FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 28th through October 1st 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Liberty is not merely a privilege to be conferred; it is a habit to be acquired.  – Lloyd George 

FOD Trivia Question

As we gaze at the stars on a clear night, they seem to flash or twinkle.  What causes this?

Previous FOD Trivia Answer

What force propels a car forward or stops it? Answer:  Friction 

 

North Korea Says It Won’t Disarm First

In a continuation of what has been the playbook of North Korea for decades, North Korea has now declared they won’t disarm without sanctions relief.  North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations on Saturday that continued sanctions on Pyongyang were deepening its mistrust in the United States.  “Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first,” Ri told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.  The comments come as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to travel to Pyongyang next month for his fourth trip to North Korea, his third as secretary of state. Discussions of a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are already underway.  China and Russia have said the U.N. Security Council should reward Pyongyang for steps taken after U.S. Trump and Kim met in June and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization.  (Fireball note:  Reward?  What has North Korea done to demonstrate it intends to follow through with a denuclearization plan?  This is all a ploy by China and Russia to prop up the North Korean government and make this family business state a better/stronger buffer zone between China and South Korea.)  “The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe-dream of the people who are ignorant about us. But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust,” Ri said.  However, Pompeo told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday: “Enforcement of Security Council sanctions must continue vigorously and without fail until we realize the fully, final, verified denuclearization.” Ri noted that North Korea had taken “significant good-will measures such as stopping nuclear and ICBM tests, dismantling the nuclear test site in a transparent manner and affirming not to transfer nuclear weapons and nuclear technology under any circumstances.”  “However, we do not see any corresponding response from the U.S.,” he added.  Pyongyang has also made clear that they are looking for a formal declaration to the end of the Korean War. The U.S. has not ruled it out.  “It’s hard to know. I don’t want to prejudge precisely where we’ll end up,” Pompeo said this week when pressed on the possibility as a next step. “But make no mistake about it, there is real progress being made.”  The Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  It should also be noted China and Russia have violated those sanction agreements and is providing North Korea with the means to continue to persecute their population while supporting the present regime. The President continues to defend his position and defend his work to settle a nuclear deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying he has given up nothing but his time during a June summit yet stands on the cusp of denuclearizing the North.  In a wide-ranging news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump told reporters that despite tough U.S. sanctions against the North staying in place, he believes that Kim wants to get a deal done because of their close ties.  “We have a very good relationship. He likes me, I like him, we get along,” Trump said. “He wants to make a deal and I’d like to make a deal.”  (Fireball note: Obviously, the President has taken in little or none of the information provided him by US intelligence organizations.  Why would any US president say, “He likes me, I like him, we get along,” when speaking of one of the most vicious dictators in world history?)  Trump’s optimistic comments come amid widespread skepticism that Kim will actually relinquish an arsenal that Pyongyang likely sees as the only way to guarantee the Kim dynasty’s continued authoritarian rule.  Although Trump maintained that he’d given up nothing in his dealings with Kim, he has faced criticism for his decision during the Singapore summit to scrap annual U.S. military drills with ally South Korea. Critics called it a concession for the North, (Fireball note: and more importantly to China) which has long railed against the drills as invasion preparation and proof of U.S. hostility.  Trump said Wednesday that he’d long wanted to stop the drills, which had always been portrayed by the allies as defensive in nature, because of their high cost and said he could restart them if needed. “For the taxpayer, we’re saving a fortune,” Trump said.  (Fireball note:  YGTBSM)

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 28th through October 1st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 12th through 15th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

Today I was a hero. I rescued some beer that was trapped in a bottle.

 

