The U.S. Navy owns the oceans, ensuring freedom of navigation for allies and fighting fiercely when called upon.
But the Navy has a softer side too, filled with humanitarian relief and medical missions.The crown jewels of this effort are the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort — hospital ships with a thousand beds each.
1. The USNS Mercy and her sister ship were converted from massive supertankers. Each is 70,000 metric tons.
2. The Mercy is a mobile hospital, complete with 12 operating rooms as well as pediatric, trauma, and orthopedic areas.
3. While the Navy maintains hospital ships to provide mobile care to soldiers and Marines fighting ashore, the USNS Mercy has been primarily deployed on humanitarian missions in the Pacific.
4. Mercy is often deployed to Pacific areas where clinics, like the one below, provide basic care. Doctors can refer the patients to the USNS Mercy, which will then provide hospital-level services.
5. Patients are transported to the ship by helicopter or by “band-aid” boats.
6. When patients arrive, they are sent to the receiving area. Their medical needs will be diagnosed and they are then sent elsewhere on the ship for care.
7. When doctors need a better look at an injury, the use the onboard CT scanner.
8. For patients that require surgery, the 12 operating bays provide a modern, sterile environment for procedures.
9. Here, a doctor puts the final sutures in a patient after removing a six pound tumor from her.
10. The ship regularly trains for mass casualty events. This helps them support military operations where a lot of troops may be wounded and respond to humanitarian crises.
11. Children are welcome on the ship where onboard pediatricians treat them.
12. A pre-dental society sophomore student from the University of California-San Diego plays with a Timorese child during Pacific Partnership 2008.
13. A hospital corpsman gives a surgical screening to a child onboard the USNS Mercy in 2010.
14. Humans aren’t the only patients for the USNS Mercy. The ship deploys with U.S. Army veterinarians and veterinary assistants for treating livestock and pets as well.
15. Pets and nearby wildlife can be a vector for disease, so the services of the veterinary staff help protect the human population.
16. The Mercy maintains its own combat search and rescue helicopter and crew.
17. Sailors launch and recover the birds from the upper deck of the ship.
18. Even foreign military doctors help out aboard the USNS Mercy. In this photo, an Australian Navy dentist treats patients onboard.
19. A dentist with the South Korean Navy treats a patient onboard the Mercy.
20. The USNS Mercy crew also goes ashore to help partner nations. Here, an environmental health officer tests a water well that was just dug by Navy Seabees.
21. The Mercy has its own firefighters who ensure the safety of the other sailors and patients on the ship.
22. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the ship and its mission in the Pacific Partnership.
The Air Force has deployed the B-52 heavy bombers originally designed to carry nuclear weapons into the heart of the Soviet Union have begun using precision weapons against ISIS terrorists.
The planes are operating out of Qatar and began their mission by taking out an ISIS weapons storage facility in northwestern Iraq. The bombing missions will help Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga fighters push back ISIS forces.
Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, the commander of Air Combat Command, announced the deployment of the B-52s to Iraq and Syria during the Air Warfare Symposium 2016, said CNN.
The Air Force has been hard pressed to keep up the constant strikes against ground targets in ISIS’s so-called caliphate. The heavy bomber mission was being conducted by B-1s, but the “Bones,” as they’re popularly called, were pulled from the mission and returned to the U.S. for maintenance and upgrades. B-1s from the 28th Bomb Wing out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota flew 490 sorties in six months last year and dropped 3,800 munitions on 3,700 targets, according to CNN.
The B-52s there now are not as technologically advanced or sleek as the B-1s they’re replacing. The youngest B-52 in the inventory rolled off the line in 1962, but they’ve been upgraded numerous times in the last few decades. These upgrades have taken the B-52 from the nuclear deterrence role through carpet bombing in Vietnam to precision strike. Currently, the Air Force is planning to fly them until at least 2040.
