Submitting vouchers through the Defense Travel System is one of those tasks that probably originated in military purgatory. Sure, an automated, online form for documenting travel expenses and getting paid sounds like a miracle, but it’s actually like having to do your taxes a few extra times per year.
Here are common reasons that DTS vouchers get kicked back, each with a quick example of what you will hear from the DTS manager for the mistake.
1. You checked a box the way your old unit wanted it.
“This isn’t your old unit. Re-do your request. No, you can’t just edit your last voucher. I deleted it so that you would learn how to do it right.”
2. You put airfare and airfare taxes in the same box.
“Do you think the DoD doesn’t want to save some tax money? Figure out what your airfare is without taxes, figure out what the taxes are, and separate those numbers into different line items.”
“The system might try to make you assign different legs of your trip to each dollar amount. If your flight only had one leg, that won’t work. You should’ve booked a trip with a layover.”
3. You changed an entry to how your unit-level reviewer wants it, but the next higher reviewer wants it the opposite way because screw you.
“I know how Mr. X says he likes the voucher filled out. Do I look like Mr. X? Exactly. Now re-do your voucher from scratch. And staff it through Mr. X before it gets to me.”
4. You forgot to collect passport photos from the people in front of and behind you in line while traveling.
“How do we know you went on the trip if you can’t even be bothered to steal the passport photos of people near you in line? Did you really go on the trip? No, your jump manifests, training certificates, and hotel receipts don’t count. We want those passport photos.”
5. You haven’t bribed anyone yet.
“Seriously, what is wrong with you? You think we handle your DTS vouchers because we’re charitable? Or because we like collecting our salaries? No. It’s for the bribes.”
6. You failed to sacrifice at least three virgin sheep to the dark undergods of the Defense Travel Service.
“How am I going to go back to my bosses and tell them that I reviewed your packet without a single dead, unblemished sheep to gift to them?”
7. You have a firstborn son, but have not relinquished him to your reviewer.
“We probably won’t actually take your child, but you have to offer. It’s an ‘Abraham and God’ sort of thing.”
8. You didn’t attach the right receipts.
“Seriously, this is easy stuff. Just do the paperwork and you’ll get your money.”
A former physics teacher from Mosul has been installed as a new temporary leader for the Islamic State after the terror group’s leader was reportedly injured in an airstrike in March, an Iraqi government adviser told Newsweek.
Newsweek describes Abu Alaa Afri as a “rising star” within Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), and the Iraqi government adviser, Hisham al Hashimi, said Afri had become even more important than the injured “caliph” of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“More important, and smarter, and with better relationships. He is a good public speaker and strong charisma,” Hashimi told Newsweek. “All the leaders of Daesh find that he has much jihadi wisdom, and good capability at leadership and administration.”
Afri will become ISIS’ new permanent leader if Baghdadi dies, Hashimi said. He is reportedly a follower of Abu Musaab al-Suri, a prominent jihadi scholar, and used to teach physics in the northwestern Iraqi city of Tal Afar.
Having a caliph with a background of religious education is important to ISIS, which has shaped its self-proclaimed caliphate around a strict interpretation of sharia law. The group recruits people to come live in its territory by marketing it as an Islamic utopia.
Der Spiegel reported recently that early leaders of ISIS, many of whom are former Iraqi intelligence officers from ousted dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, decided to make Baghdadi caliph because he, as an “educated cleric,” would “give the group a religious face.”
Afri reportedly became Baghdadi’s right-hand man after Baghdadi took a step back from decision-making for security reasons, Newsweek reports. He has served as a link between ISIS’ top leaders and its lower ranks and helps with coordination between the upper ranks and the emirs in different regional provinces.
Osama bin Laden reportedly tapped Afri to run Al Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’ predecessor, after the death of senior officials in 2010, according to Newsweek. Afri became a senior member of the group and was known to be “very strict,” Hashimi said.
Newsweek reports that Afri is thought to desire reconciliation with Al Qaeda and its affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as Nusra Front, a chief rival of ISIS in Syria.
ISIS used to be aligned with Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda leadership denounced ISIS after the group defied its directives and continued releasing brutal propaganda. The two terror groups have been competing for territory in Syria since then, and Western airstrikes targeting ISIS in Syria have hurt that group while allowing Nusra to rise, the Associated Press reported last month.
