Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr., was on an assault team conducting the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph. After a four-hour foot patrol to the target location, a group of special operations volunteers hit the suspected building.
Byers distinguished himself multiple times in the moments that followed, sprinting to the building after a guard spotted the team 25 yards out, fighting against multiple enemies while trying to fix a problem with his night vision and find the doctor, and protecting the doctor with his own body while engaging multiple hostile targets.
He was later honored with a well-earned Medal of Honor for his actions.
In this video from the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Byers talks about a seldom explored part of becoming a Medal of Honor recipient, the actual process of learning you will receive the award. From scheduling and receiving the president’s phone call to being inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.
The name Wilmer McLean may not be found in most history books, but if it isn’t in the Guinness Book, it should be. The man moved his family during the Civil War and if real estate is all about location, then Wilmer McLean was probably the luckiest home buyer of all time.
Or unluckiest, depending on your point of view.
The opening shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor in April 1861. With the exception of a cannon accident that killed a Union artilleryman after the fort surrendered, there were no casualties. The major outcome of that was that the Civil War was officially on.
It was in Virginia, three months later, that the Confederate and Union Armies would meet in the first major battle of that war. General P.G.T. Beauregard (who happened to command the Confederates at Fort Sumter) used McLean’s house as his headquarters during that engagement, what would become known as the First Battle of Bull Run.
During the fighting, a Union cannonball came crashing down McLean’s chimney, into his fireplace. Beauregard later wrote: “A comical effect of this artillery fight was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fire-place of my headquarters at the McLean House.”
McLean served in the Virginia militia but was too old to return to military service for either army. He was a merchant-trader for the Confederate Army, but operating his business so close to the Union lines was hazardous, so after that first battle, he moved his family south…to a small area called Appomattox Court House.
On Apr. 8, 1865, Generals Lee and Grant sat in McLean’s parlor, discussing the terms of the Confederate surrender and the end of the Civil War.
After the two generals left the house, Union officers began taking everything in the room — as souvenirs. Some paid McLean for their prizes, some didn’t, but they took everything, including his daughter’s toy doll.
It’s no surprise that the U.S. military is constantly trying to stay on the bleeding edge of technology to give its troops the upper hand. But what might raise eyebrows is how deep they’re thinking about every strategic and tactical advantage.
What also might not be so obvious is the civilian tech out there that’ll help troops on the ground in the future.
1. DNA reconfiguration to resist radiation.
Researchers at the university of Tokyo isolated the cells of a microscopic organism called the tardigrade. It looks like a fat cross between a walrus and an anteater, but the little guy is resistant to boiling temperatures, extreme cold, crushing pressures, and intense radiation that would instantly kill any human.
The December 2016 issue of Foreign Policy magazine reported the same researchers added the resistant DNA to human cells in a petri dish and bombarded the cells with X-ray radiation. They found that human cells configured with tardigrade DNA were 40 percent less damaged than regular human cells – resistant enough to withstand the radiation on the surface of Mars.
2. Bomb-detecting spinach.
It’s not just for Popeye anymore. A research team at MIT embedded nanoparticles onto spinach plants and when these particles come in contact with explosives, they bind together, causing a reaction that gives off an infrared signal and can be alerted to mobile phones via wifi.
Not only does the plant modification detect explosives in soil, but it can also detect them in groundwater. Moreover, the plant can be used to decontaminate soil and take reclaim environmentally damaged Earth.
3. Solar Cell Uniforms.
Not solar-powered uniforms, solar power uniforms – wearable solar cells. the University of Central Florida estimates a typical rucksack weighs 60-100 pounds and is full of devices that require batteries — NVGs, radios, and GPS devices, to name a few. Those same researchers estimate that U.S. troops in Afghanistan carry 16 pounds of batteries for every 72-hour mission. Wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t have to carry that extra weight?