Fireball on China and North Korea

I’ve mentioned several times here in FOD that I believe one of the worst things that could happen to China, from their prospective, would be a fall of the North Korean family business/government of Kim Jung Un.  A reunification of North and South Korea would result in US and/or western aligned troops on the border with China, a prospect much feared by China. Additionally a North Korea experimenting or threatening with nuclear weapons is one thing, but a North Korea with a real nuclear delivery capability is likely to foster the development of western supported nuclear capabilities in South Korea and eventually Japan.  And dare we mention Taiwan in that nuclear soup?  Such developments would realign the balance of power in Asia to China’s great disadvantage.  Remember just a few months ago Kim Jung Un made that mysterious train trip to China?  Since that time we have seen a distinct change in North Korea’s behavior.  No further missile testing, no boasting of eventual war with the US and/or other nations in the region.  And now President Donald Trump will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un on June 12 in Singapore, the US president announced Thursday.  I think it possible Kim Jung Un was called upon Xi Jinping’s proverbial red Chinese carpet during that train trip.  Xi says, “OK Kim dude, it’s perfectly fine for you to play with your nuclear toys, but threatening the US and other countries in the region upsets my plan for dominance in Asia long term.  So here are your choices: make a deal with the US and soon before they export nuclear weapons to both South Korea and Japan and before they develop additional missile systems capable of shooting down your weapons and by extension my ICBMs in my backyard; OR, I will find a new family to operate North Korea.  Now go back home and execute my command.  We saw where North Korea has promised to allow the world to watch it blow up some of their nuclear test facilities.  Likely that already happened.  Back on 3 September when North Korea conducted its latest nuclear test on Punggye-ri registering 6.3 magnitude on earthquake sensors.  Several minutes later however, geologists detected a smaller 4.1 magnitude rumbling.  That got scientists speculating as to whether the nuclear test site, hidden inside a mountain, actually collapsed.  A massive collapse could render the test site useless for future nuclear tests and may even increase the risk of radioactive gases escaping from the rock and into the air, scientists said.  The case for this so-called “tired mountain syndrome” was bolstered three weeks ago, when North Korea announced that it planned to shut the main testing facility at Mount Mantap where five of the six tests, including the last explosion, took place. A few weeks ago, a group of Chinese geologists claimed in a study published in Geophysical Research Letters that the mountain had collapsed following the latest nuclear test. Of course the Chinese might be lying.  That wouldn’t surprise me either.  Now we see Kim Jung Un has cancelled recently scheduled talks with South Korea after the failure of the South and the US to cancel scheduled military exercises.  Then again he has always been unpredictable.  We can expect the unexpected.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 12th through 15th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 20th through 23rd 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Always remember you are unique, just like everyone else.

 

Buy Your Epic Pass

I don’t endorse many products on FOD, but this one is too good to pass up!  If you’re a skier or a rider than you owe it to yourself to look into the Epic Pass.  For $99 it gives Active/Retired/Dependent service members unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Keystone, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Stowe, Wilmot, Afton Alps, and Mt. Brighton for the 2018-19 season, as well as Perisher in Australia for the 2019 ski season.  And they’re looking to add more resorts for next year as well.  There is also a good deal for Veterans and their Dependents at $499 for the same benefits.  You also get discounts on food on and off the mountain, lodging and ski rentals as well.  There are also free lift access during the summer at most resorts for hiking or biking adventures.  Also included are six ski with a friend/buddy tickets which give some pretty good deals for friends as well.

 

Congress Races to Pass $1.3T Defense-Friendly Omnibus Bill And Avoid Shutdown

Defense News is reporting the sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill that congressional leaders unveiled Wednesday includes $654.6 billion for the Pentagon. But it’s unclear whether Congress can pass the proposal without shutting down the government.  Lawmakers touted the bill as providing the biggest year-over-year increase in defense funding in 15 years. Pentagon appropriations include $589.5 billion in the base budget and $65.2 billion in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget — an increase of $61.1 billion over the 2017 enacted level, when combined with other previously enacted funding.  The bill surpasses President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 request for the Pentagon by $15.5 billion.  Leadership and the heads of the appropriations committees struck a deal on a spending bill to fund the Pentagon and 11 other departments through the end of the fiscal year. The hard-won deal also involved funding to address the opioid crisis and strengthen’s the country’s gun background check system, but it does not include a fix for expiring protections for young immigrants.  Hardline House GOP conservatives, however, have signaled they will vote against the bill because negotiations have been too friendly to Democrats. Their non-support forces the GOP to rely on Democrats for the votes to pass it.  The agreement increases a cap on spending in the last two months of the fiscal year from 20 percent to 25 percent. It also changes the reprogramming threshold from $15 million to $20 million, and modifies the guidelines for realignments between readiness budget line items from requiring prior approval to written notification.  “These flexibility changes will allow for smarter execution of the $230 billion in base and OCO funding provided for the operation and maintenance accounts by avoiding the ‘use it or lose it’ dilemma and allowing more timely execution of readiness line items that have been affected by fact-of-life changes or emergent requirements,” a bill summary reads.  The defense bill includes $705.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs. A separate State and Foreign Operations bill includes $9 billion in base and OCO funding for international security assistance, with $3.1 billion for Israel, $1.3 billion for Egypt and $1.5 billion for Jordan.  For Navy shipbuilding programs, there is $23.8 billion to procure 14 Navy ships, including funding for one carrier replacement, two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships; one expeditionary sea base; one expeditionary fast transport; one amphibious ship replacement; one fleet oiler; one towing, salvage, and rescue ship, and one oceanographic survey ship.  For aviation, there is $10.2 billion for 90 F-35 aircraft; $1.8 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.6 billion for 30 new build and 50 remanufactured Apache helicopters; $1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; $225 million for 20 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles; $1.7 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $1.3 billion for 14 V-22 aircraft; $2.9 billion for 18 KC-46 tanker aircraft; $2.4 billion for 25 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft, and $103 million for A-10 wing replacements.  For space, there is $1.4 billion for three evolved expendable launch vehicles and $675 million for two wideband gap-filler satellites. Air Force space programs net $800 million, with $100 million above the budget request for space launch vehicle and engine development activities.  There’s also $9.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, bringing the FY18 total for MDA to more than $11.3 billion when combined with the previously passed supplemental, according to the summary.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 20th through 23rd 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 13th through 19th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

If you want someone who will listen to you every time, do everything you tell them to do, and always be there for you for better or for worse, get a dog.

