AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US - We Are The Mighty
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AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

There’s no better place to learn about and remember the service of fellow soldiers and Veterans than at one of the many memorials, military museums and other historic locations found across the United States. AARP has developed comprehensive guides to 10 key sites from Pearl Harbor to Boston.

These sites offer visitors thoughtful, moving portrayals of the sacrifices Veterans made throughout American history. Be sure to take a look before you plan your next trip to one of these great destinations.

  1. The National World War II Museum in New Orleans: From the Pearl Harbor attack to victories in Europe and Japan, learn about the triumphs and tragedies of WWII at this expansive (and expanding) Big Easy museum.
Artillery and a “Higgins Boat” on display in the museum lobby (Wikimedia Commons)
  1. Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor National Memorial: See the site of the history-changing Dec. 7, 1941, attack that killed 1,177 sailors and Marines and spurred the U.S. to enter the Second World War.
  1. The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City: Reflect on the triumphs and many tragedies of the Great War at this moving, must-visit, Midwest museum.
  1. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Charleston: Climb aboard the enormous aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, a participant in more than 40 World War II battles, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, across the harbor from Charleston.
 the USS Yorktown (CVS-10) as she sits at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (USA) in March 2011. (Wikimedia Commons)
  1. Civil War Heroes on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail: The bronze Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Civil War Memorial honoring African American soldiers is a stirring stop in a history-packed city.
  1. Vicksburg National Military Park: Take a long, deep dive into the Civil War at this massive Mississippi site where key battles helped change the course of America’s deadliest fight.
  1. Gettysburg National Military Park: Follow AARP’s guide to Pennsylvania’s famous battlefields, where a major Union triumph changed the course of the Civil War.
(Wikimedia Commons)
  1. Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution: Learn how the colonists reached a breaking point, fought for independence and won the battle at one of Philly’s top destinations.
  1. The San Diego Air & Space Museum Is a bucket-list stop for aviation buffs: See how American warplanes progressed from motorized kites to supercharged bombers with Rolls Royce engines at this Smithsonian-affiliated gem in beautiful Balboa Park in California.

10. Explore Revolutionary War History in charming Castine, Maine: Explore the historical sites tucked away in this charming New England village that dates back to pre-Revolutionary America and the Civil War.

For the latest news and information impacting older Veterans, bookmark the Veterans, Military and Their Families page on AARP.org.

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Why the only woman training to be a Navy SEAL dropped out

The only woman in the Navy SEAL training pipeline has dropped out, a Navy special warfare official confirmed Aug. 11.


The female midshipman voluntarily decided to not continue participating in a summer course that’s required of officers who want to be selected for SEAL training, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, a Naval special warfare spokesman, told The Associated Press. The Navy has not released the woman’s name, part of a policy against publicly identifying SEALs or candidates for the force.

No other woman has started the long process required to become a Navy SEAL, Walton said.

Another woman has set her sights on becoming a Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, another job that recently opened to women. They often support the SEALs but also conduct missions of their own using state-of-the art, high-performance boats. She has started the various evaluations and standard Navy training.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates from class 284 participate in Hell Week at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California. (U.S. Navy photo)

Officials have said it would be premature to speculate when the Navy will see its first female SEAL or Special Warfare Combatant Crewman.

The entry of women in one of the military’s most elite fighting forces is part of ongoing efforts to comply with then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive in December 2015 to open all military jobs to women, including the most dangerous commando posts.

That decision was formal recognition of the thousands of female servicewomen who fought in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in recent years, including those who were killed or wounded.

The woman dropped out of the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection program. It is open to Naval academy and Navy ROTC midshipmen and cadets during the summer before their senior year.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
A Navy SEAL instructor assists students from BUD/S class 245 with learning the importance of listening during a Hell Week surf drill evolution. (ENS Bashon Mann, Public Affairs Officer Naval Special Warfare Center.)

The three-week-long program in Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, tests participants’ physical and psychological strength along with water competency and leadership skills. The program is the first in-person evaluation of a candidate who desires to become a Navy SEAL officer, and it allows sailors to compete against peers in an equitable training environment.

