MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Team Rubicon lives for disaster response. Here’s how it’s responding to COVID-19.

Team Rubicon is used to jumping in head first to support those in need. From serving during natural disasters like earthquakes or supporting the aftermath of a hurricane, they’ve done it all. Or at least they thought they had. The COVID-19 global pandemic may have changed everything, but Team Rubicon was ready.

After watching the slow relief efforts for the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince in 2010, two marines didn’t like what they saw. So, they decided to change the narrative. Jake Wood and William McNulty gathered supplies, a volunteer group filled with veterans, first responders and medical professionals. Within days they deployed to Haiti.

Team Rubicon was born in those moments and has spent the last decade serving the world. They support those in need by doing things like partnering with Feeding America and coming in to administer aid after natural disasters internationally. Ten years after those marines decided to act, Team Rubicon continues to support the world. It is through this service that they are giving purpose and community to transitioning veterans.

Their mission is to serve the underserved.

Army Reserves Lieutenant Colonel Michael Gorham knows all about the importance of purpose. When he transitioned from active service to the reserves, he was a bit lost himself. He found Team Rubicon in the midst of needing something more in his life. He is now the Deputy Director of operations for California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. After watching the pandemic wreak havoc on normal volunteer operation capability, he had an idea.

“I was on the next door app and saw people who need a roll of toilet paper…elderly people who were afraid to go out,” said Gorham. So, he started talking about the need for neighborhood support. Within days, Team Rubicon launched a new initiative, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, which gave volunteers the ability to safely serve their communities through the pandemic. To date they have over 3,000 acts of service in neighborhoods throughout the country.

That’s not all they are doing.

Team Rubicon is also setting up field hospitals and building COVID-19 testing sites. “Two months ago, nobody would have thought this is where we’d be. We need to be prepared to pivot to help wherever society needs us,” said Gorham. He continued, sharing that Team Rubicon has many opportunities for those who want to serve to get into their communities and make an impact.

Although Team Rubicon has a mission for veterans, you do not have to be one to be a volunteer. “I think Team Rubicon is a space for veterans and like-minded servants. You don’t need to be a veteran or a first responder or have some sort of title in order to be a servant,” shared Gorham. He explained that many people have a deep need to do more and feel like something is missing from their lives and Team Rubicon wants to help fill that.

Gorham shared that the CEO of Team Rubicon has said repeatedly that they are aiming to be the world’s largest volunteer fire department.

They are well on their way.

To learn more about Team Rubicon and how you can serve, click here.
MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

Articles

Local police are about to get a lot more of this surplus military gear

President Donald Trump is preparing to lift restrictions on surplus military equipment that can be passed on to local law enforcement agencies in spite of past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were escalating confrontations with protesters.


Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate Trump was preparing to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition, and other surplus military equipment.

Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a August 28 speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Image from the Office of Public Affairs.

The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.

National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.

Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs, and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

Police in tactical gear at the Ferguson riots, 2014. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Loavesofbread.

Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets, and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.

Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

“In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.

M16 assault rifles. DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement August 27 that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.

“Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for Black and Brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” the LDF said.

“The President’s decision to make this change in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and against a backdrop of frayed relations between police and communities of color further reflects this administration’s now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country,” the organization said.

The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature,” intended to protect officers from danger.

Police gather around an armored vehicle in Ferguson, Missouri, 2014. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Loavesofbread.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.

Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

“It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.

Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street.

Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain law enforcement agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Aug. 11

Don’t worry, destroying North Korea will wait long enough for you to take a bathroom and memes break. Here are 13 of the funniest military memes floating around, here just in time to help you relieve yourself before the Super Bowl of war:


13. This leader started as a slave racing pods across the desert. Now he’s here (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

We can all learn something from him.

12. It opens the cans; it pours the cans. Don’t make this complicated, sailors (via Shit my LPO says).

It’s not your job to decide what it and is not a green bean.

ALSO SEE: Russia just deployed the ‘Terminator’ to Syria, and you’ll be shocked to see what it can do

11. Gonna need more beers before PT (via Decelerate Your Life).

When it takes about half a case to make it to formation, it’s time to get out.

10. Larger casualty radius but you’ve got to throw a lot more of them for 360 degrees of effects (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

The Army might be waiting another couple of years for that Beretta replacement.

9. Most uncomfortable way to realize what your brother has been doing in the garage all night (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

But hey, at least you now know.

8. Correction: You got them ON one truck (via Air Force Nation).

Good luck at your next duty station. Maybe leave some stuff at the lending closet when you have to PCS again.

7. When the young guys realize why the veterans still buy hard copies of their magazines:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Hope you kept the driftwood, Morty.

6. Don’t care how long the contract is or how long the school is, create a dragon pilot MOS and I’m there (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

And if Trump makes it happen, #TrumpDaenarys2024.

