11 critical questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered, 6 months after the first cases were reported - We Are The Mighty
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11 critical questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered, 6 months after the first cases were reported

In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.

Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.


That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.

What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.

As hospitals around the world care for COVID-19 patients with blood clots, strokes, and long-lasting respiratory failure, scientists are racing to study the coronavirus, spread life-saving information, and combat dangerous misunderstandings.

Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.

How did the new coronavirus get into people?

The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.

Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.

Mounting evidence continues to undercut the conspiracy theory that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory.

Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.

A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.

Why it matters: Understanding how novel zoonotic diseases evolve and spread could lead to improved tracing of and treatments for new emerging diseases.

How many people have actually gotten COVID-19?

Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.

For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.

New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.

Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.

Meanwhile, Italian studies suggest that Italy’s coronavirus deaths could be twice as high as the official tally.

Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.

What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?

Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.

The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.

The seasonal flu, by contrast, has an R0 of about 1.3.

A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.

Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.

Just one minute of loud speech can produce over 1,000 coronavirus-containing droplets that linger in the air for eight minutes or longer, according to research from the National Institutes of Health. Studies have shown that just a few hundred copies of a respiratory virus are enough to infect another person.

There’s also evidence the virus may be spread by feces, but that seems to pose less of a transmission threat.

Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.

What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?

Studies have outlined a step-by-step path for how the coronavirus kills patients.

First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.

The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.

Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.

The pattern of critical cases is alarming to clinicians, and something they’re still trying to grasp: It’s not just people with apparent risk factors like smoking and chronic illnesses who get severely ill — it’s also some young and seemingly healthy people.

Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.

What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?

Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.

Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.

Government action matters greatly, too. In places that did not respond forcefully and early to the outbreak, emergency rooms and intensive-care units have been crushed with patients who require care. That can outstrip resources and force doctors to make life-or-death triage decisions.

Recent estimates suggest that the global fatality rate for the coronavirus is about 1%, but may range from 0.4% to 3.6%.

Experts still aren’t sure why some coronavirus patients develop severe symptoms that could lead to death, while other people have mild, if any, symptoms.

One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.

Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.

Why do young people face the least risk of dying?

On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.

Between January 22 and May 30, people in their 20s and 30s made up 30% of confirmed cases in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those age categories represented 10% of hospitalizations and 9% of ICU admissions, but less than 2% of confirmed deaths.

Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.

It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.

The CDC’s largest study of children with the coronavirus to date found that 18% of those studied tested positive but didn’t report symptoms. The report, however, only included kids with confirmed cases, so the breakdown is likely skewed.

Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”

One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.

The immune system also becomes more dysregulated as a person ages. So the pediatric immune system may simply be better at battling the coronavirus than the adult immune system.

Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.

Can you get reinfected?

The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”

There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.

Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.

Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.

A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.

Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.

How seasonal is the coronavirus?

Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.

An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.

But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.

Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.

Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?

There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.

President Trump has promoted and sought stockpiles of hydroxychloroquine: a relatively inexpensive drug typically used to kill malarial parasites and treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But it was found to have no significant benefits for COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration revoked the drug’s emergency use authorization on June 15, noting “serious” heart issues and other side effects in patients taking the medication.

A more promising drug is remdesivir, an experimental antiviral chemical that the FDA approved for emergency use on May 1. Data from the National Institutes of Health suggests that remdesivir helped hospitalized coronavirus patients recover more quickly. Thousands of patients have been treated with the drug through clinical trials and expanded access programs.

Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.

Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?

More than 140 coronavirus vaccines are in development. At least 30 are expected to start human testing in 2020, and 16 leading candidates are already being tested on humans in clinical trials.

Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.

Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.

The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.

Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.

What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?

It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.

Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.

While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.

“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.

“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”

Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the Russian submarine fleet is such a basket case

The Russian Navy has been having a lot of problems since the end of the Cold War. The Kuznetsov Follies are just the tip of the iceberg. But the Russian Navy may be taking a real hit under the ocean.


Yeah, folks, Russia’s headed for a big hit on the submarine front. In a sense, they already took one.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had an immense fleet of submarines, ranging from the ancient Whiskey-class diesel-electric subs to modern Typhoon-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

A port bow view of a Soviet Oscar Class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarine underway. Each Oscar sub is equipped with 24 SS-N-19 550-kilometer-range missiles. (DOD photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, there were a total of 61 submarines active in the Russian Navy in 2015. In 1985, the Soviet Navy had 366. That is a drop of 83 percent. Much of this was due to the end of the Cold War. Russia, practically bankrupt, couldn’t afford to keep many of those subs in service.

Worse, new construction also fell off, truncating the production runs of the Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines and the Akula-class attack submarines. It also had the effect of stretching out the time it took to get the first Yasen-class submarine built (20 years from start to finish on the first sub). The slow rate of construction means that Russia will see its nuclear submarine force dwindle even further.

Improved Kilo class submarine. Photo from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Russian submarines have also had a disturbing trend of being lost in accidents, including at least three nuclear submarines since 1985, a Yankee-class ballistic missile sub off Bermuda in 1986, a Mike-class attack submarine off Norway in 1989, and the Oscar-class submarine Kursk in a 2000 explosion.

One bright spot for Russia is that the production of diesel-electric submarines like the Kilo-class are continuing, fuelled by export orders. That said, the recent loss of an Indian Navy Kilo, the Sindhurakshak, to a fire and explosion in 2013 will leave open questions about the quality of Russian designs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Use these 4 tips from Winston Churchill to write better emails

Emails- They are the bane of our existence, but they are how we communicate in the modern world. Each day, military leaders clean out their inboxes only to have them fill back up within hours. Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t equal quality. Too often, the purpose of the email is buried, with the sender seeming to aim for length rather than substance. Unfortunately, many of these garbled messages create misalignment in organizations, waste time, money and in some extreme cases–lives.


