Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision - We Are The Mighty
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Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

The Army has started building an emerging technology connecting soldier night-vision goggles to thermal weapons sights, allowing soldiers in combat to more quickly identify and destroy enemy targets, service officials said.


Army officials told Scout Warrior that Low-Rate Initial Production of the technology, called Rapid Target Acquisition, began in recent months. The system is slated to be operational in combat by 2018.

Also read: You’d better get used to the M4 carbine because it’s here to stay

Rapid Target Acquisition merges two separate Army developmental efforts to engineer, deliver and combine new, upgraded night vision goggles, called Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, or ENVG III, with next-generation thermal weapons sights –called Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, or FWS-I,  Army officials said.

Army Soldiers tracking and attacking enemies in fast-moving combat situations will soon be able to shoot targets without bringing their rifle and weapons sights up to their eyes, service officials told Scout Warrior.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
U.S. Army PFC Michael Freise fires an M4 carbine rifle during a firing exercise. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Suzanne M. Day

A wireless link will show the reticle from thermal weapons sights directly into the night vision goggle display, allowing soldiers to quickly track and destroy targets with great accuracy without needing to actually move the weapon to their shoulder and head to see the crosshairs through the thermal sights.

Enhanced targeting technology is of particular relevance in fast-developing battle circumstances such as Close Quarter Battle, or CQB, where targets can emerge and disappear in fractions of a second. Being able to strike quickly, therefore, can bring added lethality and make the difference between life and death for soldiers.

“This provides rapid target acquisition capability. The soldier no longer has to shoulder their weapon. If you can imagine looking through a goggle and some target or threat presents itself, a soldier no longer has to come all the way up. He or she can put the bubble on the image and engage the target in that manner,” Lt. Col. Timothy Fuller, former Product Manager, Soldier Maneuver Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year, before initial production began.

FWS-I is a thermal sight mounted on top of an M4 rifle. It can also be configured for crew-served weapons such as a .50-cal machine gun or sniper rifle, Army officials said.

“The thermal image you are seeing is wirelessly transmitted to the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III and is displayed in its display. What you ultimately have is the crosshairs and a portion of the thermal weapon sights image spatially aligned to the image that the soldier sees in the night vision goggles,” said former Maj. Nicholas Breen, Assistant Product Manager, Family of Weapon Sights-Individual.

The Army’s ENVG III, which will begin formal production next Summer, will provide soldiers with image-intensification, improved resolution and a wider thermal camera field-of-view compared to prior models.

“The night vision goggle takes two channels. This incorporates an image-intensification where you look through your goggle and are seeing a standard night vision goggle view and a thermal image all in one image.  The two channels are on top of one another and they are fused together so that you get all of the benefit of both channels,” Maj. Brandon Motte, former Assistant Product Manager, Enhanced Night Vision, said.

The improved, or higher-tech, ENGV IIIs will also help with maneuverability and command and control by enabling soldiers to see a wider field of view with better resolution and even see infrared lasers, Motte added. The technology is now going through production qualification testing and will be operational in 2017.

“This greatly improves the lethality and visibility in all weather conditions for the soldier – one very small, very lightweight night vision goggle,” Motte said.

Of greatest importance, however, is that the ENVG III will enable the wireless link with the weapon sights mounted on the gun.

“The reticle will show up in the night vision goggle when the weapon is pointed at a target,” Fuller explained. “As soon as you see a target, you can engage. You no longer have to bring it up to your face. The display is right in front of your eyes.”

The Army plans to acquire as many as 40,000 ENVG IIIs. ENVG III is being engineered to easily integrate FWS-I as soon as it is slated to be operational in 2018.

BAE Systems and DRS are the defense industry vendors involved in the developmental effort, Army officials said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans compete in 2020 Golden Age Games… at home

The 2020 National Veteran Golden Age Games came to a close with the awards presentation announced on Facebook during a live broadcast.