Modern B-52s carry the same Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods used by many F-16s, A-10s, B-1s, and other precision aircraft. The Sniper Pod was first deployed to combat in 2005 and allows pilots to accurately detect and engage targets from long ranges.
The B-52 can carry up to 70,000 pounds of munitions including precision bombs, missiles, mines, and cruise missiles.
That ship was the battleship USS Nevada (BB 36). The Nevada was the lead ship in her class, the other being USS Oklahoma (BB 37). According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, when she was built, she had ten 14-inch guns (two triple turrets, two double turrets), 21 five-inch guns (many in casemates), and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.
The Nevada did not see much action at all (although nine sailors died from the influenza pandemic that hit in 1918) in World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, she carried out normal peacetime operations.
On Dec. 7, 1941, she was moored alone on Battleship Row. When Kido Butai launched the sneak attack on Oahu, the battleship was hit by a torpedo, but her crew managed to get her engines running, and she made a break for the open ocean.
As she did so, the second wave from the six Japanese carriers arrived. The Nevada took anywhere from six to ten bomb hits, and the decision was made to run her aground.
The Nevada suffered 50 dead and over 100 wounded, but Pearl Harbor would claim two more casualties. In “Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal,” it was reported that two men were killed by hydrogen sulfide on Feb. 7, 1942, while working to salvage the Nevada.
Nevada would return to Puget Sound for permanent repairs and refitting, gaining a new dual-purpose batter of eight twin five-inch gun mounts. She took part in operations to re-take the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska from the Japanese, then she went to the Atlantic.
On June 6, 1944, she was part of the armada that took part in Operation Overlord, and continued to provide fire support until American troops moved further inland. In August of that year, she took part in Operation Dragoon, the landings in southern France.
She then returned to the Pacific, taking part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Off Okinawa, she suffered damage from a kamikaze and from Japanese shore batteries.
The ship remained mission-capable, and she would later return to Pearl Harbor for repairs before re-joining the fleet to prepare for the invasion of Japan, stopping to pay a visit to a bypassed Japanese-held island.
After Japan surrendered, the Nevada was sent back to the West Coast, and prepared for Operation Crossroads. Painted a bright orange color to serve as an aiming point for the B-29 crew assigned to drop an atomic bomb, she got lucky.
According to the book “Final Voyages,” the B-29 crew missed her by about a mile — and she survived both the Able and Baker tests. She was later used as a target and sunk, with the final blow being an aerial torpedo according to the Naval Vessel Register.
Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.
Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.
So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?
1. Getting the nuclear house in order
Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.
Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.
Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.
California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.
There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.
3. Acquisition Reform
It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.
Do we have to look to the 1970s for acquisition reform? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.
By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.
4. Cyber warfare
With some of the hacks that have gone on, it’s amazing that so many people find this a snoozer. Keep in mind, this October, a massive cyberattack cost companies over $110 million — enough to buy a F-35B.
And the Pentagon needs to tighten its defenses — this past June, over 130 bugs were found when DOD offered “bug bounties” to so-called “white hat” hackers. While it’s nice a lot of the bugs were found… did the “white hats” miss any?
5. Old Equipment
Age isn’t just striking the nuclear force. Many of the systems used for conventional warfare are old as well. In a commentary for the Washington Examiner, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) noted that many F-15 Eagle fighters are over 30 years old. To put this into context, take a look at how old three music superstars are: Taylor Swift is 27, Ariana Grande is 23, and Ke$ha is 29. It’s past time for recapitalization.
A major Islamic State group counterattack July 7 along the northern edge of Mosul’s Old City neighborhood has pushed Iraqi Army forces back some 75 meters (82 yards) and is threatening recent gains in other Old City fronts, an Iraqi military officer said.
The officer said the attack was launched just after noon July 7 and estimated it was carried out by 50 to 100 IS fighters. A doctor at a medic station said he received more than a dozen wounded Iraqi soldiers.
Both men spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Iraqi security forces have retaken almost all of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — from IS militants who overran it in 2014.