The Pentagon reported earlier this month that ISIS had since August lost thousands of miles of territory it once controlled, though nearly all of that lost territory is in Iraq, not Syria.
Afri also reportedly wants ISIS leadership to be made up half of Arabs and half of foreign fighters, which is a departure from its current structure.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that nearly all of ISIS’ leaders were former Iraqi officers, not foreign fighters. The foreign fighters have proved valuable for ISIS’ media strategy — the group used the now-infamous “Jihadi John,” a British extremist, in some of its beheading videos to gain more attention from the West — but seem to have so far been kept out of the upper echelons of leadership.
ISIS’ leaders operate largely in the shadows. Since rising to power as the leader of ISIS, Baghdadi has rarely appeared on video, and few photos of him have been released.
The Pentagon has denied reports of Baghdadi’s injury. US defense officials told The Daily Beast that the airstrike that reportedly wounded him was not aimed at a high-value target and that they “have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi.”
Martin Chulov at The Guardian reported that the strike targeted multiple cars in the town of Baaj in northwestern Iraq and that officials didn’t know that Baghdadi was in one of the cars.
Around the world, nations like Canada and Russia take a similar tack while Ukraine and others go with a quieter ad that focuses on the individual soldiers.
1. The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command
The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command keep it simple when making their commercial in 2013. It’s just a few simple, repeating music notes and a highlight reel of cool stuff they do, from rappelling out of planes to violently ending hostage standoffs.
2. The Swedish Military
Sweden wants you to know that their military may not dominate feature a lot of awesome special effects, but they have some great careers where you get to make a difference. It’s shockingly honest. Wanna bet Swedish soldiers still complain about their recruiters lying to them?
3. The Ukrainian Armed Forces
Ukraine is recruiting soldiers while fighting a much larger and more powerful military. Their commercial reminds Ukrainians that troops come from all backgrounds but come together to defend their people from violence.
4. The Russian Navy
The Russian Navy commercial is pretty high-speed, but features a few unexpected scenes like when the naval gun turns towards the camera at 1:50 with the barrel covered. Of course, the glimpses of sailors working out shirtless around the 2:00 mark were expected.
Sure, you can have a normal job instead, but Finland wants their potential recruits to know that they could have a range target as a resume, an armored vehicle for their drive to work, and have their trade secrets protected by thick steel doors. It’s a quiet but poignant ad.
6. Australian Army
The Australian Army commercial feels more like the opening to a new TV show than a military recruitment ad. It features photogenic troops in parades and hangars while zero people fire a weapon. It also mentions the surprisingly small number of troops they field, less than 45,000.
7. Japanese Army
The Japanese Army walks a fine line. Japan became a relatively un-military country after World War II (by design) but is expanding military programs in response to Chinese expansion and terrorist threats. Their recruiting ads reflect this fine line, using innocuous graphics and pink backgrounds right after showing troops on the march.
The Air Force is progressing with a massive technological overhaul of its warzone-tested C-130 aircraft, giving the platform new radios, digital avionics, collision avoidance technology and reinforced “wing-boxes,” service officials said.
The Air Force remains vigilant about its C-130 fleet to ensure the airframes, wingboxes, avionics and communication systems remain safe and operational well into the 2030s and beyond. This is particularly true of the older 1980s-era C-130Hs, Air Force developers explained.
“The thing that causes the greatest risk to the airplane is the life of the wing. We monitor the wing of the aircraft and as the wings get past their service, life we bring the airplanes back in and bring in new structures — with the primary focus being the center wingbox which is the area where the wings mount to the fuselage,”Col. Robert Toth, Chief of Tactical Aircraft, Special Operations and Combat Search and Rescue Division, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
As for when a C-130 is in need of a maintenance upgrade to preserve and maintain service life, the Air Force uses an assessment metric referred to as “equivalent baseline hours.” The wing-boxes are changed once the aircraft reaches a certain “severity factor” in its operational service time. This is necessary because the wear and tear or impact of missions upon and airplane can vary greatly depending upon a range of factors such as the altitude at which a plane is flying, Toth said.
“Low-level flight may be three to four times the severity factor of flying at a higher level,” he said.
Also, by January of 2020 the entire fleet of C-130s will need to comply with an FAA mandate and be equipped with systems that will relay aircraft position to a greater fidelity back and forth between the airplane and the air traffic management authorities, he added. This will allow them to sequence more aircraft closer together and enhance an ability to move commerce.