A total of 259 Veterans registered to compete, including 81 women Veterans. The Veterans represented 36 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and 61 VA medical centers. Veterans received a total of 100 gold, 75 silver and 69 bronze medals across eight age categories


Veterans competed in gender, wheelchair, visually impaired and recumbent cycling categories.

VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events provides Veterans with opportunities for health and healing through adaptive sports and therapeutic art programs. These specialized rehabilitation events aim to optimize Veterans’ independence, community engagement, well-being and quality of life. The programs are built on clinical expertise within VA, with essential support from Veteran Service Organizations, corporate sponsors, individual donors and community partners.

Pictured above with her bicycle is OEF/OIF Veteran, Air Force Veteran and nurse Therese Kern. Kern represented the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. She is also a nurse practitioner at VA.

Here’s a great video about the games including the opening and a terrific slide show of previous participants from all the states. (Montage photos and videos are from 2019: pre-COVID, pre-masks.)

Welcome to the opening ceremonies of the 2020 National Veterans Golden Age Games at HOME

www.facebook.com

“I had the time of my life.”

Feedback from Veterans has been overwhelmingly positive and many expressed their gratitude. Here are some comments:

“Though we were all at home in 2020, I can truly say I had the time of my life and enjoyed every day of the fitness challenge and 20k cycling event. I would love to be able to participate in 2021 alongside all the other cyclists in the 20k cycling event,” said David Warren. He was a first-time participant who represented the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

“Thanks to the national staff for finding a way to allow us to compete this year. Can’t wait to see my medals in person, and to get my T-shirt. Congrats to all the athletes that medaled and to those who competed! I had a blast. On top of getting in better shape after having to walk or ride bike every day for 30 days!! I also lost some weight,” said Coast Guard Veteran Nadine Lewis. She represented the Oklahoma City VA Health Care System.

“I wanted to say thanks for putting the at-home competition together and for giving us an opportunity to compete in the virtual challenge,” said Lenny McNair. He is an Army Veteran who represented the VA Maryland Health Care System.

Competition and reflection

Korean War and Army Veteran Phillip Joseph Dimenno, 88, served as a rifleman with the 24th Infantry Division, 34th Regiment. Joseph represented the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. He took gold in the powerwalk and wastebasket basketball and silver in javelin, discus and shot put.

Here’s a video interview of Joseph from several years ago as he returned to Korea.

https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/world/asia/south-korea-us-vets/index.html

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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4 battles where paratroopers could have made a big difference

In the brief period of time since their inception the American paratrooper has seen combat and spearheaded assaults all over the world.


Despite their usefulness, however, there have still been numerous times when paratroopers were not used in which they could have had a significant impact on the battle. These are four of those battles:

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
U.S. paratroopers awaiting orders to jump. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, 1942)

1. The Battle of Bastogne

In December 1944 the Germans launched a massive offensive into the Ardennes forest that would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.

As the situation deteriorated, Gen. Eisenhower decided to commit his strategic reserves, primarily the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, in an attempt to blunt the German attack. In the ensuing melee, the 82nd helped hold back the Germans at Elsenborn Ridge while the 101st became encircled holding Bastogne.

The effort to relieve the 101st fell to Patton’s Third Army to drive through the Germans and reach Bastogne.

However, Eisenhower had one remaining airborne division in reserve in England.

On Dec. 23, the same day Pathfinders landed in Bastogne to guide in supply drops, the 17th Airborne Division flew to France in order to join Third Army in its counter-offensive.

A more decisive move would have been to have the paratroopers of the 17th jump into the perimeter of Bastogne in order to shore up the lines and bring much needed relief to the beleaguered paratroopers of the 101st. This tactic had been used to great effect during Operation Avalanche in Sicily in which 82nd paratroopers reinforced the Allied beachhead at Salerno.

This would have then allowed the defenders to affect a breakout towards friendly lines or to go on an offensive of their own to drive the Germans back and break the siege.

