Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army's next rotary wing aircraft - We Are The Mighty
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Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
An artist’s conception of V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)


The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.

The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”

Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.

“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”

But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”

“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The first Valor on the assembly line in Amarillo. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.

Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.

Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.

Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Artist’s conception of a section of Valors ingressing during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”

The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.

“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”

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This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.


The equipment — some of it re-sold to buyers in Russia, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine — included machine gun and rifle parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights, generators, medical equipment, and more.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is being tried in Nashville on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Photo from DoD

Roberts, 27, testified Aug. 30 that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment, and said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, on eBay, and in gun stores.

“I didn’t try to hide anything,” Roberts said Aug. 30. “That’s why I filed taxes on everything I sold on eBay. I thought it was OK.”

Roberts said the soldiers told him the equipment was legally purchased from other soldiers or that the Army was discarding the equipment. He also said he didn’t know that he needed to have a license to export certain items overseas.

But a former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. It was “fast easy money,” Wilson said. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud, and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby

The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said, so “there were a lot of items and good money to be made.”

Wilson and Roberts shared a warehouse in Clarksville where they stored the equipment, but Roberts said they were not sharing funds. Roberts said the two just had a shared interest in selling things on eBay.

Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. They removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion, he said. Under questioning from Roberts’ defense attorney, David Cooper, Wilson acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about knowing the equipment wasn’t allowed to be shipped overseas.

In 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency notified Roberts that it had seized a military flight helmet he tried to ship overseas. The Customs letter noted that he was required to have a license to export that item. Roberts said he didn’t remember reading that paragraph. Roberts also testified that he changed descriptions and values on shipping labels to minimize the risk of customs theft in other countries and to lower import taxes for the overseas buyers.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Zeski.

Michael Barlow, a former Fort Campbell platoon sergeant who pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy, testified that they started small, but eventually escalated to truckloads of military equipment. He said Roberts even gave him a “Christmas list” of items he wanted the soldiers to steal in Afghanistan and bring back to the United States.

“They wanted more and more, mostly weapons parts,” Barlow testified.

Barlow said his company came home with five large cargo containers filled with equipment as the US military drew down troops and closed bases in Afghanistan. Barlow said he and other soldiers sometimes got $1,000 to $2,000 per truckload.

One non-commissioned officer was even charging civilian buyers $500 to come onto Fort Campbell to select items for purchase, Barlow said.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
M16 assault rifles. DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

Roberts said he was invited to come on the Fort Campbell military post to look at cargo containers belonging to Barlow’s unit. Roberts said he was told the containers needed to be cleaned out of “pretty used stuff,” and that he took some items. He said the transaction occurred in broad daylight in front of other soldiers.

The conspiracy allegedly continued from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians pointed to regular meet-ups to swap cash for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes, and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going “hunting” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified on Aug. 29.

The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Villanueva II.

Roberts’ defense attorney David Cooper asked Perry if she could prove that the equipment offered on eBay, or that Roberts had pictures of on his phone, was stolen from Fort Campbell. Perry said that in many cases she could not, because many of the stolen items did not have serial numbers, but were similar to items reported stolen.

Another former Fort Campbell soldier, Jonathan Wolford, testified on Aug. 30 that he and another soldier, Dustin Nelson, took about 70 boxes of weapons parts and other gear, some of it labeled with the name of their company, to Wilson and Roberts, who paid them $1,200. Wolford plead guilty to conspiracy to steal government property.

They were both in charge of their company’s arms supply room at the time, Wolford said, and started selling equipment that wasn’t listed in the company’s property books, including machine gun barrels, M4 rifle parts, pistol grips, buttstocks, and other items typically used to repair weapons.

Asked in court why he didn’t ask for more money, Wolford said, “I was making a little bit of money. I didn’t pay anything for it.”

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ICE detained this Afghan man who helped the US military

Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.


Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status. 

“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him. 

Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.

Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Customs at Ramstein Air Base. (Photo: Jeremy Bender/ Business Insider)

“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.

Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies. 

The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.

Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case. 

Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.

Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.

In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1. 

“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”

Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles. 

Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

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This is another example of how the Air Force has better treatment

Over the past four months, a small team of air advisors, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve to Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, combined its efforts to enhance and improve the US Air Force’s compound, changing the working conditions for the airmen assigned there.


When the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group replaced the 123rd Contingency Response Group at Qayyarah West Airfield in early March 2017, they inherited bare bone facilities. The prior contingency response groups had built the US Air Force’s part of Qayyarah West up from scratch to start operations, but their mission was not long term.

Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Air Force

There was a small, open tent used for a passenger terminal that exposed waiting service members to the heat, a canopy spread across two conex boxes used as a vehicle maintenance area, which provided limited protection from the sun, and some of the enclosed tents had mold and rotting wood floors.

The air advisors immediately identified that the air terminal operations center tent had a mold issue that needed to be addressed, said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Tenebruso, the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Detachment 1 expeditionary maintenance flight chief.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
A USAF Airman assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group, spreads concrete at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 10, 2016. Photo by Pfc. Christopher Brecht

After Qayyarah West Airfield, commonly referred to as “Q-West,” was recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in October 2016, the US Air Force promptly established a presence, repaired the destroyed airfield, and made it ready to be used as a strategic launching pad for the offensive in Mosul.

From mid-October until early March, the 821st and 123rd CRGs deployed personnel to quickly open the airfield and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations in the austere environment.

The current team from the 370th AEAG was the first air expeditionary force rotation or permanent party to call Q-West home outside of the short-term deployed CRG units assigned to rapidly establish operations.

“Everyone wanted to make this place better than what we came into,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Johnson, the NCO in charge of vehicle maintenance assigned to the 370th AEAG, Det. 1. “We identified the needs to better the compound trying to make things more efficient and safer. Everything we’ve done has a purpose and we worked together as a team to make the improvements happen.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Q-West restoration. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles

The small team of air advisors worked together to procure and establish tents to be used as a new passenger terminal, morale facility, vehicle maintenance tent and tactical operations center. With the assistance of their joint-service partners, the tents were placed on flooring designed to reduce future mold issues.

The new passenger terminal helped improve the 370th AEAG’s daily facilitation of large passenger movements for both rotary and fixed wing aircraft in support of CJTF-OIR.

The new vehicle maintenance facility improved efficiency for the maintainers as they can now not only get out of the sun to work on their vehicles, but also complete tasks during all hours of the day.

In order for the compound’s expansion to take place, the power grid needed to be upgraded.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Senior Airman Zevon Davis, 821st Contingency Response Group aircraft maintainer, marshals out an Iraqi C-130 Hercules at Qayyarah Airfield West, Iraq, Nov. 13, 2016. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo

“Staff Sgt. Benton took the lead on expanding the power grid,” said Tenebruso. “He is an AGE guy used to working on flightline equipment, but here he is working on power production and distribution. Thanks to his capabilities we are now almost as close to uninterrupted power as possible, which make our operations much more sustainable.”

Staff Sgt. Shawn Benton, an aerospace ground equipment craftsman, as well as the other maintenance personnel, often work outside of their scope to assist with facility upgrades and sustainment at Q-West.

“We want to make this the best place that we can for future rotations,” said Tenebruso. “Everyone here is under the mentality that we leave this place better than we found it and make it so the next rotation does not have the issues we did. Things are very different than when we first got here.”

Initially, there was not a cargo grid yard for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron’s aerial port function, but the aerial porters worked with the Army to procure Hesco barriers and enclose a 32,000 square-foot grid yard to secure its assets.

 

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve presents a coin to a Sailor of the combat support hospital in Qayyarah West, Iraq March 19, 2017. Photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson.

With limited resources, the aerial porters scrounged up supplies from around the base to create a gate for the cargo yard and a flag pole out of reconstituted metal. The flag pole, which the whole aerial port team helped place in the ground, is the tallest flag pole on the base, Master Sgt. Cliff Robertson, the 442nd AES’s aerial port superintendent, proudly stated.