All sailors must go through the program before being selected to take part in SEAL basic training, a six-month program so grueling that 75 percent of candidates drop out by the end of the first month.

The services have been slowly integrating women into previously male-only roles. Those in special operations are among the most demanding jobs in the military. Two women in 2015 graduated from the Army’s grueling Ranger course.

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This WWII tank crew laid waste and inspired the movie ‘Fury’

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Photo: US Army


The 3rd Armored Division landed in Normandy on June 24, 1944 with years of training but no combat experience. Over the next 11 months, the division would be part of the fiercest fighting in Europe during World War II. One tank crew in the division would kill 12 tanks, 258 armored vehicles and self-propelled guns, and 1,000 German soldiers in only 79 days. They also captured 250 German prisoners in the fighting.

The colorfully-named tank “In the Mood” was an M4A1 Sherman led by Staff Sgt. Lafayette “Wardaddy” G. Pool. His driver was Cpl. Wilbert Richards, the assistant driver and bow gunner was Pfc. Bert Close, his gunner was Cpl. Willis Oiler, and Tech. 5th Grade Del Boggs was the loader.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Photo: US Army Signal Corps

In the Mood first saw combat at Villers-Fossard on June 29, 1944. 3rd AD was ordered to attack German positions to give the nearby XIX Corps a chance to straighten out their front lines. During the battle, In the Mood was credited with killing 70 German soldiers and three armored vehicles before it was destroyed by Panzer fire. The crew survived and christened a new Sherman as “In the Mood.”

In another engagement, In the Mood and the rest of 32nd Armored Division stumbled into a group of tanks from the 2nd Panzer Division and were forced to defend themselves at close range. When the rounds stopped flying, the tank crew had successfully killed two armored cars and two enemy tanks as well as a number of German dismounts.

In the Mood took its own hits in the fighting and was destroyed three times. The first tank to bear the name was destroyed at Villers-Fossard. The second was destroyed by friendly fire from a P-38 on August 17, 1944. Finally, the third was destroyed on September 15.

Just south Aachen, Germany, the 3rd AD was attempting to cross over the German border. In the Mood took a hit from a German Panther tank. Pool tried to maneuver the tank out of trouble, but the tank was struck by another shot from the Panther and flipped over into a ditch. Pool was blown out of the commander’s hatch and suffered a massive cut in his leg from shrapnel.

Pool’s leg was amputated and his service in the war was over. He returned to the U.S. for nearly two years of rehabilitation followed by a short period of civilian life. He eventually rejoined the Army and fought his way back to 3rd Armored Division where he became an instructor. He retired from the Army on September 19, 1960.

For his service in Europe, Pool was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, and the French Croix de Guerre with gold star. His nickname, “Wardaddy,” was used for Brad Pitt’s character in the 2014 movie “Fury.”

NOW: This first-person video shows what tankers see while blowing targets away

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Watch Russian marines playfight on the beach

We’ll admit it. Russian marines are pretty badass. Like, that’s not sarcastic. Recent reports show them fighting in Aleppo, Syria, and they have a pretty decent combat record dating back to 1705.


But that’s part of what makes it so great that they made a combatives video where they telegraph their punches like they’re the Russian bad guys in a Steven Seagal movie.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
(GIF: YouTube/Max Kalinin)

But you can kind of forgive a military unit for rehearsing the combat moves and telling their dudes to lean in when it includes a legit drop kick:

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Yeah, there’s no way to stage a drop kick to the chest where it doesn’t hurt. (GIF: YouTube/Max Kalinin)

Plus, you pretty much have to stage the combat once you start letting guys swing entrenching tools at one another:

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
He flipped that dude hard enough that the E-tool gets airtime. (GIF: YouTube/ Max Kalinin)

For more Russian Kung Foo action, check out the full video below:

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The demon hordes are back in ‘World of Warcraft: Legion’

World of Warcraft, one of the world’s most successful RPGs, is releasing a new expansion where an army of demons invades the world, forcing heroes to fight beside a new demon hunter class to prevent the coming apocalypse.


“World of Warcraft: Legion” is a highly anticipated expansion with tons of changes to gameplay, class structure, professions, and more. Many players have already experienced pieces of the expansion by taking advantage of the pre-order perks. Since there’s so much going on, we’ll just give you a quick overview of new gameplay in Legion.