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Waves of paratroopers fill the skies during a combat exercise. (U.S. Army)

2. The Landing at Inchon

On Sept. 15, 1950, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s forces as part of Operation Chromite assaulted the beaches and harbor of Inchon — then well behind enemy lines.

In a coordinated effort with the forces encircled at Pusan, the United Nations forces delivered a striking blow against the North Koreans driving them back towards the 38th Parallel and recapturing Seoul.

The attack was a textbook amphibious assault comparable to those undertaken in Europe during World War II in which paratroopers spearheaded an assault followed by seaborne infantry. However, MacArthur had been in command in the Pacific and thus had utilized airborne forces much differently. His assault plan did not include the use of paratroopers.

Though only the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was available, they could have been put to good use.

Their first order of business could have been the seizure of Kimpo Airfield, a task not completed until Sept. 18 by a battalion of Marines. The early capture of the airfield would have allowed American fighters a forward base sooner and would have allowed follow-on forces to be flown in.

Other elements of the 187th could have also been used to cut off the forces retreating from Pusan. Though the UN was able to eliminate nearly half of the 70,000 North Koreans in the South, the other half was able to regroup in North Korea.

Had paratroopers been employed they could have potentially stopped more — if not all — from reaching North Korea, leaving the communists with virtually no military.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
(U.S. Army paratroopers conduct an airborne operation on Oct. 20, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

3. The Siege of Khe Sanh

Just before the launch of the Tet Offensive in January 1968, the North Vietnamese attacked and laid siege to the Khe Sanh Combat Base.

Though they held their positions in the hills around the base and the base itself, they were soon cut off from ground support and resupply when Route 9 was closed. The Marines in and around the combat base — mostly the 26th Marine Regiment as well as 1st Battalion, 9th Marines — held out against the North Vietnamese for 11 weeks before finally being relieved by elements of the 1st Cavalry Division as part of Operation Pegasus.

However, the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade was alerted and deployed to Vietnam in early February 1968 in order to shore up defenses against the Tet Offensive.

The brigade could have instead been dropped into the Khe Sanh Combat Base in order to strengthen the defenses there and improve the offensive capabilities of the defenders. The paratroopers could have been used to seek out the NVA artillery that continually pounded the base and silenced it. This would also have freed up other units that were instead used to break the siege.

Furthermore, the paratroopers would have brought with them valuable assets such as artillery, engineers, and intelligence that would have improved the fighting ability of the defenders.  

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A Paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne Brigade prepares to land. In the background, a C-130 Hercules. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Paolo Bovo)

4. Operation Iraqi Freedom

Although there was one large and several smaller airborne operations during the invasion of Iraq the role of paratroopers in the initial assault should have been much greater. Another operation, a likely jump by the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne and the 3rd Ranger Battalion onto Saddam International Airport, was scrapped after an overzealous journalist revealed the plan on public television.

However, there were many other targets of opportunity and uses for the available paratroopers. Much like the Rangers’ seizure of H-1 Airbase in Western Iraq, the paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade could have opened an airhead just north of Baghdad with an airborne assault of Balad Air Base.

Reminiscent of WWII operations in Europe, they could have cleared the way for the 3rd Infantry Division and 1st Marine Division as they made their way toward Baghdad. The seizure of key infrastructure was vital to keep Saddam from repeating his scorched earth retreat from 1991.

This could have been more quickly facilitated if paratroopers had been employed. With air superiority from the beginning, the possibilities for airborne assaults were great though unfortunately under-utilized.

When the paratroopers did enter the fight they proved their mettle when they earned a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions at As Samawah.

Articles

The Military Took These Incredible Photos In Just One Week-Long Period

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

F-16 Fighting Falcons taxi down the runway March 3, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-16s are assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB. Aggressor pilots returned after completing a mobile training team exercise.