That’s why they developed a supercapacitor, a strip of electronic ribbon they want to interweave with cotton for American uniforms. The new fatigues would come with clip-on adapters to use in charging their needed devices. The troops would be walking solar panels, never running out of juice while on the mission.
The tourniquet is a long-standing staple of the battlefield and has been since before recorded history. The standard tourniquet has come a long way in that time; strips of torn cloth are now specially designed for ease of use and maximum pressure. But now it’s about to make its biggest leap ever.
The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., is developing a “neural tourniquet” that is placed on a wound to electronically stimulate the spleen, ordering the red blood cells to clot wounds everywhere on a body. So far, researchers note that clotting with the e-tourniquet begins in as little as three minutes, cutting blood loss by 50 percent and bleeding time by 40 percent.
5. Electric training headphones.
The Halo Sport is currently in the realm of Olympic athletes. It’s a $700 headphone device containing electrodes that send an electrical current to the brain’s motor cortex. This strengthens the connection between the brain and muscles, improving muscle memory – giving athletes a bigger edge in competition.
If training with the Halo Sport gives athletes a performance edge in training, it could probably do wonders for getting new recruits and foreign armies up to speed on the tactics of future battlefields.
Three nurses and a physician’s assistant have resigned from an Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs facility after maggots were discovered in a veteran’s wound.
The center in Talihina, Oklahoma, has reportedly had staffing issues.
According to a report by the Tulsa World, the veteran, Owen Reese Peterson, 73, who served during the Vietnam War, arrived at the center with an infection prior to his Oct. 3 death.
Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs Myles Deering, a retired major general in the Oklahoma National Guard, claimed that Peterson “did not succumb as a result of the parasites” but instead died from sepsis.
According to WebMD.com, sepsis is a “serious medical condition” that is triggered when chemicals released to fight an infection in the body instead cause inflammation. It can lead to organ failure and death. As many as half of those with severe cases of sepsis end up dead.
“During the 21 days I was there, … I pleaded with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to increase his meds so his bandages could be changed,” Raymie Parker, Peterson’s son, told the Tulsa World. Parker claimed that his requests were “met with a stonewall” by senior medical personnel and administrators.
“The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is required to maintain certain staffing levels and currently is unable to meet them,” Oklahoma State Sen. Frank Simpson, Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs chairman, said. “At Talihina, they had to reduce the population of veterans there due to the inability to staff the facility.”
The four personnel resigned prior to the commencement of termination proceedings. In 2012, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs was rocked when two veterans — 86-year-old Louis Arterberry and 85-year-old Jay Minter — died in the Claremore Veterans Center. Minter died after he was scalded in a whirlpool, and Arterberry died of a stroke.
A physician’s assistant was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of caretaker neglect. He ultimately served a 90-day jail sentence.
The U.S. Marine Corps is getting its first female rifleman and machine gunner later this year, service officials confirmed this week.
The two female enlisted Marines who have made lateral move requests to infantry jobs have been approved, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told Military.com. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.
The Marine who applied to be an 0311 rifleman was a lance corporal, an official confirmed. The rank of the Marine approved to be an 0331 machine gunner is not clear. Kulczewski said the Corps is now in the process of meeting staffing requirements at the units that will receive the Marines.
In keeping with a Defense Department mandate and the Corps’ own plan for integrating female troops into ground combat jobs, any infantry battalion with female members must also have a leadership cadre of at least two female officers or noncommissioned officers who have been at the unit for at least 90 days. Kulczewski said it’s likely the Marines will not join their new units until December of this year.
While the units that will get the first female grunts have been identified by the Marine Corps, Kulczewski said, they have not yet been publicly announced.
The Marines who applied for infantry jobs are part of a small group of 233 women who were granted infantry military occupational specialties earlier this year after passing the Corps’ enlisted infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, in order to participate in the service’s research on integrating women into the previously closed units. While all the women are eligible to apply for infantry jobs, only the two enlisted Marines have done so to date.