Why does it matter? It matters because being able to effectively communicate through writing provides leaders and staff officers with understanding and the ability to act. Additionally, when we communicate efficiently, we give the person we’re communicating with time back to focus on other things besides reading emails or multi-page SITREPs.

Eighty years ago, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill faced a similar problem. Every day he received a large volume of typed reports in his black box from his War Cabinet. And as he pointed out in a 1940 memorandum titled BREVITY, “Nearly all of [the reports] are too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.”

Fortunately for us, Sir Winston offered his staff four tips that can help us improve our communication skills today.

  1. The aim should be reports which set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs
  2. If a report relies on a detailed analysis of some complicated factors, or on statistics, these should be set out in an Appendix.
  3. Often the occasion is best met by submitting not a full-dress report, but an aide-memoire consisting of headings only, which can be expanded orally if needed.
  4. Let us have an end to such phrases as these: “It is also important to bear in mind the following considerations…..” or “Consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect……” Most of these wooly phrases are mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word. Let us not shrink from using the short expressive phrase, even if it is conversationalized.

www.history.navy.mil

In other words

Less is more. When writing emails, brevity is better. A long email can overcomplicate an issue and your main message may get lost in the process.

I’ve learned that it is best to open emails with one or two sentences that describe the purpose of your correspondence. It also helps to let them know upfront if you are telling them for awareness or if you want them to make a decision. When you do it well, you don’t need to write the letters “BLUF” because it will be inherent. If you have suspense, include it upfront. And then end your paragraph there.

So as many of us spend the next several weeks working from home, let us take a page from Churchill’s notebook.

Be brief. Be brilliant. Hit send.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US’ latest action against potential EMP attack

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on March 26, 2019, to protect the US from electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that could have a “debilitating” effect on critical US infrastructure.

Trump instructed federal agencies to identify EMP threats to vital US systems and determine ways to guard against them, Bloomberg first reported. A potentially harmful EMP event can be caused by a natural occurrence or the detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere.


The threat of an EMP attack against the US reportedly drove the president to issue March 26, 2019’s order. Multiple federal agencies, as well as the White House National Security Council, have been instructed to make this a priority.

“Today’s executive order — the first ever to establish a comprehensive policy to improve resilience to EMPs — is one more example of how the administration is keeping its promise to always be vigilant against present dangers and future threats,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, according to The Hill.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

With the release of the White House National Security Strategy in 2017, Trump became the first president to highlight the need to protect to the US electrical grid.

“Critical infrastructure keeps our food fresh, our houses warm, our trade flowing, and our citizens productive and safe,” the document said.

“The vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure to cyber, physical, and electromagnetic attacks means that adversaries could disrupt military command and control, banking and financial operations, the electrical grid, and means of communication.”

Senior US officials warned that the US needs to take steps to safeguard the electrical grid and other important infrastructure against EMP attacks, The Washington Free Beacon reported on March 26, 2019. “We need to reduce the uncertainty in this space” and “mitigate potential impact” of an EMP attack, one senior administration official said.

“We are taking concrete steps to address this threat,” the official added. “The steps that we are taking are designed to protect key systems, networks and assets that are most at risk from EMP events.” Federal agencies are being tasked with bolstering the resiliency of critical infrastructure.

Members and supporters of the decommissioned US Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse have long warned of the possibility of an EMP attack, with some individuals, such as Peter Pry, who previously led the congressional EMP commission, asserting that an EMP attack on America could kill off 90% of the US population.

Those seeking to raise awareness have pointed to the threat from solar flares, as well as nuclear-armed adversarial powers.

Others, including Jeffrey Lewis, a renowned nuclear-weapons expert, have said that the EMP threat is a conspiracy. Lewis previously wrote that it seemed “like the sort of overcomplicated plot dreamed up by a Bond villain, one that only works in the movies. Bad movies.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Secretary of the Air Force offers final thoughts before departing

Heather Wilson swore in as the 24th Secretary of the Air Force in May 2017 with a clear-eyed view on the task at hand.

“When Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Air Force I said, “You know, Mr. Secretary, I’m not the kind of gal who just cuts ribbons on new dormitories, that’s not me. But if you want somebody who’s going to help to try to solve problems and make it better, not just different, but better, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Before representing New Mexico’s first district as a member of Congress and being the president of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Wilson was an Air Force officer. During her seven years of service in the 1980s, she served as a planner, political advisor and a defense policy arms control director. Her husband, Jay Hone, served in the 1970s as an Air Force lawyer and went on to retire from the service. For them, Air Force business was family business, and there was work to be done.


Wilson said her responsibilities as SecAF were broader than those of any other executive position she held…she was obligated to the welfare of 685,000 total force airmen and their families, and the oversight of a 8 billion annual budget. Aware of the devastating toll sequestration and 27 years of combat had taken on the force, Wilson called on her wingmen – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright – to help devise and oversee plans to restore the readiness of the force, cost-effectively modernize, and revitalize Air Force squadrons. It would take an Air Force-wide effort to get after these challenges, and the senior leaders’ message to the airmen was clear.

“We trust you…we trust that you’ve been well-trained,” Wilson said. “We will try to give you a clear set of mission parameters and the skills and the abilities to get after the job. Don’t wait to be told what to do…see the problems around you and just get after them. Don’t wait for us.”