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Photo: Senior Airman Peter Reft/USAF

Pilots in an F-15E Strike Eagle receive fuel from a New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker March 17, 2015, over North Carolina. The pilots and F-15E aircraft are from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

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Photo: Airman Ashlyn J. Correia/USAF

NAVY

Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) heave line during an underway replenishment and ammunition onload with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8). Theodore Roosevelt deployed from Norfolk and will execute a homeport shift to San Diego at the conclusion of deployment.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony Hopkins/USN

EAST CHINA SEA (March 17, 2015) Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) taxi an AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 238.

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Dickinson/USN

ARMY

Army paratroopers, assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, sit in the door of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as it lifts off. The airborne operation held March 19, 2015 at Grafenwoehr, Germany, is the final preparation for the unit before they conduct multinational exercises across Europe.

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Photo: 2nd Lt. Steven Siberski/US Army

Bach, a military working dog, takes down an Army military policeman during a demonstration at Fort Sill, Okla., March 12, 2015. The demonstration showed how Fort Sill’s K9 Unit assists with searches for narcotics, explosives and assists in apprehending suspects.

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Photo: Marie Berberea/US Army

MARINE CORPS

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unitconduct a daytime boat operation exercise using Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

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Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a nighttime boat operation exercise using a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.

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Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena/USMC

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer 1st Class Denis Butierries holds his son Jacob so he can get a view of Honolulu Harbor during a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush Dec. 23. 2014. Six-year-old Jacob was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was four months old and was given between four months and one year to live. His longtime wish was to see the Rush where his grandfather served as the engineering officer.

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Photo: Chief Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson/USCG

Coast Guard Station Golden Gate lifeboat crews conduct surf training in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The crews train in high surf to ensure they are prepared to respond to any maritime emergency during rough weather conditions.

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Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart/USCG

NOW: This Is What It Was Like To Feel Zero G Aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

AND: Meet The Marine Veteran Who’s Going To Be Star Wars’ Next Villian

OR WATCH: The Most Evil Weapons Ever Created

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These were America’s first African-American paratroopers

During World War II a company of service soldiers became the world’s first black paratroopers and then made history as smokejumpers.


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The paratroopers of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion get ready to fight a forest fire. Photo: US Army

It started in 1942 when 1st Sgt. Walter Morris, an E-5 who had taken responsibility for his company because no first sergeant was assigned to it, crafted a plan for improving horrible morale.

The men were assigned to the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, but were afforded none of the privileges other soldiers had and even lacked access to facilities that enemy POWs were allowed to use.

The men were assigned to cleaning the course after the white paratroopers finished training, and Morris simply had his men run it before they began cleaning. One day they were spotted making their way through the course by a passing general. The general ordered Morris to report to his office the next day. The general had received orders to start a black airborne test platoon that would soon become a black company and then airborne battalion. For his leadership of the service company, Morris was asked to become the unit first sergeant.

Morris and his men were officially re-assigned to the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, the Triple Nickles, in the final days of 1943. On Feb. 8, 1944, Morris and 16 others graduated Airborne School and became the first black paratroopers.

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First Sgt. Walter Morris during pre-jump inspection for his first jump. Photo: US Army

The 555th quickly grew over the next year and Morris was sent to officer candidate school to become an officer so he could take another leadership role in what was now the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion.

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The men of the Triple Nickle before a training jump in New Jersey. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

Unfortunately for the paratroopers of the unit, lingering racism kept them from the combat deployment to Europe that they were seeking.

They were instead loaned out to the U.S. Forest Service to defend the forests of the western states from Japanese incendiary bombs. The Japanese were floating thousands of balloons, each with four incendiary devices, across the Pacific to start wildfires in North America.

The Forest Service had decided to fight the tactic with “smokejumpers,” a new type of forest firefighter who jumped into the woods near the massive blazes and then created firebreaks to starve the flames of fuel.

Three hundred men were assigned to the mission, but only 160 were sent to Pendleton, Oregon for retraining. Between them all, they conducted 1,200 individual jumps and completed 36 fire missions in the summer of 1945.

Smokejumpers carried special “letdown” ropes to climb down from trees in case they were hung up on the high branches, and the men of 555th crafted special face protection by wrapping chicken wire around football helmets.

