Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Apr 28, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

Biden Appoints First Female Secretary of the Army

Christine Wormuth has had a long career in military and foreign policy. She served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy under President Obama–the third highest civilian position in the Department of Defense. She has also been the Special Assistant to the President and the Senior Director for Defense at the National Security Council. Currently, Wormuth is the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation. The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit think tank. (Think tanks are groups that employ experts in a specific area of social, economic, or political policy.) In January 2021, she led the Biden-Harris Defense Agency Review Team. And now, she is about to become the first female Secretary of the Army in U.S. history.

To say that Wormuth’s resume is impressive is an understatement. She is also a two-time recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service. In addition, Wormuth serves on the honorary advisory board of the Leadership Council for Women in National Security. She writes and speaks frequently on foreign policy, national security, and homeland security. Wormuth is also known for her counter-ISIS work, her counterterrorism operations, and for managing U.S. defense relations with countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. She speaks French and is an adjunct professor in the Georgetown University Security Studies Program.

Wormuth’s appointment is dependent upon confirmation by the Senate.

Dig Deeper Trace Christine Wormuth’s long and distinguished career by creating an annotated bibliography of her major positions and accomplishments. Use Internet resources to help you locate important dates.

Russia Pulls Troops Back from Ukraine Border

Last week, btw brought you the story of the biggest national security threats the United States is facing right now. One of those threats is Russia, which has taken aggressive action against several of its neighboring countries. This was most notably done against Ukraine, where Russia built up an estimated 1110,000 Russian troops along the border. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned his people of the threat of war. He was concerned that Russia would attempt to invade or annex eastern Ukraine. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in a conflict that has now killed more than 13,000 people. The U.S. responded to this recent positioning of Russian troops with new economic sanctions against Russia.

On April 22, Russia has announced that it will begin pulling troops back from Ukraine and plans to have them withdrawn by May 1. However, Russia does plan to leave some armored vehicles behind until the fall. President Zelensky made a statement supporting this de-escalation. Some Ukrainian officials remain worried that Russia won’t be content until its borders match the borders of the former Soviet Union.

Dig Deeper Locate a map of the former Soviet Union. Now, find one of Russia and Eastern Europe today. Which of today’s nations once existed inside the boundaries of the former Soviet Union?

The Flight of Ingenuity

Last month, btw brought you the story of NASA’s Perseverance Rover landing on Mars. The second vehicle involved in that mission is a small drone helicopter called Ingenuity. The small helicopter is about the size of a tissue box and weighs just 4 pounds. The role of Ingenuity is to take color photos to send back to Earth and to demonstrate what powered flight is like in Mars’ atmosphere. The Martian atmosphere is 99 percent less dense than Earth’s which makes the physics of flight more difficult for a helicopter to lift off.

Ingenuity successfully completed its first flight on April 19, 2021. This first test flight required it to rise ten feet in the air, hover, and return to the surface again. It is the first time a powered, controlled flight has occurred on another planet. This is important, because it will allow scientists to see parts of the planet that rovers can’t reach. It might even be possible someday to use this technology to carry objects from one site to another.

So how did they manage to get Ingenuity off the ground? Scientists compensated for the less-dense atmosphere with larger blades that rotate more quickly in the thin air of Mars. NASA’s engineers estimate that Ingenuity could fly up to sixteen feet high with a range of 150 feet from its takeoff point.

Dig Deeper Without looking at photographs online, create a sketch of Ingenuity based only on what you’ve learned about it from this article. Compare your drawing with a classmate’s. What is similar between the two drawings? What is different?

Harriet Tubman’s Birthplace Discovered

Who was Harriet Tubman? You probably know that she was a famous abolitionist who helped dozens of enslaved persons escape along the Underground Railroad. You may know much less about her early years. A group of anthropologists has worked to uncover artifacts that provide clues and evidence about the place where she was born and grew up: in Dorchester County, Maryland along the Blackwater River.

photograph of Harriet Tubman around 1885
Harriet Tubman, approximately 1885; Credit: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired 2,600 acres of land to protect the habitat along the Blackwater River. But a Fish and Wildlife manager knew that somewhere on that land was the ten acres that had belonged to Ben Ross, Tubman’s father. To find the exact spot, a dozen archaeologists worked to dig a thousand holes to find evidence. After months without success, one of the archaeologists used a metal detector and located a coin from 1808, the year Ben Ross and Harriet Tubman’s mother, Harriet Green, were married. This gave scientists a better idea of where to look. In the months since then, they have found all kinds of clues, such as pipes and buttons and ceramics. They now have enough evidence to conclude that they have found the lost ten-acre plot of land where Harriet Tubman was born and raised.

Tubman’s birthplace isn’t yet open to the public. But the goal for the future is to create trails that would allow people to visit the historical spot.

Dig Deeper Even though the discovery of Tubman’s birthplace is quite recent, a marker honoring her birthplace already exists. Visit to learn more about it. Where is it located? How is the spot marked? Do you think this recent discovery will change how the site is acknowledged? Explain.