There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.
In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
Several key organizations recently came together to advance exoskeleton technology for the soldier during an intensive three-day Operations and Maneuver and Technology Interchange meeting.
The User Technical Touch Point Exoskeleton event was a three-day living classroom, hands-on experience. It offered an interactive forum for operational and technology immersion on both infantry maneuvers and technology demonstrations. Groups of several Military Operational Specialties, or MOS’s, were represented, laying down their kits and equipment and walking observers through a day “in the field, on the job.”
Operational vignettes and subject interviews offered context on the physiological and cognitive demanding infantry tasks, before, during, and after operations. Vendors, requirement developers, and engineers discussed “what they are and what they aren’t” in the current exoskeleton marketplace, debunking the Hollywood “iron man” effect and focusing on real-time products: the Dephy Exo Boot and Lockheed Martin’s ONYX.
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.
(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
Soldiers were encouraged by the endurance improvement, mobility, and lethality benefits of donning the systems. Those who wore the systems commented on how it felt to wear an exoskeleton and the relationship between a new user and the system. Their candid feedback regarding form, fit and function will help developers prioritize and make modifications to the systems in preparation for a Fall 2019 VIP demonstration.
Observers commented on the flexibility of use as the systems were adjusted with minimal effort from one user to the next over three days. User comments, such as those made by field artillery soldiers, emphasized the potential value of having an exoskeleton or exoskeleton-like system to provide enhanced endurance during operations, which means a positive impact on lethality and combat effectiveness.
“The importance of this User Touch Point event was two-fold: it gave those involved in developing this technology the ability to better understand the physical aspects of the tasks and duties of the soldiers and gain an understanding of the soldier’s perspective in how this capability can be of value,” said James Mingo, a senior military analyst at TRADOC. “They understand it.”
“It provided hand-on experience to the movement and maneuver soldiers of some of the top seven combat MOS’s,” said Raul Esteras-Palos, Robotics Requirements Division, Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, or CDID, Maneuver Center of Excellence, or MCoE. “This event is an effective way to gain valuable feedback necessary for the advancement of the Army’s exoskeleton program.”
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division show some of the equipment that they use during everyday tasks and learn how an exoskeleton can help.
(Photo by David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)
Soldiers believe that endurance translates into improved lethality while preserving the body from the effects of what is already strenuous work. Comments included discussion on injuries (lower back, neck, shoulder and leg) directly related to both training and combat conditions, impacts that are well documented in the medical community.
The RDECOM Soldier Center is preparing soldier touch point events with 82nd and 101st Airborne, followed by meetings with requirement developers, stake holders and senior leadership. The data from these User Touch Point events will be made available to the Lethality Cross-Functional Teams.
“Major General Piatt, CG 10th MTN DIV’s support has allowed us to tap into the expert knowledge of some of the most experienced Army professionals of our Nation,” said David Audet, branch chief, Mission Equipment and Systems Branch at the RDECOM Soldier Center. “This was a unique opportunity for developers and engineers. We are indebted to the troops for their selfless service and owe them the opportunity to listen to their concerns and take action.”
Teams from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, Program Executive Office Soldier, the Maneuver, Aviation, and Soldier Division at ARCIC/TRADOC, requirement developers from the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Army Research Labs, exoskeleton developers from Dephy Inc. (Massachusetts) and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (Florida), and other support contractors attended the event.
Marines are a tribe of warriors, plain and simple. When it comes to warfare, there are very few enemies (if any) that Marines couldn’t match up against. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, we give the enemy an absolute run for their money and make them remember why we have the reputation we do. Extra-terrestrial invaders are not exempt from this rule.
Marines don’t care where their enemies come from — whether it’s another continent or another galaxy, these hands are rated “E” for everyone. In fact, some might say we’re pioneers of equality when it comes to kicking asses.
Here’s why Marines would destroy an extra-terrestrial invasion:
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mark W. Stroud)
1. We make do with less
The Marine Corps budget must be the smallest of all the armed forces. At least, that’s how it seems when you consider how broken everything we use is. Still, we care not. If you pick a fight with us, we’ll use sticks and stones if we must — and don’t even ask what happens when we mount bayonets…
If you think things like plasma weapons and shields will stop Marines from reaping alien souls — you don’t know Marines.