That’s one of the things Wilson said she’s appreciated most about the “intelligent, capable and committed” U.S. Air Force airmen – their unique way of handling business.

“I like the fact that airmen don’t always do exactly what they’re told in the way they were told to do it because they come up with better answers to complex, difficult problems,” she said.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to 2nd Maintenance Squadron airmen during a tour at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 14, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mozer O. Da Cunha)

And for the issues that required Headquarters-level intervention, Wilson relied on her wingman for assistance.

“The law says the service secretary has all of the authority to run the service, but the chief of staff has most of the influence,” Wilson said. “There are very few decisions that I make without asking for his advice, and he freely gives that advice. If I know we have a difference in opinion I always want to understand why, and as a result I think we have a very close, professional working relationship, and that is transmitted to the force. We’ve been forging vicious partnerships between both the civilian leadership and the military leadership of the service, and it’s been very effective.”

After two years, the results of Wilson’s empowering leadership are palpable.

“There have been significant advances in the Air Force’s ability to win any fight, any time, including a more than 30% increase in readiness, she said. “We’ve also gone a long way in cost-effective modernization and taking the authorities we’ve been given to buy things faster and smarter. We’ve stripped 100 years out of Air Force procurement in the last year…we’re streamlining the schedules to get capability to the warfighter faster.”

With a shared focus on revitalizing squadrons, Wilson and Goldfein also returned power, time and support back to the squadron by removing redundant policies, revamping personnel evaluations, updating professional military training and extending high year of tenure.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson testifies during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington D.C., April 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)

On a larger scale, Wilson worked with the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to make the process of transferring duty stations easier for military families. Together, they wrote letters to governors across the United States to address two issues members said matter most – the quality of public schools near military installations and reciprocity of licensure.

“We told them, ‘We want you to know when we make basing decisions in the future we’re going to take these things into account,'” she said. “We had some leverage, and I’ve been really pleased at the number of states that have passed laws related to reciprocity of licensure.

“I hope the changes that we’ve made to assignment policies at Talent Marketplace has helped to make a difference, to give families more control and choice over their lives, and recognize that they’re balancing family life with service life,” she continued. “And I hope that ultimately that’ll mean we keep more highly capable airmen in the service for longer.”

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with airmen during a farewell interview at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, May 8, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett)

Though her tenure as SecAF is at its end, the impact of her laser-focused efforts may reverberate throughout the service for years to come.

“I came here to try to make things better,” Wilson said. “Life’s short, time’s short, so you got to make a difference today. I hope people have a better quality of life and quality of service because we were here. And I hope that the Air Force is better because I served.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Women in the military: Making waves since WWI

The history and role of military women throughout the years is fascinating. And with March being Women’s History Month, we decided to dive in and take a look back at the role women have played in the U.S. military from WWI to the present day.


World War I

Many people know that women were part of WWI, but did you know about the women who worked as switchboard operators? The Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit had to be bilingual, speaking in both French and English to ensure orders were heard by everyone. Over 7,000 women applied, but only 450 were accepted and even though they wore Army Uniforms and were subject to Army Regulations they were not given honorable discharges. Grace Banker was one of these women. She led a team of 38 women and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her service.

World War II

During WWII, over 350,000 women served in the U.S. Armed Forces. And while many women worked as nurses, secretaries and telephone operators, there were several other jobs that women filled. The two most influential groups were the Women Armed Service Pilots (WASP) and Woman Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)

Women Armed Service Pilots (WASP)

Women were called up to serve as pilots during World War II to allow men to serve on the front lines overseas. While these women were promised military status, they joined before the final law was passed and, in the end, served as civilians and were not given veteran status until years later. During the time of the program, WASP flew over 60 million miles, transported every type of military aircraft, towed targets for live anti-aircraft training, simulated missions and transported cargo.

Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES)

This program authorized the U.S. Navy to accept women into the Naval Reserve as commissioned officers and enlisted troops. The purpose of the legislation was to release officers and men for sea duty and replace them with women on shore establishments. The first director of the WAVES was Mildred H. McAfee. The WAVES served at 900 stations in the U.S. The WAVES peak strength was 86,291 members. Many female officers entered fields previously held by men, such as engineering and medicine. Enlisted women served in jobs from clerical to parachute riggers.

In 1948, the role and future of military women changed. The Women’s Armed Forces Integration Act of 1948 granted women permanent status in the Regular and Reserve forces of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and newly created Air Force.

Korean War

The Korean War marked a turning point for women’s advancement in the armed forces. While we typically think of Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) from Vietnam, they actually got their start in Korea. The first one was led by Margaret (Zane) Fleming and 12 other Army nurses. This role put the nurses much closer to the front lines and direct combat than anyone had anticipated. On Oct 9, 1950, while moving from Inchon to Pusan they came under attack. They hid in a ditch and helped treat the wounded. Because they all survived the attack, they began calling themselves “The Lucky Thirteen.”

While over a third of women serving were in the medical career field, women served as administrative assistants, stenographers, translators and more. Additionally, the first female chaplains and civil engineers served in the Korean War.

Vietnam War

Approximately 11,000 women served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Nearly 90 percent of these women were nurses. They were an all-volunteer force and arrived in Vietnam as early as 1956. Other women served as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and more. Master Sergeant Barbara Jean Dulinsky was the first female Marine to serve in a combat zone in 1967. Five Navy nurses were awarded the Purple Heart after they were injured in a Viet Cong bombing of an officer’s billet in downtown Saigon on Christmas Eve 1964. They were the first female members to receive that award during the Vietnam War. Commander Elizabeth Barrett in November of 1972, became the first female naval line officer to hold command in a combat zone.

