Utility deposits, eating in restaurants because your kitchen is in boxes, having to buy everyone in the family a winter coat because you moved from Florida to Colorado in February (just me?) — military families know that whether you do a full HHG or a full DITY move, or something in between, moving can be expensive. But until now we didn’t know quite how expensive.
The Military Family Advisory Network just released survey data that shows that every PCS move can set a military family back by an average of about $5,000. That’s money they’ll never be reimbursed for and will never recover. Considering that military families move, on average, every two to three years, it sheds some light on one reason why it’s so hard for military families to save money and build wealth. Eighty-four percent of active duty respondents to the survey said they had moved within the past two years.
Included in that $5,000 figure are things that families have to pay to move themselves and the cost of loss and damage to items over and above the reimbursements they receive through the claims process. This PCS season the added chaos of COVID-19 promises to only make moving more hectic and more expensive.
“We’re struggling because of it. You have to spend your money for the expenses, THEN get reimbursed afterwards. We’re skipping my birthday and Thanksgiving … maybe Christmas because it’s not wise to spend any unnecessary money at this time,” said the spouse of an active duty airman in Hawaii.
Respondents reported that, on average, their unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses during a move were almost ,000 and that their average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was almost ,000. And, 68% of respondents said that their possessions—furniture, keepsakes, and other items—were damaged during the move, and some of those items could not be replaced.
“Movers lost one leg of a table and reimbursement tried to just pay us the value of that leg, which is silly. It rendered the table unusable,” said the spouse of an Army active duty member in Washington.
Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.
“They know they can take and break whatever they want, and nothing is really done about it. They will also mark damage that actually isn’t there on the paperwork so they can avoid claims for when they do damage things. They dropped our daughter’s dresser out of the truck and just laughed about it,” said the spouse of an active duty soldier in Texas.
The moving costs data is part of MFAN’s larger 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, presented by Cerner Government Services. The full survey report will be released Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. during a one-hour interactive release event.
Earlier this month, senior Department of Defense officials said the PCS-freeze put in place because of the pandemic is beginning to lift and that 30 to 40% of military personnel moves are already happening. Officials said that as regions of the country get labeled “green,” meaning that service members and their families can move to and from that region, more service members will be allowed to move. In order to be “green”, the region must have decreasing trends in COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms, and local authorities must have eased stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions.
Once a region is determined to be “green,” the Service Secretary, Combatant Commander or the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO) will make a determination if the installations within that region have met additional criteria that include:
Local travel restrictions have been removed
The upcoming school year is expected to start on time and sufficient childcare is available
Moving companies are available to safely move individuals from the community they’re leaving and to the one they’re going to
Local services, such as water, sewer, electricity, are safely available
For many military families, moving is both a blessing and a curse. Living in a new place can be exciting and fun, but uprooting your whole life and starting over somewhere can be overwhelming. Add all the extra costs in, and it’s no wonder that orders to move are often met with dread. Moving is one of the most stressful and expensive experiences in military life, even without the confusion caused by the pandemic. And this year promises to be crazier and costlier than ever.
On Mar. 28, 2019, the Air Force Global Strike Command, that manages the U.S. bombers, ordered a “safety stand-down” of the Lancer fleet.
“During a routine inspection of the B-1B drogue chute system, potentially fleet-wide issues were identified with the rigging of the drogue chute. It appears to be a procedural issue and is unrelated to the previous problem with egress system components. As a precautionary measure, the commander directed a holistic inspection of the entire egress system. The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft. As these inspections are completed and any issues are resolved, aircraft will return to flight,” said an official statement released by the Command on the very same day.
The drogue chute is part of the B-1B emergency egress system that relies on ACES II ejections seats, hatches in the upper side of the fuselage through those the seats are ejected from the aircraft and the drogue chutes, used to put the seat in the proper position before the main parachute deploys.
The safety stand-down was issued after the U.S. Air Force had already grounded its Lancer fleet in June last year, following an in-flight emergency on a Dyess Air Force Base’s B-1B with the 7th Bomb Wing, on May 1, 2018: the heavy bomber was on a training mission when a serious engine fire erupted near the right wing root. There were fire warnings in three areas of the aircraft. All but one was extinguished by taking appropriate flight procedures, prompting the aircraft commander to heed technical orders and command a controlled manual ejection from their burning bomber over the Texas desert. When the first crew ejection seat failed to leave the plane successfully, the aircraft commander ordered the crew to immediately stop the escape procedure and managed to fly the damaged and burning aircraft with a crew hatch missing and the cockpit open to the surrounding wind blast to the Midland Air and Space Port near Odessa, Texas where the crew made a successful emergency landing.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, arrives at Andersen AFB, Guam, Dec. 4, 2017
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)
So, the 2018 incident has nothing to do with the current issue that still keeps the bomber fleet on the ground. However, as reported by Air Force Magazine, Air Force Global Strike Command commander Gen. Timothy Ray approved a recovery plan on Apr. 16, 2019: all the U.S. Air Force 66 B-1s will be inspected. It takes from 7 to 10 days to inspect the egress system and aircraft will be cleared to fly once the inspections are completed Ray said according to Air Force Magazine.