Kulczewski said a more senior female infantry captain had also applied for a lateral move to a newly opened unit, but the request was denied based on the staffing needs of the Marine Corps.
After the two Marines reach their new units, the service will continue to research their progress. Kulczewski said the Marine Corps had created a 25-year longitudinal study to “assess all aspects and possible impacts throughout implementation.”
The Corps’ implementation plan requires that the commandant be informed directly of certain developments as women enter all-male infantry units, including indications of decreased combat readiness or effectiveness; increased risk to Marines including incidents of sexual assault or hazing; indications of a lack of career viability for female Marines; indications of command climates or culture that is unreceptive to female Marines, and indications that morale or cohesion is being degraded in integrated units.
Officials are also rolling out new training beginning this month aimed at ensuring all Marines understand the changes taking place. Mobile training teams will spend the next two months visiting bases and offering two-day seminars to majors and lieutenant colonels that include principles of institutional change, discussions of “unconscious bias” and specifics of the Corps’ integration plan. These officers are then expected to communicate this information to their units.
“The Corps applauds the time and efforts of those Marines who volunteered. Request like these help the Marine Corps to continue the implementation of gender integration throughout all military occupational specialties,” Kulczewski said. “The continued success of the Marine Corps as our nation’s preeminent expeditionary force in readiness is based on a simple tenet: placing the best trained and most fully qualified Marine, our most valuable weapon, where they make the strongest contribution to the team.”
The U.S. Air Force needs a lot of space to train, especially when it wants fighters, refuelers, and other aircraft to work together in a way that realistically simulates combat conditions where jets chase each other at twice the speed of sound and refuelers run race tracks near the edges of the battlefield.
That’s why it conducts the Red Flag – Alaska training exercise. While the Red Flag exercises in Nevada are more famous, Red Flag – Alaska lets the Air Force conduct missions using approximately five times the space available in Nevada. The total area is roughly equivalent to the state of Florida.
“The large amount of space forces pilots to figure out the logistical problem of working in such a large scale, similar to an entire theater of operations,” Lt. Col. Julio Rodriguez, the 18th Aggressor Squadron commander, told a military journalist. “The multiple uses the [Joint Pacific Alaska Range complex] provides is imperative to the success of our training. We can go faster here than any blue force has ever trained, almost to Mach 2 to show the pilots what it’s like if the enemy were to do use that as one of its tactics”
The JPARC contains 65,000 square miles of airspace, 2,490 square miles of land, and 42,000 nautical miles of sea and airspace in the Gulf of Alaska.
International partners are invited to the exercise which usually lasts 10 days. While most of the participating aircraft are American, Korean, Canadian, and New Zealand crews have participated in recent years.
The Red Flag exercise attempts to simulate combat conditions across a broad range of missions. Obviously, this includes air combat, but it also includes refueling, resupply, and even the air insertion of paratroopers.
“I’ve got a lot of young aviators that have never seen something at this level with this many aircraft going against a very good and proficient threat, both on the air-to-air side and the surface-to-air side,” said Marine Lt. Col. Gregory A. McGuire, commanding officer of a Marine Corps fighter unit. “For me, I’m happy about giving my guys the opportunity to see this kind of real-world kinetic, large-force exercise so they can see how we would employ should we be called upon to do so.”
Paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, board a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules during Red Flag Alaska 17-1 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 12, 2016. During Red Flag-Alaska 17-1, approximately 2,095 U.S. service members will participate in the exercise – approximately 1,295 personnel from outside Alaska and 203 international visitors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Monroy)
Thousands of people from around the world take part in the exercise. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson takes in an additional 1,000 personnel on its own when the exercise comes to town.
Of course, with so many pilots coming from so many places, the support staff on JBER have to increase their activity and precision, meaning that they get good training as well.
Ah, the American shopping mall — filled with department stores, gag gifts, and five or six pretzel shops per floor. It’s hard to imagine a United States that isn’t anchored around these retail utopias.