The first female Marine promoted to Sergeant Major was Bertha Peters Billeb. She was the first woman to become the Sergeant Major of female Marines. It was a billet similar in duties and responsibilities to the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Six women would fill this position until it was eliminated in 1977.

Desert Storm/Shield

In Desert Storm, the role and influence of women in the military had integrated into almost every military unit. Over 40,000 women deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, with 15 women killed in action and two women taken prisoner by Iraqi forces. Although women were restricted from combat, a new frontier for women was established as the lines of combat began to blur. Congress began rescinding the statutory restrictions which barred women from combat aircraft and vessels. It was a key step in shaping female service in the military today.

Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had dramatic impacts on female military service today. The military has continued to rely on women service members as the front lines of battle have been eliminated; fighting a war that relies on Improvised Explosive Devices, and surprise attacks both on and off base. But the military has realized the value of women on the battlefield, and began creating teams that partner with military infantry units, such as Team Lioness and Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which eventually paved the way for Female Engagement Teams.

In 2016, after years of women proving their capabilities on the battlefield all jobs were opened to women. Although women have been serving on the front lines of war for decades the regulations preventing women from serving in career fields that were held historically by men were finally rescinded. Since then we have seen women sign up for and complete the rigorous training programs required to serve in some of the most elite military groups.

Women have proven their willingness to answer the nation’s call and take on new roles at each challenge. Where will they go next?

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 fictional countries America should invade

Ever since a 2015 poll revealed that a certain slice of Americana supported bombing Agrabah, the fictional city Disney’s Aladdin calls home, it’s been interesting to consider what other fictional countries have actually messed with the United States and totally gotten a pass. Agrabah didn’t actually damage its relations with the U.S., presumably because the U.S. either doesn’t exist yet in that world, or because they don’t have oil.


Or because Magic isn’t considered a WMD… yet.

Meanwhile, a number of other countries have attacked America and/or its American heroes and haven’t yet met the full-on retaliation they deserve.

1. Pottsylvania — “Rocky and Bullwinkle”

These guys have been sending special agents to try and kill American heroes FOR YEARS. Pottsylvania is populated entirely by special agents and saboteurs.

Their children are taught assassination techniques and espionage practices from an early age, their highest medal is the Double Cross and their mysterious dictator (known only as “Fearless Leader”) makes Kim Jong-Un look like a teddy bear. Their two most active agents are skilled infiltrators and have never been captured.

They are pictured on this surveillance photo, planting an IED.

2. Bilya — “Iron Eagle”

Bilya is supposed to be a fictional Arab state in the Middle East. These guys had the balls to shoot down an American F-16, capture its pilot, and then sentence him to hang in a show trial.

This is not the face of someone who is just going to let that happen.

Luckily, the pilot’s 16-year-old son Doug (an Air Force Academy reject) and Chappie, an Air Force Reserve pilot, steal two F-16s of their own and fly off to Bilya to rescue him. What should have happened was America launching an all-out raid on Bilyan infrastructure and military targets. Then, after they released the American they took for no reason, the Bilyans would pay us back the $18 million they owe us for shooting down our F-16.

3. Val Verde — “Commando,” “Predator,” and “Die Hard 2

This nondescript South American country has more coups than a flock of pigeons (say that sentence aloud for the full effect). For some reason, all of their worst representatives seem to end up in the United States, ready to coerce American heroes to do their bidding.

Fortunately, John Matrix lives inside an unlimited ammo cheat code world.

In “Commando,” a deposed dictator named Arius kidnaps John Matrix’ daughter to force him to kill the current president (of Val Verde). Spoiler Alert: he doesn’t even make it to Val Verde. Instead, he ices every single person who came near his daughter.

I hope Val Verde at least has good veteran’s hospitals.

In “Die Hard 2,” terrorists hit an airport to free another captured dictator, ruining John McClane’s Christmas, everyone’s flight schedules, and never taking any blame for what they do.

And that is United Airlines’ job.

In “Predator,” Dutch Schaeffer’s commando team has to mount a hostage rescue from guerrillas in Val Verde. You might know what happens next (hint: it has something to do with an invisible alien).

Seriously, how many times do they get to mess with America before we do something about this? Who is the President in this movie universe? And I am dying to know more about this place – what are the exports, other than terrorism and contras?

4. Latveria – Marvel Comics

Latveria: a perfectly normal country.

Latveria is an Eastern European nation tucked back into the Carpathian Mountains, led by a guy whose name is freaking Dr. Victor von Doom. Even George W. Bush could convince the world that this guy needed to be ousted, and he wouldn’t have to throw Colin Powell under a bus to do it.

Besides, Russia already has a Dr. Doom.

Dr. Doom is obviously a state sponsor of terrorism. Doom is responsible for the proliferation of chemical weapons, attempted assassinations of allied heads of state, and oh so many crimes against humanity.

And like many 20th century dictators, Dr. Doom got the Henry Kissinger seal of approval.

The Fantastic Four can bring down Hitler, a being who eats planets, and the Prince of Darkness, but can’t seem to overthrow this tiny country and oust its metal-faced dictator? It’s time to send in the Marines.

Lists

8 of the best things about a combat deployment

Being deployed in combat has its fair share of ups and downs. Things can be very dull one minute, then quickly turn south the next.


Although deployed service members work seven days a week, there are few things we get a kick out of that most people will never see or understand.

Related: 7 best ways to pass time on a combat deployment

So, check out eight of the best things about a combat deployment.