In late June, IS counterattacks on the western edge of Mosul — neighborhoods retaken months earlier — stalled the push by Iraqi forces to go deeper into the Old City as they forced a reallocation of Iraqi ground forces, coalition surveillance, and air support.
Unlike the July 7 attack, the late June counterattack was launched from outside Mosul, most likely from Tal Afar, an IS-held town some 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Mosul.
The counterattacks underscore the extremist group’s resilience in Iraq, despite significant territorial losses and months of heavy fighting with Iraqi forces backed by US air power.
The pockets of IS-held Mosul now measure less than a square kilometer.
Also on July 7, The UN’s migration agency suspended operations in two camps — the Qayara air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp — near Mosul hosting nearly 80,000 displaced Iraqis due to sporadic violence and exchange of gunfire.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman said the security situation prevented six water-tanker trucks from entering the Haj Ali camp, where temperatures reached the low 50s Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in recent days.
Humanitarian groups have repeatedly suspended operations in and around Mosul due to security concerns since the fight to retake the city from IS began last October.
In April, the United Nations suspended operations in the same area due to security threats along the road south of Mosul’s western half.
In February, the UN suspended operations in eastern Mosul weeks after the area was declared fully liberated as IS attacks continued to inflict heavy civilian casualties.
In both instances, the UN resumed operations within a matter of days.
The upcoming movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” highlights the veteran security team who protected the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya during the 2012 attack. Below is a list of weapons the defenders used to valiantly defend the compound:
1. Western assault rifles
Private security contractors who are alums of elite US military units often prefer the same weapons they carried in the service such as the SCAR-L or M4 assault rifles that fire 5.56mm rounds. If they want to up the caliber a little, they can go with the SCAR-H or M14, which both use a 7.62mm round.
Obviously, this results in a number of contractors carrying Kalashnikovs. This was especially prevalent in the early 2000s in Iraq when the State Department started hiring private companies for overseas security but hadn’t yet begun issuing them the needed licenses to import weapons.
3. Grenade launchers
While private military contractors are generally associated with lighter weapons, they’re sometimes authorized mass-casualty inflicting systems like M203 or M320 grenade launchers. The grenade launcher at Benghazi was one of the defenders’ most effective weapons.
Shotguns can be loaded with buckshot to cripple all enemies in a confined area or slugs to immediately shutdown a single target. They also allow contractors to quickly “unlock” doors if they need to evacuate their client.
The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.
The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.
“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.
The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.
The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.
The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.
“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”
The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.
A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.
New lightweight .50 cal
The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.
The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.
The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.
The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.
“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”
“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”
An intimidating combat-tested weapon
The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.
“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.
The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.
The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.
“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”
The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.
The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.
The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.
The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.
“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”
The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.
Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.
Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.
“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”
Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.
“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”
But Houghton takes his argument further.
“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”
Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.
“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”
The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.
“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”
In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.
Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, more than 2 million American children have had a deployed parent, according to the “Military Children and Families” report conducted by Princeton University/Brookings (Fall 2013). This statistic got the attention of two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, who is an Air Force brat herself, and she has added her name to the Duracell company’s support of the USO’s Comfort Crew for Military Kids program.
Somewhat by chance a Duracell market research team met a Navy family in San Diego who used one of the company’s products in a heart-warming way. “We were basically in the house of this family and we asked the daughter to show off her favorite toy,” brand manager Ramon Velutini said. “We were expecting regular toys — remote control cars and all this — and they came running with this battery-powered bear.”
“We were so inspired by this story, we wanted to share it,” said brand director Jeff Jarrett. “We realized just how difficult it is for these families to stay connected during a deployment. With their story of the teddy bear, they helped us understand the impact that a battery-powered bear could have on children—a way to hear Mom or Dad on command while they’re deployed, allowing them to always be there.”
Mackenzie Nilson, 3-year-old daughter of Navy Petty Officer First Class Robert Nilson and his wife Denise, stayed close to her father while he was deployed as an air traffic controller aboard a surface combatant by listening to his voice that he’d recorded into a stuffed bear before he left. The Duracell team recreated the sequence of events in a commercial produced just in time for July 4.
