4 Vietnam War heroes you've never heard of - We Are The Mighty
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4 Vietnam War heroes you’ve never heard of

There was no shortage of heroes in the Vietnam War. Whether fighting in the pitched battles of the Ia Drang, in Hue City, or in the skies above, American troops served with valor.


Here are four lesser known heroes of that conflict:

1. Drew Dix — U.S. Army

President Johnson poses with four U.S. servicemen to whom he presented the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam. Left to right: Navy Lt. Clyde E. Lassen, Marine Maj. Stephen W. Pless, President Johnson, Air Force Lt. Col. Joe M. Jackson, and Army Staff Sgt. Drew D. Dix. January 16, 1969. (Photo: Dept. of Defense)

Maj. Drew Dix holds a unique place in military history. He was the last of four men from the city of Pueblo, Colorado, to receive the Medal of Honor and he was also the first Special Forces soldier to receive the Medal of Honor.

If there is indeed “something in the water,” as President Eisenhower said, then Dix must have had more than his fair share. Dix first enlisted in the U.S. Army hoping to join Special Forces but had spent three years in the 82nd Airborne Division before being accepted.

By 1968, Dix was a Staff Sergeant serving as a Special Forces advisor in Vietnam. On January 31, 1968, the first day of the Tet Offensive, Dix was stationed near Chau Phu when the city was attacked by two heavily armed Viet Cong battalions.

Supervising Vietnamese soldiers, Dix led his small group on an attack into the city. Receiving information that civilians were trapped, Dix systematically, and sometimes single-handedly, attacked multiple buildings, killing or driving out enemy forces and rescuing some fourteen civilians from the battlefield.

Over two days of fighting, Dix, while leading his small group, was also credited with fourteen enemy killed and possibly as many as 25 more while capturing a further twenty enemy.

2. George “Bud” Day — U.S. Air Force

Col. George Day’s story starts the day his F-100 was shot out of the sky over Vietnam on August 26, 1967.

Then-Major Day was leading a Misty Forward Air Control flight when his plane was crippled by anti-aircraft fire. He ejected but was badly injured in the process. Not long after reaching the ground, he was captured and taken to a small POW camp.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, he tricked the guards and made a break for it into the jungle.

Despite his injuries, and incurring more, Day traveled south towards the DMZ. He survived on berries and raw frogs. He made it very close to American lines but was unable to signal several American planes overhead.

Suffering from delirium, he began wondering aimlessly until he was recaptured by the Viet Cong who shot him in the hand and leg in the process.

Once in captivity, Day offered nothing but maximum resistance to the enemy and kept the faith with his fellow POWs. Along with receiving the Medal of Honor for his bravery in escape and resistance also received the Air Force Cross for his staunch refusal to cooperate.

To date he is the only man to receive both awards.

3. Jay Vargas — U.S. Marine Corps

Jay R. Vargas, USMC (retired); recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Col. Jay Vargas was a Captain leading Company G, 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines, when he assaulted the village of Dai Do on May 1, 1968.

The previous day he had already received painful wounds but had refused to be evacuated. Despite his wounds and a large volume of enemy fire, Vargas successfully maneuvered his company and two others through open ground to gain a foothold in the village.

When his men became pinned down, Vargas personally led the relief effort and then led the attack into the village. Wounded for a second time, Vargas again refused to be evacuated and continued the fight to ensure that the objective was secure.

No sooner had Vargas secured the perimeter than enemy counterattacks and probes began, but the Marines held through the night.

After receiving reinforcements, the Marines again went on the offensive. When a massive enemy counterattack threatened to drive back their position, Vargas remained in the open, offering aid and encouragement to the beleaguered Marines.

He was then hit for a third time in as many days. Ignoring his wounds once again, Vargas continued to lead his Marines until he saw his battalion commander go down.

Charging through a hail of gunfire, Vargas successfully evacuated his commander to safety before rejoining his Marines and reorganizing their defense.

For his actions over those three days, Vargas received the Medal of Honor.

4. Thomas Norris – U.S. Navy

Lt. Thomas R. Norris and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nguyen Van Kiet. Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor and Kiet was recognized with the Silver Star. (Dept. of Defense)

On April 2, 1972, an EB-66 carrying Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was shot down near the DMZ and right in the middle of the North’s Easter Offensive. Hambleton’s extensive knowledge of critical information made him a high priority for rescue.

However, efforts by air led to the loss of additional aircraft and more airmen killed. Finally, an attempt by ground was ordered.

The man in charge of the mission was U.S. Navy Seal Lt. Thomas Norris. He initially led a five-man team into hostile territory and was able to recover another downed flyer, Lt. Mark Clark – son of WWII General Mark Clark, who had been shot down searching for Hambleton.

Norris then led another mission but was unsuccessful in locating Hambleton. With time running out Norris devised a daring mission.

Norris, accompanied only by a South Vietnamese Commando, Nguyen Van Kiet, disguised themselves as fishermen and traveled deep into enemy territory. Patrolling through enemy infested jungles, Norris was able to locate Hambleton.