8. The crazy excitement after getting into your first victorious firefight.

We trained for several months in some pretty hectic places, but it all seems worth it when your squad works together and takes down the bad guys the first time. That feeling is freakin’ motivating.

We kick their asses! (Image via GIPHY)

7. Blowing up the bad guys with mortars.

Sometimes, the enemy thinks they’re slick since you’re on their home turf. F*ck that!

No matter where you’re at in the world, once a grunt unit learns of an enemy position and calls in for mortars, it’s game over for the bad guys.

6. Calling home for the first time.

Hearing the supportive voices of friends and family back home can restore lost morale in a matter of moments.

5. Hearing the legendary BRRT of an A-10 during a “gun run.”

There’s nothing like hearing the sounds of an A-10’s powerful cannons raining down hot lead onto the enemy’s position when you finally get “air-on-station.”

4. Every mail call.

Frequently, we run out of beef jerky, baby wipes, and fresh socks. So, once your name is called out and you’re given a large care package of goodies? That feeling is epic.

3. Making it back to the FOB with nobody hurt.

Every time we leave the wire, it’s impossible to predict who isn’t coming back.

So, after you return to the safer confines of your FOB, it’s okay to finally exhale the anxiety out of your chest — your military family is okay.

2. Building an unbreakable brotherhood with your boys.

That is all.

Also Read: 14 images that humorously recall your first firefight

1. Coming home.

Hugging your family — who supported you throughout the long deployment — is an incredible feeling.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This American rose to lead an entire army in a foreign war

It’s not everyday you hear about an American rising through the ranks of a foreign army, at least not in the last century. But it was surprisingly recently that one American did in an army in just that way. A U.S. citizen rolled over to Armenia during its Nagorno-Karabakh War with neighboring Azerbaijan. He entered the Armenian army having never fought with an actual army and rose through the ranks to command a force of 4,000 men.


California-born Monte Melkonian’s training regimen looks like the resume of a radical terrorist or Communist. But while he held some leftist views, his experience came fighting only for the lives of Armenians – and when the time came, Armenia itself. If you ask Armenians, who today live in a parliamentary republic, he’s a hero.

In 1988, the breakaway Azerbaijani oblast (province) of Karabakh voted to join the vote to leave not just the crumbling Soviet Union, but also the new country of Azerbaijan. It declared the creation of a new state apart from the USSR while the autonomous oblast of Karabakh declared itself free of Azerbaijan, joining Armenia instead. After all, it did have a majority Armenian ethnic makeup. In 1992, things really hit the fan, and Armenia made decisive territorial gains. At the center of some of those gains was Monte Melkonian, an Armenian-American who had traveled to Armenia at the end of the USSR’s lifetime.

Armenians, after facing a genocide and forced exile from their homelands, are a proud and patriotic people, and Melkonian was no different. He believed that if Azerbaijan were allowed to force Nagorno-Karabakh back into Azerbaijan, then other parts of Armenia would be taken by the Azeri military forces. This was unacceptable to Melkonian, who joined the fighting in 1991. By early 1992, he was a regional commander and quickly began to turn the tides of the war in favor of Armenia.

The California native might have had little experience running an army, but he knew how to fight. As a youth, he helped overthrow the Shah of Iran while a student in Tehran. After witnessing Iranian troops firing on student protesters, he moved north where he learned to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga, still one of the most effective fighting forces in the Middle East to this day. He then traveled to Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War to protect the Armenian Quarter of the Middle Eastern city from right-wing militants.

While in Beirut, he decided to work toward the independence of Armenia and after years of imprisonments and living underground in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, he found himself in Armenia’s disputed territory, leading thousands of men. His training at the hands of the Peshmerga and Palestinians was paying off as he not only pushed the Azerbaijani forces out of Karabakh in less than a year, he captured the region between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia, unifying the two on the map.

Just two months later, he was dead.

Monte Melkonyan’s tomb.

The Armenian hero was killed in a firefight after Azerbaijani troops got lost in the dark and stumbled into his camp. He was given full military honors at his funeral and is interred outside the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where he is still revered as a legend and brilliant military strategist. His ability against the enemy combined with his political views and personal charisma means Armenians and historians remember him as a sort of Armenian Che Guevara.

He is still revered in his adopted homeland, and the Armenian Military Academy, as well as a number of villages, streets, and schools were renamed in his honor. Armenia still controls the areas captured by his forces, even if the borders are still disputed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain deploys fighters to deter Russians over NATO

Two British Typhoon jets based in Romania have scrambled to investigate suspected Russian fighter aircraft operating near NATO airspace over the Black Sea.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said the Typhoons launched from the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Romanian city of Constanta on Aug. 21, 2018, when two suspected Russian Su-30 Flanker aircraft appeared to be heading toward NATO airspace from the Crimea region.


There was no immediate comment from Russian officials.

Encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes have increased in recent years as Moscow demonstrates its resurgent military might.

Russia has also increased its navy’s presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.

Tensions are high in the region since Moscow’s 2014 takeover and illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a move that led to Western sanctions being imposed against Russia.

Two British Typhoon jets were launched from an air base near the Romanian city of Constanta on Aug. 21, 2018.

The British Typhoons were operating in accordance with NATO’s enhanced air policing mission designed to deter “Russian aggression, reassure Romania and assure NATO allies of the UK commitment to collective defense,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It quoted one of the Typhoon pilots as saying, “We had radar contact and shadowed the two aircraft as they flew through the Romanian flight information region, but we never got within visual range to see them.”

Airspace is divided into flight information regions, in which flight and alerting services are provided by a specific country’s aviation authority and differs from sovereign airspace.