5. Well, at least the weak links have been identified, now (via Coast Guard Memes).

Sort of impressed if he can jump rope in those boots for very long, though.

4. The humvee is uncomfortable, but it’s boats that really hate this game (via Air Force Nation).

“Don’t worry, we’ll get you there saf—” “CUT SLING LOAD!”

3. So, if I just stay in this toxic environment for 15 more years, I can be one voice asking it to be less evil, please?

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

Or I can work at a website? Making memes jokes on Fridays and then playing video games all weekend?

2. #ThatDD214Life (via Decelerate Your Life)

#SquadGoals

1. “Oh, really, first sergeant? In the commander’s humvee, you say?”

(via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

Articles

The Marines are upgrading the Osprey with new weapons

The U.S. Marine Corps is progressing with a new project to arm its MV-22 Osprey aircraft with new weapons such as laser-guided 2.75in rockets, missiles and heavy guns – a move which would expand the tiltrotor’s mission set beyond supply, weapons and forces transport to include a wider range of offensive and defensive combat missions, Corps officials said.


“Currently, NSWC (Naval Surface Warfare  Center) Dahlgren explored the use of forward firing rockets, missiles, fixed guns, a chin mounted gun, and also looked at the use of a 30MM gun along with gravity drop rockets and guided bombs deployed from the back of the V-22. The study that is being conducted will help define the requirements and ultimately inform a Marine Corps decision with regards to armament of the MV-22B Osprey,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told Scout Warrior in a written statement.

Adding weapons to the Opsrey would naturally allow the aircraft to better defend itself should it come under attack from small arms fire, missiles or surface rockets while conducting transport missions; in addition, precision fire will enable the Osprey to support amphibious operations with suppressive or offensive fire as Marines approach enemy territory.

Also read: V-22 Osprey Rockin’ Rockets Now

 Furthermore, weapons will better facilitate an Osprey-centric tactic known as “Mounted Vertical Maneuver” wherein the tiltrotor uses its airplane speeds and helicopter hover and maneuver technology to transport weapons such as mobile mortars and light vehicles, supplies and Marines behind enemy lines for a range of combat missions — to include surprise attacks.

The initial steps in the process will include arming the V-22 are to select a Targeting-FLIR, improve Digital Interoperability and designate Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment solutions. Integration of new weapons could begin as early as 2019 if the initiatives stay on track and are funded, Burns added.

Burns added that “assault support” will remain as the primary mission of the MV-22 Osprey, regardless of the weapons solution selected.

“Both the air and ground mission commanders will have more options with the ability to provide immediate self-defense and collective defense of the flight. Depending on the weapons ultimately selected, a future tiltrotor could provide a range of capabilities spanning from self-defense on the lighter side to providing a gunship over watch capability on the heavier scale,” Burns explained.

So far, Osprey maker Bell-Boeing has delivered 290 MV-22s out of a planned 360 program of record.

Laser-guided Hyra 2.75inch folding fin rockets, such as those currently being fired from Apache attack helicopters, could give the Osprey a greater precision-attack technology. One such program firing 2.75in rockets with laser guidance is called Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System, or APKWS.

Bell-Boeing designed a special pylon on the side of the aircraft to ensure common weapons carriage. The Corps is now analyzing potential requirements for weapons on the Osprey, considering questions such as the needed stand-off distance and level of lethality.

“We did a demonstration with Bell where we took some rockets and we put them on a pylon on the airplane using APKWS. We also did some 2.75 guided rockets, laser guided weapons and the griffin missile. We flew laser designators to laser-designate targets to prove you could do it,” Rick Lemaster – Director of Business Development, Bell-Boeing, told Scout Warrior in an interview. 

Lemaster also added that the Corps could also arm the MV-22 with .50-cal or 7.62mm guns.

New Osprey Variant in 2030

The Marine Corps is in the early stages of planning to build a new, high-tech MV-22C variant Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to enter service by the mid-2030s, service officials said.

While many of the details of the new aircraft are not yet available, Corps officials told Scout Warrior that the MV-22C will take advantage of emerging and next-generation aviation technologies.

The Marine Corps now operates more than 250 MV-22 Ospreys around the globe and the tiltrotor aircraft are increasingly in demand, Corps officials said.

“This upgrade will ensure that the Marine Corps has state-of-the-art, medium-lift assault support for decades to come,” Corps spokesman Maj. Paul Greenberg told Scout Warrior in a written statement.

The Osprey is, among other things, known for its ability to reach speeds of 280 knots and achieve a much greater combat radius than conventional rotorcraft.

Due to its tiltrotor configuration, the Osprey can hover in helicopter mode for close-in surveillance and vertical landings for things like delivering forces, equipment and supplies – all while being able to transition into airplane mode and hit fixed-wing aircraft speeds. This gives the aircraft an ability to travel up 450 nautical miles to and from a location on a single tank of fuel, Corps officials said.