Legion offers gamers the chance to play as the new hero class, demon hunters — cursed elves who consume the blood and powers of demons to make themselves more powerful.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Shooting laser beams out of your eyes is a power move. (GIF: WATM Logan Nye)

Drinking the blood grants them the ability to fly around the battlefield, shoot energy from their eyes, grow spiked armor, and explode in waves of fire.

New class abilities for all heroes and artifact weapons help make players feel truly powerful even as they’re facing off against demons larger than most buildings.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Some of these guys are seriously huge. (GIF: WATM Tracy Woodward)

A new quest zone, the Broken Isles, has Alliance and Horde heroes facing off against the Legion in a hunt for the “Pillars of Creation” and the Tomb of Sargeras. Sargeras is the creator of the Legion who the demons are trying to revive.

To prevent it, heroes will have to fight through the Broken Isles, attempting to save mortally wounded dragons and topple invading armies to prevent a living hell from consuming the world.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

The best thing about questing in the Broken Isles is that Blizzard made the new zones scale to the player’s level. So no matter what order a player fights through the new areas, the enemies there are powerful enough to pose a challenge without feeling impossible.

Players will get access to class halls where they can do quest lines unique to their character type.

Demon Hunters are marshaling armies against the Legion. Druids hunt down nightmares that have invaded their dreamscape. Mages seek to rebuild an elite order of battle mages, the Tirisgarde.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Being a druid, turning into a bear, and killing a bunch of players is as fun as it sounds. (GIF: WATM Logan Nye)

When players want to take some time away from the fight against the Burning Legion to play against each other, they’ll find that class changes have made player versus player combat much easier to enter.

The new, lighter spell books of Legion make it easy to build a toolbar that works for both PVP and player versus enemy content.

Grab the game today from battle.net to go and beat back the vanguard of the Legion. The full invasion comes on August 30.

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This Soviet pilot stole the plane of a Nazi pilot who landed to try and kill him

In 1942, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Soviet pilot S. Kuzniecov was returning to base from a reconnaissance mission over Nazi-occupied Russia. As he flew over Kalinin (modern-day Tver), he was ambushed by German Messerschmidt fighters. He was shot down and forced to crash land his Iluyshin Il-2.


A profile publication written by Witold Liss of the Il-2’s combat record describes what happened next.

One of the German pilots landed at a nearby flat strip of land to collect souvenirs from his prey and to kill the Soviet pilot if he was still alive. But Kuzniecov wasn’t in the cockpit of the downed fighter anymore. He hid in the nearby woodline waiting for the enemy pilot.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Soviet Il-2 over Berlin in 1945. Earlier models were single-seat aircraft.

As soon as the German approached Kuzniecov’s Il-2, Kuzniecov made a mad dash to the German’s waiting Messerschmidt. He took off and headed for home. But his troubles didn’t end there.

Soviet pilots didn’t take kindly to German Me-109 fighters approaching their airbases. The Russian managed to survive getting shot down by the Nazis and almost died trying to avoid getting shot down by his comrades.

He did survive and was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest honor the USSR could bestow on its fighting men and women. Kuzniecov was blinded by anti-aircraft fire over Poland in 1944. He managed to land his new Il-2 in a wheels-up crash landing, but what happened to him after he left the cockpit is unknown to this day.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Ilyushin Il-2 fighters at the Battle of Kursk. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

When the Il-2 first appeared, it was called the “Flying Infantryman” by the Red Army, as beloved by ground troops as the A-10 is for Americans today. When given an inspection and a test flight, American Ace Eddie Rickenbacker called it the “best aircraft of its type in the world” and the “Beast from the East.”

It lived up to the hype as maybe the most important Soviet airframe of World War II.

 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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Here are the five finalists competing to design the World War I Memorial

The World War One Centennial Commission was created in January 2013 and is responsible for planning, developing, and executing programs to commemorate the centennial of World War I, including a national memorial to the soldiers who fought the war.


Unfortunately, none of the veterans of the Great War are alive today to see their honor, but despite bad weather, the Centennial Commission will formally announce the winning design team for the national World War I Memorial design competition on January 26, 2016.