He loaded Hambleton into their sampan and covered him with bamboo and successfully navigated their way back to American lines while evading North Vietnamese patrols.

Just as they were reaching their base, they came under intense enemy fire, which Norris neutralized with a well-placed air strike.

For his highly successful, highly classified mission Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor. Nguyen Van Kiet became one of the few Vietnamese to receive the Navy Cross.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s cyber force is now fully operational

All 133 of U.S. Cyber Command’s cyber mission force teams achieved full operational capability, Cybercom officials announced on May 17, 2018.

Having Cybercom achieve full operational capability early is a testament to the commitment of the military services toward ensuring the nation’s cyber force is fully trained and equipped to defend the nation in cyberspace.


To reach full operational capability, teams met a rigorous set of criteria, including an approved concept of operation and a high percentage of trained, qualified, and certified personnel. As part of the certification process, teams had to show they could perform their mission under stress in simulated, real-world conditions as part of specialized training events.

“I’m proud of these service men and women for their commitment to developing the skills and capabilities necessary to defend our networks and deliver cyberspace operational capabilities to the nation,” said Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, Cybercom’s commander.

Cybercom leaders emphasize that while this is an important milestone, more work remains. Now, the focus will shift toward readiness to perform the mission and deliver optimized mission outcomes, continuously.

“As the build of the cyber mission force wraps up, we’re quickly shifting gears from force generation to sustainable readiness,” Nakasone said. “We must ensure we have the platforms, capabilities and authorities ready and available to generate cyberspace outcomes when needed.”

The cyber mission force has been building capability and capacity since 2013, when the force structure was developed and the services began to field and train the force of over 6,200 Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians.

The mission did not wait while teams were building. While they were in development, or “build status,” teams in the cyber mission force were conducting operations to safeguard the nation.

(Georgia Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tracy J. Smith)

“It’s one thing to build an organization from the ground up, but these teams were being tasked operationally while they were growing capability,” Nakasone said. “I am certain that these teams will continue to meet the challenges of this rapidly evolving and dynamic domain.”

The cyber mission force is Cybercom’s action arm, and its teams execute the command’s mission to direct, synchronize and coordinate cyberspace operations in defense of the nation’s interests.

Cyber mission force teams support this mission through their specific respective assignments:

— Cyber national mission teams defend the nation by identifying adversary activity, blocking attacked and maneuvering to defeat them.

— Cyber combat mission teams conduct military cyberspace operations in support of combatant commander priorities and missions.

— Cyber protection teams defend DoD’s information network, protect priority missions and prepare cyber forces for combat.

— Cyber support teams provide analytic and planning support to national mission and combat mission teams.

Some teams are aligned to combatant commands to support combatant commander priorities and synchronize cyberspace operations with operations in the other four domains — land, sea, air and space — and some are aligned to the individual services for defensive missions. The balance report directly to subordinate command sections of Cybercom, the cyber national mission force, and Joint Force Headquarters-DoD Information Network.

The cyber national mission force plans, directs and synchronizes full-spectrum cyberspace operations to deter, disrupt and if necessary, defeat adversary cyber actors to defend the nation. National mission force teams are aligned to support the cyber national mission force.

Joint Force Headquarters-DoD Information Network, which also achieved full operational capability in 2018, provides command and control of DoD information network operations, defensive cyber operations and internal defensive measures globally to enable power projection and freedom of action across all warfighting domains.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s new ‘light tank’ prototype

The US Army is now evaluating plans to build prototypes of a new highly-deployable lightweight Mobile Protected Firepower armored vehicle expected to change land war by bringing a new mission options to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack — and outmatching Russian equivalents.

Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.


“Mobile Protected Firepower helps you because you can get off road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The Army is now evaluating industry proposals in anticipation of awarding developmental deals by 2019 — with prototypes to follow shortly thereafter. The service’s request to industry described the Mobile Protected Firepower program as seeking to “provide IBCTs with direct-fire, long-range and cyber resilient capability for forcible early-entry operations.”

Smith did not elaborate on any precise weight, but did stress that the effort intends to find the optimal blend of lethality, mobility and, survivability. Senior Army leaders, however, do say that the new MPF will be more survivable and superior than its Russian equivalent.

The Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air transportable light tank, according to Russian news reports, weighs roughly 20 tons and fires a 125mm smoothbore gun. It is designed to attack tanks and support amphibious, air or ground operations. The vehicle has been in service since 2005.

Senior Army leaders have been clear that the emerging Army vehicle will be designed as a light vehicle, yet one with much greater levels of protection than the Russian equivalent.

In light of these kinds of near-peer adversaries with longer-range sensors, more accurate precision fires and air support for mechanized ground assault, the Army is acutely aware that its maneuvering infantry stands in need of armored, mobile firepower.

Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.

Accordingly, Smith explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support. This fast-changing calculus, based on knowledge of emerging threats and enemy weapons, informs an Army need to close the threat gap by engineering the MPF vehicle.