The war and the Army smokejumper mission ended in 1945, and the Triple Nickle was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where the famed 82nd Airborne Division was headquartered. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin, “The Jumping General” who commanded the unit, was impressed by the black paratroopers and an early advocate of integration.

The unit trained and existed within the 82nd Airborne Division until Gavin ordered the men to an 82nd function in Dec. 1947. When the 555th commander presented his battalion to Gavin, the general ordered the unit fully integrated it into the 82nd as the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Brigade.

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While the men regretted the loss of the Triple Nickles, they celebrated being integrated into a storied unit.

“Everybody was crying,” former 555th paratrooper Charles Stevens told the Fort Jackson Leader. “I think we were crying for two different reasons. We were glad that segregation was leaving the Army and we were sad we were losing our Triple Nickle colors.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says it took out a bunch of top terrorist leaders in Syria air strike

The Defense Ministry in Moscow says that a Russian air strike in Syria has killed 12 Al-Nusra Front field commanders and gravely wounded the group’s leader.


The air strike was launched after Russia’s military intelligence obtained the time and place of a gathering of the Al-Nusra Front leaders, among them its chief, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, on October 3, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement on October 4.

Jabhat al-Nusra, or Al-Nusra Front, was the name of a militant group that was described as Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. In 2016, it shed its status as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and changed its name to the Fateh al-Sham Front.

Since 2017, it is a predominant part of a coalition of militant factions called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

“As a result of the strike, the Nusra Front leader, Abu Muhammad al-Golani, sustained numerous shrapnel wounds and, having lost an arm, is in a critical condition, according to information from several independent sources,” Konashenkov said.

He added that 12 of the group’s field commanders were killed, together with around 50 guards. The information could not be independently confirmed.

Russia has backed President Bashar al-Assad’s government throughout the more than six-year war in Syria, and stepped up its involvement by launching a campaign of air strikes in September 2015. It has also increased its military presence on the ground.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to worry about the non-NATO members of historic war games

Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”


NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.

Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018

(US Marine Corps photo)

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”

But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.

Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”

Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.

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US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.

In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.

Russian officials have also warned both of them.

Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”

Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.

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US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”

But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.

Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”

Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.

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Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)

Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.

Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.

They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.

“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.

“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Microsoft takes sides in the ongoing tech battle over military

On Oct. 26, 2018, Microsoft said it plans to sell artificial intelligence and any other advanced technologies needed to the military and intelligence agencies to strengthen defense, the New York Times reported.

Microsoft decision, which the Times said was announced in a small town-hall style company meeting on Oct 25, 2018, contrasts sharply with the decision of its rival Google, which has said it will not sell technology to the government that can be used in weapons.


“Microsoft was born in the United States, is headquartered in the United States, and has grown up with all the benefits that have long come from being in this country,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith was quoted in the report as saying.

The debate about military AI among US tech companies comes as the Pentagon is in a race with the Chinese government to develop next-generation security technologies.

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The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

Employees within tech companies have protested against their companies’ involvement in military and federal law enforcement work. For example, thousands of employees signed a petition, and some even resigned, after revelations that Google had sold artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to analyze drone footage.

Others, such as Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have shown their support for the U.S. military. In a recent interview, Oracle founder Larry Ellison said of Google, “I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking.”

Likewise, Amazon is seen as the forerunner for winning a cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Google recently dropped out of that same bid, saying it would conflict with corporate values. As for Microsoft, it’s also seen as a strong contender for that contract.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Dec. 30

Yes, 2016 was horrible. Luckily, there are these 13 funny military memes to help you transition to the new year.


1. Chief doesn’t care about your skulls (via Maintainer Humor).

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Actually, he probably does. Just not your feelings.

2. If you wanted to go home, you should have volunteered more during the year (via Air Force Memes Humor).

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Now, you’re on the watch list for New Year’s Eve.