Below are the five finalists for the memorial competition. Just click on the photo to get a closer look of the full-size proposal. The designs are open to public comment. Contact the World War I Centennial Commission here.

Concept 1: Plaza to the Forgotten War

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Submitted by the design team of Brian Johnsen, AIA; Sebastian Schmaling, AIA, LEEP AP; and Andrew Cesarz, at Johnsen Schmaling Architects, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Situated on a seam between the National Mall and the dense urbanity of downtown DC, the Plaza to the Forgotten War commemorates the service of World War I American Forces by creating a place that devotedly holds onto the memory of the tragic losses endured by the United States. The concept is simple, elegant and open with a strong and integrated form and meaning that reveals itself in layers. The memorial message is clear and there is great potential for the creation of an outstanding park. The field of lights presents a technological challenge that will need to be resolved and the Pershing Statue and walls will need to be integrated into the evolving design.

Concept 2: Grotto of Remembrance

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Submitted by Devin Kimmel, Principal at Kimmel Studio, LLC in Annapolis, Maryland

The style of the monument is inspired by the time of the Great War. It is neoclassical in form and concept, the space and elements combine to create a narrative about the current condition and the historic precedent of monuments. The plan develops a strong park concept and includes a number of elements that add interest and focus. The challenge in evolving the design will be creating a sense of openness balanced against the enclosure of the central space, a continued evaluation of the scale of the elements, and relationships of non-traditional elements (like the grotto) with memorable historic forms.

Concept 3: The Weight of Sacrifice

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Submitted Joseph Weishaar of Chicago, Illinois

A simple intervention of a platform into the existing landscape of Pershing Park provides a quietly elegant place within the park. Relocation of the walls and statue of the Pershing complex give new meaning to the individual elements. The result is an integral expression of park and memorial. The subtleness and art of the sculpted relief walls will enhance the narrative of the place—utilizing art as architecture. To execute a memorial and park that maintains the inherent elegance of the concept, a strong collaboration between designer and artist will be the key.

Concept 4: An American Family Portrait

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Submitted by STL Architects in Chicago, Illinois

The design concept is founded on paying tribute to the American men and women who participated in World War I through a memorial collage of photographs integrated into the park design. By seamlessly blending framed memories into the landscape, it provides an experience that is both park and memorial, open and inviting exploration. The park is organized by a northwest-southeast axis visually connecting it to the Capitol. While this concept has the potential of a truly unique park, the thematic, technical, and curatorial issues of the story boxes will require resolution. The statuary design, scale, and execution will need to be an integral part of the interpretive and memorial experience.

Concept 5: Heroes’ Green

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Submitted by Maria Counts of Counts Studio in Brooklyn, New York

The concept seamlessly blends memorial, park and garden into a new type of public space. There is a strong sense of movement through the space, balancing park-like qualities with memorial episodes and providing opportunities for integration of art as an integral part of the memorial experience. The sculptural landscape in itself is symbolic and will provide a welcome respite to the visitor. The inherent potential of “inventing” a new typology of civic space that works well as a memorial is the challenge.

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This was the Air Force’s plan to turn a Boeing 747 into an airborne aircraft carrier

We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?


But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
The concept of a flying aircraft carrier isn’t as far fetched as it seems. (Photo via AgentsofShield WIKIA)

While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.

The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
A Sparrowhawk fighter hanging underneath the USS Macon airship during testing (US Navy

In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.

Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.

The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.

At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
A B-36 Peacemaker launching an F-84 parasite fighter as part of a FICON test (USAF)

Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.

At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.

The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Depictions of the microfighters the AAC would carry by the Flight Dynamics Laboratory (Photo from USAF)

The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.

The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.

All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
The interior layout of the AAC proposal (Photo from USAF)

However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.

Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.

While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!

Lists

The 9 greatest fighter pilots you’ve never heard of

Anyone with a passing interest in military aviation knows names like Immelmann, von Richthofen, Rickenbacker, and Boyington. Here are 9 lesser-known aces whose aerial accomplishments rival those of the legends:


1. Francesco Baracca (Italy)

 

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

The most successful Italian ace of World War I, with 34 confirmed victories.