“The MPF vehicle will not be like an Abrams tank in terms of protections and survivability… but mobility helps you because you can get off roads and lethality helps you with protection also,” Smith said.

While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly. The MPF represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability. Therefore, it is no surprise that two MPFs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.

Rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.

Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy.

All of these factors are indicative of how concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver are evolving to account for how different land war is expected to be moving forward. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.

Designs, specs and requirements for the emerging vehicle are now being evaluated by Army weapons developers currently analyzing industry submissions in response to a recent Request for Proposal.

The service expects to award two Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) deals by 2019 as part of an initial step to building prototypes from multiple vendors, service officials said. Army statement said initial prototypes are expected within 14 months of a contract award.

While requirements and particular material solutions are expected to adjust as the programs move forward, there are some initial sketches of the capabilities the Army seeks for the vehicle.

According to a report from Globalsecurity.org, “the main gun has to be stabilized for on-the-move firing, while the optics and fire control system should support operations at all weather conditions including night operations.”

BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and SAIC (partnered with ST Kinetics and CMI) are among the industry competitors seeks to build the new MPF. Several months ago, BAE Systems announced it is proposing a vehicle it calls its M8 Armored Gun System.

For the Army, the effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently available or fast emerging technology while engineered the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.

An estimation of technologies likely to figure prominently in the MPF developmental process leads towards the use of lightweight armor composites, active protection systems and a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors. Smith explained how this initiative is already gaining considerable traction.

This includes the rapid incorporation of greater computer automation and AI, designed to enable one sensor to perform the functions of many sensors in real-time. For instance, it’s by no means beyond the imagination to envision high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, electromagnetic weapons and EO-IR cameras operating through a single sensor.

“The science is how do I fuse them together? How do I take multiple optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors and use them all at once in real-time ” Smith said.

“If you are out in the desert in an operational setting, infrared alone may be constrained heat so you need all types of sensors together and machines can help us sift through information,” added Smith.

In fact, the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors — with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Comat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

One of the key technical challenges when it comes to engineering a mobile, yet lethal, weapon is to build a cannon both powerful and lightweight enough to meet speed, lethality and deployability requirements.

U.S. Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites the need to bring large caliber cannon technology to lightweight vehicles. Among other things, the strategy cites a lightweight 120mm gun called the XM360 – built for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems Mounted Combat System. While the weapon is now being thought of as something for NGCV or a future tank variant, its technology bears great relevance to the MPF effort – which seeks to maximize lightweight, mobile firepower.

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”

An article in nextBIGFuture cites progress with a technology referred to as rarefaction wave gun technology, or RAVEN, explaining it can involve “combining composite and ceramic technologies with castings of any alloy — for dramatic weight reduction.”

The idea is, in part, to develop and demonstrate hybrid component concepts that combine aluminum castings with both polymer matrix composites and ceramics, the report says.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how background checks are starting to hurt US national security

The Defense Department is pledging to improve the way background investigations are done, according to Garry Reid, DoD’s director for defense intelligence and security.


There is currently an enormous backlog in the investigations, Reid said. Some personnel have been waiting up to nearly two years for a top secret security clearance, he said, explaining the goal for completing a top secret investigation is 80 days.

There are a lot of secrets in that building. (National Security Agency Headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.)

The delays are impacting readiness, he explained to DoD News.

“Units are deploying without a full complement of cleared intelligence analysts and technical experts,” Reid said.

Read: How hurricane relief is stalling US troops’ Afghanistan deployment

“Service members competing for positions that require top level clearances are held in check,” he said. “Our research and development programs are not operating at capacity due to shortage of cleared defense industry contractors.”

The long delays in processing clearances result in loss of talented people, particularly those just entering the workforce who have highly desired technical skills but cannot afford to wait a year or more before starting the job, he said.

“We are prepared to take this matter in hand and aggressively develop better approaches that can deliver quality investigations, at sustainable cost, within acceptable timelines,” he said.

Changes in Procedures

The fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 951, Enhanced Security Programs for Department of Defense Personnel and Innovation Initiative, directed the defense secretary, to provide the following to the DoD committees:

— An implementation plan, by Aug. 1, 2017, for the Defense Security Service, or DSS, to conduct, after Oct. 1, 2017, background investigations for DoD personnel, whose investigations are adjudicated by the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility.

— A report, by Aug. 1, 2017, on the number of full-time equivalent employees of the DoD management headquarters that would be required by DSS to carry out the transfer plan.

— A plan, by Oct. 1, 2017, along with the Office of Personnel Management, to transfer government investigative personnel and contracted resources to the DoD from OPM, in proportion to the background and security investigative workload that would be assumed by DoD if the implementation plan were executed.

The Defense Department requires security clearances for service members and civilians, allowing them to be mission ready for deployment around the globe for DoD missions. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

Backlog Impacts Readiness

DoD does not plan to assume the cases the OPM is already investigating, according to Reid. The pending cases are in various stages of completion and the department has already paid OPM’s National Background Investigation System to conduct those investigations.