Avionics Modernization Program, Increment 1 involves adding new 8.33 radios to the aircraft to improve communication along with initiatives to upgrade cockpit voice recorders and digital data recorders. C-130s will also receive new collision-avoidance technology designed to prevent the planes from hitting terrain or colliding with one another mid-air. Inc. 1 is currently ongoing and is slated to complete by 2019.
AMP Inc. 2 involves a larger-scale effort to integrate digital avionics throughout the airplane. Inc. 2 will require nine-months to one year of work and be completed by 2028, Toth explained.
“This will allow us to bring the airplane from analog to digital, integrate a glass cockpit and use touchscreen displays. We will get away from the old systems of avionics where we had dial-driven instrumentation to where it is all digital. This makes us able to process a lot more information,” Toth said.
As part of the C-130 modernization calculus, the Air Force will consider retiring some C-130Hs and replace them with newly-built C-130Js; the service has authority to acquire an additional 20 C-130Js, Toth added.
“We continue to evaluate where it makes sense to retire and older airplane and instead put that money into buying new airplanes,” he said.
AC-130 gunships make up a small portion of a fleet of roughly 500 C-130 planes throughout the Air Force and Special Operations Command, Toth explained.
The cargo planes are used to airdrop supplies, equipment, weapons and troops in forward deployed locations.
As a propeller-driven aircraft, the C-130s are able to fly and land in more rugged conditions and withstand harsh weather such as obscurants. The propellers make the aircraft’s engines less susceptible to debris flying in and causing operational problems for the engines.
“It really allows you to do that tactical movement of equipment and personnel to take the airplane to the last tactical mile. A lot of our transport strategic airlifters are meant to go to a hard runway to a hard runway somewhere and then they turn over the cargo to be moved to the forward areas to a C-130 or a vehicle. The C-130 allows you to take that cargo and land on a smaller runway or an unimproved airfield,” Toth added.
C-130s are used for domestic, international and warzone transport including homeland security, disaster relief and supply deliveries, among other things.
“There are probably missions that have yet to be dreamed up for the C-130,” Toth said.
The fleet consists of 135 more modern C-130J aircraft and 165 older C-130Hs which have been around since the 80s, Toth explained.
Also, MC-130Js are specially modified airlifters engineered to transport Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.
“They are essentially a C-130J further modified with defensive systems with radar countermeasures and infrared radar and advanced sensors for specialized missions. They also can perform in-flight refueling,” Toth explained.
JERUSALEM (AP) — A leading Washington think tank has detailed what it says was a secret Israeli plan to detonate an atomic bomb in the event it faced defeat in the 1967 Mideast war.
The operation never took off. But details about the doomsday scenario, in which Israel planned to set off a nuclear weapon atop a remote mountain in the Sinai Peninsula, shed new light on the fearful climate at the time. It also could undermine Israel’s decades-long policy of nuclear ambiguity.
The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars unveiled a website Monday devoted to “Operation Shimshon,” the codename for what it said was the hastily arranged plan.
The commander of the US Pacific Fleet and South Korea’s defense minister said they agreed to prepare a “practical military response plan” to what Adm. Scott Swift described as Pyongyang’s “self-destructive” acts, following the country’s sixth nuclear test.
Swift, who oversees 200 ships and submarines, 1,180 aircraft, and more than 140,000 sailors, also said the US Navy plans to deploy strategic assets, including a carrier strike group, to the peninsula, Yonhap reported.
Defense Minister Song Young-moo welcomed the proposal, and requested the Pacific Fleet commander play a pivotal role for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, according to the report.
“If there’s a desire to have another carrier and there’s a desire to have more ships, more submarines, we have the capability and capacity to support that direction,” Swift said.
The US naval commander described the US-South Korea alliance as “ironclad” and told reporters in Seoul that North Korea’s provocations will not weaken bilateral ties.
“If [Kim Jong Un] is trying to separate the alliances and the allegiances that we have in the region, it’s having the opposite [effect],” Swift said.
Concern had been rising in South Korea after US President Donald Trump tweeted a criticism of South Korea’s North Korea policy, calling the approach “appeasement.”
South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!
Trump later tweeted he is “allowing Japan South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” a day after the White House said the president had approved the purchase of “many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea.”