The statement did not specify if the Russian jets flew into actual Romanian airspace.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Some veterans went balls out and made a ‘Jurassic Park’ fan film

The craziest thing we could do for this franchise was to fly people and equipment to Hawaii and try to tell a story that has all the elements people love about Jurassic Park but from a tactical military perspective,” producer and Army veteran Gregory Wong told We Are The Mighty.

It was crazy — and somehow he pulled it off.

Wong brought members of the military, firearms, and Jurassic community together to execute his vision: an epic fan film for one of the most iconic franchises of all time.

Hold on to your butts.


Whatever it takes to get the shot.

“We had so many partners on this project and every one of them helped with different aspects of the film. Paradise Park welcomed us in to their home for two days in the most authentic ‘Jurassic Jungle’ any filmmaker could dream of,” said Wong.

The cast and crew had 5 days to get every shot they needed on the island. Like any indie filmmakers could attest, it meant a brutal schedule. Dogs of War helped with three locations and active duty service members stationed on the island helped transport cast and crew — and jumped in for stunts and background work.

Back at base camp, Travis Haley conducts tactical training.

Force Reconnaissance Marine Travis Haley, along with his company, Haley Strategic, was involved with development of prototype gear and equipment just for the film. Haley brought his Spec Ops background and weapons expertise to the film, and he got to learn first-hand how challenging it can be to navigate the military-Hollywood divide.

His knowledge brought authenticity to the film that’s often difficult for filmmakers to get right. Military operations might not always look dynamic on film, but Haley was up to the challenge of portraying realistic tactics while telling an entertaining story.

Cast members pose with two Jurassic Park jeeps provided by Sidney Okamoto and Jacob Mast.

The cast and crew were predominantly veterans, including U.S. Marines Travis Haley, Sean Jennings, and Robert Bruce; U.S. Army vets Byron Leisek and Greg Wong himself; U.S. Navy Corpsman Nic Cornett — who directed the project; and U.S. Air Force vets Mike Jones and (We Are The Mighty’s own) Shannon Corbeil.

Many had never acted on-camera before. Jones, AKA Garand Thumb, has a thriving social media channel and enthusiastic fan base of his own, but traditional film-making was a new adventure for him.

Shannon Corbeil and Mike Jones talk about Air Force things. Probably.

“The filming schedule was rough but the people made it worthwhile. Most of us did this on our own dime and I hope the audience sees the passion we had for bringing this vision to life,” reflected Jones.

Baret Fawbush, a pastor and fundamental shooting instructor, was another social media influencer new to a narrative film set, but he was more than prepared to lend his expertise to the film, personally demonstrating the “manual of arms” for each cast member with a weapon.

Professional actors, like Jamie Costa (who is no stranger to fantastic fan films) and Barrett James, heightened the quality of the film with their talent, while also diligently training with their weapons and tactics.

U.S. Marine Robert Bruce conducts location scouting on Oahu.

Many, many brands came together to help Wong bring the film to the screen. A few of the major ones included Evike, JKarmy, PTS, Krytac, GP, and GG, who donated replica prop firearms and uniforms for the production. Ballahack Outdoor helped outfit the film’s leads with tip-of-the-spear footwear. There’s even a raptor puppet involved, created by Marco Cavassa, a prop builder for the film industry.

The film was primarily shot on a Sony A7Sii by Nero Manalo and VFX artists Kerr Robinson and Joe losczack crafted some very impressive weapon and dinosaur effects.

The obvious way to head to Costa Rica.

“I think a lot of people will appreciate the attention to detail and production value. Never before has a Jurassic fan film been so ambitious and daring. The making of such a project was a wild ride which we hope to embark on again soon,” said Wong.

Congratulations, Greg, you did it. You crazy son of a bitch, you did it.

Check out the film right here:

youtu.be

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside Mattis’ $2.5 billion plan to make the military more lethal

Retired Marine infantry officer Joe L’Etoile remembers when training money for his unit was so short “every man got four blanks; then we made butta-butta-bang noises” and “threw dirt clods for grenades.”

Now, L’Etoile is director of the Defense Department’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force and leading an effort to manage $2.5 billion worth of DoD investments into weapons, unmanned systems, body armor, training, and promising new technology for a group that has typically ranked the lowest on the U.S. military’s priority list: the grunts.


(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)

But the task force’s mission isn’t just about funding high-tech new equipment for Army, Marine, and special operations close-combat forces. It is also digging into deeply entrenched policies and making changes to improve unit cohesion, leadership, and even the methods used for selecting individuals who serve in close-combat formations.

Launched in February, the new joint task force is a top priority of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine Corps infantry officer himself. With this level of potent support, L’Etoile is able to navigate through the bureaucratic strongholds of the Pentagon that traditionally favor large weapons programs, such as Air Force fighters and Navy ships.

“This is a mechanism that resides at the OSD level, so it’s fairly quick; we are fairly nimble,” L’Etoile told Military.com on July 25. “And because this is the secretary’s priority … the bureaucracies respond well because the message is the secretary’s.”

Before he’s done, L’Etoile said, the task force will “reinvent the way the squad is perceived within the department.”

“I would like to see the squad viewed as a weapons platform and treated as such that its constituent parts matter,” he said. “We would never put an aircraft onto the flight line that didn’t have all of its parts, but a [Marine] squad that only has 10 out of 13? Yeah. Deploy it. Put it into combat. We need to take a look at what that costs us. And fundamentally, I believe down at my molecular level, we can do better.”