Another proud achievement of the Q-West Airmen is their “Iron Paradise” makeshift gym. According to Tenebruso, prior to their arrival there was just a wooden bench and a bar with chains duct taped to it that weighed in at a standard 135 pounds. The air advisors have since built a makeshift squat rack and preacher curl bench and acquired more weights, creating an area often filled with Air Force and Army personnel trying to maintain physical fitness in their austere location.

“I am amazed at how well this team has come together to improve the FOB’s conditions since they got here,” said Maj. Dave Friedel, the 370th AEAG, Det. 1 commander. “They made the camp much more livable while still performing their primary advise and assist mission. It’s all about teamwork here and there are a lot of people working well outside their expertise level to make things happen.”
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This could be the next spacesuit American astronauts wear into orbit

Astronauts travelling aboard Elon Musk’s Dragon Capsule will wear form-fitting white-and-black spacesuits that bear little resemblance to their NASA forebears, the SpaceX founder revealed on August 23, a pivotal development in his quest to launch crewed missions to and from the International Space Station and beyond.


Although he offered few details in his sneak-peek Instagram post – “More in the days to follow,” a brief message promises – the tech billionaire, who is also chief executive of automaker Tesla, indicated that his spacesuit is functional and tested to withstand pressure loss while traveling through space. And in a nod to the design, he noted how “incredibly hard” it was to marry aesthetics and survivability.

The unveiling comes as SpaceX and aeronautics giant Boeing each have struggled to meet deadlines for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a cost-savings partnership between the agency and private industry focused on facilitating travel to the space station. It could be 2019 before either is certified to fly astronauts there, although both hope to conduct their first crewed test flights next year.

 

 

Boeing, maker of the Starliner space capsule, unveiled its minimalist “Boeing Blue” spacesuit in January. Like the new SpaceX suit, Boeing’s product is lighter, and more tailored and flexible than the cumbersome gear NASA astronauts have worn since the 1960s.

That’s because they’re built for a distinctive mission. For commercial flights to and from the space station, these suits will be worn during launch and reentry, or if a problem occurs causing the capsule to depressurize. As Thuy Ong notes for the Verge, this gear is specifically not intended for spacewalks, so it doesn’t need to provide the same bulky protection from dust and debris, or temperature fluctuation.

Photos of the SpaceX suit (or an early incarnation) first surfaced many months ago on Reddit, where observers were struck by its futuristic appearance. Like science fiction, some said.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Early photos of the SpaceX suit. Image from @SpaceX_fanz on Instagram, via Reddit.

Musk might disagree. The image he released August 23 is refined, exhibiting the considerable attention he gives not only to his products’ function but to the sophistication and simplicity of their design.

Consider, for instance, some early feedback on his newest electric car, the Tesla Model 3, in which nearly all functions – from the wiper blades to the air conditioning and stereo – are controlled via a small touch display beside the steering wheel. Musk has called the car “a very simple, clean design.” That’s deliberately so, he said in July, an effort to recognize that “in the future – really, the future being now – the cars will be increasingly autonomous.”

Indeed, after a three-minute test ride in the Model 3, The Washington Post’s Peter Holley observed the following: “It’s not so much that Tesla is ushering in the future… I’m more inclined to think that Tesla is single-handedly pulling the automotive industry into the present.”

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm at the International Space Station. Image from NASA.

The SpaceX Dragon was built to shuttle cargo into space, which it accomplished for the first time in 2012. It can be configured to carry a crew of seven.

Beyond the space station, Musk has said he wants to launch a human mission to Mars by 2025, a much more ambitious schedule than NASA envisions.

Perfecting the spacesuit technology was seen as a vital benchmark.

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10 things to look forward to about military retirement (and 5 things not to)

Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you’ll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.


First, 10 things you can look forward to:

1. Higher pay

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

This is what everyone gets excited for and it’s a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you’ll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It’s not Easy Street, but it’s Easier Than Before Street.

2. Stability

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Cpt. Angela Webb)

This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we’ll be sent next. So when that train stops, it’s hard for some people to deal with. Others can’t wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It’s nice to finally have an address that doesn’t change and no chance of another deployment order.