Aliens would go home sharing war stories about the bushes speaking different languages.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brendan Custer)
2. We’re experts at unconventional warfare
Do you think Marines like setting ambushes and using explosives to cripple an enemy just before we dump an entire ammunition store into them? If you answered with an enthusiastic “yes,” you’re correct (We would have also accepted “f*ck yeah!”). We love ambushing and we’re great at it.
We’ll make those alien scumbags regret ever coming into orbit.
There’s a reason we’re called “Devil Dogs.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bryan G. Carfrey)
3. We exhibit savagery on the battlefield
Marines have made a history of striking fear into the hearts of enemies on the battlefield. It doesn’t matter if we’re outnumbered or surrounded — we’ll just shoot our way out of it. Cloud of mustard gas? Pfft, slap that gas mask on and mount your bayonet ’cause we’re storming the trenches.
Even if the aliens defeat humanity overall — they’ll be talking about how scary it was to face off against a battalion of Marines for millennia to come.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Q. Hamilton)
4. We’re expert marksmen
Every Marine is trained to be an expert marksman. Even our worst shooters are still substantially better than the average soldier Joe with a gun. Our skill with rifles would sure pay off in a war against alien invaders as their tech might force us to avoid close-quarters engagement.
But our skill with weaponry doesn’t end at the stock of a rifle. If they force us into CQC, we’ll give them a run for their money there, too.
We won’t stop fighting.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Zachary Orr)
5. We are resilient
No matter what, Marines will not stop fighting. If we’re given a task or a mission, we’ll see it through to the very end. Even if we’re beaten at first, we won’t give up on the mission — or each other. Conquest-driven aliens may have forced other species to their knees, but they won’t find any quit in Marines.
In the 1980s, South Africa was facing a problem. Their fighters were getting old, their hostile, Soviet-backed neighbors were getting more modern fighters (like the MiG-23), and nobody in the West wanted to sell them new planes because of apartheid (a more ruthless version of the South’s old Jim Crow laws).
South Africa needed to modernize and they needed to do it quickly.
A South African Air Force Cheetah fighter jet flies over guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) as the ship departs after participating in the Southeast Africa Task Group 60.5’s first deployment to the region.
(U.S. Navy photo by Gillian M. Brigham)
Israel showed South Africa the way
Fortunately, the South Africans weren’t totally out of luck. Their force of Mirage III interceptors were old, yes, but the design was combat-proven.
In the 1960s and 1970s, after being denied a sale of Mirage V multi-role fighters from France, Israel managed to develop upgrades to the Mirage III on their own. Israel’s experiences with the Nesher and Kfir — essentially pirated, upgraded versions of Mirage III and Mirage V fighters — would came in handy for South Africa.
Two Cheetah Cs and one Cheetah D in formation.
(Bob Adams via Wikimedia Commons)
The redesign of all redesigns
The South Africans began to pull their force of Mirage III fighters off the line to be “rebuilt” using Israel’s trade secrets. The result was the Atlas Cheetah, a plane that was in the class of the F-15 Eagle as an air-superiority fighter. Armed with Israeli Python 3 air-to-air missiles as well as indigenous Darter air-to-air missiles, the Cheetah was more than a match for the MiG-23 Floggers exported to Angola.
The Cheetah was fast (it had a top speed of 1,406 miles per hour) and it had an unrefueled range of 808 miles. In addition to its air-to-air missiles, it was also able to pack a pretty significant air-to-surface punch with conventional bombs, rockets, and missiles.
The Cheetah E was the first single-seat version to see service — and it held the line until the more advanced Cheetah C arrived. A two-seat combat trainer, dubbed the Cheetah D, was also built. The Cheetah Es were retired in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of apartheid. The Cheetah C/D models soldiered on until 2008, when South Africa bought Gripens to replace them.
But the Cheetahs still see action — a number have been exported to Chile and Ecuador. Learn more about this South African hack of the Mirage III in the video below.
Reports that the Jan. 19 special operations intelligence-gathering raid in Yemen that left a Navy SEAL and 30 local civilians dead and six more troops injured was a result of hasty planning are “absolutely incorrect,” the head of U.S. Special Operations Command said Tuesday.
Army Gen. Raymond Thomas briefly addressed reporters after speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, D.C. He declined to go into operational details but emphasized that such raids are common and infrequently reported.
The White House has maintained that the raid, which resulted in the first military casualty of President Donald Trump’s administration, was well-planned and executed, but multiple news outlets have cited military sources complaining that the raid was hastily assembled and poorly planned.