 

New Russian Sanctions

The US Treasury Department issued tough sanctions on Thursday against Russian entities and individuals for what it said were “ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”  Among the institutions targeted in the new sanctions for election meddling were Russia’s top intelligence services; the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). Also included was the Internet Research Agency, which was recently indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.  The FSB is being sanctioned for the use of cyber tools in targeting US officials “including cyber security, diplomatic, military, and White House personnel.”  The GRU, as well as a number of its top officials, is being sanctioned for its direct involvement in “interfering in the 2016 US election through cyber-enabled activities.” The Treasury also says that the GRU was “directly responsible” for the June 2017 NotPetya cyberattack on European businesses.  The Internet Research Agency and 13 individuals connected to it are being sanctioned for using fake identities online as well as posting thousands of online ads in an effort to sow confusion among US voters.  Sanctions also target a number of individuals for ongoing attempts to hack the US energy grid.  US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says, “The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure.”  The move is seen as significant as the Trump administration and, above all, President Donald Trump himself, have been slow to criticize Russia for election meddling, fearing it may undermine the legitimacy of his victory over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.  Russian reaction: Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that although Moscow was calm about the sanctions, it had already begun “to prepare a response.” He also accused the US of timing the sanctions announcement to coincide with this weekend’s Russian presidential elections, saying, “It is tied to US internal disorder, tied of course to our electoral calendar.” And there was an election in Russia over this past weekend.  The 65-year-old head of state, Vladimir Putin, waited for a long time until he announced he would again stand as a presidential candidate. According to some observers, Putin was toying with people’s fears that the “father of the nation” might not run for the presidency again. Then came the move which had to be expected. Putin chose a symbolic venue to announce that he would run for the post: the legendary Russian GAZ car factory in Nizhny Novgorod, in front of workers who supported him when he said he’d like to throw his hat into the ring again.  Putin is not fond of conventional campaigning, including TV debates. He prefers to present himself as a savior of rare animal species, or as a brave huntsman or fisherman. Opinion polls seem to prove that his approach is successful. With approval rates between 75 and 83 percent, Putin is considered to be the most popular politician in Russia. However, another part of the truth is that the Kremlin — since Putin came to power in 2000 — has been marginalizing free and critical media, and putting Russian opposition under pressure, thereby nipping any real alternative in the bud.  Putin didn’t show much respect for those people who officially announced his candidacy on December 26. He didn’t show up for his own nomination. Even so, he submitted his records to the central election commission in person — as an independent candidate.  And he won by over 65% in this ceremonial election which in one news clip I saw actually showed an election official putting numerous ballots into a ballot box.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day March 13th through 19th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 21st through 24th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

There is food value in beer, but no beer value in food!

 

I should have mentioned some other events from February 20:

 

Friendship 7 and John Glen Orbit the Earth

20 February 1962, 14:47:39 UTC: At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14 at Cape Canaveral,   The Mercury spacecraft, named Friendship 7, was carried to orbit by an Atlas LV-3B launch vehicle the first time that launch vehicle was used . Aboard the spacecraft was Lieutenant Colonel  John Glenn, United States Marine Corps, an experienced fighter pilot and test pilot. After several delays in the countdown over several days for various systems pre-launch malfunctions and system component replacements, the launch button was depressed and then capsule communicator Scott Carpenter uttered the famous phrase “Godspeed, John Glenn.”  Glenn received word that the Atlas had boosted the MA-6 into a trajectory that would stay up for at least seven orbits. Meanwhile, computers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland indicated that the MA-6 orbital parameters appeared good enough for almost 100 orbits.  As Friendship 7 crossed Cape Canaveral at the start of its second orbit, flight systems controller Don Arabian noticed that “Segment 51”, a sensor providing data on the spacecraft landing system, was giving a strange reading. According to the reading, the heat shield and landing bag were no longer locked in position.