Watch the heart-warming commercial:
Actress Swank decided to share her support of the program because she can relate to having a military parent gone all the time; her father is a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant. The first time she saw the teddy bear ad she was immediately moved to help. “The young girl is going through a gamut of emotions,” she said. “It’s a reminder of the sacrifice of all of our troops as well as the unsung heroes — those left behind.”
Swank is proud of her father’s service and grateful that she has a sense of what the military is all about, something many Americans lack.
“In a military family everyone serves, especially the children,” she said. “It wasn’t easy for me when my father was away for many months at a time with the Air Force, but he always worked hard to stay connected with us through phone calls.”
Duracell is donating $100,000 to the USO’s Comfort Crew for Military Kids program which helps military children cope during their parent’s deployment. The program gives military children a safe, comfortable environment to explore, with their peers, the challenges of growing up in the military. The Comfort Crew for Military Kids program supports military children with the distribution of Comfort Kits, which gives military families the resources they need to tackle tough issues on the home front. In 2014, the USO distributed more than 15,000 kits .
The U.S. military has truly gone bonkers for unmanned aerial systems, with a vast inventory of surveillance drones alongside a few that are big enough to carry missiles for precision strikes.
But imagine if a UAS could observe a target for units on the ground, providing intel on a key terrorist leader or bomb making factory and be the bomb that takes them out.
That’s the kind of capability special operations units like the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are looking for, and a few companies displaying their wares at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo and this year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference are offering the technology to fit that mission.
Developed by Israeli defense firm UVision, the Hero-30 is a beyond line of sight unmanned aerial vehicle that packs into an 11 pound launch canister that can be carried onto battle on a trooper’s back. The drone is about 4 feet long and is launched by a pneumatic shot of air. Once airborne, a soldier flies the vehicle using a handheld control unit which allows him to orbit his target for up to 30 minutes.
Once the bad guy is in sight, the operator just flies the drone straight into its target for the kill. The Hero-30 warhead can be configured for point detonation or air burst while still in flight.
“It is lightweight for a special ops team or an infantry squad to be able to provide them with a precision munition they can fly themselves,” said Clinton Anderson with Mistral Inc., which represents UVision in the U.S. “You can designate how you want it to attack and how you want the fuse to operate and you launch it in attack mode and it comes in right on the target and blows up.”
UVision also has a new version dubbed the Hero-40 that’s a bit longer with greater range and explosive payload and is intended for vehicle-borne operations and missions.
One of the oldest companies in the small UAV business Aerovironment has a more scaled-down answer to the kamikaze drone requirement with its Switchblade miniature lethal aerial system.
Coming in at just under 5 pounds with its diminutive launcher, the Switchblade has a 10 km range and can loiter over a target for about 10 minutes. It’s so small the Switchblade can fit inside a typical tactical pack and delivers a lethal blast on target using a small, handheld ground control system.
“This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition,” the company says. “The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize and track even at very close range.”
Company officials say the U.S. Army is buying the Switchblade for testing with its infantry troops and special operations soldiers.
Logan Vath left the Navy in 2012 to be pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Crowdfunding his first album, Logan started to find success, playing wherever he could, building relationships in the music industry, and keeping up with old friends.
Vath has a unique take on his experience thus far: “I visited a recruiter’s office, and, what happened to me usually happens to most people who visit a recruiter’s office — I joined the Navy,” Vath laughed. “On my 2nd deployment, on the USS Monterey, I was actually performing weekly when the ship would pull in. We were doing ‘Show Your Colors’ tours on the boat and the Captain, Captain Jim Kilby, had me playing in the corner, in my dress uniform during receptions. I was lucky, everyone I’ve ever encountered in the military was always really supportive of my music. I think they all knew that this was what I was going to do at some point, or try to do at the very least.”