United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis)

​Improving the Squad

Mattis’ Feb. 8 memo to the service secretaries, Joint Chiefs of Staff and all combatant commands announcing the task force sent a shockwave through the force, stating “personnel policies, advances in training methods, and equipment have not kept pace with changes in available technology, human factors, science, and talent management best practices.”

To L’Etoile, the task force is not out to fix what he describes as the U.S. military’s “phenomenal” infantry and direct-action forces.

“Our charter is really just to take it to the next level,” he said. “In terms of priorities, the material solution is not my number-one concern.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)

​Gifted Grunts

For starters, the task force is looking at ways to identify Marines and soldiers who possess the characteristics and qualities that will make an infantry squad more efficient in the deadly art of close combat.

The concept is murky, but “we are investing in some leading-edge science to get at the question of what are the attributes to be successful in close combat and how do you screen for those attributes?” L’Etoile said. “How do you incentivize individuals with those attributes to come on board to the close-combat team, to stick their hand in the air for an infantry MOS?”

Col. Joey Polanco, the Army service lead at the task force, said it is evaluating several screening programs, some that rely on “big data and analytics to see if this individual would be a better fit for, say, infantry or close-combat formations.”

Polanco, an infantry officer who has served in the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions, said the task force is also looking at ways to incentivize these individuals to “want to continue to stay infantry.”

L’Etoile said the task force is committed to changing policy to help fix a “wicked problem” in the Marine Corps of relying too heavily on corporals instead of sergeants to lead infantry squads.

“In the Marine Corps, there are plenty of squads that are being led by corporals instead of sergeants, and there are plenty of squads being led by lance corporals instead of corporals,” he said. “I led infantry units in combat. There is a difference when a squad is led by a lance corporal — no matter how stout his heart and back — and a sergeant leading them.”

Every Marine must be ready to take on leadership roles, but filling key leader jobs with junior enlisted personnel instead of sergeants degrades unit cohesion, L’Etoile said.

“When four guys are best buddies and they went to boot camp together and they go drinking beer together on the weekends … and then one day the squad leader rotates and it’s ‘Hey Johnson, you are now the squad leader,’ the human dynamics of that person becoming an effective leader with folks that were his peers is difficult to overcome,” he said.

It’s equally important to stabilize the squad’s leadership so that “the squad leader doesn’t show up three months before a deployment but is there in enough time to get that cohesion with his unit, his fire team leaders and his squad members,” L’Etoile said. “Having the appropriate grade, age-experience level and training is really, really important.”

The Army is compiling data to see if that issue is a persistent problem in its squads.

“When we get the data back, we will have a better idea of how do we increase the cohesion of an Army squad, and I think what you are going to find is, it needs its own solution, if there in fact is a problem,” L’Etoile said.

(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan)

​No Budget, But Deep Pockets

Just weeks after the first U.S. combat forces went into Afghanistan in late 2001, the Army, Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command began modernizing and upgrading individual and squad weapons and gear.

Since then, equipment officials have labored to field lighter body armor, more efficient load-bearing gear and new weapons to make infantry and special operations forces more lethal.

But the reality is, there is only so much money budgeted toward individual kit and weapons when other service priorities, such as armored vehicles and rotary-wing aircraft, need modernizing as well.

The task force has the freedom to look at where the DoD is “investing its research dollars and render an opinion on whether those dollars are being well spent,” L’Etoile said. “I have no money; I don’t want money. I don’t want to spend the next two years managing a budget. That takes a lot of time and energy.”

“But I am very interested in where money goes. So, for instance, if there is a particular close-combat capability that I believe represents a substantive increase in survivability, lethality — you name it — for a close-combat formation, and I see that is not being funded at a meaningful level, step one is to ask why,” he continued. “Let’s get informed on the issue … and then if it makes sense, go advocate for additional funding for that capability.”

The task force currently has reprogramming or new funding requests worth up to .5 billion for high-tech equipment and training efforts that L’Etoile would not describe in detail.

“I have a number of things that are teed up … it’s premature for me to say,” he said. “In broad categories, we have active requests for additional funding in sensing; think robots and [unmanned aerial systems]. We have requests for additional funding of munitions for training and additional tactical capabilities [and] additional funding for training adversaries, so you get a sparring partner as well as a heavy bag.”

The task force is requesting additional money for advanced night-vision equipment and synthetic-training technologies. L’Etoile also confirmed that it helped fund the Army’s 0 million effort to train and equip the majority of its active brigade combat teams to fight in large, subterranean complexeslike those that exist in North Korea.

“We can go to the department and say, ‘This is of such importance that I think the department should shine a light on it and invest in it,’ ” he said.

(US Army)

​Endorsing Futuristic Kit

One example of this is the task force’s interest in an Army program to equip its infantry units with a heads-up display designed to provide soldiers with a digital weapon-sight reticle, as well as tactical data about the immediate battlefield environment.

“The big thing is the Heads-Up Display 3.0. I would tell you that is one of the biggest things we are pushing,” Polanco said. “It’s focused primarily on helping us improve lethality, situational awareness, as well as our mobility.”

The Army is currently working on HUD 1.0, which involves a thermal weapon sight mounted on the soldier’s weapon that can wirelessly transmit the sight reticle into the new dual-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III B.

The system can also display waypoints and share information with other soldiers in the field, Army officials said.

The HUD 3.0 will draw on the synthetic training environment — one of the Army’s key priorities for modernizing training — and allow soldiers to train and rehearse in a virtual training environment, as well as take into combat.

The service has already had soldiers test the HUD 1.0 version and provide feedback.