3. PT on your time

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly leaps over a gutter during training at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. He is training to be a part of the Paralympic track and field team for the 2016 Paralympic Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

If you hated early morning PT then good news … you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.

4. Networking

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: Starbucks)

This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you’re a professional. If a post-military job doesn’t work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.

5. Health insurance

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam)

While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you’ll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective … okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn’t have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I’m probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.

6. Hobbies

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: Wikimedia)

Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.

7. Joining the “old farts” organizations

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Army vet, actor, and American Legion member Johnny Jenkinson. (Photo: We Are The Mighty)

The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they’re honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.

8. Running into old friends again

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement …

9. Reliving old tales

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo.

Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.

10. Facial hair

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Gen. George Crook. (Photo: Civil War archives)

Come on … you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.

Now, five things not to look forward to:

1. Loss of camaraderie

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain during an Adaptive Sports Camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform…or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it’s hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.

2. Lack of respect from young bucks

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov

Get it through your head that your former rank doesn’t mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you’re Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he’s in uniform, get over it.

3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.

4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: Greenbrier Historical Society)

Whether you’re picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.

5. Dental insurance

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
(Photo: Department of Defense)

For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I’ve worked for since retiring. Weird.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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This is why the first combat submarine was a death trap

For decades, submarines have been patrolling and protecting America’s ships with honor as they operate deep down below the sea’s surface. Functioning as the “Silent Service,” these vessels have come a long way with their vast array of technological advances and undersea stealth.


But the concept goes back as far as the Revolutionary War, though how it got to the level of today’s technology is a wonder given the dangers of plying the ocean’s depths.

The “Drebbel,” the “Turtle,” and the “Nautilus” were all early versions of submarine technology that never quite got underway. But it wouldn’t be until Confederate Naval Secretary Stephen Mallory authorized the construction of the CSS H.L. Hunley to break the blockade of their southern ports that sub-surface warfare really came into its own.

Related: This is how German submarines changed the world during World War I

After completion, the Hunley measured 40-feet long, 4-feet high, and 42-inches wide tightly housing a crew of eight men who had to power the vessel by hand cranking the propeller and steer through the ocean’s dark waters.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
This photo showcases the eight men it took to operate and propel the CSS Hunley through the water. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

During its first testing phase in the fall of 1863, the CSS Hunley failed and sunk killing five crew members. The sub was recovered, but sank again and killed all eight crew, including co-inventor Horace Hunley, later that same year.

Although considered a dud, the Hunley’s commanders still believed in its worth and resurrected the sub from the water for the second time.

It wouldn’t be until Feb. 17, 1864, where the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic and soon after plunged toward the ocean’s floor for a third time killing all of its crew — a real death trap.

In 2000, the Hunley was raised from the depths, restored and put on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Also Read: This legendary Navy skipper sank 19 enemy ships

Check out the HISTORY channel’s video for the Hunley’s sub-legendary history and ingenuity.

(HISTORY, YouTube)Fun fact: Theodore Roosevelt was the first American president to make an undersea dive in the USS Plunger, in 1905.
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The first Medal of Honor went to a soldier who stole a Confederate train

Jacob Parrott was a U.S. soldier who participated in the legendary Civil War mission popularly known as the Great Locomotive Race. His bravery as a member of the Union crew that stole a Confederate train led to recognition as the nation’s first Medal of Honor recipient.

Now, Parrott’s story is told in “Medal of Honor: Jacob Parrott,” the latest issue of the Association of the United States Army’s graphic novel series. You can view or download a free copy at www.ausa.org/parrott.Advertisement

Prior to the Civil War, the democratic peoples of the United States resisted the very idea of military medals. Americans connected a chest covered in fruit salad with the kind of European traditions the new nation was designed to eliminate.

Give the credit to Lt. Col. Edward D. Townsend for first suggesting a medal of honor to his boss Commanding General of the U.S. Army Winfield Scott in 1861. Scott resisted, but the idea took hold. After Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles supported legislation for a Navy version, the Army got on board with the concept and Congress passed legislation that created the award.

