The military built an app to call in bomb strikes - We Are The Mighty
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The military built an app to call in bomb strikes

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) demonstrated a new Android tablet app where an Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller — the guy on the ground who is an expert at calling in air strikes — was able to call in multiple close air support (CAS) strikes with an A-10, using only three strokes of a finger.


The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
BRRRRRT Forthcoming. (DARPA Photo)

Conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the test was the first set of tests with U.S. Air Force aircraft. Earlier this year, the test were successfully conducted with Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. The Air Force tests used a mixture of laser and GPS-guided weapons, with a 100% success rate, all within the six minute test time frame.

The app — called Persistent Close Air Support — allows the JTAC on the ground to link directly with aircraft pilots, pick targets, and locate friendly forces for the inbound CAS. And you thought the Blue Force Tracker was awesome.

Watch DARPA’s PCAS video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=42v=PfdGQ98Srwc

It’s not science fiction. It’s what they do every day.

NOW: 5 differences between Navy and Air Force fighter pilots

OR: Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s most elite operators

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The Air Force is joining the race to bring back American rocket superiority

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Flickr


For the last decade, Russian-made engines have been propelling US national security satellites into space.

While this has proven to be a good approach in the past, the time has come for a new breed of rocket engine that’s American-made.

On Feb. 29, the US Air Force — who runs the national security launch missions — announcedthat it will invest up to $738 million to put an end to America’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.

RD-180 engines currently power the Atlas V rocket, which is owned and run by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) aerospace company.

And over the last 10 years, the Atlas V has helped ferry expensive and sensitive national security payloads into space for the Air Force.

But in recent years, as political tensions grew between the US and Russia, ULA’s use of the RD-180 engines has come under fire.

After the Crimean crisis in 2014,Congress called to permanently terminate the Air Force’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines by building a program that would see functional, American-made rocket engines by the end of 2019.

Now is the right time

As part of its announcement on Feb. 29, the Air Force said it will award ULA up to $202 million, which will go toward the construction of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket — scheduled to launch for the first time in 2019.

Vulcan is expected to run on rocket engines designed and constructed by the American aerospace company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Blue Origin

But Blue Origin isn’t the only company working on taking back America’s role as a leader in rocket propulsion systems.

In direct competition is the rocket propulsion manufacturer company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just got a major vote of confidence.

The rest of that $738 million the Air Force is willing to invest — which equates to a whopping $536 million — was dedicated to Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Right now, Aerojet is constructing its AR1 rocket engine, which the company says could be used to propel the Atlas V, Vulcan, as well as other rockets currently under development.

While ULA has contracted with Blue Origin to build its BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan rocket, ULA also has a contract with Aerojet, as back up.

If Blue Origin’s efforts to build the BE-4 rocket engine falter, then ULA will turn to Aerojet’s AR1 to power the Vulcan.

ULA and Aerojet have until Dec. 31, 2019 to design, build, and test its new engines.

“While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

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Officers and enlistees confess the best and worst about each other


Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher

Historically, the military has relied on clearly defined boundaries of acceptable interaction between the officer and enlisted ranks to maintain good order and discipline.

It is a long-standing custom that dates back hundreds of years and has proven itself effective time after time. But not everyone feels it’s a custom worth holding on to.

“I think there should not be a difference between officer and enlisted ranks,” said former Air Force officer Shannon Corbeil. “I believe we should all reach rank based on experience and accomplishment.”

On the other hand, Chase Millsap — another former officer — believes the military should maintain its course because officers bring leadership experience accomplished through higher learning and training.

Also read: 7 tips for getting away with fraternization

However, Blake Stilwell and Tim Kirkpatrick — two former enlistees — argue that the stupid partying and immatureness is what officers experienced during college.

In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, two former officers and enlistees confess the best and worst about dealing with each other while in active service.

Hosted By:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and managing editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Orvelin Valle (AKA O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Guests:

Chase Millsap: Army and Marine Corps infantry veteran turned Director of Impact Strategy at We Are The Mighty

Shannon Corbeil: Former Air Force intelligence officer and We Are The Mighty editor

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

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After years of declining military spending, the world is now re-arming

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Lockheed Martin photo


For the first time since 2011, the world has spent more on troops and weapons than in the previous year, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The researchers estimate that countries spent $1.676 trillion on their militaries in 2015, a one-percent increase over 2014. This is equivalent to around 2.3 percent of the world’s economic output.

But as is often the case with these kinds of statistics, the details are actually more interesting than the headline figures. For starters, there are stark regional differences. Only Eastern Europe and Asia and Oceania boosted their spending. The rest of the world spent less — a lot less.