But the shopping mall is only 60 years old, and — while they were partially envisioned as a way to get people to stay near stores and spend money — they were designed to spread the American population away from industrial centers and provide shelter in case of nuclear war.
The first was Southdale Mall near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Southdale and many of the malls that followed were designed by Victor Gruen, an Austrian immigrant who fled Nazi Germany in 1938.
Gruen’s main goal when designing malls was that they should act as self-contained downtown areas. All the best parts of 1950 cities without any of the cars, crime, and unrest that he loathed. Climate-controlled to an eternal spring, his designs featured green space and were surrounded by apartments and office centers.
When Gruen began proposing his indoor malls to civic and business leaders, he packaged it as a civil defense measure. It was to be a perfect cornerstone of the “life belts” around major cities.
The idea for “life belts” had been gaining traction since 1950. It called for a circle of civil defense infrastructure, like shelters and hospitals, to be built just far enough from city centers that they would survive a nuclear bomb strike on the city.
When plans were made for Southdale Mall, civic leaders asked for it to be built at a location 10 miles from Minneapolis’s city center, two miles from the edge of an expected blast. It was nestled between two highways so people could arrive quickly during an attack.
It was constructed of steel and reinforced concrete. A large fallout shelter and a 10,000-kilowatt generator sat underground in case they were needed for an emergency. Plans were drawn to turn shops into food production centers during a crisis.
Other malls, like Randhurst Mall near Chicago and Park Lane Mall in Reno, incorporated shelters and other aspects of Gruens’s designs. But the shopping center as fallout shelter concept didn’t really catch on.
In a mock dogfight over the Pacific Ocean, a test fight for Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II, the most expensive weapon in U.S. history, the F-35 was bested by America’s trusty F-16 Fighting Falcon – first flown in 1974.
A June 29th post on the War Is Boring blog quoted an unnamed test pilot who described the plane as “cumbersome.” Other comments include:
“Even with the limited F-16 target configuration, the F-35A remained at a distinct energy disadvantage for every engagement”
“Insufficient pitch rate”
“Energy deficit to the bandit would increase over time”
“The flying qualities in the blended region were not intuitive or favorable”
“Instead of catching the bandit off-guard by rapidly pull aft to achieve lead, the nose rate was slow, allowing him to easily time his jink prior to a gun solution”
According to the Daily Mail Online, the dogfight was held in January near Edwards Air Force Base in California, and was supposed to test the fighter’s close range combat ability between 10 and 30,000 feet. The F-35’s performance was so bad, it was deemed “inappropriate for fighting other aircraft within visual range.”
The specially designed, custom made, most advanced helmet ever was designed to give F-35 pilots a full 360-degree view around the plane but the cramped cockpit wouldn’t allow the pilot to move his head to see his rear, which allowed the F-16 to sneak up behind him.
Essentially, the F-35 pilot couldn’t watch his six because his helmet was too big.
The F-16 is still very much in service while the F-35 is in testing phases but for $59 billion spent in developing the fighter and $261 billion spent in procuring it, not to mention the cost of operations and sustainment ($590 billion in 2012 alone), a taxpayer might think there would be more bang for the billions of bucks spent. So does Congress. The only ones who love the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program are the Pentagon and probably Lockheed-Martin, the manufacturer. Currently, the fighter is best known for catching on fire during takeoff.
According to the Washington Post, Pentagon officials fired back, saying the plane the test pilot flew “did not have its special stealth coating… the sensors that allow the F-35 pilot to see the enemy long at long ranges… or the weapons and software that allow the F-35 pilot to turn, aim a weapon with the helmet, and fire at an enemy without having to point the airplane at its target.”
The F-35 was previously reviewed as “double inferior to Russian and Chinese” fighter designs in a RAND Corporation briefing (based on research by two former fighter pilots) in 2008. Other comments include: “Inferior acceleration, inferior climb, inferior sustained turn capability. Also has lower top speed.”