The April 1862 mission, led by civilian spy James Andrews, was designed to cut off Confederate supply lines by destroying rail tracks and telegraph communications along a route between Marietta, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Andrews’ raiders boarded a train in Marietta and hijacked it when passengers got off for breakfast at the first stop heading north.Advertisement

If Confederate troops holding Chattanooga could not be resupplied from the South, Union generals believed they could take the city and speed up the South’s defeat, ending the war at least two years before the actual surrender at Appomattox.

Confederate soldiers chased the train. Andrews’ men had to switch trains over the course of the journey and their replacement train ran out of water and fuel before they could complete their mission. The men scattered and Andrews was executed by Confederates for leading the mission. Parrott was captured and flogged before imprisonment. He was later returned to the Union Army in a prisoner exchange.

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Jacob Parrott (Claude Jarman Jr.) receives the Medal of Honor from President Abraham Lincoln in “The Great Locomotive Chase.” (Disney)

The story has been told on film before. Disney made “The Great Locomotive Chase,” a 1956 movie starring Fess Parker as James Andrews. Parker was at the height of his Davy Crockett fame. Claude Jarman Jr., best known as Jody in “The Yearling,” played Jacob Parrott in his final movie role before ending his on-screen career to join the U.S. Navy.

The movie tries to appeal to all audiences. The Confederates are honorable men who have a mission and so are the Union spies. Parker even tries to shake hands with his Confederate nemesis William Fuller (played by Jeffrey Hunter) before he goes to the gallows. There are opponents but no one’s really the villain.

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Jacob Parrott was one of six Army volunteers who received a medal of honor on March 25, 1863. Because he’d been physically abused in a Confederate prisoner of war camp, Parrott was the first man to receive his medal in recognition of his sacrifice. He was joined that day by Sgt. Elihu H. Mason, Cpl. William Pittinger, Cpl. William H. H. Reddick, Pvt. William Bensinger and Pvt. Robert Buffum.

AUSA will be publishing three more Medal of Honor graphic novels this year, featuring Mitchell Red Cloud Jr., a Native American soldier who sacrificed his life in Korea, Wild Bill Donovan, the WWI hero who later founded the OSS, and Roger Donlon, the first recipient from the Vietnam War and the first Special Forces recipient.


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

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5 times troops made headlines for the wrong reasons

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Pfc. Robert Preston’s helicopter being removed from the White House lawn | Wikimedia


This article by James Clark and Michael Lane Smith was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.

For anyone who has worn the uniform, there’s a fundamental truth of service that never makes it into the commercials and recruiting ads: It can be boring as all hell.

Sometimes, either due to good intentions gone awry, frustration, or someone drank too much, service members and veterans make some bad decisions. In many cases, this ends with a hangover or a moment of public embarrassment. Occasionally, these choices lead to sprains and maybe a broken bone or two, like when a Marine decided to jump three stories onto a stack of mattresses.

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YouTube

But sometimes, someone does something so dumb and outrageous that it makes the news. Here are five of those moments.

1. The soldier who stole a puppy to save it from being neutered

In early June 2015, U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Duvel of the Missouri National Guard was caught on video stealing a mixed-breed puppy from the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri with his fiancée, according to ABC affiliate KSPR News.

Having heard from a veterinary hospital that it is unhealthy for dogs to be neutered within the first year of their lives, the couple wanted to make sure this puppy was protected from such an operation. After being denied the opportunity to adopt the puppy, the couple thought the best course of action was to take him anyway.

“Really, the criminal part never really came in mind at all to be honest,” Duvel told KSPR with a seemingly amused grin. “It’d gotten pretty serious so it was pretty much past the point of dropping off some money and saying I’m sorry.”

Presumably Duvel’s chain of command didn’t appreciate seeing “guardsman steals puppy” in the news either.

2. The drunk soldier who defected to North Korea

On the night of Jan. 4, 1965, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins crossed the heavily mined Korean demilitarized zone 10 beers deep and defected to North Korea.

According to Business Insider, Jenkins decided to get drunk and then defect because his unit was being ordered to lead increasingly provocative patrols, and he heard they might be heading to Vietnam. His time in North Korea involved 24-hour surveillance, making it more akin to imprisonment than defection.