Thomas told Military.com he does not categorize such operations as successes or failures, a hotly debated question surrounding the Yemen operation. He said discussion of the raid lacked the context of the frequency of such U.S. operations around the world.
“I don’t think that there’s awareness in the great American public that we’re a country at war, that ISIL and al-Qaida are in countless countries,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “That an operation like Yemen is what goes on any given night out there. And unfortunately it wasn’t in that context.”
“But in context, I think America needs to know we’re in a tough fight right now,” Thomas said. “We’re making progress, but unless we get governance on the backside of our military efforts, this is going to be a long struggle.”
Thomas, who replaced Army Gen. Joseph Votel as head of SOCOM last March, repeatedly declined to comment on the workings and decision-making of the Trump administration.
But, speaking just hours after news broke late Monday night that retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn had resigned as national security adviser after 24 days in the position, he gave a nod to the tumult at the highest levels of leadership.
“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope we sort it out soon, because we’re a country at war,” he said.
The F-35A Lightning II is a fifth-generation fighter combining advanced aerodynamics, survivability in high-threat environments, and an enhanced ability to provide pilots and allied assets across operational domains with robust situational awareness.
The F-35 is the result of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program to develop a single-engine, stealthy, multi-role fighter to replace an aging fleet of mission-dedicated airframes: the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II for the Air Force and the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier II for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Although separate airframe variants were designed to meet specific needs of the various military services, all F-35 variants are primarily designed to infiltrate contested airspace, accurately deliver guided and conventional munitions, and collect, process and disseminate real-time reconnaissance while maintaining robust air-to-air combat capability at speeds above Mach 1.
Military and budgetary benefits of international cooperation are well represented in the F-35 program. Partner nations including the U.S., U.K., Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway and Australia, are highly involved in the aircraft’s ongoing development. The F-35 has also been sold to Israel, Japan, and South Korea.
Use of a common weapons system among allies promotes an operational familiarity during coalition partner training and combat, while reducing the cost, time, training, manning and research and development of integrating dissimilar airframes of those allied nations.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is preparing to receive its first squadron of 14 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs in-country in late 2018.
The Royal Australian Air Force, has committed to obtaining 72 F-35A aircraft to form three operational squadrons at RAAF Base Williamtown and RAAF Base Tindal, and a training squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown. The RAAF is expected to take delivery of its first operational F-35As in December 2018.
Development and design
After winning the JSF design competition, 0 million contracts to build prototypes were awarded in 1997 to both Lockheed Martin for it’s X-35, and Boeing, for its X-32.
Boeing’s entry incorporated the requirements of all the services into one short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) airframe with thrust being vectored through nozzles, as with the existing Harrier.
The Boeing X-32, left, and the Lockheed X-35 competed for the DoD contract to produce the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in 1997. Both companies received 0 million grants to build prototypes. The new single-engine, Mach-1 capable aircraft needed to be stealthy and provide robust situational awareness to the pilot during attacks on ground targets and when fighting in air-to-air engagements. It also needed to meet the specifications of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps as well as nation partners. Lockheed won the competition which would eventually produce the F-35 Lightning II.
Lockheed Martin proposed to produce three airframe variants, one for each service: the conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) F-35A for the Air Force’s long runways; the STOVL version, the F-35B, for U.S. Marine Corps and British navy and air force; and the F-35C for U.S. Navy carrier-born operations.
In the end, the Department of Defense determined the X-35B version, with a separate vertical-lift fan behind the cockpit, outperformed the Boeing entry and awarded the overall JSF contract to Lockheed Martin.
Maj. Nathan Sabin, taxis an F-35A of the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron, a tenant unit at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., before a test flight at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, Feb 17, 2016. Six operational test and evaluation F-35s and more than 85 airmen of the 31st TES travelled to Mountain Home AFB to conduct the first simulated deployment test of the F-35A, specifically to execute three key initial operational capability mission sets: suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support and air interdiction.
(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
The first F-35A test aircraft purchased by the Air Force rolled off the production line in 2006. The Air Force took delivery of its first production F-35As at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 2011 to begin pilot and maintainer training and in 2014 the 58th Fighter Squadron was the first to become a complete F-35A squadron.