ALSO SEE: US Air Force pilots donned Santa hats during Christmas Day airstrike on ISIS

3. This is why troops go through the soldier readiness center (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

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Actually, his men were brought down by lice.

4. “How can we make sure people know to leave the door closed?”

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

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5. “First question: Can I opt out?”

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

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6. Ugh. don’t remind me (via The Salty Soldier).

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But hey, only three more Christmas block leaves until ETS.

7. They only care if they’re liable (via Sh-t my LPO says).

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Once you’re gone, you’re gone.

8. The M88 can fix whatever you did wrong (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

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Well, it can pull your mistakes out of the desert anyway.

9. Why not both?

(via Shit my LPO says)

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Just make sure to do plenty of stuff both right and wrong, so they have lots of learning opportunities.

10. If Santa keeps groping the dude’s shoulders like that, he might need the penicillin (via Military World).

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

11. At least he’s got that Air Force mustache (via Maintainer Humor).

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
Hey, it’s an important Air Force tradition.

12. When your sidearm weighs 40 pounds and has an anger problem:

(via Military World)

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
The left dog looks super bored with the whole procedure. “He never lets me fire the rifle.”

13. Jet fuel doesn’t melt steel beams, but chemtrail boxes might (via Maintainer Humor)

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
Knowing our luck, they would make the paratroops sit on the boxes, even when they leak.

Special bonus meme 1:

(via U.S Army W.T.F! moments)

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

Special bonus meme 2:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

Articles

5 reasons Route Irish was the most nerve-racking road in Iraq

Once dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road,” the 7.5-mile stretch from Baghdad’s Green Zone to the airport was called “Route Irish” during the American-led occupation of Iraq.


It was a fitting introduction to the country during the height of the war. For years, Route Irish was a trial by fire: if you survived the drive from the airport, you would be ready for anything.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

The Americans and British had a hard time controlling the road for nearly two years. Most taxi drivers refused to go anywhere near it and those that did sometimes got caught up in the mix between the insurgency and the occupation forces. It wasn’t just dangerous for troops; it was dangerous for everyone.

1. It was an easy target.

Irish was the direct airport road, connecting the International Zone (aka the “Green Zone”) with BIAP and the Victory Base Complex. Insurgents of all brands, from loyalists to al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists knew coalition forces were based along the road and knew they would have to use the road and the areas adjacent. Irish became a magnet for bullets, rockets, mortars, VBIEDs, and hidden IEDs.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
IEDs collected by Coalition forces in Baghdad. (DoD photo)

Suicide bombers lurked on the exit ramps and road crews repairing holes from previous attacks buried IEDs. It became so bad, that by December 2004, State Department personnel were banned from using Irish and troops began calling it “IED Alley.”

2. The road was a bumpy ride.

All those explosive impacts created craters in the asphalt and littered the road with husks of destroyed vehicles. Besides making the trip seem like you were riding a bucking bronco for miles on end while dodging obstacles, the hastily filled-in holes created by explosions made the trip much longer than it had to be. The craters and garbage also made it easy for insurgents to hide IEDs.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
Riding in a Bradley in 127-degree heat with little light and less air flow makes the 8-minute ride seem like it takes hours. Bumping your head on the side of this hotbox a few times will make anyone appreciate a foot patrol or IED sweep.

3. Getting aboard “the Rhino” was intimidating.

“The Rhino” was a Rhino Runner, a 22-seat bus with heavy armor, designed by Florida-based Labock Technologies. Troops, contractors, and VIPs traveling to and from Victory Base, BIAP, or the Green Zone had to mount up into the belly of this behemoth. Looking at this veritable mountain of a vehicle made the first time fobbit on his or her way to Iraqi Freedom’s nerve center think twice about whether or not they could conduct their business via email.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
A Rhino after an ambush along Route Irish (Labock Technologies)

In November 2004, a three Rhino convoy was ambushed on Route Irish with a 250-pound suicide VBIED that made a crater 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep. A dust cloud over 1,000 feet long could be seen for miles around the city. There were no injuries to the 18 people in the vehicle.