On Sept. 5, Swift dismissed reports of a US-South Korea rift, calling any relationship between two countries “multidimensional.”
Song and Swift said North Korea’s nuclear test was an “unacceptable provocation” that poses a grave threat to peace and security in the Asia Pacific as well as the world.
The provocation also further isolates North Korea and places more hardship on ordinary North Koreans, they said.
When the husband of one of my close friends was killed in Iraq, she slipped an E. E. Cummings poem into his casket before he was buried at Arlington. That poem ran through my mind, in verses and lines, like a skipping CD, the whole time I watched “American Sniper” in the theater this past weekend.
the boys i mean are not refined
they go with girls who buck and bite
I’ve read many commentaries about this movie in the past week, most of them heralding it for telling the wife and family side of war.
It’s true. More than any war movie I’ve seen – and loving a man who lives at the ‘tip of the spear’ means that I’ve seen most of them – “American Sniper” touches on what war was like for Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s wife. It tells what war is like for all the wives.
I do mean wives.
I say ‘wives’ and not ‘spouses’ intentionally, though I’ve been conditioned to correct myself on this, because most, if not all, of the spouses of military operators are women.
That this is the first movie to humanize the wives of warriors – to make us out to be more than ribbon-festooned cheerleaders – is almost offensive. It is, or should be, obvious to everyone that combat exposure is not the sum total of a warrior, and that war does not only affect the warrior.
But – and I think Taya Kyle would agree with me on this – to say that the movie tells the whole family story would be like saying that ping pong at the Rec Center tells you all you need to know about Wimbledon. There is no way a movie can truly show the family side of war, but at least this one tried.
one hangs a hat upon her tit
one carves a cross on her behind
they do not give a s— for wit
the boys i mean are not refined
These are the people we sacrifice to save.
My husband and I watched the movie together, sitting in a packed theater in a town that has few veterans and even fewer – if any – operators. I glanced around at our fellow moviegoers, many overweight, most missing the inside jokes sprinkled throughout the film. I smiled to myself, proud of my husband, knowing that none of the others in the theater knew that the guy in the third row had lived through encounters exactly like the ones on the screen; knowing that these are the people we sacrifice to save.
A couple sitting behind us brought their children, who looked to be about two and four years old. My husband and I — parents of young children ourselves — were disgusted with that couple.
Only someone who has no concept of how awful war can really be would choose to force visions of it onto the innocent. Their innocent. Our own children were one block away, at a drop in childcare center. Playing. Laughing. Being kids. He goes away to war, and I make do without him, so that our kids won’t have to see it here.
We signed on for this war together.
We signed on for this war together. He, to fight it. Me, to hold his life together so that he can leave. He, to keep the bad guys ‘over there.’ Me, to give him a life to come home to. He, to place himself directly in front of the worst the world has to offer. Me, to be the place where he can go to rest.
It takes a special kind of man to volunteer to run toward the ugliest of fights. It takes a special kind of woman to let him.
In the movie, when Chris and Taya first meet, she tells him that she would never date a SEAL. When my husband and I first met and he told me he was in the Army, I told him, “So long as you aren’t one of those psycho killers.” We laugh about that now.
the boys i mean are not refined
they cannot chat of that and this
they do not give a fart for art
they kill like you would take a piss
I got my college minor in studio art. I can chat expertly about “that and this.” I was a Journalism major and well into a career as a newspaper reporter when I met my soldier. I harbored no visions of deployments or camouflage back then. I did not want to be a warrior’s wife.
I never imagined that my vacuum cleaner would break because it sucked up a brass shell casing or that my dryer’s lint screen would be dotted with orange foam ear plugs.
I did not know that I would come to find the smell of Army – dirt, sweat and metal – sexy. That the sound of ripping velcro would become a turn-on. It had never before occurred to me that I could love someone whose job might involve killing. Killing people.
In an early scene, Taya and Chris Kyle lie together in bed, her hair long and dark like mine, fanned out across her pillow as his arm is slung across her body, his wrist near her face.
“I wonder if her hair will get caught in his G-Shock?” I whispered to my husband, laughing. The watch was an excellent, accurate, detail that was probably lost on most of the movie goers.
“Maybe,” he replied. “But I bet she won’t bitch about it.”
I shuddered both times in the movie when Taya was on a satellite phone call with Chris and combat erupted around him, turning war into a conference call. I have been on that call.
