With 240 years of history, the U.S. Army has been around the block a few times. Artifacts from its history are put up in museums around the country, but a surprising number of awesome artifacts are kept in storage at a facility in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Here are five of the coolest things tucked away in the U.S. Army Museum Support Center.
(The Army is attempting to build a museum to display many of the artifacts in their collection. To see how to support its construction, check out the museum website. You can also find information on their Facebook.)
1. Badass weapons from history
The firearm collection in the Museum Support Center features weapons used since the start of the American Army. In addition to weapons carried by the average soldier, they have weapons that belonged to historic figures such as the sidearm carried by Maj. Walter Reed, the Army doctor credited with defeating yellow fever.
2. Original artwork by Norman Rockwell
The center is filled with awesome artwork commissioned by the Army, but the crown jewel of the 16,000 works of art is this painting by Norman Rockwell depicting a machine gunner firing into the night. Two other Norman Rockwell paintings are also in the collection.
3. Paintings from active duty soldiers
Famous civilians aren’t the only artists represented in the collections. Since World War I, the Army has maintained an art program in every major conflict. Now, artists in residency usually work in studios at the Museum Support Center in tours of duty two-three year long. They create original artwork that captures the emotion of the Army at war.
4. Uniform items from the Revolution to today
Carefully preserved in a series of shelves, gear and uniform items from the last 150 years are stored in the collection. This drum and hat were worn by Buffalo Soldiers in the Civil War. Gen. William Westmoreland’s uniform is in the collection as well. They even have a powder horn from 1775 that belonged to a Minute Man.
5. Captured enemy artwork and propaganda
Some of the most stunning displays in the collection were captured during war. This depiction of Hitler was bayoneted by the soldier who found it. America has 436 artifacts taken from Nazi Germany under the peace treaty as part of an effort to ensure the Nazi Party never rose again.
To learn more about the collection, check out the video below.
The military has embraced openly-gay members within its ranks, and now squabbles over combat roles for women and whether to accept transgender troops, but the future may require the Pentagon to accept whomever it can get.
At the height of the Iraq War, it seemed like the standard for service was so low, even convicted felons could get into the Army and Marine Corps. But today, more than two-thirds of America’s young people wouldn’t qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral, or educational problems.
The services have long required at least a high-school education as a prerequisite for joining. The Army used to offer GED assistance for recruits who wanted to join. These days, having a felony conviction is out of the question, but so are some tattoos, gauged earlobes, and taking hyperactivity medication. The Pentagon says 71 percent of America’s 34 million 17-24 year old population would fail to qualify for enlistment.
Of those eligible for service, the Army estimates only one percent even have an interest.
The U.S. Army’s major enlistment requirements include:
Ages between 17 and 34 years old
Must be U.S. citizen or legal foreign national
Must have high school diploma or equivalent
Minimum 33 score on Armed Forces Qualification Test
No tattoos on fingers, neck or face
No ear gauges
No ADHD medication win the past 12 months
No felony convictions
No persistent illegal drug use
No insulin-dependent diabetes
Meet height weight requirements
The biggest single reason for failing to meet the requirements is obesity. Maj, Gen. Allen Batschelet, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, says obesity is becoming a national security issue.
“The obesity issue is the most troubling because the trend is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “We think by 2020 it could be as high as 50%, which mean only 2 in 10 would qualify to join the Army.” He paused. “It’s a sad testament to who we are as a society right now.”
Lt. Gen. Mark Phillip Hertling, the Commanding General of US Army Europe and Seventh Army, discuseed the issues he faced while overseeing the Army’s initial training, and the economics involved with keeping soldiers fit to fight, in this TED talk:
This isn’t recent news, however. In 2009, a similar study was conducted which had similar results. It was so disturbing back in 2009, it led 550 retired admirals, generals, and other retired senior military leaders to form Mission:Readiness, a nonprofit advocacy group to urge lawmakers to expand high-quality early childhood education programs, increased access to healthier food at school, and improved quality and quantity of Physical Education.