After years of testing weapons separation, operational integration and aerial refueling, the Lightning II met its targets for initial operational capability when it was declared “combat ready” in August of 2016 by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command.
Features and deployment
Air Force units that operate the F-35A now include:
The 461st Flight Test Squadron and 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards AFB, California.
The Integrated Training Center for pilots and maintainers at Eglin AFB, Florida.
The 388th Fighter Wing and 419th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah.
The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona.
The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
An F-35A Lightning II from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to MacDill AFB, Fla., about 100 miles off the Gulf Coast March 2, 2016. Airmen from the 33rd Fighter Wing were able to complete modifications to the aircraft ahead of schedule to enable the use of inert munitions instead of simulated weapons, advancing the fifth-generation fighter’s syllabus and ensuring pilots receive the most comprehensive training before they support a combat-coded F-35A unit.
The F-35 serves as an unparalleled force multiplier because its advanced sensors and datalinks share information and situational awareness not just between fifth- and fourth-generation U.S. and allied aircraft, but also between coalition land, sea and space assets.
This “operational quarterback” is also proving to pack a nasty ground attack and individual air-to-air combat capability.
During the large-scale combat training exercise, Red Flag 17-1, held at Nellis AFB in the spring of 2017, F-35As participated in multi-aircraft sorties in a highly-contested airspace. Air Force leadership and pilots reported F-35As destroyed multiple ground targets without being detected in the airspace and earned a stellar 20:1 kill ratio in air-to-air combat scenarios.
F-35A Lightning IIs piloted by the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings prepare to depart Hill AFB, Utah, Jan. 20 for Nellis AFB, Nev., to participate in a Red Flag exercise. Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. This is the first deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw)
Despite the impressive individual performance, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein stresses the F-35 is best thought of as an integral component of the Air Force’s overall warfighting capability.
During a symposium at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in February of 2017, Goldfein was asked to compare the F-35’s capability versus advanced Chinese aircraft like the J-20 and the J-31.
“I hope, over time, we can evolve our discussion from platform v. platform, which I would argue is a 20th Century discussion, to a network versus network,” Goldfein said. “Its not about what the F-35 or the J-20 or the F-22 or the J-31 can actually do in a one versus one… it’s an interesting conversation, but its not very compelling because we are never going to have the F-35 in there by itself, ever.
An F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016.
(Photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
“What really counts is we are going to bring a network, a family of systems to bear on the enemy. That’s going to be an F-35 that’s there with an F-22, that’s there with an F-18, that’s there with a space capability being fed into the cockpit, that’s there with cyber capabilities, that’s there with a multitude of ISR, that’s there with a submarine force. We’re going to bring multi-domain, multi-component capabilities and we’re going to bring coalition capabilities.
“As we do today, in the future, we are going to be able to achieve decision speed and maneuver forces from all domains and create so many dilemmas for the enemy that, that in itself, will become a deterrent value,” Goldfein said.
An Air Force weapons load crew assigned to the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Hill Air Froce Base, Utah, loads a GBU-12 into an F-35A Lightning II aircraft at Nellis AFB, Nevada, Feb. 1, 2017.
Partner nations who have purchased the airframe, the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, and Australia, are highly involved in the aircraft’s ongoing development. As such, the F-35 program represents a model of the military and budgetary benefits of international cooperation. The F-35 has also been sold to Israel, Japan and the Republic of South Korea.
Use of a common weapons system among allies promotes an operational familiarity during coalition partner training and combat, while reducing the cost, time, training, manning and research and development of trying to integrate dissimilar airframes of those allied nations.
Did you know?
The F-35A CTOL variant is flown by the air forces of the Netherlands, Australia, Japan and Italy.
The three F-35 variants are manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas, Cameri, Italy, and Nagoya, Japan, with 300,000 parts from 1,500 suppliers worldwide.
The F-35 software has more lines of code than the Space Shuttle.
An F-35’s pilot wears a helmet that has inputs necessary for situational awareness projected onto the interior of the visor: airspeed, heading, altitude, targeting information and warnings. It also projects imagery from around the aircraft, via infrared cameras, onto the visor, allowing the pilot to “look through” the bottom of the aircraft.