Color photograph of John Glenn in space featuring a view of the control panel of the Friendship 7 spacecraft, taken by the onboard camera during NASA’s Project Mercury MA-6 mission, February 20, 1962

If this were the case, the heat shield was only being held against the spacecraft by the straps of the retro package. Mercury Control was still undecided on the course of action to take. Some controllers thought the retrorocket pack should be jettisoned after retrofire, while other controllers thought the retro pack should be retained, as added assurance that the heat shield would stay in place. Flight Director Chris Kraft and Mission Director Walter C. Williams decided to keep the retro pack in place during reentry. Walter Schirra, the California communicator at Point Arguello, relayed the instructions to Glenn: the retro pack should be retained until the spacecraft was over the Texas tracking station. After the mission was over, the “Segment 51” warning light problem was later determined to be a faulty sensor switch, meaning that the heat shield and landing bag were in fact secure during reentry.  Throughout the flight Friendship 7 used greater than expected the attitude controlling rockets actuations and hence used greater than expected fuel.  The spacecraft splashed down in the North Atlantic at coordinates near 21°20′N 68°40′W, 40 miles (64 km) short of the planned landing zone.  Retrofire calculations had not taken into account spacecraft weight loss due to use of onboard consumables. USS Noa, a destroyer code-named “Steelhead”, had spotted the spacecraft when it was descending on its parachute. The destroyer was about 6 miles (9.7 km) away when it radioed Glenn that it would reach him shortly. Noa came alongside Friendship 7 seventeen minutes later. The Mercury Friendship 7 capsule is on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, just inside the Mall-side doors at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

Neil Armstrong Sets Five More Records

19–20 February 1979: Professor  Neil Armstrong of the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering, member of the Board of Directors of Gates Learjet Corporation, former United States Navy fighter pilot, NACA/NASA research test pilot, Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and The First Man To Set Foot On The Moon, set five Fédération Aéronautique Internationale(FAI) and National Aeronautics Association class records for time to climb to an altitude and altitude while flying the prototype Learjet 28, serial number 28-001.  Armstrong, with Learjet program test pilot Peter Reynolds as co-pilot, and with NAA observer Don Berliner aboard, flew the Learjet 28 to 15,000 meters (49,212.598 feet) in 12 minutes, 27 seconds at Kittyhawk, North Carolina on 19 February. On the same day, during a flight from Wichita, Kansas, to Elizabeth City, New Jersey, Armstrong flew the Learjet to 15,584.6 meters (51,130.577 feet), setting records for altitude and for sustained altitude in horizontal flight.  The following day, 20 February 1979, flying from Elizabeth City to Florence, Kentucky, Armstrong again set altitude and sustained altitude in horizontal flight, in a different class, by taking the Learjet to 15,585 meters (51,131.89 feet).  I was very fortunate to sit next to Neil Armstrong at a luncheon for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots a few years before he passed.

 

 

BGEN Jimmy Stewart Flies His Last Combat Mission

20 February 1966: Brigadier General James M. Stewart, United States Air Force Reserve, flew the last combat mission of his military career, a 12 hour, 50 minute “Arc Light” bombing mission over Vietnam, aboard Boeing B-52 Stratofortress of the 736th Bombardment Squadron, 454th Bombardment Wing. His bomber was a B-52F-65-BW, serial number 57-149, call sign GREEN TWO. It was the number two aircraft in a 30-airplane bomber stream. Stewart enlisted as a private in the United States Army 22 March 1941, just three weeks after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in “The Philadelphia Story.”  Concerned that his celebrity status would keep him in “safe” assignments, Jimmy Stewart had repeatedly requested a combat assignment. His request was finally approved and he was assigned as operations officer of the 703rd Bombardment Squadron, 445th Bombardment Group, a B-24 Liberator unit soon to be sent to the war in Europe.

Mar. 22, 1941: Actor James “Jimmy” Stewart being sworn into the U.S. Army.

Three weeks later, he was promoted to commanding officer of the 703rd.  The 445th Bombardment Group arrived in England and after initial operational training, was stationed at RAF Tibenham, Norfolk, England. The unit flew its first combat mission on 13 December 1943, with Captain Stewart leading the high squadron of the group formation in an attack against enemy submarine pens at Kiel, Germany. On his second mission, Jimmy Stewart led the entire 445th Group.  He flew missions with the 445th, 453rd, 389th Bomb Groups, and with units of the 20th Combat Bomb Wing. After being promoted to the rank of Colonel on 29 March 1945, he was given command of the 2nd Bombardment Wing. He had risen from Private to Colonel in four years. He received a second Distinguished Flying Cross and was presented the Croix de Guerre avec Palme by France.  Following World War II, Jimmy Stewart remained in the U.S. Air Corps as a Reserve Officer, and with the United States Air Force after it became a separate service in 1947. He commanded Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Marietta, Georgia. In 1953, his rank of colonel was made permanent, and in 1959, Jimmy Stewart was promoted to Brigadier General. During his active duty periods, Colonel Stewart remained current as a pilot of Convair B-36 Peacemaker, Boeing B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress intercontinental bombers of the Strategic Air Command.

