainian parliament’s approval to put parts of Ukraine they deemed vulnerable to attack from Russia under martial law for 30 days.

The clash between Russian and Ukrainian forces in waters near Crimea was the first in that arena after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people.

Ukraine President Wants Trump’s Help In Getting Russia Out Of His Country | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

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Months Of Heightened Tension

It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea. That strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.

European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian sailors.

Karin Kneissl, the foreign minister of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said that the bloc will next month consider further sanctions against Moscow.

“Everything depends on the accounts of events and the actions of both sides. But it will need to be reviewed,” Kneissl told reporters.

Norbert Roettgen, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the EU may need to toughen its sanctions against Russia, while Poland and Estonia called for more sanctions.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said Russia’s actions constituted “war in Europe,” adding that this “will not, shall not, and cannot ever again be accepted as business as usual.” She urged the international community “to condemn the Russian aggression clearly, collectively and immediately and demand a stop to the aggression.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said EU countries should do more to support Ukraine, suggesting they reconsider their support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which she said “helps the Russian government.”

“The United States government has taken a very strong position in…support of Ukraine. We would like other countries to do more as well,” Nauert said.

“Many governments have imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Crimea, in Ukraine. Not all of those sanctions…have been fully enforced,” she said.

The Kremlin said Putin repeated Russia’s position that Ukraine provoked the incident In a conversation with Merkel on November 27, and expressed “serious concern” over Ukraine’s decision to impose martial law in regions that border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester area, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

Putin said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” the Kremlin said.

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

WATCH

Here are 9 myths about military working dogs

Once considered “unsung heroes,” military working dogs have been thrust into the media spotlight over the last few years in the form of books, television shows, and even a military working dog monument.


However, as with all stories that earn massive attention, sometimes facts are distorted. To handlers and advocates in the MWD community, it can be frustrating to read and hear about stories that not only are untrue, but are actually harmful. It’s important to understand what is myth vs reality.

Here are the 9 biggest myths about military working dogs.

If you’d like to learn more, check out the article here.

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