“The enormity of the backlog is staggering,” Reid told members of Congress last month.

The backlog hurts readiness, erodes warfighting capacity, debilitates development of new capabilities, and wastes taxpayer dollars, he explained to the House Oversight and Government’s Subcommittee on Government Operations.

He said 93,000 DoD cases were waiting in a queue for a top secret investigation, and the prices for the investigations continue to rise at a “staggering rate.”

“In 2015, after promising to provide credit monitoring to 22 million government employees and federal contractors whose personal data was compromised, OPM retroactively passed on these costs on to its customers — resulting in an additional $132 million bill for DoD,” he said.

Read More: Army reports lack of training as biggest setback to readiness

DoD to Reset Process and Procedures

Reid said the situation is “unacceptable and must be remedied through immediate mitigation measures and a long-term reformation of the personnel vetting system.”

He said that is why Congress directed DoD in 2017 to develop plans for assuming control of the background investigations.

In August, the defense secretary approved the plan and notified Congress, the director of national intelligence, the director of OPM, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget of his intent to execute the plan over a three-year period, according to Reid.

“The DoD plan goes far beyond a transfer of personnel and resources associated with the legacy process at OPM; this will be a full resetting of process and procedures in desperate need of modernization and system reform,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin announced a Russian ‘doomsday weapon’ in a speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on March 1, 2018, boasted about his country’s nuclear might — and seemed to confirm the existence of a long-feared Russian doomsday device.


Putin turned toward offensive nuclear-capable systems near the end of his annual, wide-ranging state of the nation address in Moscow, in which he also said Russia needed to spend heavily on improving conditions for average Russians.

Putin described at least five new weapons systems, emphasizing how each could defeat US missile defenses and characterizing nearly all of them as nuclear-capable.

Also read: The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than ever before

But in typical fashion, Putin’s descriptions contained wild, scientifically unimaginable claims about how great the weapons were.

A computer-generated animation accompanied each weapon announcement, perhaps illustrating that they exist mainly in a conceptual state.

First, Putin mentioned a new intercontinental ballistic, which he claimed had unlimited range and could get past all US missile defenses.

An animation showed the missile taking two trajectories toward the West. Without showing much real video of the product, Putin said, “our defense companies have launched mass production of this new system.”

Next, Putin announced what he called a “global cruise missile,” which he claimed had unlimited range and was nuclear-propelled.

An animation showed the missile fired from Russia’s north, flying north of Europe into the Atlantic, weaving through US air-defense zones, and then inexplicably traveling south the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean before wrapping around Argentina and ending up near Chile.

The doomsday device

A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television (Screenshot via BBC)

Then, Putin seemed to confirm a long-feared “doomsday” weapon: an unmanned, undersea vehicle capable of carrying a nuclear weapon across oceans at high speeds.

Previous reports of the weapon have stated it may be a dirty bomb or a nuclear weapon with additional metal in its core to keep radiation in the atmosphere for years.

Related: Putin personally just launched 4 ballistic missiles

The undersea weapon’s concept has been mocked as an over-the-top system with little purpose other than destroying massive swaths of human life.

Russia may have intentionally leaked images of it in 2015, because it’s suspected that a major purpose of this weapon would be to deter attacks on Russia. The animation of the system showed it striking both US Navy formations and a coastal city.

Putin said the undersea weapon was successfully tested in December 2016, and the US intelligence community seems to have been aware of it, as such a weapon was mentioned in President Donald Trump’s recent review of US nuclear policy.

Other crazy weapons

Concept art of the WU-14, a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle.

Putin then discussed a hypersonic plane-launched, nuclear-capable missile and showed it hitting US Navy ships.

The US, Russia, China, and others are working on hypersonic weapons designed to defeat today’s defenses by flying at many times the speed of sound.

Finally, Putin talked up Russian laser weapons, showing a brief video of an electronic system with lenses pivoting on the back of a truck. He provided little detail about the system.

More: Lockheed just built a new laser that can fry large targets from a mile off

For many of the systems, Putin asked Russian citizens to send in suggestions for their names. He used the opportunity to stoke Russian pride by saying the systems were not reworkings of Soviet designs but had been developed in the past few years.

“They kept ignoring us,” Putin said of the West, to a standing ovation. “Nobody wanted to listen to us, so listen to us now.”

Articles

This is how the Marine Corps plans to turn the MV-22 Osprey into a gunship

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, has been exploring 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.


In recent years, the Corps has been working on a study to help define the requirements and ultimately inform a Marine Corps decision with regards to armament of the MV-22B Osprey.

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.

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, including surprise attacks.

US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Jesse Marquez Magallanes

The initial steps in the process of arming the V-22 includes selecting a Targeting-FLIR, improving digital interoperability, and designating Integrated Aircraft Survivability Equipment solutions. Integration of new weapons could begin as early as 2019 if the initiatives stay on track and are funded, Corps officials said.