“Since 2007, the MV-22 has continuously deployed in a wide range of extreme conditions, from the deserts of Iraq and Libya to the mountains of Afghanistan and Nepal, as well as aboard amphibious shipping.  Between January 2007 and August 2015, Marine Corps MV-22s flew more than 178,000 flight hours in support of combat operations,” Greenberg added.

Corps officials said th idea with the new Osprey variant is to build upon the lift, speed and versatility of the aircraft’s tiltrotor technology and give the platform more performance characteristics in the future. While few specifics were yet available — this will likely include improved sensors, mapping and digital connectivity, even greater speed and hover ability, better cargo and payload capacity, next-generation avionics and new survivability systems such as defenses against incoming missiles and small arms fire.

Greenberg also added that the MV-22C variant aircraft will draw from technologies now being developed for the Army-led Future Vertical Lift program involved in engineering a new fleet of more capable, high-tech aircraft for the mid-2030s

“The MV-22C will take advantage of technologies spurred by the ongoing joint multi-role and future vertical lift efforts, and other emerging technology initiatives,” Greenberg added.

The U.S. Army is currently immersed in testing with two industry teams contracted to develop and build a fuel-efficient, high-speed, high-tech, next-generation medium-lift helicopter to enter service by 2030.

The effort is aimed at leveraging the best in helicopter and aircraft technology in order to engineer a platform that can both reach the high-speeds of an airplane while retaining an ability to hover like a traditional helicopter, developers have said.

The initiate is looking at developing a wide range of technologies including lighter-weight airframes to reduce drag, different configurations and propulsion mechanisms, more fuel efficient engines, the potential use of composite materials and a whole range of new sensor technologies to improve navigation, targeting and digital displays for pilots.

Requirements include an ability to operate in what is called “high-hot” conditions, meaning 95-degrees Fahrenheit and altitudes of 6,000 feet where helicopters typically have difficulty operating.  In high-hot conditions, thinner air and lower air-pressure make helicopter maneuverability and operations more challenging.

The Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD, program has awarded development deals to Bell Helicopter-Textron and Sikorsky-Boeing teams to build “demonstrator” aircraft by 2017 to help inform the development of a new medium-class helicopter.

Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter is building a tilt-rotor aircraft called the Bell V-280 Valor – and the Sikorsky-Boeing team is working on early testing of its SB1 Defiant coaxial rotor-blade design. A coaxial rotor blade configuration uses counter-rotating blades with a thrusting technology at the back of the aircraft to both remain steady and maximize speed, hover capacity and manueverability.

The Bell V-280 offering is similar to the Osprey in that it is a tiltrotor aircraft.

Planned missions for the new Future Vertical Lift aircraft include cargo, utility, armed scout, attack, humanitarian assistance, MEDEVAC (medical evacuation), anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, land/sea search and rescue, special warfare support and airborne mine countermeasures, Army officials have said.

Other emerging technology areas being explored for this effort include next-generation sensors and navigation technologies, autonomous flight and efforts to see through clouds, dust and debris described as being able to fly in a “degraded visual environment.”

Meanwhile, while Corps officials say they plan to embrace technologies from this Army-led program for the new Osprey variant, they also emphasize that the Corps is continuing to make progress with technological improvements to the MV-22.

These include a technology called V-22 Aerial Refueling System, or VARS, to be ready by 2018, Greenberg explained.

“The Marine Corps Osprey with VARS will be able to refuel the F-35B Lightning II with about 4,000 pounds of fuel at VARS’ initial operating capability.  MV-22B VARS capacity will increase to 10,000 pounds of fuel by 2019.  This will significantly enhance the F-35B’s range, as well as the aircraft’s ability to remain on target for a longer period,” he told Scout Warrior.

Related: These are the Army’s high-tech helicopters that will fly in 2030

The aerial refueling technology on the Osprey will refuel helicopters at 110 knots and fixed-wing aircraft at 220 knots, Lemaster added.

“The intent is to be able to have the aircraft on board the ship have the auxiliary tanks on board. An aircraft can then fill up, trail out behind the Osprey about 90-feet,” he explained.

The VARS technology will also be able to refuel other aircraft such as the CH-53E/K, F-18, AV-8B Harrier jet and other V-22s, Greenberg added.

The Corps is also developing technology to better network Osprey aircraft through an effort called “Digital Interoperability,” or DI. This networks Osprey crews such that Marines riding in the back can have access to relevant tactical and strategic information while in route to a destination.  DI is now being utilized by the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and is slated to be operational by 2017.

Articles

The dad in ‘The Sound of Music’ was a hardcore naval combat veteran

In the 1965 film The Sound of Music, Captain von Trapp ran a tight ship at home. He also ran a tight ship at sea, commanding two U-Boats for the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War I. By the war’s end, he was the most decorated naval officer in Austria-Hungary.