An incredible image showing five B-52s flying over Northern Europe during the recent deployment of B-52s to RAF Fairford, UK. The B-52s and the B-2s remain operative as the B-1 fleet is grounded.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The safety stand-on was order as there no B-1s deployed across the world. The most recent deployments of U.S. strategic bombers involved the B-52: six “Buffs” belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing, deployed to the UK last month as part of a Bomber Task Force rotation in Europe (the largest Stratofortress deployment since Iraqi Freedom in 2003, when there were as many as 17x B-52s on the ramp at RAF Fairford); B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB are currently deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of Continuous Bomber Presence mission in the Pacific region.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
A corroded blade that came loose on a Marine CorpsKC-130T transport aircraft at 20,000 feet above Mississippi caused the deaths of 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman in 2017, according to a Marine Corps accident investigation released Dec. 6, 2018.
The propeller blade — improperly maintained by Air Force maintenance crews in 2011 and later overlooked by the Navy, according to officials — set off a series of cascading events that would cut the aircraft into three pieces before it fell to the ground on July 10, 2017, in a LeFlore County field, officials wrote in the investigation.
“Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex failed to remove existing and detectable corrosion pitting and [intergranular cracking] on [Propeller 2, Blade 4] in 2011, which ultimately resulted in its inflight liberation,” investigators wrote. “This blade liberation was the root cause of the mishap.”
The aircraft, which belonged to Marine Aerial Refueling Squadron 452, out of Newburgh, New York, had been tasked with transporting six Marines and a sailor belonging to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command from Cherry Point, North Carolina, to Yuma, Arizona, for team-level pre-deployment training.
Seven service members were from MARSOC’s 2nd Marine Raider Battalion; nine Marine aircrew belonged to the squadron, VMGR-452. All 16 troops aboard the aircraft perished in the crash.
Sgt. Maj. Randall Anderson, the sergeant major assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, calls roll during a memorial service at Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, New York, Aug. 27, 2017. Nine Marines assigned to VMGR-452 were among the 16 dead following a KC-130T Super Hercules crash.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julio A. Olivencia Jr.)
“I found that the deaths of Maj. Cain M. Goyette, Capt. Sean E. Elliott, Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Hopkins, Gunnery Sgt. Brendan C. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox, Staff Sgt. William J. Kundrat, Staff Sgt. Joshua M. Snowden, Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan M. Lohrey, Sgt. Chad E. Jenson, Sgt. Talon R. Leach, Sgt. Julian M. Kevianne, Sgt. Owen J. Lennon, Sgt. Joseph J. Murray, Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman, Cpl. Daniel I. Baldassare and Cpl. Collin J. Schaaff occurred in the line of duty and not due to their misconduct,” an investigator said.
“Neither the aircrew nor anybody aboard the KC-130T could have prevented or altered the ultimate outcome after such a failure,” officials said.
The crew had come over in two KC-130Ts from Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York. The two planes swapped missions, investigators said, “due to difficulties with cargo and embarkation” with one of the aircraft.
The destination of the flight, call sign “Yanky 72,” was Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.
The KC-130T carried thousands of pounds in cargo, including “two internal slingable unit 90-inch (ISU-90) containers, one Polaris Defense all-terrain utility vehicle (MRZR), and one 463L pallet of ammunition,” officials said. Also on board were 968 lithium-ion batteries, 22 cans of spray paint, one compressed oxygen cylinder, personal baggage and military kits, weighing about 2,800 pounds.
Propeller Two, including the corroded Blade Four, or P2B4, on the aircraft had flown 1,316.2 hours since its last major overhaul in September 2011, according to the documents. The aircraft had last flown missions May 24 through July 6, 2018, accumulating more than 73.3 hours within those two weeks.
The aircraft entered service in 1993. The propeller in question was made by UTC Aerospace Systems.
On the day of the accident, after it had detached from the rotating propeller, P2B4 sliced through the port side of the main fuselage, the 73-page investigation said.