2. Indra Lal Roy (India)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

India’s most successful fighter pilot, with 12 kills (2 shared). He remains the only Indian fighter ace to this day.

3. Ivan Kozhedub (Russia)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

Credited with 64 victories, Kozhedub is the top scoring Allied ace of World War II. He’s also one of the few pilots to shoot down a Messerschmitt Me 262, one of the Luftwaffe’s early jets.

4. Josef Frantisek (Czechoslovakia)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

Credited as the top scoring RAF ace during the Battle of Britain. He refused to fly in formation but was allowed to fly as a “guest” of RAF 303 (Polish) squadron. In the air he would break off and patrol areas by himself where he knew enemy aircraft would be.

5. Ilmari Juutilainen (Finland)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

94 confirmed aerial combat victories during World War II against the Soviets . . . and from Finland. Thirty-four of his kills came while flying a Brewster Buffalo.

6. James Jabara (United States)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

First American jet-versus-jet ace in history and the second-highest-scoring U.S. ace of the Korean War. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross for his accomplishments in combat.

7. M M Alam (Pakistan)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

Alam downed 9 Indian aircraft during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. On one sortie he shot down 5 Indian aircraft in less than a minute — the first four within 30 seconds — which remains a world record that is unlikely to be beaten.

8. Shahram Rostami (Iran)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

During the Iran-Iraq War Tomcat pilot Shahram Rostami shot down 6 Iraqi fighters: 1 MiG-21, 3 Mirage F1s and 2 MiG-25s (the first to do so).

9. Giora Epstein (Israel)

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

History’s highest scoring jet ace, with 17 confirmed kills during the Six Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War.

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Navy ratings are back — ‘effective immediately’

The Navy has reversed its decision to remove the 241-year-old tradition of referring to its sailors by their job and rank after months of fierce backlash and petitions.


Previously, the Navy claimed the change was made to allow sailors to more easily cross-train into different positions and to make assignments more fluid. But ratings are a core part of a sailor’s experience and both service members and veterans began asking for their titles back.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US

As of Dec. 21, they have them.

Sailors began celebrating early as a draft of the Navy administrative message began making the rounds on social media. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took to Facebook to confirm that while the version being shared was an early draft, the message was right.


According to the U.S. Naval Institute, Richardson acknowledged the role of sailor feedback in the message saying, “We have learned from you, and so effective immediately, all rating names are restored. The feedback from current and former sailors has been consistent that there is wide support for the flexibility that the plan offers, but the removal of rating titles detracted from accomplishing our major goals.”

“This course correction doesn’t mean our work is done – rating modernization will continue for all the right reasons. Modernizing our industrial-age personnel system in order to provide sailors choice and flexibility still remains a priority for us,” Richardson wrote.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano holds an all-hands call to discuss the Navy’s rating modernization efforts at 3rd Fleet headquarters in San Diego on Nov. 7. The decision to scrap Navy ratings has since been reversed. (Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Curtis Spencer)

So, “choose your rate, choose your fate,” will still become more flexible than it currently is, but ratings are back.

When the official NAVADMIN is released, it will appear here.

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The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 28 edition)

Here are the things you need to know about right now to be the “smart one” in your unit:


Now: Here’s what would happen if every US state declared war on each other

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This company is bringing back a weapon long favored by Navy SEALs

Developed by some of the same engineers who designed the AR-10 and AR-15 family of rifles, the Stoner 63 was one of the world’s first modular, adaptable assault rifles used by the U.S. military.


It saw only limited fielding, but was popular among Navy SEALs during the Vietnam war. The Stoner could be configured as a rifle, carbine and light machine gun, firing from a traditional M16-style box magazine or from a belt.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
Navy SEALs in Vietnam. Note the Stoner 63 in the center. (National Archives)

The Stoner is surely one of the coolest looking rifles of the conflict, and while beloved by frogmen for years, it was found by some to be too complex and maintenance intensive for general battlefield use.

Fast forward almost 40 years and U.S. rifle manufacturer Knights Armament has updated the Stoner 63 with a new ultra-lightweight machine gun variant that’s causing some buzz on the interwebs.