Looking at the life and family of Captain Baron Georg Johannes Ritter von Trapp through the lens of the Sound of Music alone, you’d never know this man spent WWI on a u-boat that spewed poisonous fumes to its crew or that he sank tons of allied shipping in the Mediterranean — killed hundreds of enemy sailors — and was basically the best thing Austria-Hungary had going for it.

He even married the daughter of the guy who invented the torpedo. That’s dedication.

Aside from the 14 ships sank and one captured during his World War I service, he led Austria’s troops during the Boxer Rebellion in China, circumnavigated the globe twice, and saw his navy switch from sails to steam to diesel engines over the course of his career. At the war’s end in 1918, von Trapp’s record stood at 19 war patrols taking 11 cargo vessels totaling 45,669 tons sunk, two enemy warships sunk, and one captured.

U-5 was just 100 feet long but packed a terrible punch, with just a crew of 19 and four torpedoes.

Command of U-5

Captain von Trapp conducted nine combat patrols in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas, and most of them were full of action. He got his first kill just two weeks after taking command of U-5, sinking the French cruiser Leon Gambetta off the coast of Italy. 12,000 tons and 684 sailors went to the bottom. Four months later, he sank the Italian submarine Nereide.

For his command during the sinking of the Leon Gambetta, von Trapp was awarded the Military Order of Maria Theresa, Austria’s highest military award.

U-14 in the Adriatic.

Command of U-14

His next command was a reclaimed French submarine that was upgraded and modernized. He was the bane of British and Italian shipping in the Mediterranean, sinking 11 more enemy vessels. He earned a knighthood and then became a Baron for his service in Austria’s navy for his actions in World War I.

That’s one helluva way to start a naval career.

Training, Circumnavigation, and China service

He trained in the Officer Training School of the Austrian-Hungarian Imperial Navy through the Maritime-Academy at Fiume in what is today Croatia, starting his career on sailing ships, going around the earth on the corvette SMS Saida II. He returned to Austria and joined the crew of the SMS Zenta, an iron steamship, in 1897. By 1899, the crew of the Zenta was fully engaged in China, part of the eight-nation alliance sent to relieve the foreign legation in Peking from the siege of the Chinese Boxers.

Georg was one of the seamen detached to the alliance to take one of the Taku Forts. The Austrian helped assault Fort Pei Tang with 8500 others in the multinational force. Many were killed in the bloody fighting but the allies took the fort and went on to relieve the legation in Peking.

Unfortunately for Capt. von Trapp, World War I did not end well for Austria-Hungary and he soon found himself out of a job, seeing as how the new Austria was landlocked and had no use for a Navy – and he was no about to become a Nazi just to command a ship. So he trained his children to perform and took them on tour, eventually settling down and starting the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont.

After World War II, he founded Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc. to help aid the recovery of Austria and Austrians from the war’s devastation.

Articles

This Air Force plane will be over 100 when it flies to the boneyard

The KC-135 Stratotanker, one of the oldest aircraft still flying in the US Air Force today, will likely get a life extension thanks to budget and replacement issues according to Gen. Carlton Everhart of Air Mobility Command, adding over 40 more years to its service record which began in the mid-1950s.


By the time this legendary aerial refueler enters retirement and is phased out from the USAF once and for all, it will have served just over 100 years — longer than any other aircraft in American history.  Having seen action in virtually every American-involved conflict since 1956, the Stratotanker is easily one of the most recognizable and beloved aircraft flying today with the Air Force.

The KC-135 was, at first, supposed to be replaced entirely by the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus. But thanks to budget cuts and slashes to the projected buy for the KC-46, the Air Force will be left with a shortage of tankers to carry out aerial refueling operations both at home and overseas, severely impacting the service’s ability to extend the range of the vast majority of its aircraft. Instead, the Air Force will be looking to upgrade its KC-135s into a “Super Stratotanker” of sorts, keeping it flying for 40 more years until the branch initiates the KC-Z replacement program to supersede the Stratotanker for good.

Crew members from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron prepare to take off in a KC-135 Stratotanker before performing a refueling mission over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve September 15, 2016. The KC-135 provides the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years — and could be on the flightline for another 40 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis/Released)

The KC-46, the result of the controversial KC-X program, was destined to be a larger longer-range follow-on to the KC-135, featuring two engines instead of four, and greater fuel carriage capacity, allowing for more aircraft to be refueling during a typical mission than what the Stratotanker could handle. However, the program has been constantly plagued with a variety of issues including cost overruns and delays, which ultimately led to the Air Force scaling down the number of Pegasus tankers it originally planned on buying to just 179.

This pushes retiring the KC-135 out of the question, as the Air Force (and Air National Guard) require a greater number of tankers to continue carrying out their mission at home and around the world.