The movie didn’t show what came next.
The movie didn’t show what came next. I wished it would have. The throwing up, reflexively, again and again, out of pure fear. The dry heaves, streams of snot, and the feeling of your own body temperature dropping as you curl into a fetal position and stay like that for hours.
The movie didn’t show how you must use every ounce of energy just to exist through the two days of wondering if you’re a widow yet, and then relaxing a bit on the third day because the casualty notification team has not come. If he were dead, they would have been here by now.
That friend who put the poem in her husband’s casket, she and I used to talk about casualties a lot. In one of our conversations she said, “You’re strong. When it happens, you’ll be okay. It will make you sad, but it won’t destroy you.”
“When,” not “if.”
She corrected herself immediately, but it had already been said. It felt like a “when” to me in those days. I attended so many memorial services for friends then. It seemed like there was at least one every month. It seems like those days are behind us now. Like we are the lucky ones. The ones who got away. But I’m sure it felt like that to Taya Kyle, too.
“American Sniper” is a excellent film, deserving of all the praise it is receiving. It has started a long overdue conversation, about warriors, and family, and life after war. About PTSD and what it really means. About the nature of people who will give absolutely everything they have – their arms, their legs, their minds, their years, their families, their memories, their lives – for something bigger than themselves. For their friends. For their country. For their childrens’ futures.
the boys i mean are not refined
they shake the mountains when they dance
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. She writes the Must Have Parent column for Military.com. Her work has been published nationwide including in The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Srun Sookmeewiriya — or “Sook,” as many people know him — may seem like a happy and carefree airman at first glance.
The 313th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron’s noncommissioned officer in charge of reports regularly puts forth an earnest effort here to keep his unit alive and running, so his dark past and his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts come as a surprise to many.
“He’s like the morale person — that’s what everybody else refers him to,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Melissa Vela, the 313th EOSS NCO in charge of console operations. “He’s so full of energy. He’s so infectious, he makes everybody laugh.”
Unknown to many of his wingmen, Sook’s current persona is possible only because he recovered from serious trauma he experienced as a young man. When Sook still lived in his native Thailand, both of his parents committed suicide. He witnessed his mother’s suicide, and he found his father’s body after his father had taken his own life and attempted to kill Sook’s younger brother, Thana.
“I saw him lying there in bed,” he recalled. “I wasn’t sure what happened. I tried to wake him up to see if he was still alive. I thought I was alone, and I didn’t know who I would go to now. My head was just spinning at that point. It was a shock.” Thana survived the gunshot wound, but was never the same, physically or mentally, Sook said.
With his mother and father gone, Thana was the only family Sook had left. He went to a boarding school, where he said depression haunted him and other children bullied him for not having parents. This led to a suicide attempt by ingesting a large amount of over-the-counter medication. He was in a coma for two days.
Sook finished boarding school and eventually immigrated to the United States, where Thana would join him soon afterward. Sook spent his early time in the U.S. with relatives from his father’s first marriage. He would bounce from family to family because of his troubled personality, he said, and he also felt as if he was just an outsider because of his status as a “half-relative.”
“I felt like I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t a part of their family,” Sook said. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I hugged them.”
The feeling of being an outsider overwhelmed Sook, and he tried to kill himself again.
“I didn’t want to deal with the state I was in: not feeling welcome and not feeling like I was part of the family,” he said. “At that time as a kid, I thought that the best way was to just end it all and leave.”
Sook said he tried to hide his attempted suicide, but his relatives eventually found out and sent him to a doctor to get help. His half-sister, Kim, was especially appalled, and confronted him about what he done. She asked, “What about your brother?”
“When she mentioned my brother, I totally thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m leaving him behind,'” Sook said. That’s when he decided to turn around and confront his issues instead of running from them. Sook described his brother as his inspiration in his fight against depression.
“He was the only family I had up to that point. It was me and him. He has been through a lot tougher things than I had. Because of the gunshot wound, he was scarred for life. He didn’t grow up normally, but he never gave up. That’s one reason why I should not and will not give up on him, because he didn’t either.”
Strength in Recovery
As part of his recovery process, Sook found strength in his faith and from Kim, who helped him get back on his feet.
“It took me a while — basically, a couple years,” he said. “I think I’m still bouncing back to this day. I think of this tragedy as a lesson, and that lesson is to not repeat the same thing that [my parents] did.”