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
The Stoner X-LMG. (Photo link from The Firearm Blog)

Dubbed the Stoner X-LMG, the new machine gun fires a 5.56mm round from an open bolt with a piston operating system. Knights says the X-LMG uses a unique configuration that eliminates the buffer, further mitigating recoil and making it easier to control.

The X-LMG has a Picatinny rail for optics, a M-LOK handguard and a collapsable stock that helps the new Stoner come in at a surprisingly light weight of just under 9 pounds.

“The Stoner X-LMG … represents a 2kg weight saving over legacy models (including FN Herstal’s Mimimi LMG) providing operators with a more streamlined solution suitable for close quarter battle and military operations in urban terrain as well as parachute insertion,” according to one defense industry analysis.

Reports suggest the new Stoner is gaining interest among foreign special operations teams, including Dutch and French commandos and paratroop regiments. Knights armament is already popular among U.S. special operators and is primarily known for its SR-25 and Mk-11 rifles for designated marksmen and snipers.

Here’s former Delta Force operator Larry Vickers giving a detailed look at the Knights Armament Stoner LMG — the slightly heavier version of the X-LMG.

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Here is what you need to know about the Army’s new incredible eye protection

AARP Guide to 10 military museums and historic locations across the US
In this Feb. 6, 2006 file photo, 1st Lt. Anthony Aguilar wears the ballistic protective eyewear that prevented a bomb fragment from possibly damaging his eyes when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Stryker vehicle in Iraq. U.S. Army photo


As part of its new Soldier Protection System, the U.S. Army plans to field eye protection that adjusts to daytime and night conditions so soldiers won’t have to constantly change eyewear on operations.

Senior Army equipment officials on Wednesday discussed the new body armor system with lawmakers at a hearing before the House Armed Services Tactical Air Land Forces Subcommittee on the ground force modernization budget request for fiscal 2017.

Army Lt. Gen. John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, G-8, told lawmakers that soldiers have typically had to carry two pairs of protective eyewear over the last 15 years — one for day and one for night.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but that is a huge deal to not have to physically transition eye protection,” Murray said. “The actual lenses do it for you.”

The Soldier Protection System, or SPS, is a full ensemble that goes beyond torso protection and provides the soldier with improved protection for vital areas such as the head and face.

Rep. Niki Tsongas, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked about the recent decision to accelerate the program and the incorporation of sensors designed to monitor a soldier’s vital signs.

The Army’s 2017 budget request shows a significant increase in research and development of the effort, from about $5 million to $16 million, she said.

“The additional funding helps to get us there sooner,” said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology. “Although we were looking at these systems simultaneously, the way the funding allocated wasn’t until 2019 that we could get to the integrated sensor suite.”

The integrated sensors portion of the SPS is “a really important component because what that will allow you do is not only measure things like heart rate but it will also give you feedback on things like hydration,” he said.

Eye protection is another key part of the SPS, Williamson said.

“One of the more impressive things they are doing is building transitional eyewear that allows a soldier to move from a dark environment into the light and back and forth without the disorientation that occurs because of that change in environment,” he said, adding that the new eyewear also increases the blast fragmentation protection by about 10 percent.

The new Modular Scalable Vest portion of the SPS features a more streamlined design compared to the current Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

The most noticeable feature of the SPS is the new Ballistic Combat Shirt, or BCS, which has been updated with soft armor on the neck, shoulders, high chest and high back to protect against 9mm rounds and shrapnel. The lower part of the shirt is still a breathable, fire-resistant material.

It also features the Integrated Head Protection System, which gives the soldier the ability to attach extra armor to the top of the helmet to provide additional protection against snipers shooting down on soldiers riding in an open turret, as well as the armored facemask to protect against gunfire and shrapnel.

The SPS is also part of the Army’s effort to lighten the soldiers load, Williamson said.

“The goal for the entire system is 10 to 15 percent less weight than the soldier carries today,” he said.

Marine Brig. Gen. Joe Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command told lawmakers that the Marine Corps often works with the Army on individual protection equipment programs, such as the new “Enhanced Combat Helmet that we have developed with the Army and now are final stages if fielding the first 77,000 of those.”

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