While the USAF will continue with its plans to field the Pegasus, the Stratotanker fleet’s life-extension seems inevitable. At the moment, the Air Force has already begun the $910 million Block 45 extension program, which seeks to keep these 60-year-old aircraft relevant and able to meet the needs of the modern Air Force. As part of the Block 45 updates, all American KC-135s will receive a new glass cockpit, replacing the older analog/gauge cockpits still in use, new avionics and an upgraded autopilot system, an enhanced navigation suite, and much more.

A KC-135 Stratotanker taxis down the flightline during an exercise March 2, 2017, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The KC-135 enhances the Air Force’s capability to accomplish its primary mission of global reach. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

To keep the KC-135 flying for 40 more years, an advanced networking and electronic countermeasures suite would likely be the next upgrade the Air Force will pursue with the aircraft, during or after the completion of Block 45, which will end in 2028. Currently, the USAF estimates that their KC-135s have only used up around 35 percent of their lifetime flying hours, meaning that the aircraft is perfectly capable of flying on until 2040 with regular maintenance and scheduled overhauls.

As of 2014, there are 414 KC-135s in service with the US military — 167 assigned to the active duty Air Force, 180 to the Air National Guard, and 67 in the Air Force Reserve. Once the Air Force finishes procuring its 179 KC-46s, the number of Stratotankers in service will likely drop by 100 airframes, which will be retired to the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona.

It’s also probable that the KC-135’s current [younger] sister tanker, the three-engined KC-10 Extender, will receive a similar upgrade to keep its smaller fleet flying longer. Eventually, both of these aircraft will see their flying days come to an end with the initiation of the KC-Y and KC-Z next generation tanker programs, still decades away from coming to fruition.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Beloved Coast Guard veteran and crossing guard, ‘Mr. Bob,’ dies while saving two children from speeding car

Every child can tell you the name of their school’s crossing guard. At Christ the King Catholic School in Kansas City, KS, 88-year-old Robert James Nill, better known and loved as “Mr. Bob,” was one of the best.


Tuesday, Mr. Bob made the ultimate sacrifice for two of his students when a speeding car careened through the school’s crosswalk. The Washington Post reported that a few minutes before school started at 8 a.m., two boys in grades third and fifth stepped off the curb in front of the school. It was about five minutes before 8 a.m., five minutes until the first bell rang and Nill’s job ushering kids through the crosswalk would be over for the morning. Two young boys, in third and fifth grade, stepped off the curb. Nill motioned for them to step back, said school principal Cathy Fithian. He saw a black sedan speeding toward them and likely sensed it wasn’t stopping or slowing, despite Nill’s handheld stop sign and the school zone’s flashing lights. The two boys came running into Fithian’s office in tears, screaming for Mr. Bob. The principal consoled them and then went outside to find an awful scene as first responders swarmed the intersection, she told The Washington Post on Tuesday night.

“Mr. Bob,” Robert James Nill was the beloved crossing guard at a Kansas City, Kansas school.

Nill was struck by the vehicle and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Reports say the driver was likely speeding but did not flee the scene. The driver was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for injuries.

Nill served in the United States Coast Guard and following his service, went on to a career in banking. After retirement, he wanted something to look forward to every morning, to get him out of bed. His family told FOX 4 Kansas City that he felt young at heart and didn’t want to spend his golden years sitting around. “This was something I think he felt like he could help children and help himself feel good about what he was doing,” said Randy Nill, Bob’s nephew.

Being a crossing guard brought him that joy and sense of purpose. By the outpouring of support on social media, it is apparent that his joy and love of life were contagious.

“Bob was such a fixture at my children’s school,” Connie Lynn Worrell commented on Facebook. “We would wave at him every day and in the morning I always made sure to wave at him after dropping off the boys. This is truly heartbreaking. He will be sorely missed.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

No surprise. Air Force says increased money improves readiness

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein thanked Congress for providing the resources necessary to restore the service’s readiness while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support Oct. 10, 2018.

During her testimony, Wilson praised Congress for passing an appropriations bill on time for the first time in nearly a decade.

“With your help, we have made great strides in a short period of time,” she said. “We are more ready today than we were two years ago.”

After decades of readiness decline, the Air Force is working to accelerate its recovery, ensuring the service is prepared to combat rapidly evolving threats.


Today more than 75 percent of the Air Force’s core fighting units are combat ready with their lead forces packages. The service’s goal is for 80 percent of those units to have the right number of properly trained and equipped airmen by the end of 2020 – 6 years faster than projected before the Air Force developed a recovery plan.

“Restoring the readiness of the force is our top priority.” Goldfein said. “And the budget Congress recently passed will have a significant impact for airmen across our active, guard, and reserve components.”

To do this the Air Force is focusing on three key areas: people, training, and cost-effective maintenance and logistics.