Sook joined the Air Force as a civil engineer airman, and cross-trained to be an air mobility controller. He adopted Thana as his dependent, and eventually married and started a family. He noted that although his life still has its ups and downs, he copes by confiding in his wife. He also expressed gratitude for the support his coworkers give him continuously.
“Having a good work center in the Air Force actually helped me out a lot,” he said. “When I have other issues, they continue to help me out.”
Vela described how surprised she was when Sook opened up to her about his past, saying that she would have never guessed that an airman like Sook would have experienced so much trauma.
“I was speechless the whole time he told his story,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, are you OK?’ To me, I can see the strength in his words and his actions. Seeing the strength that he had to come forth and tell his story is amazing.”
Encouragement for Others
Sook shares his story occasionally with the public, hoping to encourage people suffering from depression to seek help and not to try to survive on their own. He said he emphasizes how important it is to open up to people who care, and that many people are standing by at agencies on the base ready to assist in their battle against depression.
“Don’t bottle up those issues,” he added. “If you stress out, talk it out. Find somebody who is willing to listen.”
Sook said he encourages airmen to look for a cause and to do what it takes to survive so they can continue to fight for it.
“Don’t give up. Look for what you’re fighting for,” he said. “I fight for my brother, my wife, and my kids. It’s their future and my future.”
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.
There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”
Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.
But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.
First, here are several reasons to doubt it.
Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.
This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.
This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.
Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.
A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.
“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”
Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.
For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.
Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.
The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”
The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.
The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”
But it gets weirder.
Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.
Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.
That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.
October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.
Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.
“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”
Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.
More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.
These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.
And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”
Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.
At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.
Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.
This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.
What key policy positions does your party hold that made you choose to be affiliated with it?
Fundamentally, Libertarians believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and respect for the rights of individuals to make their own personal choices, provided those choices do not harm others. And in foreign policy, we are very hesitant and skeptical when it comes to intervening in the affairs of other nations when there is no clear U.S. interest at stake. We are not isolationists, but we err on the side of nonintervention unless intervening is necessary to protect and defend the U.S. and its citizens.
In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?
There are many issues facing today’s military men and women. First, they need and deserve a Commander-in-Chief who will not send them into harm’s way as part of a vague foreign policy that has too often involved intervening in conflicts with no clear outcome or U.S. interest. Our military must be second to none and invincible as a national DEFENSE. But it must be used judiciously with clear congressional authorization, rules of engagement that do not put our troops at unnecessary risk, clear objectives, and clear U.S. interests at stake.
Likewise, when we ask our military members to put their lives at risk for our freedoms, we must give them concrete assurances that their families will receive the support they need and deserve. And they must know that when they leave the military, our commitment does not end. The transition to civilian life is not easy and presents unique challenges. From the GI Bill to medical treatment to emotional support, I believe we have a moral obligation to treat the members of the military as we would our own families.
What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?
I did not serve in the military. However, my father is a World War II veteran, and in his older years, has been a patient in the VA health care system. Also, as Governor of New Mexico, I had many opportunities to work with the veterans’ community — and it was an honor to do so.
In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?
It is an inexcusable disgrace that the VA system has failed so many veterans. There can be no short-changing or equivocation in meeting our obligations to those who serve, and making them suffer at the hands of a failed bureaucracy must not happen. We all know there are many dedicated, caring health care professionals in the VA system. The failure is at the top and in the bureaucracy.
First, we must broaden the health care options through vouchers or a similar mechanism by which veterans can go outside the VA system to private providers if doing so will allow better and timely care. However, for the many for whom the VA system remains the most accessible and convenient care, and for whom the VA has unique capacities to serve the needs of veterans, we must also fix that system. As Governor, my greatest satisfaction came from applying common sense business practices to improve state services. It was amazing how many times simply asking the right questions and applying obvious solutions could easily resolve problems caused by the bureaucracy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the VA.
Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12 – 26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?
The most important priority for improving employment opportunities for military spouses is to create an economic environment in which there is robust demand for whatever skills they have to offer. As long as job-seekers dramatically outnumber jobs, the realities of military life will present challenges in that competitive marketplace. Frequent relocation, “single parent” responsibilities and other factors common among spouses create obstacles, and we must face that fact.
At the same time, I believe there are a great many employers who are anxious to help support our military families. There is much government at all levels can do to simply help connect military spouses with those employers. The Presidency is a powerful voice and can be used to lead that effort.
Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?
Almost without exception, my speeches include my belief that entrepreneurship is the key to America’s future. I am an entrepreneur myself, having started in business as a one-man “handyman” and growing that business into a construction company with more than 1,000 employees. Thanks to technology, never before have entrepreneurial opportunities been greater — and military members enter the game with the right skills to succeed. My highest priority as President will be to create a level playing field, end crony capitalism and otherwise remove obstacles to small business ownership and success. I know what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and my policies will, across-the-board, be intended to maximize entrepreneurial opportunities.
Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?
As Governor, and if elected President, removing the shackles from education innovation was and will remain one of my passions. I firmly believe that education entrepreneurs will revolutionize — for the better — the ways in which our kids learn, if only they are allowed to do so. Federal mandates, outdated public school restrictions and lack of flexibility have made it difficult, if not impossible, for educators to fashion educational opportunities that meet the needs of individual students.
Clearly, the children of military families do face unique circumstances. However, accommodating those circumstances should not be difficult if we abandon the one-size-fits-all approach that has burdened U.S. schools for decades.
To me, the first step toward creating flexibility is to remove the Federal Department of Education as a stifling force. If allowed to do so, the states will become laboratories of innovation, and obviously, those states with significant military populations will adapt to the needs of that population.
There are few, if any, problems with credit transfers, varying curricula, etc., that cannot be readily addressed if teachers, local schools, and parents are allowed to do so — with common sense and creativity.
What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?
In business, and even more so, as Governor, I succeeded by seeking the smartest and most qualified counsel I could find. I thoroughly enjoyed digging into problems and challenges, understanding them, and making informed decisions. I think my record speaks to my success in doing that. Perhaps even more important, I would bring to the job of Commander-in-Chief a clear vision of what our military should be asked to do — and what it should not be asked to do. I am a skeptic when it comes to deploying military force, meaning that I will do what it takes to defend this nation, but I will approach any such deployment by asking the tough questions and leaving no doubt in my mind that putting our military men and women in harm’s way is absolutely necessary. And I will never put those men and women in harm’s way simply to pursue a political agenda.
Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?
I am a leader to whom the decision to use military force will be the most serious decision I will make. The members of our military will not be sent into war simply to replace a government we don’t like. They will not be asked to “rebuild” nations who have defied rebuilding for hundreds of years, and they will not be asked to somehow resolve conflicts in other nations that we simply cannot resolve. Members of the military take an oath to protect and defend this nation. That is precisely what they will be asked to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And if and when I do make that decision to send the military into harm’s way, I will ensure that they will go without the burdens and dangers of politically-correct restrictions, that they will have the resources and support they need, and that their mission will be clear.
Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces – an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?
Joining Forces is precisely the type of public-private partnership that a White House can encourage and promote with great effect — provided the commitment is real and the effort maintained. When the initiative was announced, Ms. Obama and Dr. Biden made it clear that the intent is that it will continue beyond their husbands’ tenures. That is as it should be.
What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?
Take the time to examine my record as Governor and my “record” as a person. I am an athlete, an adventurer who thrives on accepting and meeting challenges, an entrepreneur, and a public figure for whom hypocrisy is the cardinal sin. You can keep track of our campaign at JohnsonWeld.com, and on our various social media platforms.
U.S. Marines received training from their British counterparts in how to operate in the extreme cold of the Arctic.
The training took place in Norway near the border with Russia, a region that’s relevant based on current events in places like the Ukraine and the state of NATO. Bottom line: Marines need to be ready to fight in this environment.
British Royal Marines hosted the training and included the obligatory inter-coalition harassment like dumping the Yanks into the cold water . . .
… and giving them a shot at building a snow shelter …
In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing Thursday, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said it would be an honor to serve again, mentioned myriad challenges in the world, and brought up a touching personal story about his mother — showing how his family’s military ties and career have come full circle.
“Finally, on a personal note, I’ve worked at the Pentagon twice in my career,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A few people may know I’m not the first person in my family to do so, when, in the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20 years-old and working in military intelligence. She was part of the first government employees to move into the still unfinished Pentagon.”
“She had come to America as an infant and lives today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Little could she imagine in her youth that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here in front of you today.”
Mattis is right about that. A neighbor and close friend of his mother in Richland, Washington told a reporter in December that she was amazed at what he had accomplished in his career, and apparently his mother said “I can’t even believe he’s my son.”