Africa reduced its spending by 5.3 percent, the first reduction in 11 years. But a closer look at the data makes clear that the continent’s governments haven’t suddenly become radical pacifists. Instead, all North African countries with the exception of Morocco actually increased military spending at rates comparable to previous years. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, most countries stayed on their previous trajectories, as well.

The big outlier is Angola. The southern Africa country cut its military budget by a whopping 42 percent, the first real reduction since it embarked on a spending spree in 2002 after the government had regained control of all diamond mines and oil wells in the aftermath of the civil war.

Angola is still essentially a military dictatorship, so the spending cuts are not representative of a changing government doctrine. Instead, historically low oil prices have battered the heavily oil-dependent economy and government budget, making drastic cuts to military spending all but inevitable.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
SIPRI chart

Some other oil-reliant governments across Africa also cut their spending, but more modestly than Angola did. This seems to indicate that these countries have either diversified their economy much better than Angola has …. or have much more pressing security concerns that make continued high spending necessary despite eventual financial collapse.

Overall, Africa spent 68 percent more on its militaries in 2015 than it did in 2006.

In South America, the situation is comparable to Africa, with Venezuela taking the role of Angola and cutting its military spending by 64 percent. Overall, South America and North America slightly decreased their spending, while Central America and the Caribbean increased spending by 3.7 percent.

Obviously, the United States is North America’s most prolific military spender — $596 billion in 2015, a 36-percent share of the whole world’s spending on troops and weapons.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Iraqi M-1 tanks on parade | Wikimedia photo

This is actually more than 20 percent below America’s most recent spending peak in 2010, a result of troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.

Western and Central Europe essentially maintained their military spending, laying out 0.2 percent less than in the previous year. European spending is down 8.5 percent since 2006.

But the researchers believe that military spending could rise again in this part of the world. “For the first time since 2009, the number of countries in the subregion that increased expenditure was higher than the number of those that reduced spending.” Austerity measures are declining while the threat from terrorism — and Russia — seems to be increasing.

This brings us to the regions that have actually increased spending. All sub-regions of Asia and Oceania boosted their military budgets by at least 0.9 percent — and most individual countries did, as well.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Russian Su-30 fighter | Wikimedia photo

China is obviously the most relevant in this part of the world, representing 49 percent of the regional total. Beijing boosted outlays by 7.4 percent and retained its position as the world’s second-biggest spender. The region at large increased military spending by 64 percent from 2006 to 2015, with only Fiji recording a significant decrease of 23 percent.

But no region increased spending more drastically than Eastern Europe did, at 7.5 percent, contributing to an overall 80-percent boost in military budgets over the last decade. Russia obviously drives this development, both directly by way of Moscow’s own 7.5-percent increase in spending, and indirectly by compelling neighboring countries to re-arm in order to deter Russian aggression.

Still, Russia actually lost its third place in the world rankings to Saudi Arabia. The Middle East country now spends $87.2 billion a year on its military, which actually represents only a 5.7-percent increase over 2014. Saudi Arabia placed before Russia due to the weak ruble, which made Russian military investments cheaper in dollar terms.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
A Saudi F-15 during a Red Flag exercise in the United States | U.S. Defense Department photo

SIPRI’s researchers did not include estimates for the Middle East overall because too many countries in the region did not provide public military expenditure data — and independent estimates are unreliable.

Apart from Saudi Arabia, the most interesting country with sufficient data is Iraq, which stands out for its record spending increases over the last decade as it tries to rebuild its shattered armed forces. The Iraqi government increased military spending by 536 percent since 2006 and 35 percent since 2014, bringing the total in 2015 to $13.1 billion.

In contrast, Iran’s military expenditure decreased by 30 percent since 2006, with the largest part of these cuts taking place in 2012 and 2013, after the European Union enacted economic and financial sanctions. As sanctions began to lift in January 2016, experts expect Iran’s military spending to increase in coming years.

Looking at the long-term data, military spending seems to rise and fall based more on economic cycles and long-term policy decisions than on short-term shocks and conflicts. Russia’s recent spate of foreign interventions came after Pres. Vladimir Putin boosted military spending.

Western and Central Europe seem to spend mostly in years when their overall balance sheets look good — and Saudi Arabia is decreasing its rate of spending growth despite its ongoing intervention in Yemen.

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Army revs up M4 carbine lethality upgrade

The US Army has now produced at least 117,000 battle-tested, upgraded M4A1 rifles engineered to more quickly identify, attack and destroy enemy targets with full auto-capability, consistent trigger-pull and a slightly heavier barrel, service officials said.