People

For the Air Force, readiness is first and foremost about people. In fiscal year 2018, Congress provided funding to allow the Air Force to address a serious shortage of maintainers. In September 2016, the service was short 4,000 active duty maintainers, but by December 2018 that number is expected to reach zero.

“Actions by Congress over the last few years has been tremendously helpful,” Wilson said. “Now we must get these airmen the experience needed to become craftsman at their work.”

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein.

In addition to maintainers, the Air Force has placed an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage, first by addressing quality of service and quality of life issues, and also increasing financial incentives and providing more control over assignments and career paths.

The Air Force is increasing the number of pilots it trains from 1,160 a year in FY 2017 to 1,311 in FY 2019, building to 1,500 by FY 2022 and steady state, thereafter.

Training

As part of the readiness recovery, the Air Force is focused on providing relevant and realistic training to maintain an advantage over increasingly capable adversaries. To meet this need the service is investing in operational training infrastructure — ranges and airspace — and simulation.

The Air Force is also improving infrastructure, simulators, threat emulators and training ranges to enhance realism and enable airmen to train locally for a high-end, multi-domain fight.

Cost-effective maintenance and logistics 

The third element of restoring the readiness of the force is weapons system sustainment — the parts, supply, and equipment — to make sure our aircraft are ready to go when needed.

“There are a thousand fingerprints on every aircraft that takes off. From air traffic control to crew chiefs to weapons loaders to avionics technicians — it is a total team effort,” Goldfein said. “When the plane is twice the age of the team, it makes it harder. So we are looking at new methods across the board for how we are maintaining an older fleet with a younger workforce.”

The Air Force is already seeing improvements in its depots, increasing depot production by 20 percent, completing 75 aircraft per year.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 steps you need in your battle plan for marriage resiliency

If you’re not walking forward into your military marriage with the tactical proficiency of any well-planned operation, it’s time to revisit the field guide.

It’s been one helluva make or break year so far with thousands stranded in PCS limbo and plenty of others facing even longer deployments. The recent Blue Star Families survey noted both family stability and time away from family as the two of the top issues, so there’s nothing like making hard things even harder.


While we’re no experts, we’re guessing talks between you and “Household six” might need a full set of EOD gear to survive the unforeseen schedule bombs without casualties. Luckily for you, there’s plenty of similarities between navigating marriage and planning a flawless mission. Here is your field guide to military marriage.

1. Understand your mission 

Troop leading procedures (TLP) requires the receipt and understanding of a mission. The mission for marriage is to accomplish your mutual goals with as few friendly fire incidents as possible. Unlike the military where a single commander dictates the plans, the role in marriage is shared. Creating operation orders with both points of view is how successful couples see the entire picture and arrive at the many battles in life fully prepared.

Each move, each deployment or change in life requires a new look at the mission.

2. WARNO

The WARNO issues a set of parameters, expectations and what is minimally acceptable. Applied to marriage, clearly outlining your own WARNO for situations like the grocery shop, the family vacation or simply a Saturday full of to-do lists.

“Go to this grocery store, not the other where the selection is not up to standard. You are to secure the following list of items. Should the brand names (listed in detail) not be available, you have clearance to initiate the following protocol. If the children become hostile, employ this tactic. If you reach this status with said children, abort the primary mission and begin digital reinforcements. It is unacceptable to return to base without the minimum requirements as stated below. Good luck.”

In theory, if a service member is used to working within the left and right barriers, a clearly defined home front mission should be successful.

3.  Identify obstacles

A good leader identifies the existing and potential threats to his troops to ensure the success of the mission. If you find yourself walking into contact daily, you clearly need to revisit this point. No one would walk into any mission without this step, so why not do the same for your marriage? Ask yourself the following.

“How will obstacles affect the success and forward movement of my marriage?”

“How can I use weapons within my arsenal to force the enemy where I want him and disrupt his movement?”

What is all too often forgotten in marriage is that your spouse is your battle buddy. Your spouse is and always will be on the same team for the same mission. If a snake is wrapped around the leg of your battle, you wouldn’t attack the man, you’d attack the snake. The same goes for your spouse in marriage.

If there is an enemy, attack it. If you foresee obstacles, plan for them. If you encounter them, work together not against each other.

4. Call for support if necessary

Your marriage team is in danger of being overrun. To call in support and save yourselves you need to know the following- where you are, where (or what) the enemy is, and what type of support you’re calling for.

Every marriage occasionally walks into battles that despite plans or preparation, can become too much to handle. Your options are to walk away or call in support. Unfortunately, in marriage, people often refuse support out of pride or stubbornness resulting in the complete failure of the mission and dissolution of the team. No good leader would let his team go down without deploying every single option available, so don’t do the same to your marriage.