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

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

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

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

Sgt. Austin J. Otto, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363, participates in an MV-22 Osprey tail gun shoot during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Becky L. Calhoun.

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.

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.

Flight deck personnel conduct night operations with MV-22 Osprey aircraft aboard the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Oscar Espinoza.

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.

A Corps spokesman told Scout Warrior that, 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 ships.

Between January 2007 and August 2015, Marine Corps MV-22s flew more than 178,000 flight hours in support of combat operations, Corps officials said.

Corps officials said the 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.

An MV-22B Osprey from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 (Reinforced) takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan B. Trejo.

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 US 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 initiative 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.

An MV-22 Osprey with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 363 lands at Camp Wilson during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Becky L. Calhoun.

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 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.

The Textron-Bell Helicopter team is building a tilt-rotor aircraft called the Bell V-280 Valor and the Sikorsky-Boeing team is working on early testing of its SB-1 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 maneuverability.

Bell V-280 Valor. Image from Bell Helicopter.

Planned missions for the new Future Vertical Lift aircraft include cargo, utility, armed scout, attack, humanitarian assistance, MEDEVAC, 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.”

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, Corps developers explained.

USAF photo

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 and the MV-22B VARS capacity will increase to 10,000 pounds of fuel by 2019, Corps officials told Scout Warrior last year.

The development is designed to enhance the F-35B’s range, as well as the aircraft’s ability to remain on target for a longer period.

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

The Corps has also been developing technology to better network Osprey aircraft through an effort called “Digital Interoperability.” This networks Osprey crews so that Marines riding in the back can have access to relevant tactical and strategic information while in route to a destination.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The pressure is on for Army’s newest command

When the idea for an Army Futures Command was first broached by Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and then acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, it was part shock and part thrill. The civilian and military leadership of the Army was united in their intention to radically change the service’s approach to acquisition.

The centerpiece of their strategy for change was the creation of a Futures Command. The goal of the new command, according to the Vice Chief of Staff General James McConville, is to kickstart Army modernization by starting with a vision of the future, imagining the world you want and then working backward to figure out what it would take to get there. This approach is much more likely to produce revolutionary change, and it’s the one Army Futures Command will adopt.


In recent public statements, General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command, has been downplaying expectations for his new organization. He has cautioned listeners not to expect miracles from the new organization. In fact, in General Murray’s estimation, it will take the next three to five years to achieve buy-in from the Army and Congress for Futures Command. According to him, buy-in is achieved “by being a little bit disruptive, but not being so disruptive you upset the apple cart.” So much for the goal of revolutionary change.

The trouble with this perspective is that the current state of the Army requires some miracles. Virtually the entire array of Army ground and aerial platforms is in serious, in some cases desperate, need of modernization. Also, at the end of the Cold War, the Army essentially abandoned several capability areas, most notably tactical air defense, electronic warfare and chemical-biological defense, that it now is scrambling to resurrect. Then there are the emerging areas such as cyber warfare and robotics which the Army and the other services are struggling to master.

General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command.

The Army leadership may not believe in miracles. However, they do seem to be indulging in wishful thinking. By locating Futures Command in Austin, a city with a reputation as a hotbed of innovative thinking regarding technology, they believe that a staff composed largely of mid-career Army officers and government civilians can be magically transformed into a cohort of Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel and Bill Gates. Army secretary Mark Esper described their intentions this way: “We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows.”

Neither Silicon Valley nor Austin created the innovative culture that has become so attractive to defense leaders. There is nothing in the air or water in either location that promotes creative thinking or an entrepreneurial spirit. There are many cities in the United States that possess the combination of characteristics that Army leaders said they wanted in the place that would house Futures Command: academic talent, advanced industries, and an innovative private sector. Army leaders initially had a list of thirty potential candidates. The five finalists, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, are spread across the United States.

Department of Defense and Army leaders have it exactly backward. Innovators created Silicon Valley, Austin and the other locations that were identified as prospective homes for Futures Command. Moreover, innovators are not made, they are born. They begin by seeing the world differently than conventional thinkers. They don’t learn to take risks; it is part of their DNA.

This is, even more, the case for entrepreneurs, those who successfully translate the innovator’s creations into marketable products. Entrepreneurship is inherently about using the products of innovation to destroy old devices, systems and ways of behaving. Can one imagine Steve Jobs’ response if he had been told to restrain himself to being just a little disruptive?

If immersion in a “hothouse” environment of innovation is necessary in order for the Pentagon to produce cutting-edge military capabilities, how does one account for the successes of Kelly Johnson, Hyman Rickover, Donn Starry and the other defense innovators in the decades before Silicon Valley emerged? How do we explain the stream of innovations that have emerged from the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks, the Boeing’ Phantom Works and BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art Integration, Assembly and Test facility?

It is unclear how Futures Command is going to infuse the rest of the Army’s acquisition system with the spirit of innovation and the drive of entrepreneurship. There is an urgent need to get control over the requirements process that can often take five or more years to develop a set of validated requirements. But this is only a palliative measure.