The blade cut into the aircraft and then “passed unobstructed through the [mishap aircraft’s] interior, and did not exit the airframe but rather impacted the interior starboard side of the cargo compartment where it remained until cargo compartment separation,” it said. Its impact cut into the starboard interior support beam.
The violent force shook through the plane, causing the third propeller engine to separate from the aircraft. It bounced back into the aircraft, striking the right side of the fuselage and forcing a portion of one of the fuselage’s longerons to buckle. Its impact also caused significant damage to the starboard horizontal stabilizer, causing “the stabilizer to separate from the aircraft,” the investigation said.
A KC-130T Hercules in flight.
(Photo by James M. Cox)
Soon after, the aircraft’s cockpit, center fuselage and rear fuselage would all break apart mid-air during its rapid descent.
The pilots and crew involved in the cataclysmic event likely experienced immediate disorientation and shock, rendering them immobile, officials said.
Investigators said an average of 5 percent of blades processed in the past nine years by Warner Robins (WR-ALC) were Navy or Marine Corps blades. The maintenance paperwork for the 2011 work on P2B4 no longer exists because, per Air Force regulations, work control documents are destroyed after a period of two years, the investigation noted.
During the quality control and quality assurance process, where items are inspected and approved or rejected based on their conditions, investigators said Warner Robins used ineffective practices and bypassed critical maintenance procedures.
Some of the other blades and propellers also were considered unsatisfactory, investigators said.
According to the report, the aircraft also missed an inspection in the spring. A 56-day conditional inspection is required when, within 56 days, the engine has not been run or the propeller has not been manually rotated “at least three consecutive times” on the aircraft, or a propeller has not “been flowed on a test stand at an intermediate level maintenance activity.” Investigators said there was no supported evidence that a checkup was conducted.
The Navy also neglected to impose a check-and-balance system on the WR-ALC’s work, investigators stated.
“Negligent practices, poor procedural compliance, lack of adherence to publications, an ineffective QC/QA program at WR-ALC, and insufficient oversight by the [U.S. Navy], resulted in deficient blades being released to the fleet for use on Navy and Marine Corps aircraft from before 2011 up until the recent blade overhaul suspension at WR-ALC occurring on Sept. 2, 2017,” officials said.
A Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) liaison stationed at WR-ALC also did not check on the maintenance being done, according to Military Times and Defense News. Leaders at the base had “no record” of the liaison ever checking procedures, the report said.
Since the accident, multiple agencies — including the Navy; Air Force; respective commands; UTC Aerospace, maker of the propeller; and officials from Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer — have convened to streamline practices and procedures to prevent any more similar catastrophic events, the documents said.
Investigators recommended the joint team’s primary objective be to create a “uniform approach” to overhauling procedures for both Air Force and Navy C-130T blades.
“WR-ALC plans to upgrade and improve their … process[es],” which will include the use of additional robotics, automation, and a wider scope of what’s inspected, the investigation said.
That includes more refined paperwork filings into “one consolidated electronic document identifying all defects and corrective actions,” it said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance is the number one most requested capability by combat commanders and for more than a year enlisted airmen have been helping the Air Force meet this demand by piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has continually expressed the importance of the ISR force and finding innovative methods to relieve the pressure of getting commanders on the ground more data.
“Looking at new ways to operate within our [remotely piloted aircraft] enterprise is critical given that ISR missions continue to be the number one most requested capability by our combatant commanders. We expect that will only continue to expand,” said Goldfein. “We know our enlisted airmen are ready to take on this important mission as we determine the right operational balance of officer and enlisted in this ISR enterprise for the future.”
A RQ-4 Global Hawk taxis for take off from the Beale Air Force Base, Calif. June 14, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
In light of this, the Air Force selected 12 active-duty airmen last year to become RQ-4 pilots as part of the first Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, the first enlisted airmen to fly aircraft since 1942.
“I wasn’t expecting to be selected,” said Tech. Sgt. Courtney, an RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot who was part of the initial class. “It was a huge honor and I was extremely excited and nervous. I’m glad I applied, a lot of great opportunities have come from it and I’ve learned a lot more about the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) enterprise by being able to move to the pilot side.”
Courtney has been part of the ISR career field throughout her career. Over the years she’s filled several roles, including one as an imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and the RQ-4, where she sat next to the pilot operating the aircraft’s camera during missions.
Enlisted pilots of the RQ-4 Global Hawk at Beale Air Force Base, Cali., are now flying operational missions after completing pilot training. These are the first enlisted Airmen to fly aircraft for the U.S. Air Force since 1942.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
She always wanted to be a pilot and was going through the process of applying for Officer Training School to come back and fly RPAs when this program was offered as an exclusive volunteer possibility by the Air Force.