Marriage in the military is one of the longest and toughest battles service members and their spouses will fight. It takes consistent training, plenty of planning and the unwavering dedication to the team to succeed. Luckily for all of us out there, the military has provided these skills, we all just need to deploy them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says it just whacked 4 top ISIS leaders in Syria

The Russian Defense Ministry says it has killed four Islamic State commanders in an airstrike targeting the extremist group outside Syria’s eastern city of Deir al-Zour, including a former senior security official from Tajikistan.


The ministry said in a Sept. 8 statement that 40 militants were killed in the air strike, including Abu Muhammad al-Shimali, who is responsible for foreign IS fighters, and Gulmurod Halimov, a former Tajik Interior Ministry commander.

It said the airstrike targeted a gathering of IS warlords in an underground bunker near Deir al-Zour.

“According to confirmed data, among the killed fighters are four influential field commanders,” the ministry said.

Gulmurod Halimov. Screengrab from TomoNews US YouTube video.

Halimov, often referred to as the IS “minister of war,” is a former commander of the Tajik Interior Ministry’s riot police, known as OMON, who had received US training while serving in that position.

He made an online announcement in May 2015 that he had joined IS.

Tajikistan has issued an international warrant for his arrest, and the United States has offered $3 million for information on his whereabouts.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Halimov was present at the meeting of IS warlords and was fatally wounded in the air strike. It said he had been evacuated to the Al-Muhasan area, 20 kilometers southeast of Deir al-Zour.

There have been several unconfirmed reports from both northern Iraq and Syria since 2015 that Halimov was killed while fighting alongside IS forces.

Russian Tupolev Tu-160 bombers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Alan Wilson.

Tajik authorities have repeatedly rejected those reports, saying they think he is still alive.

Heavy fighting continues between Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, and IS fighters seeking to reinstate a siege of Deir al-Zour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin this week congratulated his Syrian counterpart, Bashar al-Assad, after Syrian state media said government troops had broken the three-year long siege of the city by IS forces.

In the months after Russia began a campaign of air strikes in Syria in September 2015, Western officials said it mainly targeted not IS militants, but other opponents of Assad.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 reasons to be thankful for military kids

I’m feeling thankful. Maybe because I know orders are on the horizon and there is “change” in the air. Or maybe I’m thankful in spite of it.

Sensing the winds, I can’t help but feel thankful for my military kids. It’s been a long decade filled with multiple schools and countless moves. They’ve said goodbye, more than hello. Yet, they are always ready for adventure. My kids, probably like your kids, always seem to roll with punches, ignoring the winds or leaning hard into it. As a parent, I draw my strength from their resiliency, their never-quit mentality after so many moves. There are many reasons to be thankful for our military kids this season, but here are just a few.


1. Will look an adult in the eyes.

A subtle characteristic of nearly all military kids over the age of six is their uncanny ability to make eye contact with adults when speaking to them. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Military kids can not only speak to adults, but they make eye contact when they do. Sure, my theory isn’t 100% proven, but I challenge you to talk to any military tween or teen for more than five minutes and you’ll notice their ability to hold a conversation with you while making eye contact. Whether respect for adults comes from experience, diversity or taught at home, I’m thankful for it.

(Photo by Ben White)

2. Are little patriots. 

Whether it’s on a playground, in a classroom, at a sporting event or at a ceremony, when the music of our National Anthem starts, military kids will be the first to freeze, turn to the flag and hand to their chest. Grown adults sometimes forget (or don’t know) to remove their hats, stop SnapChat-ing or put down their hot dog when the anthem plays. You can spot a military kid or a Boy Scout in any crowd when the anthem plays. Military kids have watched their parent put on the uniform with a that little flag on the side arm every day. The American flag is a part of their upbringing and I’m thankful for it.

3. Are includers.

There isn’t’ a military kid around that hasn’t been the new kid at least once. Empathy is learned through experience and exposure – military kids have years of both. My kids will nearly break out in hives if they think someone is being left out at lunch or at birthday party. And I know this character trait is runs in deep with military families. Drawing on experience, military kids include the outsider. It’s their superpower.They will embrace the different because they see themselves in others and I’m thankful for it.

4. Are active participants. 

Need a someone to play goalkeeper? Need a volunteer to be a lunch buddy? Need a kid to stay behind and clean up? Yep, if there is a military kid in a crowd, they’ll raise their hand. Military kids just want to be a part of action, they want to participate, try out and be helpful. Especially after a tough move, military kids are forced to sit on the sidelines until they see an opening, sometimes they have to make their own opening. Military kids are usually all in, all the time and I’m thankful for it.

(Photo by Gabriel Baranski)

5. Will show up.

New kid having a birthday party? Military kids will show up. School fundraiser? They’ll be there. Need a fifth to play basketball? Just ask. Stocking food at the food bank? They will be five minutes early. Military kids will show up. Whether it’s their upbringing or military values –If my military kid says he’ll will be there, he’ll be there. You can count on military kids and I’m thankful for it.