What must be disrupted, even destroyed, is the risk-averse, do it by the books, write iron-clad contracts mentality that afflicts much of the acquisition system. There is also an imperative to change the risk-averse mindset of many Program Executive Officers and Program Managers.

Futures Command could be most useful, at least initially, by focusing on removing impediments to innovation and entrepreneurship rather than searching for new and potentially exciting technologies. It could focus on deregulation and retraining contracting officers so that they are supportive of the process of innovation. Then the Command could look for law schools that teach their students how to find ways to change policies and procedures rather than identifying all the reasons why it can’t be done. Building a flexible acquisition system with a culture supportive of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit would be a miracle. But this is what the Army needs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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This Iron Man-like exoskeleton is designed to keep operators alive

U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.


The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.

“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

An early TALOS prototype

Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.

“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.

Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.

The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.

Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”

It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.

TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.

“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.

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It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard is begging for a new icebreaker

The Homeland Security Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 requests $2 billion to recapitalize the Coast Guard’s surface fleet — notably $750 million to design and build the US’s “first new heavy polar icebreaker in over 40 years,” according to details released on Feb. 12, 2018 as part of President Donald Trump’s budget request.


The Coast Guard’s total request for the next fiscal year is a little over $11.65 billion — an increase of 8.4%, or $979 million, over the amount requested for fiscal year 2018.

The budget request includes several big-ticket projects for the Coast Guard, including $15 million to support the Service Life Extension Project for the Polar Star, the service’s only operational heavy polar icebreaker.

Related: The Coast Guard wants heavy firepower on their new icebreakers

The Polar Star entered service in the mid-1970s and was refurbished in 2012 and is now well past its 30-year service life — “literally on life support,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said. Its sister ship, Polar Sea, is no longer in service and now provides parts to keep the Star running.

The crew of the motor vessel Ocean Giant lines up with the US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star to be escorted to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 25, 2017. (US Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

Zukunft, who assumed command of the Coast Guard in 2014, has been a driving force behind efforts to acquire a new icebreaker and has said he eventually wants to add three heavy and three medium icebreakers. In fall 2017, the Coast Guard and the Navy issued a joint draft request for proposal to build the next heavy polar icebreaker with an option for two more.

“When I came into this job, we thought: ‘Well, hey, we can wait a while before we address icebreakers. Maybe we can wait another four or five years.’ Well, if we wait another four or five years, as difficult as it is to find an appropriation today, it’s not going to get easier any time in the future, at least when I look into my crystal ball,” Zukunft told Business Insider at the end of 2017.

The $750 million proposed in the 2019 budget “provides detail, design, long lead time materials, construction, program management office support, feasibility studies and maintaining the indicative design, cybersecurity planning, project resident office initiation, and Navy reimbursable technical support.” The money will support efforts to “maintain scheduled delivery … in 2023.”

The Polar Star on McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.)

In addition to money apportioned to icebreaker sustainment and development, the 2019 budget would direct $400 million to start construction of a second offshore patrol cutter and provide long-lead-time materials for a third.

The offshore patrol cutter is meant to replace the service’s medium-endurance cutters, which operate on the high seas and in coastal approaches.

Another $240 million is designated for four fast-response cutters. FRCs are meant to replace the service’s 110-foot patrol boats and improve the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out search-and-rescue, border-security, drug-interdiction, and disaster-response operations.

The four new FRCs will bring the service to 52 of the program’s planned 58 ships.

Also read: The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

An additional $5 million is apportioned to support the service’s waterways-commerce cutter, a program that may replace the aging fleet of inland tenders and barges that operate on US inland waterways, assisting the movement of $4.6 trillion in economic activity that makes use of US ports and waterways every year, according to the budget document.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

While the budget requests highlight several programs involving the Coast Guard’s surface assets, the replacement of the icebreaker fleet has been a high-profile goal for some time. The aging Polar Star is the only ship the service has to support year-round access to Antarctic and Arctic regions — the latter of which has seen increasing activity as polar ice recedes, opening new channels for commerce and natural-resource exploration.

Operations by other countries in the region — particularly Russia, which already has a large icebreaker fleet — have been a particular point of concern for US policymakers.

“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in late 2017. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”

Check out: The Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker took a frigid beating

Some experts have said the Russian icebreaker fleet is less of a concern than its resurgent navy, and Coast Guard officials, including Zukunft, have highlighted the service’s positive interactions with its Russian counterparts. But the commandant also sounded a note of caution about US policy toward the northern latitudes going forward.

“We do need to make an investment in terms of our surface capability to exert sovereignty in the Arctic,” Zukunft told Business Insider. “I think if you look across our entire military strategy, homage is paid to strength, and not so much if you are a nation of paper lions but you don’t have the teeth to back it up. And that’s an area where we’re lacking the teeth.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why dandelions are the official flower of military kids

The dandelion is the flower of the military child and when I learned this, as a military parent, I was disappointed. Why would they pick such an ugly flower (or is it a weed?) to represent military kids? When I looked at dandelions, I saw the problem they caused in my yard, but there is more to a dandelion’s story. When you look past the nuances in the yard you can see a bigger picture.