The F-35 Lightning II is named after the famous WWII fighter, the twin-engine P-38 Lightning. The U.S.’ leading air combat pilot of WWII, Maj. Richard I. Bong, scored all of his 40 victories flying the P-38.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Nicolas Maduro is the world’s worst dictator in the world’s worst dictatorship. To be clear, he’s not the worst in that he’s particularly repressive to his citizens or running concentration camps. He’s the worst in terms of how he came to power and how he holds on to it. He rose in power thanks to Hugo Chavez’ cult of personality while he and his party managed the rapid decline of what was one of South America’s most vibrant economies.
For a while, it looked like the Kremlin might have been propping up his regime, but now it looks like Moscow might be abandoning him.
Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power solely because the street thugs – colectivos – and military generals who protect him have more to lose than he does if they lose control of Venezuela. For the Russians, their biggest gain in propping up Maduro is annoying the United States in its own backyard. Unfortunately for Maduro, Russian support may be all he has left, and he may be losing that.
In March 2019, Russia sent military planes, materiel, and advisors to Venezuela, confidently showing the world the Kremlin had Maduro’s back and that any intervention in Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis would be met with Russian interference as well. But the Venezuelan President’s luck might be running out.
Don’t give anyone any ideas.
On June 2, 2019, Russia withdrew its contractors and defense advisors in the country and the private Russian firm paid by Venezuela to train its military just cut its Russian staff by half. This latest development may be showing that the millions the Maduro regime owes the Russians may not be enough for Russia to keep Maduro’s government from collapsing on itself. The biggest reason for the pullout, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Maduro can’t actually pay the Russians anymore.
American sanctions against Venezuela and the long-term decline of the country’s oil production infrastructure has led to a huge decline in the country’s coffers. The United States and Russia showcase Venezuela’s struggle in their own struggle for worldwide supremacy. But even so, it may not be enough for the Russians to keep Maduro’s barely-functional regime afloat.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Shannon, Tim, and O.V. discuss the interesting process of how Air Force pilots receive their callsigns.
In the military, callsigns are considered much more than just a name — they’re meant to capture the personality and spirit of the person.
When you think of the characters in “Top Gun,” you’re not thinking of Pete Mitchell or Nick Bradshaw — it’s Maverick and Goose, and they probably have hilarious stories that explain where those names came from. Those stories are told in a naming ceremony.
The details and traditions vary, but the rite of passage is usually met with drinks and shenanigans. Like a roast, the pilot sits front and center while his or her buddies one-by-one regale a story and propose a callsign related to it.
“It’s kind of like a roasting,” Air Force veteran Shannon Corbeil humorously explains. “This is where you get to make fun of your friends.”
The squadron then collectively debates and votes on the final name.
For three years, RED HORSE airmen have been rotating every six months to Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, to participate in the largest troop labor construction project in Air Force history. RED HORSE stands for Air Force Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers.
The Air Force built the base and its 6000-foot runway from the ground up. A similar mission had not been undertaken since Vietnam.
Airmen had to persevere and innovate through the lack of an asphalt production facility in the country, thunderstorms that caused flash floods, dust storms that made it impossible to work safely, high-sulfur diesel fuel that fouled construction equipment and even a plague of locusts.
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Paul Waters, a vehicle maintance NCOIC with the 823 Expeditionary RED HORSE Squadron, maintains the squadron’s construction equipment. Sgt Waters and his team battle the harsh environment and poor quality fuel that frequently breaks their equipment.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Perry Aston)
Despite working in one of the harshest environments in the Sahel region of Africa, RED HORSE finished a project that will allow aircraft as large as the C-17 Globemaster III to operate in western Africa, expanding the Air Force’s ability to bring air power to combat increasing extremist activity.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
The final stop in Rich’s journey through Vietnam. Sapa is a frontier township along the Chinese border, home to the northern highlanders and hundreds of miles of trails. It’s the perfect place to field test MACV-1 prototypes.
Sapa is considered the trekking capitol of Vietnam and we all know trekking is just rucking in the mountains.
The secret to the best bowl of pho in Vietnam? Serve it with plenty of Tiger beer halfway through a 15-hour ruck.
And of course you need to pack a few Tigers for when you get to the top.
“First impressions?” asked Paul.
“They’re comfortable, they’re lightweight, they’re versatile… and you can drink in them” said Rich.
This article was originally written by Kevin Wilson for The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are his own.
There are many military occupational specialties that could make the argument that they’ve been underutilized in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One could argue, for instance, that there hasn’t been much need for ADA since the initial invasions, since our enemies in both countries are, for all practical intents and purposes, little more than exceptionally lethal cavemen.