Courtney says even though it’s unique paradigm shift to have officer and enlisted pilots training and flying side-by-side, the dynamic of operating and conducting a mission is no different than on any other airframe.
“It’s important because everybody’s opinion matters when you’re flying an aircraft or executing a mission,” said Courtney. “We’re trained and we’re expected to fill an expectation and a skill level of that crew position. So regardless of what the rank is, our job is to get the mission done and if the senior airman sensor operator has a better idea and it works and I agree with it, then that’s what we’ll go with. Rank doesn’t play a part when we’re executing the mission.” For RQ-4 pilots, there are a lot of missions.
In 2017, the Air Force was tasked with nearly 25,000 ISR missions, collecting 340,000 hours of full motion video and producing 2.55 million intelligence products — which averages almost five products per minute that close intelligence gaps and support target analysis and development.
The Enlisted Pilot Initial Class training was created to provide more pilots to the RQ-4 program and ensure the Air Force is able to keep up with the high demand for its ISR products.
But, training new pilots takes time as the RPA training program spans almost a full year. Airmen begin Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Pueblo, Colorado, where they learn to fly and complete a solo flight in a DA-20 Katana aircraft. After IFT, students progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and then Global Hawk Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, California.
Maj. Michael, a remotely piloted aircraft fundamentals course instructor pilot, right, discusses a training mission utilizing the Predator Reaper Integrated Mission Environment simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted pilot student, and Staff Sgt. James, a basic sensor operator course instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
At the conclusion of this training airmen are rated, instrument-qualified pilots who are Federal Aviation Administration certified to fly the RQ-4 in national and international airspace and mission-qualified to execute the high altitude ISR mission.
“We pin their wings on them,” said Keith Pannabecker, a civilian simulator instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “The creation of the career field was the best thing the Air Force could have done because it created an avenue for folks to volunteer. Beforehand, we were robbing Peter to pay Paul from the manned and unmanned airframes.”
Pannabecker, who is a retired Air Force colonel who helped with the inception of the RPA enterprise, thinks the Air Force is on track with a smart solution to a real problem, which is a shortage of pilots around the whole Air Force.
Keith Pannabecker, a remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilot, left, monitors a training mission utilizing the T-6 Flight Simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted RPA pilot student, at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.
(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)
“We no longer pull pilots from the manned aircraft,” said Pannabecker. “Now, we’ve got our fresh group of motivated young people that are saying, please pick me to come be RPA pilots, which wasn’t always the case with asking for volunteers from the manned aircraft pilots. So, what we have now is a win-win.”
Since the graduation of the initial enlisted pilots in 2017, the Air Force added 30 more airmen into the training pipeline this year and plans to grow to 100 pilots by 2020. By then the Air Force expects nearly 70 percent of Global Hawk missions will be commanded by the “Flying Sergeants.”
“So, enlisted pilots are a very small force right now and we’ve relied on each other for information and we are each others’ shoulders to lean on,” said Courtney. “It’s going to take some time for enlisted pilots to integrate into the squadron and find the perfect flow, but we are very integrated into the mission.”
Remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilots and student pilots review the training mission schedules of the the T-6 Flight Simulator at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.
(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)
Courtney said during February 2018 all RQ-4 missions in the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale were flown by enlisted pilots.
“I’m hopeful in the future for the enlisted pilots and an equal playing field, so we won’t be seen as enlisted or officer, but we’ll be seen simply as pilots,” said Courtney.
Courtney believes the only thing that matters is providing intelligence that’s vital to the men and women on the ground fighting every day.
“It’s something that I value and I appreciate. Being able to be the commander of those missions means a lot to me and I take it seriously,” said Courtney. “I have so much respect for the other men and women that fly alongside of me. I’m thankful I’m able to provide that protection and the extra level of intelligence that they need to get their mission done.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The Senate has confirmed Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary, making her President Donald Trump’s first service secretary nominee to be approved by the GOP-led chamber after fits and starts for several others.
Senators voted 76-22 Monday to approve Wilson, who represented New Mexico in the House before becoming a defense industry consultant. Her post-congressional work drew scrutiny for several Democrats, who had questioned an arrangement with government laboratories that paid her $20,000 a month. Wilson denied any impropriety.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he voted against Wilson’s nomination because of his lingering concerns with the payments. Reed also cited as troubling a call Wilson made a decade ago while still a member of Congress to a federal prosecutor handling a politically charged corruption probe.