 

Latest Word on Transgender Troops – No News – Yet

Military Times is reporting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis missed a Wednesday deadline to provide President Donald Trump guidance on transgender service members, which the Pentagon said reflected the complexity of the issue.  “The secretary is taking his time to consider the information he’s been given,” Pentagon Press Secretary Dana White told reporters Thursday.  Based on direction from the White House, Mattis had a Feb. 21 deadline to provide Trump his recommendations on whether allowing transgender service members to serve negatively impacted readiness, and whether those already in the military should be allowed to continue to serve.  Mattis has received and considered internal recommendations from a DoD study and panel looking at the issue, White said. However he is not obligated to follow their advice and is evaluating the issue “through the lens of lethality,” White said.  Outside the Pentagon, the courts have already weighed in on key aspects of the policy.  “Things are at a very confusing moment right now,” said Shannon Minter, who is representing transgender personnel in two of the four federal lawsuits challenging Trump’s ban.  “The Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted,” Trump said in the August 2017 memo.  The Pentagon is likely to provide guidance to the White House by the end of the week, White said.  The guidance is not expected to be made public, several defense officials told Military Times.  The White House is not obligated to accept Mattis’ recommendations, and the August memo said that barring any decisions to the contrary, on March 23, 2018, the White House intends to reinstate a ban on transgender service members and allow no additional funds to be spent on sex-reassignment surgeries.  It was not clear if on that date the White House would also make Mattis’ February recommendations public. In addition, parts of Trump’s August directive have already been overturned in the courts, further muddying what exactly the transgender policy will be.  In the August memo, Trump also directed that no new transgender recruits be allowed to enlist in the military, upending earlier direction from Mattis that set a six-month delay that expired Jan. 1. Multiple federal courts have also ruled against that limitation, and transgender personnel were allowed to join the military as of Jan. 1, 2018.  In a statement issued in late December as the Jan. 1 ban expired, the Justice Department pointed to the anticipated guidance, supported by a study Mattis directed last August, as reason not to further pursue that angle of the ban. The courts are still weighing in on the wider issue of whether any restrictions on transgender service are constitutional. In the two federal cases that Minter is involved with, administration attorneys have pointed to the anticipated policy from Mattis as a reason for delay. The cases are also in a heated discovery phase where attorneys for the transgender plaintiffs are trying to determine on what basis Trump made his July decision, and in consultation with whom.

 

Navy Looking At Radical New Career Paths

The traditional days of a 20- to 30-year Navy career may be numbered, as service officials are looking into ways to challenge the traditional stovepipe “up-or-out” career paths.  And now Congress wants to help.  According to Navy Times, With the need to increase manpower and the new blended retirement system potentially leading to retention challenges down the line, Navy officials want services and lawmakers to take a long look at how a military career is defined — and executed by sailors.  That means in the years to come, the old 20-year career model could end up looking more like putting in 20 over a span of 40 years, or even 30 over 50.  After an office discussion with Chief of Naval Personnel VADM Robert P. Burke, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) is asking all the service personnel chiefs how Congress could help the services make these alternative career paths a reality.  “We talked about new ways of thinking about an individual’s lifecycle in service,” she said during a Feb. 14 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel.  Warren also floated the idea of “potentially making it easier for someone who has to leave military service for either personal or professional reasons to be able to return to uniform later in life.” The Navy has been working on this idea all the way back to at least 2005, when it began investigating how to quickly bring a reserve sailor back to active duty in less than 72 hours.  And the service succeeded — at least on the enlisted side.  In 2009, The Navy began their RC to AC Program that has been regularly bringing qualified reservists back to active duty ever since.  It takes much longer on the officer side, however, due to current laws governing officer personnel policies for all the services.  “We can fairly quickly bring folks back in that were on the reserve side, bring them back into the active component,” Burke told lawmakers at the hearing. “We’re filling…hundreds of gaps to sea with reservists that we brought back into the active component.”  But Warren would like to see it go a step further and make it easier for those who are now on the street to get back into the fleet, and has asked the services to share with lawmakers what additional changes in the law are needed to make the system more flexible.  Burke outlined to the subcommittee a possible future Navy gameplan under such a scenario.  “We’re thinking in terms of a longer career, making our people pyramid narrower at the base, so we bring in fewer people, giving them opportunities to move around,” Burke said. “But as importantly, with this commitment to family readiness, which is important to sailor readiness and fleet readiness, we have to let people step off the treadmill occasionally or they’re not going to hang out for a 40-year career.”  But getting to a point where someone can serve off and on over a lifetime will require changes in the law, individual service policies and culture.  For example, right now, the military has a mandatory retirement age of 62.  With people staying fit longer than ever before, Congress should consider changing the law to allow a person’s fitness level — not an arbitrary age cutoff — to determine length of service, a familiar source expressed to Navy Times.  Current Department of Defense and Navy medical standards and policies would have to be changed as well.  If a sailor leaves the service today, for instance, and doesn’t affiliate directly with the reserve, that sailor may face greater challenges when trying to get back in under the current rules, the source said.  Those rules require a person who is completely separated from all military obligations to meet the same initial entry physical and medical standards as someone entering the service for the first time, standards significantly more strict than those faced by service members already in the system.  A sailor with a medical condition that would still allow for re-enlistment, for example, may be denied re-entry into the service if trying to come back as a civilian.  “So we’ve got to have an alternative to out,” Burke said. “So that option could be into the reserves…or the other alternative would be…a horizontal career track where they can keep flying…go into her research job, whatever it may be. We need alternatives to out and right now there are none.”