C.W. Lemoine, author and former fighter pilot, took to Fighter Sweep, a blog written by and for military aviators, to defend the F-35 and explain why framing the F-35’s performance as a dogfighting loss is “garbage”
“The reality is that we don’t know where each deficiency was found. My guess is the critiques on the pitch rates for gunning and abilities to jink happened in the canned offensive and defensive setups. But one has to remember this is a test platform and they were out to get test data, not find out who the king of the mountain is.”
Lemoine still acknowledged the helmet issue as a legitimate problem, saying “Lose sight, lose the fight.”
In the Daily Mail story, Marine Corps Lt Gen. Robert Schmidle said the F-35 “could detect an enemy five to 10 times faster than the enemy could detect it.” Which is a good thing because right now, the F-35 pilots will need that time and distance to actually be able to hit the enemy.
Few generals have had the lasting impact that Gen. George S. Patton has had.
Patton, who commanded the US’s 7th Army in Europe and the Mediterranean during World War II, is perhaps just as well known for his amazing insight into what makes for excellent and successful leadership.
Here’s a few of our favorites quotes from America’s “Ol’ Blood and Guts.”
“Do everything you ask of those you command.”
Sgt. Maj. Scott T. Pile speaks to 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines and sailors embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island parked pierside at Naval Base San Diego Aug. 9. | US Marine Corps
“No good decision was ever made in a swivel chair.”
US Marine Corps
“Any man who thinks he’s indispensable, ain’t.”
US Army Photo
“As long as man exists, there will be war.”
US Marine Corps
“Do more than is required of you.”
“Take calculated risks.”
US Marine Corps
“Do not make excuses, whether it’s your fault or not.”
Drill Instructor Sgt. Jonathan B. Reeves inspects and disciplines recruits with Platoon 1085, Charlie Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. | US Marine Corps
“Fame never yet found a man who waited to be found.”
US Air Force
“A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”
“You’re never beaten until you admit it.”
Sgt. William Wickett, 2nd Radio Battalion, performs a rescue drill during the Marine Corps Instructor of Water Survival Course at Marine Corps Base Camp Johnson, N.C., March 5, 2013. | US Marine Corps
“It’s the unconquerable soul of man, and not the nature of the weapon he uses, that ensures victory.”
“Genius comes from the ability to pay attention to the smallest detail.”
US Marine Corps
“Do your duty as you see it and damn the consequences.”
A US Marine with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Battalion Landing Team, Alpha Company 1/4, throws a training grenade during a live fire and movement grenade training exercise at Arta Range, Djibouti, Feb. 18, 2014. | US Marine Corps
“It’s better to fight for something in life than to die for nothing.”
US Marine Corps
“Success is how you bounce on the bottom.”
US Marines and Sailors competed in the 2015 Commanding General’s Cup Mud Run at Camp Pendleton, California, June 12, 2015. | US Marine Corps
“Know what you know, and know what you don’t know.”
“Never make a decision too early or too late.”
US Marine Corps
“No one is thinking if everyone is thinking alike.”
US Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Farris, an Artillery Cannoneer assigned to 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, Alpha Battery, carries a round back to his gun to resupply before a fire mission aboard Pohakuloa Training Are, Hawaii, Sept. 5, 2014. | US Marine Corps
The Pentagon said that after Syrian jets had bombed US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria and ground forces headed their way with artillery and armored vehicles, US jets made a strafing run at the vehicles to stop their advance.
But then a Syrian Su-22 popped up laden with bombs.
“They saw the Su-22 approaching,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on June 21st, as CNN notes. “It again had dirty wings; it was carrying ordnance. They did everything they could to try to warn it away. They did a head-butt maneuver, they launched flares, but ultimately the Su-22 went into a dive and it was observed dropping munitions and was subsequently shot down.”