Neither his mother nor other family members made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see the 66-year-old retired general testify. When asked by Republican Sen. John McCain whether he wanted to recognize any family members in the audience, Mattis quipped: “Thank you Senator. They are safely west of the Rockies.”
Before Mattis spoke, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen testified in support of the general and also mentioned his 94-year-old mother, who he said he was a “devoted son” to. Cohen also mentioned Mattis remains a member of a local food bank in the area.
What does it take to reach the bottom of the world?
For starters, you’ll need a well-designed hull, tapered like a football for maximum maneuverability. Then add a generous supply of horsepower; 75,000 is a good round number. Finally, you’ll need some weight to help break the thick ice, about 13,000 tons. To round this equation out you’ll need experience, especially the understanding that the best way to operate an icebreaker is to avoid ice in the first place.
In short, there’s no single factor that makes the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star‘s icebreaking possible. It’s an art that began with the first sketches of its blueprint and is still being perfected each time a new ice pilot qualifies to drive the 399-foot cutter. Each winter (summer in the Southern Hemisphere, Polar Star’s normal operating area) the crew is run through an icy gauntlet that tests every element of the ship’s capability.
“We began seeing sea ice near 62 degrees latitude south, but the pack ice we found further down was no real challenge as it was under heavy melting stress, rapidly retreating and further narrowed by a growing polynya, or ice-free area, opening northward from the other side,” said Pablo Clemente-Colón, the U.S. National Ice Center‘s chief scientist, who just happens to be aboard the Polar Star for their 2016 mission. “Then we hit the fast ice, where we are now; where the work starts.”
The work indeed started in McMurdo Sound with 13 miles of ice between the open Ross Sea and the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station 18 days prior to the first supply ship’s arrival.
First, the cutter collides with the edge of the fast ice at about six knots. The 13,000-ton cutter’s 1.75-inch thick steel bow and the aforementioned power and weight come into the equation here, upon initial approach toward McMurdo Station.
“We have diesel electric engines for general open-ocean steaming and some grooming of very light ice, up to six feet of ice,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kara Burns, the Polar Star’s engineer officer. “Then we have what we consider our boost mode, our main gas turbines. They really allow us to get through six feet of ice or upwards to 21 feet of ice when we’re backing and ramming.”
Those gas turbines, enormous pieces of machinery that can each transform jet fuel into 25,000 horsepower, are the key to putting the Polar Star where it needs to be: above the ice. When the cutter rams a thick plate, that power drives the rounded bow up on top of the ice, at which point gravity takes over.
“We carry three times the fuel capacity of a 378 or a [national security cutter],” said Burns, comparing the Polar Star to the Coast Guard’s largest non-icebreaking cutters. “The extra weight on the ship, as far as the liquid load capacity, is used as a cantilever mechanism. As the vessel rides up on the ice, the hydrostatic pressure forces the stern up and pushes the bow down, acting as a hammer on the ice.”
In this case, the world’s biggest hammer.
Rest assured control of such awesome power is not handed out on a whim. It’s only after qualifying to maneuver the cutter in normal open water conditions, and a meticulous review from the commanding officer, that a new ice pilot is able to take the throttles and the helm from the ship’s aloft conn: a small control center five stories above the highest deck.
“They have to understand the different kinds of ice; they have to understand the ship’s capabilities and its limitations, and how to break ice safely,” said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer, Polar Star. “The best way to break ice is to avoid ice, but when we’re down here we can’t do that.”
If the Polar Star crews of years and decades past hadn’t given the ice its due respect, the ship wouldn’t have made it to the 40th birthday it had in January. Before it comes to backing and ramming, the ice pilot has to know to dodge, or at least look for thinner ice when possible.
Carefully navigating through wayward floes in the Southern Ocean and beginning to break only when necessary, the crew accomplished another trip from one side of the planet to another. The grunt work, the supply vessel escort of Operation Deep Freeze 2016, the U.S. military’s logistical support of the NSF’s U.S. Antarctic Program, lies ahead.
With power and weight, with lessons passed down from one crew to the next, and with a hull made particularly for this type of work, the Polar Star moored at McMurdo Station Jan. 18, 2016. They’re as far from their home in Seattle as they could possibly be, but on familiar ground at the bottom of the world.