He says that what he learned in the Navy wasn’t always directly related to the skill set he maintained in order to perform his duties. “Playing to a crowd of people can teach you a lot about how to win over an audience if the subject matter isn’t something that is totally interesting to them,” he said. “Still to this day I use a lot of humor in shows in between songs just to keep people involved — to let them know that I’m not that sad of a person actually. The music can be, but I think performing on the ships is something that helped build my style.”
As he frequently laid topside, looking up at the stars, Vath admits that his lyrics frequently reference his own experience. “I think lyrically, things still sneak in from being out there and spending so many nights staring at the stars,” he said. “I think it’s extremely easy to romanticize the ocean and even songwriters that weren’t in the Navy do it frequently. I’ve never written specifically about things that have happened, but I would say there are definitely some themes from my experience.”
However, not every part of his career was a cakewalk. At one point, Vath let on that the ship he was stationed on, the USS Nassau, suffered from a fuel leak and simultaneous air-conditioning snafu off the coast of Africa. “I lived off of powered milk and Red Bull for a while even though they said the water was good,” Vath recounted. “Something in my body would not allow me to drink water that tasted like fuel for some reason, I don’t know why [laughing]. But that lasted a while; that was horrible. I just remember so many horrible, horrible sweaty nights in those racks with no A/C, just in a giant, baking tin-cup.”
Setting out to get out of Nebraska and make his own way, Vath remembers the day he chose what he would do in the Navy. “When I was at the recruiter, they gave me four jobs,” he said. “What prompted my choice of AG, (Aerographer’s Mate), was the recruiter saying, ‘This never comes up; you gotta do this job. You’ll love it.’ So, I signed up and said I’d do it — and he was correct. We had such a small community. The beautiful thing about being an AG, was that when you went out to a boat, nobody really knew what you did, so you can fly under the radar often. You have a lot of things that you have to take care of, but it’s a very isolated, quiet job.”
Vath says the turning point in his life started in boot camp. “The most important part was being cut off from everything,” he said. “That shaped me for so much about life. I always think about that, the most scared I ever was, was surrendering that cell phone after the first call because I had gone from a life of complete connection to nothing. I didn’t have anybody, I didn’t know anybody yet. And I think that that’s really good for people to be put in those situations because so many people aren’t. It’s terrifying to be a situation with no way out. You learn a lot about yourself in that.”
Admitting that maybe his expectations weren’t completely accurate when imagining who he would be as a result of his service, Vath says he thought the Navy was going to be a cure-all. “I thought I was going to become cleaner, faster, more efficient and abandon all my old habits,” he admitted. “That didn’t really happen. What I liked about the Navy, and everyone says you get what you put into it, and that’s so true. If you do it correctly, the Navy allows you to take whatever personality traits you have that are strong and utilize them in a lot of different ways.”
He discovered not only himself, but a new perspective on the world around him as he experience what life in the Navy entails. Says Vath, “I think everything I thought I would get out of the military, I got. It taught me that things can be a lot worse sometimes, things can be a lot better, you don’t always get to do what you want, sometimes you just have to do things that are completely against the way you would do them just because it’s just the way it is. Which I think is a really good skill to have and that people don’t often have it. I anticipated it would make me a harder worker — it did. I anticipated it would make me not take home or family for granted — it did, which is huge for me. I anticipated I would make great friends and see the world — I did. And I anticipated that after four years, I would come out a more rounded individual with better critical thinking and life experience and I did. I am in debt to it for that, as an organization because it gave me a lot of opportunities.”
Reminiscing on his first experiences, Vath admits that the part of his service that he misses the most is the ‘firsts’ of everything. “When you hop on your first boat, I remember that feeling of just being overwhelmed; going out to sea for the first time,” he said. “And there’s so many things you get to do like that in the Navy such as the first time you take off from a flight deck. You’ll never get that first feeling back, and so many first feelings that you’re given the opportunity to feel. I miss that a lot. I have goosebumps right now, thinking about coming home on the USS Nassau for the first time and playing ‘City of New Orleans’ by Arlo Guthrie while coming in, getting ready to dock.” He began signing,”‘Good Morning America, How are you?‘” He paused for a moment and took a deep breath, “Beautiful song — I’ll always associate that song with that feeling. And you can never get that back.”
Once known for a satirical song entitled ‘The Fraternization Song’, Logan chose to remove the tune from the public eye after receiving a lot of publicity for the song’s comedic twist on enlisted-officer relationships in the Navy. Says Vath, “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I was playing a show in Charlottesville, VA and there was a big media writeup in Charlottesville and a lot of it focused on the song. I didn’t want to use the military as a novelty. I’m happy to be a veteran and I had such a good time in the Navy, it was nothing but good to me. I have nothing but good things to day about it and I didn’t want to use that in the music. Any fans I gained, I wanted to gain organically. I wanted to earn their respect instead of them listening to be because I was a sailor.”
Logan has recently been working with a record label in Brooklyn, NY to record his next album. Vath declines to pigeonhole his music into a genre, choosing instead to focus on its substance. “I sing about personal experience but not in a storytelling way,” he said. “It’s more drawing parallels of everyday things and trying to view them differently. Putting myself in a genre is hard. People who do what I do usually say Indie Folk, but I’m not sure that that’s where I am.” He takes a sip of his beer and looks up, “Being able to hold a room of 50 people for an hour to an hour and a half and they are genuinely interested in what you’re saying is an incredible feeling. Of course the next time you’re in town, hopefully that number is 75, and eventually you’re moving into a venue that can fit 100. It’s a cool progression to watch. The trend is, for me, that if there is good music, people are going to listen to it; regardless of genre. Good music is good music.”
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.
The festival was supposed to be a luxury getaway weekend full of music with concerts in a remote Bahamas setting, full of five-star dining and whatever else the absurdly rich do. What happened when the private jets dropped off their passengers was less festival, more “Lord of the Flies.”
Here are a few ways the military would have prepared these people to get along before Piggy did and civilization went with him.
1. You know better than to volunteer to spend days on an abandoned beach.
Those dome tents look pretty comfy, reflecting the light like that. A lot nicer than the military’s waterproof tarp tent that sleeps 12 and keeps in all the body odor and humid air you could possibly want.
2. Those pigs are food.
Sure, they’re adorable. And probably protected. But when the chow hall is only handing out cheese sandwiches and lettuce, there’s bound to be a negligent discharge sooner or later.
3. You know food could always be a lot worse.
America’s super-rich are probably not used to having to rough it for a long weekend. Why would they be? If I could afford a $2,000 concert ticket, I would probably be a wifi-enabled cyborg. So it’s not really a surprise that the biggest food complaint appeared to be the fact that their “five-star dining” turned out to be a cheese sandwich.
It looks pretty rough, sure, but have you ever been to a tent city midnight meal? Midrats aboard a carrier?
Sure, airmen get meat, but can you name that meat? No? enjoy your cheese sandwich.
4. You know which leaders to trust but more importantly, which to avoid.
While Ja Rule should have been a red flag to most of us, doing some basic research would have revealed that Fyre Festival co-founder Billy McFarland appears unable to open a McDonald’s franchise, let alone a multi-million dollar music festival on a deserted island. These buyers were begging for death.
5. The lawsuit pretty much describes life in the Marine Corps infantry.
The line “dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance” is used in $100 million class-action lawsuit against the Festival.
Except the Marines are still successful and usually have a plan to get back home.
6. You’re used to leadership passing the blame for failures.
Poor objectives? Terrible leadership? Lack of clear goals? Welcome to the suck. Again: Ja Rule as the unit leader should have been a red flag – but you’re on that island no matter what, so embrace it. No one is going to willing own up to it. And even if they do, the communication will be clear as mud.
“I truly apologize as this is not my fault… but i’m taking responsibility” pretty much says everything you need to know.