4. The road required constant patrols.

Eventually, Irish would be secured by American troops using concrete obstacles, Iraqi Army units, and taking control of the neighborhoods adjacent to the road. Until then, Coalition forces had to keep the road as clean as possible and remove the blown-up car carcasses.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
While on patrol Soldiers of the 1st Patrol Team, Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division help push a stalled car off Route Irish. (Photo by Sgt. Dan Purcell)

At one point, the Boston Globe reported the U.S. Army dedicated an entire battalion of the 10th Mountain Division to keeping the road as clear and safe as possible. This opened the troops up to constant attacks from suicide bombers, a tactic the military could do little to prevent short of destroying the car before it reached the target.

5. If the attacks weren’t dangerous enough, the Iraqi drivers were.

Because of the frequency and severity of attacks on American and other Coalition personnel (and sometimes sectarian violence) drivers in the city put the pedal to the metal while driving along the road. They so slow down for U.S. vehicle convoys because the turret gunners have no problem taking a few shots at a tailgater.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
A Humvee in Sadiyah. The other side of the wall is Route Irish. (Photo by Matthew Vea)

Iraqis drove the highway at high speeds, veering away from the median (a potential source of IEDs) except when they were veering away from the exits (a source of suicide VBIEDs), and randomly weaved while driving under overpasses for fear of someone dropping something on them.

Civilians who wanted a ride from the Sheraton to the airport could easily hire their own armored shuttle service – for the deeply discounted price of $2,390 each way.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Former Pentagon chief warns against putting too much trust in generals to lead US through political fights

It’s no secret: America loves the legendary generals who have taken key positions of power in the Trump administration.


But the nation’s trust and dependence on these men to lead them through challenging political times may be misplaced, retired Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday.

Mullen, who served as the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011, said the way the nation is turning to these generals betrays a tendency not inherently American.

“I am increasingly — I’m not surprised, but I am concerned about the dependence of the American people on Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Kelly and Rex Tillerson,” he told an audience at the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2017 Naval History Conference in Annapolis.

(Adm. Mullin is a member of the We Are The Mighty board of directors)

Mattis, McMaster and Kelly — who serve as secretary of defense, national security adviser and White House chief of staff, respectively — all attained four-star rank in the military. McMaster remains on active duty.

“The question that I ask is how did we get here, to a point where we are depending on retired generals for the stability of our citizenry,” he said. “And what happens if that boulder breaks, first of all, and when.”

President Donald Trump has encouraged reverence for the generals in his administration, particularly Mattis, whom he has referred to by the nickname “Mad Dog” and praised on Twitter as a “general’s general.”

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

Mattis, who was lionized by troops while in the Marine Corps for his care for his men and straightforward style, had been out of uniform for only four years when he was nominated to serve as defense secretary.

Congress passed a one-time waiver of a law requiring defense secretaries to have been out of the military for at least seven years to allow Mattis to serve.

In a congressional hearing held prior to the waiver vote, military experts advised that Mattis be confirmed, but warned the waiver should not be used again for a long time to preserve the tradition of civilian leadership of the military.

In the past, Mullen has been outspoken about the civilian-military divide and has publicly criticized the recent trend of general and flag officers becoming keynote speakers at political conventions and publicly endorsing candidates for president.

He reiterated these views Thursday, saying that while retired officers have the right to endorse, they do damage to the military by eroding its reputation for impartiality.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.

Mullen qualified that he knows Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, and called them “extraordinary individuals in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”

But he suggested it sets a dangerous precedent to turn to them as a focal point for national leadership.

“I have been in too many countries globally where the generals, if you will, gave great comfort to their citizens,” Mullen said. “That is not the United States of America. It may be temporarily now; I can only hope that it won’t be in the future. And despite each one of these individuals’ greatness, there are limits.”

In addition, he said, experience on the battlefield does not translate directly to leadership in the political sphere.