“If you look at the increased lethality just by taking that thermal reticle off of the weapon and putting it up into their eye, the testing has been off the chart,” Brig. Gen. Christopher Donahue, director of the Army’s Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, said at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium earlier this year.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. John Tran)

The Army tried for years in the 1990s to accomplish this with its Land Warrior program, but it could be done only by running bulky cables from the weapon sight to the helmet-mounted display eyepiece. Soldiers found it too awkward and a snag hazard, so the effort was eventually shelved.

“Whatever we want to project up into that reticle — that tube — it’s pretty easy,” Donahue said. “It’s just a matter of how you get it and how much data. We don’t want too much information in there either … we’ve got to figure that out.”

The initial prototypes of the HUD 3.0 are scheduled to be ready in 18 months, he added.

“It is really a state-of-the art capability that allows you to train as you fight from a synthetic training environment standpoint to a live environment,” Polanco said, adding that the task force has submitted a request to the DoD to find funding for the HUD 3.0.

“One of the things we have been able to do as a task force is we have endorsed and advocated strongly for this capability. … It’s going forward as a separate item that we are looking for funding on,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge before the task force is how to ensure all these efforts to make the squad more lethal will not be undone when Mattis is no longer in office.

“We ask ourselves every time we step up to the plate to take on one of these challenges, how do we make it enduring?” L’Etoile said.

“How do we ensure that the progress we make is not unwound when the priorities shift? So it’s important when you take these things on that you are mindful that there ought to be an accompanying policy because … they can’t just get unwound overnight,” he said.

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

popular

The first inspiration for ‘Rosie the Riveter’ dies at age 95

The poster of Rosie the Riveter is iconic — the red and white bandana, the bright yellow backdrop, the rolled up sleeve and “We Can Do It!” proclamation. The World War II heroine is a household name. But did you know before the art came the song? And while the identity of the woman who inspired the poster was debated for years, there was never any doubt who inspired the lyrics of ‘Rosie the Riveter:’ Rosalind P. Walter. After a long, incredible life, Walter passed away on March 4 at the age of 95.


upload.wikimedia.org

For decades, the identity of the woman who inspired the poster was in question. Geraldine Hoff Doyle was largely credited as the “real Rosie,” until a deep dive into the research by scholar James Kimble proved that it was another woman: Naomi Fraley. But before any of that could happen, Walter’s time as a maintenance worker was immortalized in song.

According to PBS’s flagship station WNET in New York City, Walter spent a year as a night-shift welder at the Sikorsky aircraft plant at Bridgeport, Connecticut, which inspired Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb to write their 1943 song “Rosie the Riveter.” Walters was just 19 at the time.

“Roz,” as friends called her, was a long-time supporter of PBS and trustee for WNET. According to PBS’s Inside 13, “Walter gave crucial support to countless programs and series through the Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, including American Masters, which she helped to launch; Great Performances; NYC-ARTS; Treasures of New York; PBS NewsHour Weekend; Amanpour and Company; ALL ARTS, and the work of Ken and Ric Burns.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved trustee Rosalind P. Walter, who cared deeply about the value of public television and gave extraordinary support to a countless number of our programs. Our sincerest sympathies to her family.pic.twitter.com/B7sFCmGK77

twitter.com

Walter cared deeply about the quality and educational value of public television and understood the importance of reaching the broadest possible audience. She was an inspiration to the millions of viewers who benefited from her generosity — and who saw her name every evening in connection with their favorite programs.

In addition to WNET, over the years, Walter served on the boards of the American Museum of Natural History, The Paley Center for Media (formerly The Museum of Television and Radio), Grenville Baker Boys Girls Club, International Tennis Hall of Fame, North Shore Wildlife Sanctuary, Long Island University, and USTA Serves.”

Roz Walters was more than just an inspiration for a song. She was a role model for generations of a tireless work ethic, unwavering patriotism and dedication to her country.

www.youtube.com

All the day long, whether rain or shine

She’s a part of the assembly line

She’s making history, working for victory

Rosie, brrrrrrrrrrr, the riveter

Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage

Sitting up there on the fuselage

That little frail can do more than a male can do

Rosie, brrrrrrrrrrr, the riveter

Rosie’s got a boyfriend,

Charlie Charlie,

he’s a Marine

Rosie is protecting Charlie

Workin’ overtime on the riveting machine

When they gave her a production ‘E’

She was as proud as a girl could be

There’s something true about, red, white, and blue

about Rosie, brrrrrrrrrrr, the riveter

Doo-doo-doo-doo

Ev’ryone stops to admire the scene

Rosie at work on the P-19

She’s never twittery, nervous or jittery

I’m Rosie, hm-hm-hm-hmm, the riveter

What if she’s smeared full of oil and grease

Doin’ her bit for the old lend-lease

She keeps the gang around, they love to hang around Rosie (Hm-hm-hm-hm, that’s me, the riveter)

Rosie buys a lot of War Bonds That girl really has sense Wishes she could purchase more Bonds

Putting all her extra cash in National Defense

Oh, when they gave her a production ‘E’

She was as proud as a girl could be

There’s something true about, red, white, and blue

about Rosie the riveter gal

While other girls attend their favorite cocktail bar

Sipping dry Martinis, munching caviar

There’s a girl who’s really putting them to shame

Rosie is her name

Oh, Rosie buys a lot of War Bonds

That girl really has sense

Wishes she could purchase more Bonds

Putting all her extra cash into National Defense

Oh, Senator Jones, who was in the know

Shouted these words on the radio

Berlin will hear about, Moscow will cheer about Rosie (Hah-hah-hah-hee-hee-hee),

Rosie (Hee-hee-hee-hee) Rosie the riveter gal

Rest in peace, ma’am.