Trump’s attempts to fill the other two service secretary jobs have failed so far. His picks for secretaries of the Army and Navy were forced to withdraw from consideration.
Mark Green, Trump’s second choice for Army secretary, stepped aside late last week amid growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.
The Trump administration has been slow to fill many other senior civilian posts at the Pentagon, leaving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis short of the support he needs to manage the nation’s vast military enterprise. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding confirmation hearings Tuesday for three important financial positions at the Defense Department: comptroller, deputy comptroller and director of cost assessment and program evaluation.
After serving five terms in Congress from New Mexico, Wilson collected nearly half a million dollars in questionable payments from federally funded nuclear labs, the Energy Department’s inspector general said in a 2013 report. Wilson failed to provide documentation for the consulting work she did to earn $20,000 a month from the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs in New Mexico from January 2009 to March 2011, the report said.
Wilson deflected questions about the payments, saying during her Senate confirmation hearing that she’d performed the work and that the inspector general had found no fault with her.
The telephone call referenced by Reed, the senator from Rhode Island, was made by Wilson in October 2006 to David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney in New Mexico. Iglesias was one of seven federal prosecutors fired a few months later by the Bush administration. At the time, Iglesias was handling a number of public corruption cases. Reed said the call raised the possibility Iglesias may have felt pressured by Congress in an ongoing investigation. Wilson said she did nothing improper.
Wilson served as an Air Force officer in Europe during the 1980s and was on the National Security Council staff under President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982 and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. Wilson is the first graduate of the academy to hold to hold the service’s top civilian post.
Wilson said that once confirmed she would resign as president of the South Dakota School of Mines Technology. She’d also assured the Defense Department’s general counsel that she would divest of stocks she holds in companies that do work for the U.S. military, including Intel, IBM, Honeywell and Raytheon.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, called Wilson a “proven leader” and said she would lead the service to a stronger future.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea on July 6, 2018, his third trip to the region, as part of an effort to solidify agreements on denuclearization.
Pompeo’s trip comes less than a month after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participated in a joint summit in Singapore.
But the US’s top diplomat also planned to give Kim a gift: an Elton John CD featuring the song “Rocket Man.” Trump’s inspiration for the gift reportedly stemmed from a conversation he had with Kim during the summit, sources told the conservative South Korean news outlet, Chosun Ilbo.
“Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no,” one diplomatic source reportedly said. Trump was said to have written a message on the CD and signed it, according to Chosun Ilbo.
At one of the lowest points in US-North Korean relations since Trump took office, the US president frequently called Kim “little rocket man” in Trump’s speeches and tweets in 2017.
“We can’t have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place,” Trump said at the rally in Huntsville, Alabama. “This shouldn’t be handled now, but I’m gonna handle it because we have to handle it. ‘Little Rocket Man.'”
Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit.
But while it appeared Trump was mocking Kim at the time, he reportedly told people at a Republican fundraiser in September 2017 that his nickname for Kim was intended to be a compliment.
On July 5, 2018, Trump also mentioned Elton John during a campaign rally for Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale in Montana. Trump referenced the size of the crowds at his rallies and said he had “broken more Elton John records.”
Pompeo’s trip comes amid reports that various facilities at a North Korean nuclear complex are operating as usual, and a scathing US intelligence assessment that found the regime intended to “deceive” the US.
The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites. The officials said they believe Kim may be trying to conceal the secret facilities.
“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”
The Army private responsible for a massive leak of classified documents to Wikileaks has reportedly made the short list for presidential clemency.
According to a report by The Independent, Pfc. Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning), who was sentenced to 35 years in prison, reportedly has attempted suicide twice in the last year.
Manning’s supporters believe it could be the last chance the former intelligence analyst receives for clemency for a long time. Manning had also gone on a hunger strike over the government’s refusal to provide gender-reassignment surgery.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has urged President Obama to pardon Manning, saying that “you alone” could save the 29-year-old’s life. Manning has been in solitary confinement for at least eight months, according to a column in the Guardian.
Manning was convicted of espionage in a July 2013 court-martial for handing the documents to Wikileaks. The documents pertained to the Global War on Terror, and according to a report by the Daily Caller, included diplomatic cables.
In September, the Daily Caller reported Manning was sentenced to two weeks in solitary confinement for a July suicide attempt. That report noted that Manning had provided Wikileaks with video of an attack by an AH-64 Apache against insurgents, during which two employees of the British news agency Reuters were also killed.
The September report by the Daily Caller noted that Manning could be eligible for parole after serving seven years of the 35-year sentence handed down at the court-martial.