“When I walked into the Oval Office for the first time, that is an environment I’d never been in before, ever,” Mullen said. “… There is no reason these individuals, who are exceptionally good, had any better preparation in that regard. They are trying to figure it out as we go.”

Recent press reports, he said, have called the generals the “bulwark” of the administration.

“And one of the questions is, will that bulwark last, and what happens if and when it doesn’t,” Mullen said. “My own belief is, it won’t.”

Articles

Here’s how support drones will make the F-22 deadlier than ever

As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.


“Air superiority, using stealth characteristics is our primary role. The air dominance mission is what we will always do first. Once we are comfortable operating in that battlespace, our airmen are going to find ways to contribute,” Col. Larry Broadwell, the Commander of the 1st Operations Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, told Scout Warrior in a special pilot interview.

Also read: How China’s stealthy new J-20 fighter jet compares to the US’s F-22 and F-35

The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” Broadwell did say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
John Dibbs | Lockheed Martin

For example, drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones, Broadwell explained.

At the moment, targeting information from drones is relayed from the ground station back up to an F-22.  However, computer algorithms and technology is fast evolving such that aircraft like an F-22s will soon be able to quickly view drone video feeds in the cockpit without needing a ground station — and eventually be able to control nearby drones from the air. These developments were highlighted in a special Scout Warrior interview with Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
F-35s and F-22s fly in formation. | US Air Force photo

Zacharias explained that fifth generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 are quickly approaching an ability to command-and-control nearby drones from the air. This would allow unmanned systems to deliver payload, test enemy air defenses and potentially extend the reach of ISR misisons.

“Because of its sensors, the F-22 is uniquely able to improve the battlefield awareness – not just for airborne F-22s but the other platforms that are airborne as well,” he said. The Raptor has an F-22-specific data link to share information with other F-22s and also has the ability to use a known data link called LINK 16 which enables it to communicate with other aircraft in the coalition, Broadwell explained in an interview last year.

Newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.

The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below.

“The addition of SAR mapping has certainly enhanced our air-to-ground capability. Previously, we would have to take off with pre-determined target coordinates. Now, we have an ability to more dynamically use the SAR to pinpoint a target while airborne,” Broadwell added.

“The F-35 is needed because it is to global precision attack what the F-22 is to air superiority,” he added. “These two aircrafts were built to work together in concert. It is unfortunate that we have so few F-22s. We are going to ask the F-35 to contribute to the air superiority mission,” he said.

Overall, the Air Force operates somewhere between 80 and 100 F-22s. Dave Majumdar of The National Interest writes that many would like to see more F-22s added to the Air Force arsenal. For instance, some members of Congress, such as Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., have requested that more F-22s be built, given its technological superiority.

Citing budget concerns, Air Force officials have said it is unlikely the service will want to build new F-22s, however an incoming Trump administration could possibly want to change that.

F-22 Technologies

The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners.

“The F-22 engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22 to cruise at supersonic airspeeds. Super Cruise greatly expands the F-22’s operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds,” Broadwell explained.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, Broadwell explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.

“The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness,” he said.

It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters, Broadwell said.

Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said.  It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.

The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.

“Its greatest asset is the ability to target attack and kill an enemy without the enemy ever being aware they are there,” Broadwell added.

The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.

After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.

“An F-22 squadron led the first strike in OIR (Operation Inherent Resolve). The aircraft made historic contributions in the air-to-ground regime,”

Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, there are still impactful ways in which the F-22 continues to greatly help the ongoing attacks, Broadwell said.

“There are no issues with the air superiority mission. That is the first thing they focus on. After that, they can transition to what they have been doing over the last several months and that has been figuring out innovative ways to contribute in the air-to-ground regime to support the coalition,” Broadwell said.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How medically-discharged vets can get a disability rating boost

Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.

The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.


The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.

Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.

Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.

“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “

Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.

If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.

The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.

A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.

For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.

To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.

For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.

The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.

Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.

Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.

Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.

After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.

The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.

About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.

PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.

At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”

If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.