6. Know problems are designed to be solved. 

Military kids, especially the older ones, have the deeper understanding and experience to know there is a solution to nearly every problem. They’ve been thrown into a litany of situations and forced to problem solve. They learn to adapt. They have to, it is survival. From putting on brave face walking into a new school to helping their family shoulder another deployment, they know problems are just challenges ready to be tackled. Military kids are old souls and I’m thankful for it.

(Photo by Marisa Howenstine)

7. Are good friends.

Once a friend to a military kid, consider yourself a friend for life. A classmate may not have been in a child’s life for long, but trust me, our kids remember nearly every playdate, experience and conversation. To a military kid, a friendship is treasure they pick up along their journey, a collection of friendships that make up the quilted memory called childhood. Our kids will write, FaceTime, SnapChat, IG and message the heck of out long-distance friends. Military kids have friends across states and continents, but it’s never out of sight out of mind. They are professional friend makers and mean it when they say, “let’s stay in touch.” Kids may not see each other in five years but will pick up exactly where they left off. In truth, our kids need friendships probably more than we’d like to admit. But we promise there is no better friend to have than a military kid. They make the best of friends and I’m thankful for it.

8. Are good for schools. 

There are 1.1 million school aged military kids and most attend public schools. Military parents are usually engaged and involved with their child’s education. Whether it’s volunteering, attending ceremonies, homework help or parent-teacher conferences – military kids come with active parents. Teachers and staff can count on their military family population to enroll students who will enrich their school. All military kids have health insurance and a least one parent is always employed which add stability while living a transient lifestyle. Military students bring a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of tolerance into their classroom. Since military students will attend between six and nine schools through their K-12 education, schools can count on our kids to bring their backpack full of resiliency on their first day of school. They make a school a better place for everyone and I’m thankful for it.

(Photo by Mike Fox)

9. Are professional road trippers.

Military kids can make a chaotic PCS move into a full-on adventure. They can turn their seven-state DITY move with two dogs into a family vacation. Sure, it’s painful to spend hours in the car with smelly siblings, but I’ll bet you military kids know more about the 50 states, obscure museums, best food on the go and random side show fun than their civilian counterparts. They can sleep in any bed, on the floor, in the car or any restaurant booth almost on demand. They are giddy about a hotel pools, strange souvenir shops, mountain tops, desert sunsets, giant trees and skyscrapers – military kids never tire of being surprised by world around them. They don’t long to return home, but because home is wherever their family is together and for that, I’m thankful.

10. Embrace diversity because they live it.

The upside of moving around the United States and the globe is military kids are exposed to different languages, cultures, cities and people. At ten-years old, my son could read the metro map at the Frankfurt, Germany train station better than I could. At eight years old, my daughter only knew the name for restroom as Water Closet. They would stay up to watch the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) because that’s where they were born. My kids think Texas is best state in the union, but Ohio is the place they want live because it snows. However, they consider Virginia home because that’s the house they liked best. They witnessed firsthand the Syrian refugee crisis on a train trip to Austria and are forever changed by it. They’ve walked halls and gardens of Alcazar in Spain. They’ve attended mass at Notre Dame in Paris and can point out art from Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican because of a school project they finished at a DODEA school. They’ve had school field trips to National Archives in D.C. and placed wreaths on U.S. military tombstones in France, they danced through cathedrals older than the United States and did somersaults on ancient ruins in Rome. Their favorite sport is futbol, but not the American kind. They speak a little of Spanish, German and French, but wish they knew Chinese and Arabic. We are raising good beings. Whether it’s living in Japan or England, Kansas or California – this life allows us to expose them to so many different people and cultures – something their civilian peers can’t easily do. They don’t know a world full people who look and think like them and they are better humans for it. It’s a gift for our kids to live this military lifestyle and I am wholeheartedly thankful for it.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

This pilot of a stricken F-16 was saved from ISIS by a quick-thinking tanker crew

An F-16 pilot flying over ISIS-held territory in 2015 suffered a malfunction of his fuel system and would have been forced to bail out if it weren’t for a KC-135 Stratotanker crew that offered to escort the jet home, the Air Force said in a press release.


The KC-135 was tasked with refueling a flight of A-10s supporting ground pounders when an F-16 came for gas and declared an emergency.

“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close-air-support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”

After the pilot completed his checklist, it became apparent that 80 percent of his fuel supply was trapped in the tanks and couldn’t get to the engine. The pilots would have to bail out over ISIS territory or try to make it back to allied airspace.

500 pounds of fuel is very little in an F-16, so the KC-135 flew home with the fighter and topped off its gas every 15 minutes.

“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander.

The crew of the KC-135 poses for a photo in front of their aircraft. Photo: US Air Force courtesy photo

“Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy, a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”

The KC-135 crew returned to their planned operation once the F-16 was safely home and were able to complete all of their scheduled missions despite the detour.