The push for clemency, though, has its critics.
Following legal proceedings that protected PFC Manning’s rights of due process, he was ordered to pay the price for betraying his country,” Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness told WATM in a statement. “If President Obama grants clemency, he would set a problematic precedent that would have long-term consequences for national security.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, also was critical of the potential clemency.
“Manning is serving time for treason, giving away secrets that endangered fellow soldiers,” he told WATM. “I have no sympathy for those who betray our country by committing treason.”
“Keep in mind when president’s grant clemency to those who were convicted by Courts Martial he is undermining the military justice system,” Maginnis added.
A Marine in full combat gear moves through dark, frigid water, gripping an M-16 rifle, before plunging under barbed wire and through a submerged drainage pipe. It is only when the fighter shouts an order over the sound of explosions does the historical nature of the TV advertisement become clear: the Marine is a woman.
For a Corps that has struggled with the perception that it is the least welcoming of women among the military services, the new ad is part of a campaign to appeal to a new generation of Marines. It is also a bid for more female recruits for “the few, the proud,” particularly athletes capable of meeting the tough physical standards required.
“The water was 27 degrees and coated with a layer of thick ice,” said Marine Capt. Erin Demchko, describing the great difficulty of the gauntlet, all while being surrounded by camera crews. “Giving the film production staff what they wanted, while maintaining my bearing as a Marine officer and trying not to look cold, was a challenge.”
Demchko, a deputy commander at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan, is part of the Marine Corps’ expanding effort to recruit women. The smallest military service has the lowest percentage of women, and wants at least 10 percent representation by 2019. While female Marines occasionally have appeared in ads and been featured in online videos, this is the first time a woman is the focus of a national television commercial for the Corps.
The service is battling an image problem, especially after a recent scandal involving nude photos shared online. Many were accompanied by crude, derogatory or even violent comments about women. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the matter and several Marines have been disciplined.
But the perception of the Marines as a male domain goes back further. They were the only service to seek an exception when the Pentagon moved to allow women to serve in all combat jobs. That request was denied in late 2015 by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
The Marines want more. And the ad aims to increase awareness among women about new opportunities, said Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
The message is for potential recruits to “not think that we are only looking for a few good men, that we’re actually using all of our recurring efforts to find good women as well,” he said.
The Marines don’t expect instant results. Low unemployment rates, competition among employers, and the need to increase the overall size of the Marine Corps make recruiting women a challenge.
“We’re facing headwinds now that we didn’t have even a year ago,” said Kennedy, who huddled with counterparts from the other military services last week. “There’s a train wreck coming for some folks. They’re not getting tail winds that they used to have — the high unemployment, the money that was associated with enlistment bonuses.”
Still, he said he expects female recruits to comprise almost a tenth of the Marines entering the service this year.
The ad is being released Friday. It shows a young school girl interceding when students bully another girl. It then follows her as she plays rugby and trains and serves as a Marine. Titled “Battle Up,” the commercial seeks to show the Marines’ fighting spirit and how it carries from youth through combat missions.
For Demchko, filming the commercial was unlike anything she’d ever done.
Small scenes were shot again and again, with multiple cameras following her every move. At a school for Marine Corps officer candidates in Virginia, the crew chopped through a thick layer of ice to film the scenes in the water. They followed her as she pulled herself over logs and barbed wire in the obstacle course at Quantico, known as the Quigley. And she and others shot live rounds during a convoy scene.
While the maneuvers and combat actions were familiar, “everything felt different with all the staff and cameras,” said Demchko, who grew up in Hackensack, N.J., and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. She already has served a tour in Afghanistan.
While the ad “is targeted at young women who are seeking a way to challenge themselves,” she said it could entice anyone who wants to fight for their country.
“I am extremely humbled to be a part of such a big production,” she said. “Professional actors can keep their jobs, though. I’d rather be a Marine.”
Paramount released the first trailer for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, the film adaptation of war correspondent Kim Barker’s 2011 book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan andPakistan.
Fey plays Barker, a childless, unmarried reporter who volunteers to go to Afghanistan and Pakistan, including an embedded assignment with U.S. Marines in the region. Joining her is Margot Robbie, who of all people explains the “Desert Queen Principle” to Fey’s Barker once in country.
The film also stars Martin Freeman as a Scottish journalist, Alfred Molina (who is not of Afghan descent) as a local Afghan official, and Billy Bob Thorton as the Marine Corps commanding officer. The trailer makes the film seem like a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for reporters, which the film even outright calls “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard.”
Barker’s original book depicted her own humorous journey from hapless to hardcore. She covered stories about Islamic militants and the reconstruction efforts in the Af-Pak area, along with her fears about the future of the region.