 

 

Follow What China Does Not What They Say

Eleven Chinese warships sailed into the East Indian Ocean this month, a Chinese news portal said, amid a constitutional crisis in the tiny tropical island chain of the Maldives now under a state of emergency.  Japan Times is reporting a fleet of destroyers and at least one frigate, a 30,000-ton amphibious transport dock and three support tankers entered the Indian Ocean, news portal Sina.com.cn said, without linking the deployment to the crisis in the Maldives or giving a reason.  “If you look at warships and other equipment, the gap between the Indian and Chinese navy is not large,” Sina.com.cn said Sunday.  It did not say when the fleet was deployed or for how long.  Rivalry between old foes India and China for influence in the Maldives became evident after President Abdulla Yameen signed up to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to build trade and transport links across Asia and beyond.  India, which has had long-standing political and security ties to the islands about 400 km (250 miles) away, has sought to push back against China’s expanding presence in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 400,000 people. Maldivian opposition leaders have urged New Delhi to intervene in the crisis.  China’s Ministry of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.  Friday, the People’s Liberation Army posted photos and a story on rescue training exercises taking place in the East Indian Ocean on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.  China earlier this month advised Chinese citizens to avoid visiting the Maldives, famous its luxury hotels, scuba-diving resorts and limpid tropical seas, until political tensions subside.  China has been striking deals with countries in Asia and Africa in line with its Belt and Road initiative to improve imports of key commodities, upgrade infrastructure and trade routes in the region and boost its diplomatic clout.  Yameen imposed the emergency Feb. 5 for 15 days to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed convictions against nine opposition leaders and ordered his government to free those held in prison. He sought parliamentary approval to extend the emergency for 30 days Monday.  China has drawn criticism in the West for its perceived military buildup of the neighboring South China Sea, where it has built and expanded islands and reefs.  China claims most of the sea where neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

 

 

New Requirement For Baseball’s Baseballs

Spring baseball is underway with the Grapefruit and Citrus League play getting started!  Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

DENVER, CO – APRIL 7: A detail photograph of a locked basket of baseballs seen in a hallway within the stadium after a game between the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on April 7, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies beat the Padres 9-1. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.  Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.  To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials, and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec. 

 

Onward in history:

 

Battle of Iwo Jima Rages

On 21 February 1945 and during the Battle of Iwo Jima, (mentioned in the previous issue of FOD), two Japanese kamikazes hit the USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95).  The Bismarck Sea is   Casablanca class escort carrier, She was launched on 17 April 1944 by Kaiser Co., Inc., Vancouver, WashingtonThe first kamikaze aircraft strikes the starboard side under the first 40 mm gun (aft), crashing through the hangar deck and striking the ship’s magazines. The fire was nearly under control when the second plane struck the aft elevator shaft, exploding on impact and destroying the fire fighting salt water distribution system, thus preventing any further damage control. Shortly after, the order was given to abandon ship. The USS Bismarck Sea sank with the loss of 318 men, and was the last US Navy aircraft carrier to be lost during World War II.  Three destroyers and three destroyer escorts rescued survivors over the next 12 hours, between them saving a total of 605 officers and men from her crew of 923. Survivors were then transferred to Dickens and Highlands.  Additionally five kamikaze aircraft strike the USS Saratoga (CV-3).  Saratoga participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a dedicated night fighter carrier.  Saratoga was assigned to provide fighter cover while the remaining carriers launched the strikes on Japan, but in the process, her fighters raided two Japanese airfields. The force fueled on 18 and 19 February, and the ship provided CAP over Iwo Jima on 19–20 February.  The following day, Saratoga was detached with an escort of three destroyers to join the amphibious forces and carry out night patrols over Iwo Jima and nearby Chichi Jima. Taking advantage of low cloud cover and Saratoga‘s weak escort, six Japanese planes scored five bomb hits on the carrier in three minutes; three of the aircraft also struck the carrier. Saratoga‘s flight deck forward was wrecked, her starboard side was holed twice and large fires were started in her hangar deck; she lost 123 of her crew dead or missing as well as 192 wounded. Thirty-six of her aircraft were destroyed. Another attack two hours later further damaged her flight deck.  Slightly over an hour later, the fires were under control, and Saratoga was able to recover six fighters; she arrived at Bremerton on 16 March for permanent repairs.

 

 

Miracle On Ice

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the men’s ice hockey tournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York on February 22, 1980. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators. Two days later, the Americans defeated Finland 4-2 to clinch the hockey gold.  The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the Games and in U.S. sports. Equally well-known was the television call of the final seconds of the game by Al Michaels for ABC, in which he famously declared in the final seconds, “Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!” In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle on Ice” the top sports moment of the 20th century.   As part of its centennial celebration in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) named the “Miracle on Ice” as the best international ice hockey story of the past 100 years.  I remember completing two back to back ACM flights and had the opportunity to watch the third and final period.  It was a great, great moment in sports.

 

Battle of Verdun Begins

At 7:12 a.m. on the morning of February 21, 1916, a shot from a German Krupp 38-centimeter long-barreled gun—one of over 1,200 such weapons set to bombard French forces along a 20-kilometer front stretching across the Meuse River—strikes a cathedral in Verdun, France, beginning the Battle of Verdun, which would stretch on for 10 months and become the longest battles of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies.  The Battle of Verdun lasted for 303 days and became the longest and one of the most costly battles in human history. An estimate in 2000 found a total of 714,231 casualties, 377,231 French and 337,000 German, for an average of 70,000 casualties a month; other recent estimates increase the number of casualties to 976,000, during the battle, with 1,250,000 suffered at Verdun during the war.

 

 

George Washington Born

On February 22, 1732, George Washington was born.  He went on to serve as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797 and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and later presided over the 1787 convention that drafted the United States Constitution. He is popularly considered the driving force behind the nation’s establishment and came to be known as the “father of the country,” both during his lifetime and to this day.  Washington was widely admired for his strong leadership qualities and was unanimously elected president by the Electoral College in the first two national elections. He oversaw the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that maintained neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, and won acceptance among Americans of all types. Washington’s incumbency established many precedents still in use today, such as the cabinet system, the inaugural address, and the title Mr. PresidentHis retirement from office after two terms established a tradition that lasted until 1940 when   Franklin Delano Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term. The 22nd Amendment (1951) now limits the president to two elected terms.  Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which devised a new form of federal government for the United States. Following his election as president in 1789, he worked to unify rival factions in the fledgling nation. He supported Alexander Hamilton‘s programs to satisfy all debts, federal and state, established a permanent seat of government, implemented an effective tax system, and created a national bank.  In avoiding war with Great Britain, he guaranteed a decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795, despite intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. He remained non-partisan, never joining the Federalist Party, although he largely supported its policies. Washington’s Farewell Address was an influential primer on civic virtue, warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. President Trump would do well to read his Farewell Address.  He retired from the presidency in 1797, returning to his home and plantation at Mount Vernon.

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt Welcomes Home Great White Fleet

In this photo, President Theodore Roosevelt (on the 12-inch (30 cm) gun turret at right) addresses officers and crewmen on Connecticut, in Hampton Roads, Virginia, upon her return from the Fleet’s cruise around the world, 22 February 1909.  The Great White Fleet was the popular nickname for the United States Navy battle fleet that completed a journey around the globe from December 16, 1907, to February 22, 1909, by order of United States President Theodore Roosevelt. It consisted of 16 battleships divided into two squadrons, along with various escorts.  Roosevelt sought to demonstrate growing American martial power and blue-water navy capability. Hoping to enforce treaties and protect overseas holdings, the United States Congress appropriated funds to build American sea power. Beginning with just 90 small ships, over one-third of them wooden, the navy quickly grew to include new modern steel fighting vessels. The hulls of these ships were painted a stark white, giving the armada the nickname “Great White Fleet.”  The purpose of the fleet deployment was multifaceted. Ostensibly, it served as a showpiece of American goodwill, as the fleet visited numerous countries and harbors. In this, the voyage was not unprecedented. Naval courtesy calls, many times in conjunction with the birthdays of various monarchs and other foreign celebrations, had become common in the 19th century.  Roosevelt’s stated intent was to give the navy practice in navigation, communication, coal consumption and fleet maneuvering; navy professionals maintained, however, that such matters could be served better in home waters. In light of what had happened to the Russian Baltic Fleet, they were concerned about sending their own fleet on a long deployment, especially since part of the intent was to impress a modern, battle-tested navy that had not known defeat. The fleet was untested in making such a voyage, and Tsushima had proven that extended deployments had no place in practical strategy.

 

 

Marines Raise Flag On Mount Suribachi

The photograph below was taken on February 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. It depicts six United States Marines raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, during the Battle of Iwo JimaAs mentioned in earlier FOD thoughts, the photograph was first published in Sunday newspapers on February 25, 1945. It was extremely popular and was reprinted in thousands of publications. Later, it became the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in the same year as its publication, and came to be regarded in the United States as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war.  Three Marines depicted in the photograph, Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, and Private First Class Franklin Sousley were killed in action over the next few days. The three surviving flag-raisers were Corporals (then Private First Class) Rene GagnonIra Hayes, and Harold Schultz who first received Marine Corps recognition in June 2016.  The image was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial which was dedicated in 1954 to all Marines who died for their country past and present, and is located in Arlington Ridge Park, near the Ord-Weitzel Gate to Arlington National Cemetery and the Netherlands Carillon. The original mold is located on the Marine Military Academy grounds, a private college preparatory academy located in Harlingen, Texas.

 

 

 

Salk Vaccine

On February 23, 1954, children at Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.  Polio vaccines are vaccines used to prevent poliomyelitis (polio).  There are two types: one that uses inactivated poliovirus and is given by injection (IPV), and one that uses weakened poliovirus and is given by mouth (OPV). The World Health Organization recommends all children be vaccinated against polio.  The two vaccines have eliminated polio from most of the world, and reduced the number of cases each year from an estimated 350,000 in 1988 to 74 in 2015.  The inactivated polio vaccines are very safe. Mild redness or pain may occur at the site of injection. Oral polio vaccines result in vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis in about three per million doses.  This compares with one in two hundred who are paralysed following a polio infection.  Both are generally safe to give during pregnancy and in those who have HIV/AIDS but are otherwise well.  The first polio vaccine was the inactivated polio vaccine.  It was developed by Jonas Salk and came into use in 1955.  The oral polio vaccine was developed by Albert Sabin and came into commercial use in 1961.  They are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.  The wholesale cost in the developing world is about 0.25 USD per dose for the oral form as of 2014.  In the United States it costs between 25 and 50 USD for the inactivated form.

 

 

 

The Great One

Jesus saves!  He passes to Gretzky and Gretzky scores. On 24 February 1984, Wayne Gretzky scores his 77th goal in one season, a record thought to have been unbeatable.  He played twenty seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) for four teams from 1979 to 1999. Nicknamed “The Great One,” he has been called “the greatest hockey player ever,” by many sportswriters, players, and the league itself. He is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player. He garnered more assists than any other player scored total points, and is the only NHL player to total over 200 points in one season – a feat he accomplished four times. In addition, he tallied over 100 points in 16 professional seasons, 14 of them consecutive. At the time of his retirement in 1999, he held 61 NHL records: 40 regular-season records, 15 playoff records, and six All-Star records.  He still holds 60 NHL records.

 

 

 

 

 

United 811 Remembered

On February 24, 1989, United Airlines Flight 811 a Boeing 747-122 was on a regularly scheduled airline flight from San Francisco to Sydney, with intermediate stops at Los AngelesHonolulu, and Auckland.   16 minutes after takeoff, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Honolulu, the 747 was climbing through an altitude of 22,000 feet (6,705 meters) at 300 knots (345 miles per hour/556 kilometers per hour) when, at 02:09:09 HST, the cargo door on the lower right side of the fuselage, just forward of the wing, failed, blowing outward. Explosive decompression blew a huge hole in the fuselage. Ten passenger seats were carried away along with nine passengers. A flight attendant was nearly lost, but was dragged back inside by passengers and crew.   serving the flight experienced a cargo door failure in flight shortly after leaving Honolulu. The resulting explosive decompression blew out several rows of seats, resulting in the deaths of nine passengers. Debris damaged the two engines on the right wing, causing them to lose power. Flames were visible. Both engines had to be shut down. Flight 811 declared an emergency, began descending and dumping fuel to reduce the airliner’s weight for an emergency landing. The 747 turned back toward Honolulu.  The wing had also been damaged, such that the flaps could not be fully extended and this necessitated a much higher than normal approach speed. The 747 touched down at approximately 200 knots (230 miles per hour/370 kilometers per hour). After coming to a stop, Flight 811 was completely evacuated within 45 seconds. Every flight attendant suffered some injury.  The cause of the cargo door failure was determined to be a faulty design, combine with a short in the 747’s electrical system. Based on developments after it issued its original report, NTSB issued a superseding accident report on March 18, 1992.  In its superseding report, the NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the sudden opening of the cargo door, which was attributed to improper wiring and deficiencies in the door’s design. It appeared in this case that a short circuit caused an uncommanded rotation of the latch cams, which forced the weak locking sectors to distort and allow the rotation, thus enabling the pressure differential and aerodynamic forces to blow the door off the fuselage, ripping away the hinge fixing structure, the cabin floor and side fuselage skin, causing the explosive decompression.  The door (photo above right) was recovered by a U.S. Navy manned deep sea submersible Sea Cliff from a depth of 14,100 feet (4,298 meters).