A US F/A-18E off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Mediterranean then fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile at the Syrian jet, but the Su-22 had deployed flares causing the missile to miss. The US jet followed up with an AIM-120 medium range air-to-air missile which struck its target, US officials told CNN.
The pilot ejected over ISIS territory, and Syrian forces declared him missing in action.
The focus of the US’s airpower in recent years has turned to providing air support against insurgencies or forces that do not have fighter jets of their own. Before the Su-22, the US had not shot down a manned enemy aircraft since 1999.
Since the downing of the Syrian jet, Russia has threatened to target US and US-led coalition jets flying over Syria west of the Euphrates river.
Both Syria’s Su-22 and the US’s F/A-18E Super Hornet are updated versions of 1970s aircraft, but Russia and the US both have much more advanced systems to bring to bear. Fortunately, an air war seems unlikely between major powers in Syria.
Devin Mitchell was trying to get into graduate school as a sociology major, and he needed what he called a “high impact device” to get the attention of the admissions board. Since he was also a freelance photographer, he naturally thought of creating a photo essay as the medium for that sort of impact.
The idea is at once simple and complex. Miller takes a picture of a veteran wearing a uniform of his or her choosing while looking into a mirror. The reflection in the mirror is the same vet dressed in civilian clothes that capture what his or her life is like out of the military.
“The use of a mirror seemed an appropriate device for this subject matter,” Mitchell said. “It screams dichotomy, two different people in one body, and sometimes it screams embodiment and identification.”
Mitchell’s process is simple. “I don’t know any of these people,” he said. “My encounter with any one of the subjects are usually no more than 15 minutes total. They reach out to me online. I vet their military status to make sure I’m not meeting with anyone who’s counterfeit. And I show up at their house. I don’t usually ask questions.”
The subjects decide on the composition of the essay. “Every single time so far they have had something ready,” Mitchell said. “I make the photo and I give it to them and I sit back as an audience member and wonder what the photo meant.
“I call it ‘artistic journalism,'” he said. “These are landmark observations of who these people are in this time period.”
The images provide an amazing range of emotions, especially considering they’re all shot in basically the same setting – a bathroom mirror. In one essay a Marine couple is hugging in the mirror while they stand separate in the foreground, the man still in uniform and the woman in civilian clothes holding a sign that says “PTSD – divorcing but united.” In another a soldier is peeling off the blouse to his camouflage while he’s shirtless in the reflection with “Pride” scrawled across his chest in red lipstick.
“If the photos make people squirm in their chair a little bit, then obviously that’s something they needed to be exposed to,” Mitchell said. “As an artist I couldn’t dream of anything better. Enlightenment through art is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Mitchell is firm in the desire not to artificially engineer a reality with the Veterans Vision Project.
“This is not a project to propagandize any sense of nationalism whatsoever,” he said. “I’m very early in the project, and I will document the good, bad, and ugly. People should really expect to see everything the veterans have to say. As an artist I’m not scared of walking on anyone’s eggshells.”
Marine veteran Mike Dowling is one of Mitchell’s subjects.
“I knew some friends who had done it and they vouched for him,” Dowling said. “I liked the pictures he’d done, so when he reached out for me I was up for it. He said, ‘I just need you to have a military uniform that fits you and whatever civilian clothes you want. You pose how you want to pose.’ I had full creative control.”
And how did the result impact Dowling? “I look at my photo I realize how significantly my military service has laid the foundation for who I am today,” he said. “No matter what I wear the military is always going to be part of who I am.”
Mitchell is not a veteran, and he describes his military knowledge as “very distant, far-off media consumption.” “But I’m a student,” he added. “I like to learn.”
After 134 photo essays (and an ultimate goal of 10,000 for the project) Mitchell has learned a lot about the military community.
“There’s just as much fragmentation as there is unity among the military,” Mitchell said. “Just like any community. The military is no different. That’s one myth that I’ve demystified for myself since I started this. Everyone does not identify with everyone else in the military community. They’re still people.”