The United States dropped more than seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between 1957 and 1975, more than twice what it dropped on Europe and Asia during all of World War II. That’s a lot of ordnance. This doesn’t take into account the rockets, mortars, tank rounds, etc. used by American and allied infantrymen on the ground in Vietnam. An estimated ten percent or more of that tonnage didn’t explode – which means it’s still there.
It also means someone, now nearly 50 years later, is going to find it – a mother, father, or child. That’s where Chuck Searcy, a U.S. Army veteran, comes in. He’s on a mission to clear those UXOs.
Chuck Searcy is a Georgia-based Army vet on a new mission.
Searcy co-founded Project RENEW in 2001, a million effort to clear unexploded weapons from the former war zone while teaching children about the bombs and helping those affected by them.
Since the war’s official end in 1975 – when North Vietnam invaded and forcibly unified the South – more than 100,000 Vietnamese civilians have been killed by unexploded ordnance in the country. Some of them were farmers or other kinds of laborers, clearing paths through fields as they’ve done time and time again. Others injured by the bombs were metal scrappers, gathering what they could to make extra money.
Ten percent is a lot of explosive still sitting around.
In 2017, Searcy and Project RENEW cleared some 17,000 munitions found in the middle of Vietnam. Over the project’s lifetime, the group has cleared more than a million. Searcy first returned to Vietnam in 1995, the year after the United States formally normalized relations with the still-Communist country. Back then, he was helping kids find orthopedic devices for missing limbs, but he kept reading about the problems with explosives in the countryside.
Now they do. When someone finds a bomb and reports it, the group will send out a team to dispose of it as they always have. But in the last 20 years, they’ve become more proactive, more methodical. They not only interview villagers asking about bomb sightings, they examine U.S. Air Force databases, reviewing every single bombing run of the war.
Chuck Searcy now and in his Vietnam-era years.
While often times, the difference can be difficult to measure, there is one important number to follow, and that is how many people were killed or injured by unexploded ordnance in a given area. In Quang Tri, a province that saw some of the heaviest fighting of the Vietnam War, the number killed or wounded in 2001 (when project RENEW began its education program) was 89. In 2017, the number dwindled to two.
The Army is accelerating plans to build early prototype components for its futuristic Next-Generation Combat Vehicle for the 2030s and beyond – a lighter weight, deployable high-tech armored vehicle platform to control nearby robots, fire new weapons, and outmatch future Russian and Chinese tanks.
While the particular configuration and technology woven into the new combat vehicle is in the early phases of conceptual exploration, there is widespread consensus that the future armored platforms will be able to sense and destroy enemy vehicles and drones at much further ranges, make use of active protection systems, leverage emerging artificial intelligence and command and control systems, use more automation and – perhaps of greatest significance – fire lasers and the most advanced precision weaponry available.
Senior Army leaders tell Warrior Maven that the NGCV program – is being massively sped up. The acceleration of NGCV prototyping is strongly supported in the new 2019 budget request which seeks $119 million for the program.
The revved-up effort is likely to evolve into a family of vehicles to fight alongside or succeed the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and Stryker among other armored platforms.
Development of the new armored vehicles is being pursued in alignment with the Army’s shifting modernization strategy, an effort which places a higher premium on more rapidly prototyping and testing platforms, weapons, and technologies; the idea is to access the best of the “realm of the possible” when it comes to weapons and technology and circumvent some of the bureaucratic challenges known to encumber traditional Army acquisition approaches.
“In the past, we would have spent many years and hours toiling away trying to write down requirements for the system and then fight over the fine points of that system. Then we pour a lot of money in shaping those requirements and then you become bound by them,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Ferarri explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts, technologies and early possibilities for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies, integrate weapons and build in flexibility.
“We are taking time to hone in on what is possible by building prototypes, not the final system. You start tweaking the variables in the near term rather than waiting,” Ferarri said.
Engineering methods now being explored for the vehicle reflect a growing recognition that rapid development, while still measured and intended to ensure the highest quality, is necessary to keep pace with rapid global technological change. More specifically, adaptation of new technologies as they become available is increasingly taking on new urgency in light of current Russian and Chinese armored vehicle modernization efforts.
The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.
“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including antitank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.
In essence, early exploratory efforts seek to engineer a technical foundation sufficient to accommodate future technologies – and maximize weapons, sensors, and computers likely to be available for combat in the 2030s. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, a range of C4ISR technology and a special emphasis on computer processing, automation, and AI.