Recently, Starbucks, the Schultz Family Foundation and JP Morgan convened in Washington, D.C., to explore impactful ways to empower veterans. This meeting at its core was centered on finding a solution to corporate philanthropy – how can organizations work to produce social change in a chosen area, while still ensuring a return on investment? Across sectors, collective impact has emerged as the answer.
As it relates to the world of nonprofits, collective impact is a framework by which organizations can accomplish more through partnerships with others with shared values, than they can by going alone. Ten years ago this month, I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and in the military, I learned the phrase “one team, one fight,” which perfectly summarizes this concept. Pair this idea of cooperation, not competition, with the generous financial backing of corporate donors, and you have the foundation for real change.
Here is a real world example: To raise awareness for breast cancer research and domestic violence, the Avon Foundation gives grants to nonprofits to strengthen the work they do on the ground. Corporate partnerships are a key component of amplifying the work of nonprofits, but for companies looking to invest in social change, how do you find the right home for your dollars? For those looking to empower veterans and military families, the Got Your 6 campaign has perfected the solution.
Over the last three years, Macy’s has raised $6.7 million dollars for the national veteran campaign Got Your 6 through its annual American Icons campaign. These funds have gone to national programs and events as well as to Got Your 6’s coalition of nonprofit partners in the form of grants, in efforts to advance the veteran empowerment movement.
By vetting each nonprofit partner within its larger coalition, Got Your 6 ensures that corporate funding will go to organizations creating real change in communities across America. From the great work of Macy’s through American Icons, and the generosity of the American people, Got Your 6 was able to give 35 grants over three years to nonprofit partners such as The 6th Branch, a veteran-run nonprofit that utilizes the leadership and operational skills of military veterans to accomplish community service initiatives. Last year, Got Your 6 granted The 6th Branch $93,000, supporting a year’s worth of service to transform abandoned lots in Baltimore into urban farms and safe spaces for youth recreation. Last month, members from team Got Your 6 participated in an urban greening event with The 6th Branch at the Oliver Community Farm in Baltimore; a veteran-created community resource designed to provide fresh produce in response to a lack of healthy food options in the area.
From my time as a cadet at West Point to the 17 months I spent in Baghdad during the height of the surge, I’ve seen first-hand the power of collective impact and how critical it is to success, regardless of the mission. To continue supporting a resurgence of community in America, Macy’s is again working with Got Your 6 on this year’s iteration of American Icons. Veterans will directly benefit the more people know about this: Americans can shop at Macy’s for Got Your 6 Weekend on Friday, May 13 through Sunday, May 15 to donate $3 at the register or online at Macys.com to receive a special savings pass, with 100% of all donations going directly to Got Your 6 and its coalition of nonprofit partners.
I have been leading teams my entire life, in and out of the Army, and I couldn’t be more proud of Got Your 6 as we lead the veteran empowerment movement, leveraging a “one team, one fight” approach. Companies looking to support social change should seriously consider the collective impact mindset. As exemplified by Macy’s and Got Your 6, measurable impact can occur when all parties work together.
In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing Thursday, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said it would be an honor to serve again, mentioned myriad challenges in the world, and brought up a touching personal story about his mother — showing how his family’s military ties and career have come full circle.
“Finally, on a personal note, I’ve worked at the Pentagon twice in my career,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A few people may know I’m not the first person in my family to do so, when, in the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20 years-old and working in military intelligence. She was part of the first government employees to move into the still unfinished Pentagon.”
“She had come to America as an infant and lives today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Little could she imagine in her youth that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here in front of you today.”
Mattis is right about that. A neighbor and close friend of his mother in Richland, Washington told a reporter in December that she was amazed at what he had accomplished in his career, and apparently his mother said “I can’t even believe he’s my son.”
Neither his mother nor other family members made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see the 66-year-old retired general testify. When asked by Republican Sen. John McCain whether he wanted to recognize any family members in the audience, Mattis quipped: “Thank you Senator. They are safely west of the Rockies.”
Before Mattis spoke, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen testified in support of the general and also mentioned his 94-year-old mother, who he said he was a “devoted son” to. Cohen also mentioned Mattis remains a member of a local food bank in the area.
The death of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, in the Kuala Lampur Airport, was apparently due to the use of the deadly nerve agent VX.
According to a report by the London Telegraph, the Malaysian police do not believe that anyone else is at risk, but teams are sweeping the airport to decontaminate areas where the suspected killer may have been. The Associated Press reported that four individuals who Malaysian police are interested in have fled the country, including a North Korean diplomat and a worker with the regime’s state-run airline.
VX was first developed by British scientists in the 1950s as an insecticide. The deadliness of the agent caught everyone by surprise, and it soon found its way into American arsenals. The telegraph notes that those who are hit may feel one of two opposite initial reactions: Giddiness or nausea. Shortly afterwards come the convulsions as the nervous system shuts down.
A victim’s one chance for survival when exposed to VX is a rapid administration of atropine. That drug counters the effect by blocking nerve receptors that VX seeks to overwhelm. The Telegraph notes that Western intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has about 5,000 tons of this nerve agent.
The United States had VX in stock, with one delivery system being the BLU-80 “Bigeye” chemical bomb, according to Designation-Systems.net. After the 1996 Chemical Weapons Convention, the United States discarded all of its VX – and other chemical weapons.
The nerve agent was used as a plot point in the 1990s action movie “The Rock,” which starred Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. The details surrounding it were not accurate technically.
The Army is in the early stages of creating requirements for a new externally mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the MK-19 grenade launcher.
The idea is to simultaneously lighten the load of mobile attack forces while increasing their lethality and envelope of attack with a single system that achieves the offensive firepower, and desired combat effects, of both weapons.
“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Laura Battista, product management engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The effort is still very much in the early or conceptual phases, though future engineering and requirements initiatives plan to give shape, contours, and direction to the new weapon; as a result, Army officials did not yet specify a time frame as to when this might be operational. It is reasonable, however, to assume that requirements, designs, and then prototypes could emerge in the next few years.
The details of how this will be accomplished have not yet emerged, though the planning is to engineer a weapon that has the attack and suppressive fire ability of a .50 cal along with an explosive “area weapon” effect of a grenade launcher.
The new, combined-fires weapons would bring both logistical and tactical advantages. A single unit on the move could much more easily attack a wider range of targets with one weapon, laying down suppressive fire or attacking with machine gun fire and also achieving the effects of firing grenades at enemy locations when needed.
The Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel for the .50 cal.
“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time,” Battista said. “We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16 pounds off of a 26-pound barrel.”
The Army’s .50-cal program is looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter-weight caseless ammunition that will reduce the amount of brass needed, Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics, and fire-control technology for the .50 cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic would most likely be put on the gun within the next five years.
A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.
New lightweight .50 cal
The Army is creating a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-caliber machine gun designed to better enable soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move, and transport between missions.
The new weapon, engineered to be 20 to 30% lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.
The emerging lightweight .50 cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted, and tested.
The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and then go to Anniston Army Depot in Alabama for riveting and further construction.
“We always want to lighten the soldier load,” Battista said. “A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon.”
“We will procure 30 and then go into full-blown testing — air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability, and government standard testing,” Battista added. “We’ll see how it did compared to the M2, and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record.”
An intimidating combat-tested weapon
The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.
“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista said.
The machine gun is used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships, and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters away and destroy area targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.
The .50 cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks, and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500 rounds a minute.
“It can be used for antipersonnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles,” Maj. Keith Muehling, assistant product manager for crew-served weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview. “Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor.”
The Army owns what is called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50 cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista said.
The Army now operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-caliber weapons designed with numerous improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring, or causing soldier injury, officials said. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 barrel extension can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 barrel extension can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio said.
The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50 cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.
The lighter weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount, and fire the weapon against enemies.
“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around, it is on a pedestal tripod,” Meuhling said. “If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound-heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself, that is an added benefit.”
The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.” The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are spaced to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, service officials said.
Kelsey DeSantis’ accomplished much during her enlistment, including being the honor grad of her boot camp class and qualifying as one of the few female trainers at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. But in pop music circles she is perhaps best known for having Justin Timberlake as her date for the Birthday Ball in 2011.
“I didn’t do it because I used to wear N-Synch t-shirts or was a fan at all,” DeSantis told WATM while she prepped to compete for the title of Ms. Veteran America in mid-October of this year. “I did it because I was studying for the sergeants board and I had to know current events.”
“I had two female civilian roommates at the time and they were helping me study,” she explained. “One of them said, ‘Oh, look, Mila Kunis got invited to the Marine Corp Birthday Ball.'”
At the time Kunis and Timberlake were doing interviews to promote the movie “Friends and Benefits” that co-starred them. One interviewer brought up the fact that Kunis had been invited to the USMC Birthday Ball by a Marine in Afghanistan who’d posted a video on YouTube. Kunis claimed she’d never seen the video, which caused Timberlake to emphatically encourage her to attend, saying “you have to serve your country.”
Timberlake’s enthusiasm and the way he framed Kunis’ obligation to attend as a form of national service didn’t impress DeSantis. “He said it about three of four times – ‘do it for your country; serve your country – which made my blood boil,” she said. “I was like . . . really?”
So the young corporal decided to make a YouTube video of her own inviting Timberlake to be her date for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. “I wasn’t even sure where the ball was being held,” she said. “I thought it was going to be in Washington when it actually was going on in Richmond.”
DeSantis had never produced a video for YouTube, but she had a basic concept in mind: she’d address the camera with the appropriate mix of directness and sass with a line of her fellow Marines standing behind her. The next day she asked one of her senior enlisted guys if he’d be in the video, knowing that if he participated she’d also get others to join. The tactic worked, and without wasting any time the group assembled and shot the video. “We did it in one take,” DeSantis said.
“You want to call out my girl Mila?” De Santis says to Timberlake in the video. “Well, I’m going to call you out and ask you to come to the Marine Corps ball with me on November 12. If you can’t go, all I have to say is, cry me a river.”
As soon as the video hit YouTube “it blew up,” DeSantis said. Her CO called her in and ordered her to take it down. She demurred, saying that her roommates had posted the video on a special Facebook page they created to entreat Timberlake to respond and she had no control over that.
The concern of higher-ups intensified when Timberlake wound up accepting. But instead of fighting it, the Marine Corps public affairs machine decided to use the pop star’s attendance as a vehicle to promote the service in a positive light.
The night proved to be very successful from all points of view, including those of DeSantis and Timberlake. They shared one dance and a hug at the end of the evening.
“He was a complete gentlemen,” DeSantis said. “You could tell he genuinely enjoyed himself.”
For his part, the next day Timberlake posted his sentiments on his blog, describing the Marine Corps Birthday Ball as “one of the most moving evenings I’ve ever had.”
DeSantis’ enlistment ended the following year, and she left the Corps to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter and to pursue her passion for veteran advocacy. The MMA part of the plan was interrupted earlier this year when she found out she was pregnant.
She feared her pregnancy would jeopardize her ability to be a contestant in the Ms. Vet America event to which she’d committed after being selected as a finalist, but when she informed Jas Boothe, the event founder, Boothe replied, “Are you kidding me? This is what we’re all about.”
DeSantis was eight months along during the Ms. Veteran America event, and her proud presence on the runway among her fellow contestants was evidence that this wasn’t just another beauty pageant.
See Kelsey Desantis in The Mighty TV mini doc about the Ms. Veteran America Event here.
President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.
According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.
The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.
The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”
“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”
When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”
In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”
Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.
“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know. Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”
Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”
Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.
It probably doesn’t feel great to be outnumbered and fought into a corner. That’s probably why American troops tend to avoid those situations.
You never know what surrender could bring. At best, the unit is just out of the war ’til the end. At worst, the officer in charge might just get everyone killed.
Maybe it’s better to risk a fight to the death.
1. “I have not yet begun to fight.”
– John Paul Jones, Continental Navy Captain during the Revolutionary War.
While at the Battle of Flamborough Head, John Paul Jones and his combined American and French squadron of ships went head-to-head with large British frigates protecting British shipping.
From the Bonhomme Richard, Jones engaged the frigate HMS Serapis for hours. Each tried to board then subsequently sink their opponent. When the captain of Searapis called for Jones to surrender, he uttered this now-famous reply.
He is the only Continental commander to bring the Revolution to the British, raiding English shipping in the Irish Sea and the English town of Whitehaven.
– The cannon Texian commander William Barret Travis fired at Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Alamo.
By now, most Americans know the story of the old Spanish mission in San Antonio. Santa Anna’s 1,800-strong Mexican Army laid siege to the Alamo for ten days as an estimated 200 or more defenders held their ground for Texas’ independence.
Santa Anna’s troops slaughtered the defenders of the Alamo to the last man. He would be captured by the Texian Army days later while hiding amongst his soldiers after losing the Battle on San Jacinto, forcing him to grant Texas its independence.
3. “I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request.”
– General Zachary Taylor to Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
President Polk deliberately gave all but 4,650 of Zachary Taylor’s troops to General Winfield Scott in an effort to diminish Taylor’s growing popularity back home. When Santa Anna learned about this, he sent his army of 15,000 Mexicans to annihilate Taylor.
Instead, Taylor’s army routed the Mexicans, despite being outnumbered 3-to-1. Rather than checking Taylor’s popularity, the general’s military acumen so impressed the Whig Party, they ran him as their candidate for President, despite disagreeing with him on practically every issue.
He was easily elected.
4. “I will do my best to meet you.”
– Confederate General James Longstreet’s reply to Union General George A. Custer.
Custer threatened to “immediately renew hostilities” just as Lee and Grant were discussing the term of the surrender of all Confederate forces at Appomattox Court House, demanding Longstreet surrender separately.
Longstreet then bluffed that he had many more operational units than he did by ordering imaginary these units forward as he spoke to Custer. Custer balked and withdrew his demand.
– General Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne while surrounded at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
Major General Maxwell Taylor was at a staff conference in the United States when strong German armor units surrounded the 101st around the Belgian city of Bastogne. General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz sent a surrender demand threatening to annihilate the U.S. troops if they didn’t capitulate.
McAuliffe’s response was interpreted to von Lüttwitz as “go to hell.”
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
President Barack Obama transits aboard Air Force One through the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 2, 2015. Obama was in town to discuss job training and economic growth during a visit to Indatus, a Louisville-based technology company that focuses on cloud-based applications.
Crew chiefs prepare a B-1B Lancer on Al Udeid Airbase, Qatar, for combat operations against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists, April 8, 2015. Al Udeid is a strategic coalition air base in Qatar that supports over 90 combat and support aircraft and houses more than 5,000 military personnel.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79) moors between two buoys in Port Victoria, Seychelles. Oscar Austin is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.
CARIBBEAN SEA (April 15, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 22 provides search and rescue support during a search and rescue exercise conducted by the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) during Continuing Promise 2015.
A Paratrooper from the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division provides security while mounted on a camouflaged Lightweight Tactical All Terrain Vehicle during Combined Joint Operational Access Exercise 15-01 on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 14, 2015.
Engineers, from 2nd Cavalry Regiment, conduct a platoon breach at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, April 13, 2015, as part of Exercise Saber Junction 15. Saber Junction 15 is a multinational training exercise which builds and maintains partnership and interoperability within NATO.
LISBON, Portugal – U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa post security during an assault training exercise near Lisbon, Portugal, April 10, 2015. Marines stationed out of Moron Air Base, Spain, traveled to Portugal to utilize a variety of different ranges and training exercises alongside with the Portuguese Marines.
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY , N.C. – Naval aviators with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 shoot flares from an EA-6B Prowler during routine training above Eastern North Carolina, April 14, 2015. VMAQT-1 student pilots and electronics countermeasures officers train to perform dynamic maneuvers while focusing on communication and radar jamming.
A helicopter from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen stands at the ready on the flight deck of Coast Guard Cutter Resolute.
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Senecastands watch over Lower Manhattan in New York City with One World Trade Center in the background.
Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman, the “Boat Guys” in all those Navy SEALs photos, are a small and elite bunch of warriors who don’t get nearly enough credit for their contribution to American security.
Here’s what makes the “SEALs Taxi Service” so lethal.
First, yes, they have SEALs on the boats. When your payload is Navy SEALs, that’s a pretty big plus in the lethality department.
Combatant-craft crews can be sent against enemy shipping and other water traffic to shut down commerce or supply operations.
The SWCC crews keep an eye out for enemy movements or other activity in their domain. If they identify a threat, they can prosecute it themselves or report it up to the deepwater guys for help.
The SWCCs do all of this from some of the world’s most advanced and dangerous small crafts.
Their boats are typically well-armed, and SWCCs train extensively on small craft tactics and strategies.
The Navy prefers to deploy SWCC craft in groups so boats can provide fire support to one another.
But even a single boat brings a lot of firepower.
Navy SWCCs can launch and recover their vehicles in the well decks of larger ships.
And some of the boats can even be airdropped into the water for operations. All SWCC operators are static-line parachute qualified so they can jump with their boats.
Of course, jumping after a boat means the operators will land in the water. So they conduct open water swims, sometimes into near-freezing water, to prepare.
The Navy gets sailors ready for this grueling job by demanding constant and rigorous physical training.
A Crewman Qualification Training candidate puts on his flippers before swimming in Coronado Bay during a Monster Mash training exercise. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
Navy SWCC and SEAL candidates awaiting training are assigned to the Fleet Transition Program to ensure they remain physically capable of becoming elite maritime warriors.
The SWCC training pipeline consists four phases, the two-month Naval Special Warfare Preparatory School, Naval Special Warfare Orientation, Basic Crewman Training, and Crewman Qualification Training.
And the Navy isn’t afraid to recruit potential candidates while they’re still young. Scout teams go into the community to seek out talented individuals who might be interested in a special operations career.
The Navy has over 700 sailors trained and assigned as SWCCs at a time. This tiny force conducts dangerous and essential missions all over the world.
The hullabaloo surrounding the future of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II has been endless.
Its effectiveness on the battlefield has been proven with servicemembers on the ground going as far as calling it their “guardian angel” in the heat of battle. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including its notorious 30mm Gatling gun, it’s not hard to see why the A-10 commands such respect.
However, even with its impressive resume, the Air Force continues to float plans to replace the A-10 after 40 years of service.
Even so, a Defense News interview with a US Air Force official indicated that a compromise may be on the negotiating table.
Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, explained that a new light attack aircraft could be introduced that would not outright replace the fleet of nearly 300 A-10s, but instead, supplement them starting as early as 2017.
In doing so, Defense News reports that this new light aircraft, called Observation, Attack, Experimental (OA-X), would give commanders a cheap alternative to fight insurgents, compared to the costs of operating the A-10 and other fighter aircraft.
“Do you believe that this war that we’re fighting to counter violent extremists is going to last another 15 years?” Holmes asked in the Defense News interview. “If you believe it does, and our chief believes it will, then you have to think about keeping a capability that’s affordable to operate against those threats so that you’re not paying high costs per flying hour to operate F-35s and F-22s to chase around guys in pickup trucks.”
However, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the A-10 being outright replaced. Defense Newsreported that the Air Force began floating an A-10 replacement possibility in July. Under the proposal, the Air Force would conduct close air support (CAS) missions with the A-10 with a supporting cheap OA-X in low-threat environments.
Under the proposal, the Air Force would at a later date also acquire a fleet of future A-X aircraft that would perform in medium-threat environments and eventually replace the A-10.
Also on the table was the possibility of pushing back the projected retirement date of the A-10 from 2022 due to the high operational costs of the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters.
It should be noted, however, that the annual cost of the A-10 program costs less than 2% of the Air Force’s budget. In 2014, it was also reported that the A-10 costed about $11,500 per hour to operate — about a third of the hourly cost of the military’s latest F-35 Lightning II.