Instead of continued service in the military fighting communism, Jenkins spent the next 40 years learning the works of Kim Il-Sung by heart, teaching English to presumed spies in training, and acting in movies as the villain. Needless to say, Jenkins quickly regretted his decision.

In a 2005 interview on “60 Minutes,” Jenkins described being constantly watched and told when to eat, sleep, and even when to have sex. According to Jenkins, the North Korean government eventually brought him an abducted a woman from Japan to teach North Korean spies Japanese, and before long, they were married. Not exactly the most beautiful love story, but it did yield the pair two daughters.

Upon being freed in 2004, Jenkins reported for duty in Japan and was swiftly court-martialed, receiving a significantly reduced sentence for the almost four decades of internment in North Korea. He now sells crackers at a historical museum in Japan.

3. The soldier who landed helicopter on the White House lawn

In the early hours of Feb. 17, 1974, U.S. Army Pfc. Robert Preston buzzed commuterson the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in a stolen Huey, and then approached the White House, landing briefly before Maryland State Police arrived in two choppers of their own.

Preston led them on an aerial chase, leading one officer to say afterward that he was “one hell of a pilot.” He proceeded to hover near the Washington Monument, nearly colliding with it, before returning to the White House, where he hovered 100 meters away on the South Lawn.

After taking shotgun and submachine gun fire, Preston put the Huey down and attempted to escape on foot, but was tackled and arrested. President Richard Nixon, who was in the middle of the Watergate scandal, was not at the White House during all of this.

Even though he led two police choppers, and scores of other law enforcement personnel on a high speed chase, broke a host of laws and military regulations, Preston only served six months in the military stockade, before receiving a general discharge.

4. The drunk Marine who set off the fire suppression system in a hangar

At about 1:45 a.m on May 23, 2015, a Marine drunkenly triggered the foam-based fire suppression system at an Air Force hangar on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Marine Corps Times reported that it’s unclear how the Marine entered the hangar, what specific punishment he may have faced after his arrest, and just what his level of intoxication was.

5. The British soldier who stole an armored vehicle, crashed it, stole another

In February 2009, an 18-year-old British soldier went for a drunken joy ride, stealing not one, but two armored vehicles before running a military police patrol off the road, reported Daily Mail.

German authorities said that the unnamed soldier was “highly intoxicated” when he stole an armored command car, swerved through the entrance at Hoehne Barracks in Northwest Germany, before careening off the road minutes later, reports the Daily Mail.

Astonishingly, the soldier crept back on base, which was now on high alert, and stole another armored vehicle — a tracked ambulance this time — and sped off again. A military police patrol tried to stop him, but was forced off the road before the driver crashed the second vehicle into a tree.

We all got the giggles when we read this,” British Army spokesperson Helga Heine told The Local in 2009. “But stealing a vehicle is a serious offense and it will be dealt with accordingly.”

A German police officer told Daily Mail: “Apparently he muttered something about wanting to see green fields and trees.”

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The US military wants a missile that can carry explosive drones to a target

The US military wants a missile that can carry explosive-packed drones to a target hundreds of miles away, according to a contract solicitation from the Pentagon.


Earlier this month, the DoD announced it was soliciting proposals for this new missile system, which would be fired by the Army’s existing MGM-140 Tactical Missile System or the M-270 Multiple Launch Rocket System. But unlike traditional armaments, the Army wants this missile packed with unmanned quad-copters that will be released, fly to their target, land, and blow themselves up.

Related: Stealth bombers strike ISIS in Libya

“The ultimate goal is to produce a missile deployable, long range [unmanned aerial system] swarm that can deliver small [explosively formed penetrators] to a variety of targets,” the solicitation reads. “This will serve as a smart augmentation to the standard missile warhead.”

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An ATACMS being launched by an M270. | Wikimedia Commons

The payload seems to be meant for hard targets, which the Army says could potentially mean tanks, large guns, fuel storage barrels, and vehicle roofs. The contract doesn’t mention exactly how many drones should be packed inside a missile.