“We are taking a different approach, much more like silicon valley. We will start with assumptions, then we will prototype and experiment to validate and test the assumption or hypothesis,” Ferarri explained.
This rapid-prototyping Army approach exemplifies the strategic epicenter of the now emerging Army Futures Command.
“We are trying to have a command focused upon what the future might hold and driving technology and concepts. We are having sessions with outside experts and inside leadership,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Ferarri specified that some of the early NGCV prototyping will look at ways to adapt or improve upon existing upgraded armored vehicle platforms. In fact, Army developers have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley or even elements of a Stryker vehicle.
The Army’s “Far-Term” strategic emphasis, aimed at the 2031 to 2046 timeframe according to Army strategy papers, heavily depends upon an Armored Brigade Combat Team’s “ability to ability to deploy rapidly while improving the formation’s mobility, protection, and lethality. As the ABCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers and mortar indirect fire platforms.”
A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to both allow for each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term life-cycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles.
Army developers also explained that the service is doing some early developmental work assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.
“We could look at some novel material such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Weight, speed and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.
“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Abrams robotic wingmen
Army senior developers also tell Warrior Maven that it is conceivable future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, teleoperation and manned-unmanned teaming.
Accordingly, future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.
Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wingman” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed, and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.
“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.
Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation.
GPS enabled way-point technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is by all means far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.
“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible – you are talking about a terrain that is shifting all the time,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Weapons for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle
The Army canceled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, however, some of its innovations, technologies, and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.
Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for application in future armored vehicles. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.
The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.
The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute and uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.
Greater automation, when it comes to sensor data organization, ammunition loading, and even some weapons functions, can reduce the hardware footprint, lower weight, and improve crew survivability.
The new vehicles will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.’
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
Another possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-canceled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System (MCS), was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.
There is a certain irony built into what was the Future Combat Systems effort because, while it was canceled in part for not being survivable enough, many of its concepts and technologies continue to both inform and integrate with modern Army platforms.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”
Special, new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.
“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”
The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.
Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”
By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.
The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.
“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”
Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.
A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.
“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”
Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.
“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”
Two members of Marine Special Operations Command received valor awards for their heroism during a gun battle in 2017 with al Qaeda militants in Northern Africa, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command confirmed on Aug. 15, 2018.
While on a three-day operation to train, advise, and assist partner forces in the unnamed country — which the command withheld due to “classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities” — the Marine Special Operations Team on Feb. 28, 2017, became engaged in a “fierce fight against members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” according to one of the award citations for the unnamed Marines, who are often referred to as “Raiders.”
The two award citations for the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with “V” distinguishing device for valor) were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Task Purpose. Despite redactions of names and the specific Marine Raider team involved, the citations provide a glimpse of a battle between Americans and militants on the African continent that had not previously been made public.
While the specific country where the battle took place remains unknown, Northern Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, according to the United Nations.
Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho told Task Purpose in a statement that partner forces initially engaged and killed one al Qaeda fighter with small arms fire before calling for helicopter support. Militants then attempted to flank the Marines and partner forces from the rear, leading the Marines to “return fire in self-defense.”
United States Military Achievement Medals.
According to one citation, the Raiders’ communications chief and assistant element leader — typically a sergeant or above — “provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements.” The citation went on to say the Marine, while under accurate enemy fire, provided immediate trauma care for a fellow Raider who was wounded and helped evacuate him into a partner force helicopter that was hovering six feet above his position.
The second citation for an element member on the team — typically a sergeant or below — captures how the battle raged from the helicopter overhead. While onboard the partner force helicopter, the Marine fired at militants below, coordinated close air support, and directed the gunners and pilots on board the aircraft.
The militants responded with accurate fire, however, and a partner force soldier behind the helicopter’s M60 machine gun was shot twice in the foot, after which “[the Marine Raider] took control of the M60 and continued to suppress the enemy while treating the wounded gunner,” the citation said.
“He then accompanied the helicopter during the casualty evacuation of the Marine Raider and a second casualty later in the day, and conducted two re-supply deliveries all under enemy fire,” the citation added.
The partner force ultimately secured the site of the battle and “assessed two enemies were killed,” Reho told Task Purpose. The wounded Marine was evacuated and has since made a full recovery.
The gun battle between Marines and al Qaeda militants took place seven months before a deadly battle between ISIS militants and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who were advising partner forces in Niger. The Oct. 4, 2017 ambush resulted in the deaths of four American service members and led the Pentagon to conduct a major review of U.S special operations missions in Africa.
This article originally appeared on Task Purpose. Follow @Taskandpurpose on Twitter.