They might be hell on wheels for making bombs and guerrilla warfare, but they don’t fly without a little bit of help, usually in the form of the high explosive warhead.
The same argument could be applied to our fighter pilots, for much the same reason. If the enemy has no fighters of their own, then they’re little more than glorified close air support. Sure, they get to stay on nice bases and have shirtless volleyball games, but that’s a poor substitute for life in the danger zone.
However, there is one very particular specialty who, I would argue, has the bluest balls of them all, and that’s the crews of the Army and Marine Corps’s MLRS and HIMARS launchers.
The MLRS, or Multiple Launch Rocket System, is the single most badass artillery piece in the US arsenal, and possibly the world. Its little brother, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is a very close second. Nicknamed “Steel Rain,” the MLRS and HIMARS represent a quantum leap in ground-to-ground destructive capability, above and beyond anything the world has seen before and since. Sure, cannon artillery might have its place on the battlefield, but that place isn’t wiping out grid squares with a single fire mission.
And yet, for all their awesome destructive power, they’ve seen very limited use over the last decade and a half. This is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed firsthand. My unit, a HIMARS battery in the North Carolina Army National Guard, has deployed multiple times since the start of the Iraq war, and we’ve yet to fire a single rocket in anger. We spent the better part of a year staring at the Sinai desert, but no shooting rockets.
It’s to the point where the 13Ms, the MLRS and HIMARS crewmembers, were nicknamed 13 Miscellaneous. If there was a job that needed bodies, chances are, they’d get sent to do it, because the chances of them doing the jobs they were trained for were less than nil.
Why, you ask? One could argue that the rockets were overkill, or that they were too expensive. Me, I’ve got another theory.
See, there’s this little country in Asia, you might have heard of it. You know, the one run by a fat little kid who keeps saber rattling? Starts with an N, ends with -orth Korea? Yeah, that one.
It’s no secret that the Hermit Kingdom is ratcheting up tensions in a big way. Tensions are as high as they’ve ever been, and if the manure hits the air circulator for real, it’s going to be the single greatest conventional conflict of the new millennium. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not their nukes are worth a damn, we can count on a vast wave of troops rolling over the DMZ and riding like hell for Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
And what stands in their way?
Well, aside from a whole lot of angry South Koreans, the US has a substantial troop presence over there, and with them, a whole lot of artillery. And the biggest and baddest of them are Steel Rain.
Stopping that initial onslaught is going to be a lot like stopping an avalanche with fire-hoses: doable, but you’re gonna need one hell of a hose, and an awful lot of water. And brother, it’s hard to find a bigger fire-hose than the Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Now, I’m not saying I’m in favor of war in the Korean Peninsula. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a terrible idea, but I’m also pretty sure we don’t have much of a choice in the matter. If it happens, it happens.
If North Korea steps over the line, however, I’m kinda hoping they do it in a big way, on behalf of all the 13M and 13P out there. Because, you know, it’s been a while, and we have needs that just haven’t been taken care of.
As the entire Defense Department continues to make changes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, delivered a video message to the entire Corps on Monday, thanking Marines and families for their continued effort in this difficult time. The top Marines also explained why training must continue at Recruit Training, and Marine Corps-wide, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.
The message was first shared via the Marine Corps’ Facebook Page, and has since been disseminated on a number of other outlets.
General Berger opened the video by acknowledging the difficult times Marines and their families have been facing and will continue to in the weeks to come. The Commandant made a point, early in the video, to tell families that they should be proud of the hard work their loved ones in uniform are doing throughout this difficult time. He also assured families that every measure is being taken to help ensure Marines remain safe and healthy as they continue to work and train amid the pandemic. The two went on to thank unit commanders for exercising good judgement despite the uncertainty that has come along with some elements of the spread of COVID-19.
“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video. “And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.
Near the end of the video, General Berger explained in clear language why the Marine Corps can’t simply stop training, and why recruit training facilities like MCRDs San Diego and Parris Island are so essential to the Marine Corps’ readiness and the nation’s defense as a whole even amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, climb various obstacles in the obstacle course for recruits on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. The obstacle course is composed of different obstacles that are designed to physically and mentally challenge recruits. USMC photo/Dylan Walters
“Why do we continue to do recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus?” General Berger asked himself aloud rhetorically. “We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.”
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.