The service’s so-called M4 Product Improvement Program, or PIP, is a far-reaching initiative to upgrade the Army’s entire current inventory of M4 rifles into higher-tech, durable and more lethal M4A1 weapons, Army spokesman Pete Rowland, spokesman for PM Soldier Weapons, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The heavier barrel is more durable and has greater capacity to maintain accuracy and zero while withstanding the heat produced by high volumes of fire. New and upgraded M4A1s will also receive ambidextrous fire control,” an Army statement said.

To date, the Army has completed 117,000 M4A1 upgrades on the way to the eventual transformation of more than 48,000 M4 rifles. The service recently marked a milestone of having completed one-fourth of its intended upgrades to benefit Soldiers in combat.

The Army is planning to convert all currently fielded M4 carbines to M4A1 carbines; approximately 483,000,” Rowland said. “Most of the enhancements resulted from Soldier surveys conducted over time.”

Rowland explained that the PIP involves a two-pronged effort; one part involves depot work to quickly transform existing M4s into M4A1s alongside a commensurate effort to acquire new M4A1 weapons from FN Herstal and Colt.

Army developers explain that conversions to the M4A1 represents the latest iteration in a long-standing service effort to improve the weapon.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Branden Quintana, left, and Sgt. Cory Ballentine pull security with an M4 carbine on the roof of an Iraqi police station in Habaniyah, Anbar province, Iraq, July 13, 2011. Ballentine is a forward observer and Quintana is a platoon leader, both with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kissta Feldner

“We continuously perform market research and maintain communications with the user for continuous improvements and to meet emerging requirements,” Army statements said.

The Army has already made more than 90 performance “Engineering Change Proposals” to the M4 Carbine since its introduction, an Army document describes.

“Improvements have been made to the trigger assembly, extractor spring, recoil buffer, barrel chamber, magazine and bolt, as well as ergonomic changes to allow Soldiers to tailor the system to meet their needs,” and Army statement said.

Today’s M4 is quite different “under the hood” than its predecessors and tomorrow’s M4A1 will be even further refined to provide Soldiers with an even more effective and reliable weapon system, Army statements said.

The M4A1 is also engineered to fire the emerging M885A1 Enhanced Performance Round, .556 ammunition designed with new, better penetrating and more lethal contours to exact more damage upon enemy targets.

“The M4A1 has improvements which take advantage of the M885A1. The round is better performing and is effective against light armor,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

Prior to the emergence of the M4A1 program, the Army had planned to acquire a new M4; numerous tests, industry demonstrations and requirements development exercises informed this effort, including a “shoot off” among potential suppliers.

Before its conversion into the M4A1, the M4 – while a battle tested weapon and known for many success – had become controversial due to combat Soldier complaints, such as reports of the weapon “jamming.”

Future M4 Rifle Improvements?

While Army officials are not yet discussing any additional improvements to the M1A4 or planning to launch a new program of any kind, service officials do acknowledge ongoing conceptual discussion regarding ways to further integrate emerging technology into the weapon.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
U.S. Staff Sgt. Chad Hart with Green 0 Security Force Advisory Team, 10th Mountain Division, fires his M4 carbine down range on Khair Kot Garrison, Paktika province, Afghanistan, June 2, 2013. Staff Sgt. Hart assumed the standing firing position for qualification. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Chenee’ Brooks/ Released)

Within the last few years, the Army did conduct a “market survey” with which to explore a host of additional upgrades to the M4A1; These previous considerations, called the M4A1+ effort, analyzed by Army developers and then shelved. Among the options explored by the Army and industry included the use of a “flash suppressor,” camouflage, removable iron sights and a single-stage trigger, according to numerous news reports and a formal government solicitation.The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

The M4A1+ effort was designed to look for add-on components that will “seamlessly integrate with the current M4A1 Carbine … without negatively impacting or affecting the performance or operation of the M4A1 weapon,” a FedBizOpps document states.

Additional details of the M4A1+ effort were outlined in a report from Military.com’s Matt Cox.

“One of the upgrades is an improved extended forward rail that will ‘provide for a hand guard allowing for a free-floated barrel’ for improved accuracy. The improved rail will also have to include a low-profile gas block that could spell the end of the M16/M4 design’s traditional gas block and triangular fixed front sight,” the report says.Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in

Despite the fact that the particular M4A1+ effort did not move forward, Army officials explain that market surveys regarding improvements to the weapon will continue; in addition, Army developers explain that the service is consistently immersed in effort to identify and integrate emerging technologies into the rifle as they become available. As a result, it is entirely conceivable that the Army will explore new requirements and technologies for the M4A1 as time goes on.