For more about the Veteran Vision Project, including how to participate in the project, go here.
To contribute to the Veteran Vision Project’s Kickstarter campaign go here.
For over 20 years, American warfighters have worn the Joint Services Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) on the battlefield and during training for their CBRN protection. But its days are numbered. Brought into service in the 1990’s and now nearing the end of its shelf life, the JSLIST will be replaced by the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, Increment 2 (UIPE II) in the very near future. What will UIPE II look like? That’s not certain at the moment, but there are some new technologies and advancements that are likely to have an impact:
Better materials – Anyone who has worn the JSLIST remembers the black powder residue that coated your skin and uniform after taking it off. That’s because it had layers of activated charcoal that consisted mostly of carbon. Nowadays, carbon beads are all the rage and can provide adequate protection at a lighter weight.
Lamination of materials – A recent breakthrough in research proved that removing the air gap between layers of materials can lower the thermal burden on the soldier by a large margin. Picture this…future CBRN suits will most likely be layers of materials. So if you have an outer shell, a carbon bead layer, an aerosol barrier, and a comfort liner sewn together in one suit, the thin layers of air in between those materials will heat up. But laminating them together squeezes out all the air and ends up making the soldier cooler. And not just a little, but a lot. That’s huge.
Undergarments – Using the same concept as lamination, undergarments can keep the warfighter cooler than an overgarment by removing the air next to the skin. Research has shown that wearing an undergarment as close to the skin as possible reduces the heat stress. It will take some getting used to, but the UIPE increment 1 suit consists of an undergarment under the duty uniform and is being fielded now.
Conformal fit – Once again, getting rid of all that air brings the temperature down, so a closer fitting uniform with less material reduces the thermal burden on the warfighter while also reducing the potential for snagging on surfaces as he does his mission.
Better seams and closures – Contamination doesn’t get through a suit unless it has a path and those paths are almost always along seams and closures. Seams and closures are frequently the weakest points that allow particles to get through, but several advancements will counter that.
Omniphobic coatings – Have you ever seen that video of ketchup rolling off a dress shirt? Well, it’s out there and it works. Now think of how effective that concept can be for chemical agents. If 50% of the agent sheds off the uniform and falls to the ground before it has a chance to soak into the suit, that’s half the contamination that can reach the trooper. Omniphobic coatings are still in their early stages of development, but they could be game changers when matured.
Composite materials – Just because you can make a suit out of one material doesn’t mean you should. Future suits will have different materials in different areas, like stretchy woven fabrics in the torso (where body armor is) and knit materials that offer less stretch but more protection in the arms and legs.
Overall lower thermal burden – Here’s where the money is. Almost all of these factors contribute to the one big advantage everyone who’s ever worn MOPP 4 wants to hear – less heat stress – which equates to warfighters being able to stay in the suit and do their jobs longer with a lower chance of being a heat casualty. Break out the champagne.
Flame resistance – Because catching on fire sucks. Most uniforms these days have flame resistant coatings or fabrics, but therein lies the challenge. When you add up all the other technologies, the big question is how do you do it all? How do you coat a suit with omniphobics and flame resistance while also laminating composite materials, making it conformal fitting and lowering the thermal burden while also providing an adequate level of CBRN protection, which is the most important aspect of all? Really smart people are working on that.
A family of suits – Common sense tells us one size does not fit all. The DoD has a history of procuring one suit for everyone, like the JSLIST is now fielded to all warfighters. But slowly that has been changing. Everyone has a different job to do while wearing CBRN suits. Some warfighters need a low level of protection for a short period of time while others need more protection for longer periods. A family of suits instead of one is the answer.
MOPP 4 sucks. It’s just a basic tenet of warfighting. We embrace the suck and drive on, but with the progress CBRN suits have made recently, we won’t have to embrace quite as much suck as before.