The next summer as we prepared for our PCS and as the dandelion flowers transitioned from flowers to puffs of seeds, I would watch them blow in the wind and the realization of why the dandelion was chosen to represent my military kids dawned on me. It suddenly made so much sense.


Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelions are made up of three main parts: The flower (seeds), the stem and the roots. They are tough, can survive almost anywhere and are constantly moving and starting over. One summer I decided to tackle my dandelion problem head on. It was an endless battle, but through my struggle I learned so much about this tough flower. The new dandelions that had just arrived in the spring were easy to remove from the dirt. Their roots were barely beneath the surface, as if they hadn’t decided if they should stay or be ready to move on to a new patch of land. But when I encountered a dandelion that had made it through a few seasons, not only was the dandelion on its own a tougher challenge to remove, but its roots were deep into the ground making it even more difficult. Each one seemed to also have a group of friends surrounding it. The landscape around one dandelion was changed not only by making its mark in the yard, but also by adding to its journey by bringing others in along the way.

Military kids often have to form new friendships fast. Just as quickly as they find friends, they are uprooted from all that is familiar to them. They learn to say goodbye and continually start over. It is a part of the life they lead. As we try to move forward at each assignment and build our roots and networks, we can’t forget the friends we made. We talk about friends from different assignments or those who have moved on before us. And while the friendships were special for a season, we always knew they were only for a season. At least for right now.

A few weeks after arriving at our new assignment our two year old, who had never experienced a PCS, said he was ready to go back home. He had been on vacations before and that is what this move across the country felt like, but now he was ready to go back to what was normal and familiar. We tried to explain to our son that this was our new home until it was time to move again. I don’t think he understood all the implications and challenges, but as military kids seem to do, naturally, he let the words slide off his back and began to make his new life in our new home.

Photo: Tessa Robinson

Dandelion seeds don’t have any say on where the wind will take them when it is time to venture on. And just like military kids who are along for the ride, they go where their parents and the military take them and find a way to be resilient and start all over again. They put down roots, create new friends, find routines and then a strong wind blows and they get to do it all over again.

And as painful as it is sometimes to watch them toss in the wind, when the dust settles and they find their footing and begin to bloom at each new location you see the beauty that a military life gives. It doesn’t change the pain of saying goodbye to friends. It doesn’t make the tears go away or the fear of being a new kid at school go away. Somehow, through it all they keep pushing forward. It is the only life they have known and despite their choice, they are stronger for it.

Could they have picked a more beautiful flower to represent military children? Of course, there were a lot of different options before landing on a weed. But if you compare a dandelion and a military child the similarities are uncanny. And now when I see dandelions in my yard, I smile and think of how beautiful, tough, and adaptable my children are.

Photo: Tessa Robinson

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10 back-to-school deals for military families

As summer camps wind to a close and kids make their final splashes at the pool, parents have one thing on their minds: back-to-school shopping.


But when you add up the cost of all the items on your kids’ classroom supply lists, backpacks, clothes and shoes, back-to-school is expensive! The following is a list of discounts to help military families get the kids off to school in style while staying within your budget.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis

1. Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade

Operation Homefront partners with Dollar Tree to collect school supplies for military children as part of their Back-to-School Brigade. Dollar Tree stores put out collection barrels from July 5 through August 11, and then Operation Homefront volunteers distribute them to military children at events throughout the country during the back-to-school season. Click here for more information and to find programs in your area.

2. Tax-Free Shopping Days

For a few days each year, some states offer a “sales tax holiday” right around back-to-school time when shoppers can buy specified items tax-free. This is a great way to save on back-to-school necessities like clothes, shoes, and other school supplies. To see if your state participates in the sales tax holidays, click here.

3. Clothing and Accessories

By the time summer is over, the kids have either outgrown all their school clothes or worn them ragged from vacation and camp. Update their wardrobe with new clothes and accessories using military discounts at Banana Republic, Claires, eBags, New York and Company and Old Navy. If you’re mall shopping, be sure to ask for a military discount in every store you stop in. Some malls, like the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, offer military discounts in many of their stores. And outlets like Tanger Outlets offer discounts and free coupon books.

4. Shoes

No back-to-school wardrobe is complete without new shoes. So take advantage of the military discounts offered by Payless and Rack Room Shoes.

5. Classroom Supplies

Most schools now expect parents to help stock classroom supplies like pencils, crayons, notebooks, folders, scissors, glue, and binders, as well as necessities like tissues and hand sanitizer. Find these supplies and use military discounts as Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric and AC Moore.

6. Backpacks and Lunch Bags

Looking for backpacks and lunch bags? Pottery Barn Kids has an adorable collection of both, and they offer a 15% in-store military discount.

7. Tutoring and Test Prep

Does your child need a little extra help with homework and studying?Tutor.com, where expert tutors are online 24/7, offers free tutoring for military families.