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11 fictional weapons we wish we could check out of the armory

Checking out your weapon from the armory is like standing in line at the DMV — it’s the worst game of hurry up and wait ever.


When you do get it, you spend your day dry firing your weapon at the range and then check it right back in at the close of business.

It happens every day, and the repetition can be very annoying.

Meanwhile back at the barracks, you’re sitting in front of your TV watching your favorite movies or playing your favorite video game, and you begin to think that the futuristic laser gun might be a lot of fun to use against actual bad guys.

Related: This Gatling gun fires up to 6,000 F-Us per minute … and we love it

Check our list of fictional weapons we wish we could check out of the armory:

1. That super sonic shotgun thingy (Minority Report)

When killing the bad guys isn’t the mission, but knocking the crap out of them is.

They got knocked the f*ck out. (Images via Giphy)I actually just want to have this around for my daily commute.

2. The Noisy Cricket (Men in Black)

It would be that perfect weapon to conceal around your ankle holster if you can withstand the recoil of firing it.

His back has to be sore. (Images via Giphy)Maybe do some squats and work on your stance before a live-fire exercise.

3. The Auto 9 (RoboCop)

Because having a .357 Desert Eagle look-a-like you can fire on full auto is badass.

No big deal. (Images via Giphy) If shooting paper targets isn’t your thing, Detroit still needs cops. No word on the Auto 9 being standard issue though.

4.  M41A Pulse Rifle (Alien)

With the outstanding rate of fire of 900 rounds per minute, we’d take this sucker anywhere.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Ripley, Cpl. Hicks, and M41A Pulse Rifle. (Source: Fox)

Also, kudos to the guys who actually made an M41A. Please bring some by Twentynine Palms for immediate testing.

5.  Lightsaber (Star Wars)

This would be a better weapon to have than the standard issue bayonet we’re used too.

Look at his perfect freakin’ form. (Images via Giphy)

6. The Lawgiver (Judge Dredd)

It fires grenades, armor-piercing rounds, and it’s voice activated. This would be the perfect weapon if you find yourself in a jam.

They’ve all been judged. (robert cowley, Youtube) 

Plus, yelling “I AM THE LAW” every time you fire it would be therapeutic.

7.  The Needler (Halo)

A weapon that shoots energy bursts is a must-have in our armory.

(CryGateEntertainment, YouTube)

8. Mark 2 Lancer (Gears of War)

It’s the perfect weapon if you just feel like cleaving your enemy in two.

Cut that sucker. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: These 4 guns were used to make the longest sniper kills in history

9. EM-1 (Eraser)

This rail gun comes fully equipped with a green x-ray scope and we like that.

A little overkill maybe, but it’s still badass. (Images via Giphy)

10. Gatling Gun Jet Pack (Kickass)

Who wouldn’t want this epic flying weapon in their armory?

Although, cleaning it would be a pain in the a**. (Images via Giphy)

11. The Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (Portal)

With the ability to create portals and teleport through space, this gun could send troops into any battle in a matter of moments.

Perfect for snatch and grab missions. (Images via Giphy) Can you think of any others? Comment below.
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The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) works on some very outlandish projects. One of its stated mission goals is to cause “technological surprise” for America’s enemies. Basically, they want enemy fighters to get to the battlefield, look at what they’re facing off against, and go, “What the hell?”


These are the DARPA projects that make that a reality.

1. Airships that can haul 2 million pounds of gear

Yeah, they’re back. DARPA’s attempt at new airships was scrapped in 2006 due to technology shortcomings, but the project was revived in 2013. The goal is for a craft that can carry up to two million pounds halfway around the world in five days. This would allow units to quickly deploy with all of their gear. Tank units would be left out though, unless they suddenly had a …

2. A super-fast lightweight vehicle that drives itself

The Ground X-Vehicle looks like a spider mated with a four-wheeler. Troops could directly control it or simply select a destination and focus on the intel the vehicle provides. Either way, the vehicle would decide how to deal with incoming attacks, ducking, sidestepping, or absorbing them as necessary.

3. Aerial platforms that allow drones to land and refuel

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Photo: DARPA

Flying platforms for landing and fueling drones would keep the U.S. drone program well ahead of its enemies, especially combined with the project to have drones fight as a pack. Hopefully these will be more successful than the last airborne carriers the military made.