Still, it could potentially mean hundreds of drones being deployed to a target, if a test of a “drone swarm” made public earlier this month is any guide. During that test, three F/A-18 Super Hornets spit out more than 100 tiny Perdix drones, which then linked up with each other to collectively make decisions and fly in formation.

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This sneaky sub attack almost changed the outcome of Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor was mostly an aerial sucker punch.


But history often forgets the role of Japanese submarines.

Just before adding the finishing touches to his sneaky plan, Japanese navy Adm. Yamamoto caved into his fleet’s air-surface rivalry and drew up plans to involve sailors assigned to conventional ships.

Related: The Navy made these incredible photos to show present day Pearl Harbor compared to the day of the attack

“The Japanese air arm was going to get all the glory in the Pearl Harbor attack, and the surface fleet sailors were unhappy about this, they wanted to get in on the action,” said author and historian Dan King in the video below. “But they couldn’t send battleships, cruisers, and destroyers to Pearl Harbor, so the next best thing was to send in submarines.

As it turns out, Yamamoto was no stranger to intra-service rivalry and glory hogging. His promotion of force projection through gunboat diplomacy is a result of the Japanese Army-Navy rivalry.

He fought against political opponents in the Army who only wanted the Navy for the logistical support of invading forces, transport, and supply runs.

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Ko-hoteki class submarine grounded in the surf on Oahu after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. Photo by U.S. Navy.

Yamamoto settled on the 80-foot Type A Ko-hyoteki — or “Midget” — submarine for the attack. The small two-person vessels were armed with only a pair of torpedoes and sent to lay dormant on the harbor floor until the air raid began.

However, in early Dec. 7, before the attack kicked off, an American cargo ship spotted one of these small subs heading to its position on the South end of Oahu. Members of the cargo ship alerted the USS Ward (DD-139), who’s commander immediately called its crew to general quarters.

Two gun blasts and several depth charges later reduced the sub to scrap, and America officially drew first blood. But amazingly, the attack was treated as an isolated incident and didn’t raise any flags of a larger invasion.

This American Heroes Channel video shows how the events played out during the early hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
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Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

The United States military has a long history of adopting so-called wildcat calibers from the civilian world. Hell, the 5.56mm round that fills every M249 belt and M16 magazine has its origins as an experimental varmint round for civilian hunters — the .222 Remington Magnum.


But this was back when the U.S. military’s budget was not only enormous, but had less congressional oversight.

In the middle of the Cold War and a heated arms race with the Soviet Union, America was willing to adopt new tech without concern for the pricy or problematic logistics of adopting a new round for all branches.

Today, only small special operations groups like hand-selected units from SOCOM can afford to rearm with bleeding edge tech or equipment

In particular, sniper elements of various units tend to be the first to adopt new cartridges for their highly specialized work.

For a long time, this meant choosing between 7.62×51, .50 BMG or .300 Winchester Magnum. Eventually, someone decided they wanted the incredible effective range of the .50BMG round without the awful ballistic coefficient that makes anti-personal use at extreme ranges difficult.

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An Army Special Forces communications sergeant, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), spots targets and calls adjustments for his shooter on a mountainside.

After all, .50 BMG began life as a heavy machine gun round suited for anti-vehicle use, then aircraft use before being adopted to anti-material use in big-bore sniper rifles.

Developed in the early 1980s, the resulting .338 Lapua Magnum was an immediate hit in the vast expanses of Middle East like the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan. Yet, it didn’t perform nearly as well in an anti-material role as the .50BMG, and some experts argued it didn’t retain sufficient energy for reliable soft target neutralization past 1,800 yards — though data on terminal ballistics data at this distance are not normally available to the public.

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Picture of .300 Norma Magnum cartridge.

But this seems like a moot point, the best snipers in any military consider a shot at that distance both incredibly difficult and exceptionally rare. Which makes the recent adoption of a new round for the Advanced Sniper Rifle by U.S. Special Operations Command so interesting.

Dubbed, the .300 Norma Magnum, this new round boasts an improved ballistic coefficient over the .338 Lapua. However, the .300 Norma actually uses a .308-caliber round which is smaller than the one employed in the .338 cartridge.

If this seems strange given past complaints about limited effectiveness against semi-hardened targets, you’re on the right path. Indeed, instead of trying to shoehorn a cartridge designed for shooting soft targets into an anti-material role, the new .300 Norma Magnum fully embraces the .308-caliber bullet’s anti-personnel qualities and top-notch ballistic coefficient.

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft
The 300 Norma Magnum may finally put a stop to insurgents using towers of religious buildings or hospitals to call in mortar strikes or coordinate ambushes.

This excellent BC lead some military testers to achieve 20-round groups as small as four inches at 1,100 yards. This is much smaller than the average soldier’s mid-section, and puts a headshot on a stationary target at that range into the realm of possibility.

Some food for thought: At that range, the intended target wouldn’t hear the shot for a full three seconds after it left the barrel.

The new cartridge’s potential for accuracy brings distant soft targets in delicate locations – i.e. those saturated with non-combatants – within the grasp of the US military. While the caliber of the .300 Norma’s projectile may lead some to believe this round is a downgrade from the .338 Lapua, it’s more akin to a different tool for different situations.

This round may finally put a stop to insurgents using towers of religious buildings or hospitals to call in mortar strikes or coordinate ambushes.

But this is all speculation; with the round being as new as it is, and special operators just now adopting it, the public won’t likely hear anything about its performance for years.

Either way, one thing is certain: the long reach of America’s special forces, just got even longer.

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‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, and other former cast members of NBC’s The West Wing reunited to produce an advocacy video on behalf of Justice For Vets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of Veterans Treatment Courts in the U.S. criminal justice system.


Half of the U.S. military’s returning service members experiencing some form of mental health issues, one in five have some form of post-traumatic stress, and one in six struggle with substance abuse, both related to experiences in their service. Many of the 700,000 veterans in the criminal justice system are there because of their service-related trauma, addiction, or mental illness. This is not limited to the veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2008, Judge Robert T. Russell of Buffalo, New York noticed many of the returning faces in his courtroom were veterans. The rising number of veterans in the city’s treatment courts led to the creation of the country’s first Veterans Treatment Court. The idea was to create a support group among the niche population of veterans adopting, with slight modifications, ten key components as described in the U.S. Department of Justice Publication entitled Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components, combining those with the ten essential elements of Mental Health Courts.

These courts allow veterans to appear before judges who understand the unique challenges facing them. More than that, Veterans Treatment Courts give vets the the chance to participate in recovery with fellow veterans, to re-establish the esprit de corps kindled by their military service. The court becomes their new unit with the judge in the role of commanding officer. The new team members support each other and are mentored through their rehabilitation period.

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Veterans Service Officers share a unique bond with particpants and help them access their claims. (Photo: Justice For Vets)

The Department of Veterans Affairs plays an important role in guiding recovery of the veteran. The courts area “one-stop shop,” linking veterans with the programs, benefits and services.  A Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, or VJO, is present during hearing to give the courts on the spot information about health records, treatment options, disability benefits, and to make appointments. The VJO is not a member of the court, but plays a critical advisory role.

And there is a lot of evidence showing Veterans Treatment Courts work.

“The concept is creating a community,” Judge Marc Carter of Harris County, Texas told a crowd gathered to watch the Justice For Vets public service announcement in Los Angeles. “It’s not only important in Veterans Courts but in the entire criminal justice system. While they’re in treatment they have success, but when they’re back to their homes they face the same triggers that sent them to me in the first place. In the Veterans Courts we create that community. It can change their lives forever.”

There are now 264 Veterans Treatment Courts in 37 states, and one in Guam. 13,200 veterans are in the care of the courts and their community instead of behind bars, with 3,000 more veterans serving those courts as volunteer mentors. The structure, rigorous treatment and peer mentoring of Veterans Treatment Courts are producing more permanent positive treatment outcomes, returning more veterans to their communities, and saving the American taxpayer the cost of incarceration.

“Vets courts will continue to grow as they do in Texas,” Judge Carter said. “The value of bringing people back healthy to their communities as opposed to putting them in prison and returning them in the same conditions is immeasurable.”

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