Do you have older kids getting ready for college testing? eKnowledge donates their SAT and ACT College Test Preparation Programs to service members and their families. You pay only a minimal price per standard program to cover the cost of materials, processing, distribution and customer service.

8. Computers

If you’re looking to buy a computer or other necessary electronics, check out the military discounts offered by Dell.

Need tech support? My Nerds offer military discounts as well.

9. Wireless Communication

AT&T Wireless, Boost Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular and Verizon all offer military discounts, so if you’re in the market for new cell phone plans to keep in touch with your active student, you have a great variety to choose from. (Some offer military discounts on devices and accessories as well.)

10. Exchange Price Match Policy

Don’t forget that the Navy Exchange (NEX), the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) all offer price matching. That means if you see a lower price for the same item at another store, bring proof to the Exchange and you can buy that item for the competitor’s price.

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Finding beauty in the ‘Boneyard’

Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres.


Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. | U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Breese

An F-86 Sabre sits forlorn in the field, in the shadow of its former glory. The old plane is in parts now, its wings detached and lying beside it. The canopy is missing, along with most of the interior parts of the cockpit, and the windshield is shattered – now bits of broken glass hang precariously from a spider web of cracks.

To retired Col. Bill Hosmer, it’s still beautiful. He walks around the old fighter and stares in admiration. He slides a hand over the warped metal fuselage and a flood of memories rush over him.

“I haven’t been this close to one of these in years,” he says. “Of course, that one was in a lot better shape.”

So was Hosmer. Time has weathered and aged them both, the plane’s faded paint and creased body match Hosmer’s own worn and wrinkled skin. Even the plane’s discarded wings stand as a metaphor for Hosmer’s own life now – a fighter pilot who can’t fly, standing next to a fighter jet with no wings.

Age has grounded them both, but they share something else time can’t take away: A love of flight.

“Retiring from flying is not an easy thing,” Hosmer said. “Flying is a bug you just can’t shake.”

Hosmer has done his share of flying, too. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, where he flew the F-86, the F-100 Super Sabre and the A-7 Corsair II. He even served a stint with the USAF Thunderbirds, the service’s air demonstration team that chooses only the best pilots.

The Sabre has always had a special place in his heart, though. It was the first plane he flew and his favorite.

“We’ve shared a lot of time together, me and this plane,” he said, patting the plane’s weathered hulk.

Ironically, Hosmer’s favorite plane is also the one that almost made him give up flying. He was in pilot training, learning how to fly the F-86, when he crashed one. The physical injuries weren’t all that bad – a busted mouth, some fractured bones and multiple bruises – and he healed from them without issue.

The damage to his psyche, though, that was a different story.

“I was scared to fly for a while after that crash,” he said. “It took me a long time to get the courage to get back in the cockpit.”

Eventually, his love to fly overtook his desire not to and he hopped back in the cockpit and rekindled his love affair with flight.

So, looking at the old F-86, Hosmer doesn’t see a broken, battered and discarded jet; he sees past glories, feels loving memories and is saying hello to an old friend.

“I made a living flying this plane,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday I was in the cockpit. But, it was really a long time ago.”

Like Hosmer’s memories, the Sabre is also a thing of the past. The plane is replaced with newer, sleeker and more technologically advanced airplanes, and those few that do remain are typically found in museums and airshows.

The one Hosmer is standing next to is different. This one now sits as part of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly referred to as “the Boneyard,” the AMARG is basically a 2,600-acre parking lot and storage facility for about 5,000 retired military aircraft.

The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.

“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”

In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.

“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.

When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns are removed, as are any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything easily stolen. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system.

A preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. This job can take about 150 hours per aircraft.

Larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are then covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.

“If you don’t catch them in time, they can really do some damage,” said Jim Blyda, also an aircraft mechanic with the group.

This preservation process doesn’t just prepare the planes for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be called back into military service, be used as firefighting planes or even be sold to customers.

“Although some of them look like they are sitting here dead, if we reverse the process, in a couple of days, they are ready to roll,” Amparano said.

The AMARG also performs depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. Each year, the Boneyard receives and teams preserve nearly 400 aircraft, dispose of nearly another 400 aircraft and pull and ship some 18,000 parts.

Even the AMARG’s location serves a purpose. Because of Tucson’s low rainfall, low humidity and high-alkaline soil, corrosion and deterioration are kept to a minimum.

“The weather here is really perfect for storing all these planes,” said Col. Robert Lepper, 309th AMARG commander. “So if we need them, they’re ready. Some have been sitting here for decades.”

For Hosmer, this is a good thing. Without the AMARG and its preservation of the thousands of planes confined within its fences, he would not be able to stand in a field, rubbing his weathered hands over the warped, aged fuselage of an old F-86.

Neither he nor the jet fly anymore, but just the sight of the old fighter brings back memories Hosmer had long since forgotten.

Remembering them now, the memories are brought back to life – just like many of the planes within the AMARG are waiting silently, patiently, to do.

Watch this video from Airman Magazine to take a tour of the Boneyard: