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DARPA’s Mach 20 Glider – 12 Minutes NY to LA

DARPA, a research agency of the US Department of Defense, attempted flying a vehicle today that could one day travel at 13,000mph. At those speeds, the unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), could fly from New York to Los Angeles in 12 Minutes. More strategically, a vehicle like this could reach anywhere in the world in under an hour.

Mid-20th century attempts at flying aircraft through the sound barrier of Mach 1 had already proved challenging. The pressure waves that form at the sound barrier change the dynamics of flight, impacting aerodynamics and overall control. Fast forward to today, and engineers are grappling with travel at 20x the speed of sound that could encounter even further unknown hurdles. Today’s test flight unfortunately failed when contact was lost; however, the premise is still an amazing endeavor.

A as in Alpha – Know The Phonetic Alphabet

Everyone should know the phonetic alphabet. If you are not familiar with it, the common ICAO Phonetic Alphabet is a “language” for spelling out terms; which is used by radio operators, such as pilots and soldiers. It assigns the letters of the alphabet with common words that sound uniquely different from each other.  For example, “Charlie”, “Echo”, and “Papa” are used instead of the similarly sounding “C”, “E”, and “P”.  Numbers are also included, but the emphasis is on pronunciation and not assigning numbers to specific words.  An example is that ”3” is said as “Tree”.
Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, ...

Using the phonetic alphabet in conversations in which you need to spell out words makes them precise and succinct. Say for example you are talking with a customer service representative, and you need to spell out the name “Alphonso”. Without a common, standard phonetic alphabet, it might sound like, “A as in apple, L as in uhhh lantern, P as in pencil…” Clumsy. It doesn’t come across well and it’s a tedious way to speak.

Another way is to use the phonetic alphabet. “Alpha, Lima, Papa, Hotel, Oscar, November, Sierra, Oscar.” Done. It’s quick, clear, and easy!

When both people know the same phonetic alphabet, it really streamlines verbal spellings. Even if you already know the phonetic alphabet, you can’t necessarily jump right in and start using it. What if you start rattling off phonetic words to someone who isn’t familiar with speaking that way? It may throw them for a loop, and hence require clarification.

Thankfully though, the phonetic alphabet is simple and fun to learn. Once you’ve gotten the hang of speaking phonetically, it quickly becomes second nature.

..., X-ray, Yankee, Zulu

Interestingly, the US armed services adopted the ICAO phonetic alphabet in 1956. In the 15 years preceding this, the US Army and Navy used the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet. Though identical in intent as the ICAO alphabet, the words it uses are notably different. Anyone who’s seen an old WWII movie will recognize familiar terms such as, “Able”, “Baker”, “Charlie”, “Dog”, “Easy”, and “Fox.”

How do you share information that needs to be spelled out?  Do you use the phonetic alphabet or perhaps your own creative approach?

Charlie, Hotel, Echo, Echo, Romeo, Sierra.

Oscar, Uniform, Tango.

Honoring Independence Day – “Soldiers Surprising Their Loved Ones”

YouTube is home to some of the goofiest, stupidest, weirdest videos that could ever be dreamed up.  (Seriously… an “annoying orange“?)  Every once in a while though, one comes along that has genuine meaning and won’t be easily forgotten.  One such type of video are those of military homecoming surprises.  Nicely stitched together, they end up feeling like a warm blanket hand-sewn by your grandmother.

Honoring Independence Day – “Taking Chance”

My wife and I had never heard of the HBO movie “Taking Chance” before she added it to our Netflix queue; however, the journey this movie becomes proved to be worth every moment we watched it.  In “Taking Chance”, Kevin Bacon portrays Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, a Marine officer who is manning a desk stateside during the Iraq war in 2004.  Strobl finds out that a soldier from his small hometown, Marine Private First Class Chance Phelps, had been killed during a firefight in Iraq.  In a epiphenal-like moment, he volunteers to escort Chance from Dover AFB to his final resting spot in Wyoming, an honor that is traditionally given to fallen service members.

The simplicity of the plot develops in to a moving experience with a cadence that is very somber and deliberate.  Taking Chance is not about action, humor, or combat; nor, does it push any specific position on war or politics.  The movie is a genuine, simple, touching depiction of how our fallen servicemen and women are respected in a very tragic situation.  Arm yourself with a box of tissues and some American pride, and you’ll find “Taking Chance” to be one of the most pure, moving film experiences you will ever have.

Honoring Independence Day – “The Good Soldiers”

To state the obvious, opinions about America’s second war in Iraq have varied widely amongst people.  These views often develop from newspaper articles, cable news shows, and polarized radio hosts which look at the war from a macro level.  A key piece that is often missing is what the war means to the soldiers living it each day… on the ground… in the dust clouds of roadside bombs.  David Finkel’s account of an infantry battalion he was embedded with during the surge, helps to bridge this gap.

“The Good Soldiers” documents the Iraq deployment of Fort Riley, Kansas’s 2-16 Infantry Battalion in 2007-2008.  Led by Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, the battalion enters the fight with the best intentions of stemming the violence in Iraq.  The maddening reality of numerous challenges and eminent danger develop in each soldier over time, providing incredible insight into what serving on the ground in Iraq is like.

Finkel does an outstanding job capturing the futility of dealing with random bomb attacks, the difficulty often found in working the local Iraqis, and the toll a long, stressful deployment takes on soldiers.  He served eight months in Iraq with the 2-16, and conducted extensive research on events he didn’t see.  The detailed, choreographed writing of this Pulitzer Prize winning author molds “The Good Soldiers” in to a captivating story that is definitely worth a read.

In the spirit of Kauzlarich’s optimism and dedication, “It’s all good.

Rating… 5 out of 5 Crumbs

In Honor of America’s Independence Day

In honor of the 4th of July weekend, posts over the next three days will focus on some of the best military tributes I’ve come across.  Laid out like the 7-gun volleys of a 21-gun salute, the tributes consist of a book, a movie, and even a YouTube video.  They focus on more recent veterans; however, each one captures unique aspects of American service members’ lives and can be appreciated by any generation.

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