4. Robots that gather intel and eat plants for fuel

The unmanned ground vehicle programs at DARPA want a UGV that could conduct reconnaissance indefinitely without needing to be refueled. The Energy Autonomous Tactical Robot will do that by eating plants and converting them to energy. It would also be able to steal enemy fuel when necessary.

5. Remote-controlled bugs that spy on the bad guys

Basically, remote control bugs that provide power to sensor backpacks. DARPA has already implanted control devices into pupae (insects transitioning into adults) and created electrical generators that use the insects movements for power. Now, they just have to couple those technologies with tiny sensors and find a way to make them communicate with each other and an operator who would collect intelligence from the insects.

6. Cameras that can see from every angle

DARPA isn’t sure yet how this would work, but they’re looking for ways to use the plenoptic function to create a sensor that can see an area from every angle. Though it would work differently, this would give capabilities like Jack Black has in “Enemy of the State.”

7. Nuclear-powered GPS trackers

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Photo: DARPA

Don’t worry, the nuclear material is for determining velocity, not powering anything or exploding. The military has trouble directing vehicles and missiles in areas where GPS signals might be blocked or scrambled, like when submarines are underwater. Chip-Scale Combinatorial Atomic Navigator (C-SCAN) is very technical, but it would allow precise navigation without a GPS signal by precisely measuring atoms from nuclear decay.

8. Brain implants that could hold the key to defeating post-traumatic stress.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Strictly for therapy, DARPA promises. The idea may be a little unsettling, but SUBNETS (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies)  would allow electrical currents in the brain to be mapped and then altered. This could be a major breakthrough for PTSD and traumatic brain injury sufferers.

9. Pathogens that fight back against enemy biological weapons.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Bruce Wetzel

One of the emerging threats to U.S. operations is biological weapons using antibiotic resistant bacteria. DARPA wants to nip it in the bud before an enemy can cause massive infections to American forces or civilians. To do so, they’re investigating pathogens that could be cultured and deployed in victims of attacks. These killers would seek out the bacteria wreaking havoc and murder it on a microscopic level.

AND: This Retired Navy Jet Is Finding New Life In The Fight Against ISIL 

OR: DARPA wants to implant chips in soldiers’ brains 

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This dying Army vet’s last wish is to hear from you

Lee Hernandez wants everyone to call him or text him. Anyone and everyone in America.


The 47-year-old has undergone three brain surgeries but still suffers from strokes that affect his vision and cognitive function.

But a few notes from his military family are just what the doctor ordered.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Lee Hernandez wants to hear from you. (photo by Arizona Veterans Forum)

As Lee lay dying in a Texas hospice, his wife Ernestine told the Arizona Republic that phone calls or texts are what brighten Lee’s day. It doesn’t matter who sends them.

He asked Ernestine to hold on to his phone one day in case someone called him. For two hours, no one called.

“I guess no one wants to talk to me,” Lee told his wife.

Lee Hernandez has trouble with speaking, so Ernestine figured that’s why people don’t take much time to attempt a conversation. So she reached out to a group called “Caregivers of Wounded Warriors” to get more texts and call pouring in.

He is a veteran of the Iraq War who served 18 and half years in the Army. He’s been fighting for his life for the last five years.

If you want to send Lee a message of support or just see how he is, be sure to reach out between 2 pm and 6pm Arizona time. Lee is now blind, but Ernestine will read your texts to him.

He can be reached at 210-632-6778.

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Congress removes provision that would require women to register for the draft

Now that women are eligible for any combat job in the U.S. military, the top brass thinks it might be time for them to register for the draft as well. The civilian government doesn’t entirely agree. Yet, a short time ago, Congressman (and combat veteran) Duncan Hunter added legislation to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require women to register for the draft.


The only problem is Hunter didn’t want it to happen. He only wanted to force a debate on the issue of women in combat. He never expected the idea of women registering for the draft to pass. The provision gained unexpected support and momentum in the House Armed Services Committee and passed. (Ironically, Hunter voted against his own amendment.)

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes

Related: Vet congressman introduces legislation that tees up debate on females and the draft

Today, the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives removed Hunter’s provisions before the NDAA was introduced on the greater House floor, a move that caused Congressional Democrats to criticize Republicans for not bringing the bill to a potentially damaging public debate.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
U.S. Marines PFC. Cristina Fuentes Montenegro (center left) and PFC. Julia R. Carroll (center right) of Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – East (SOI-E), stand at parade rest during their graduation ceremony from SOI-E aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. (U. S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager)

The idea of women registering is not entirely dead yet. In their version of the NDAA, the Senate Armed Services Committee also includes language that would force women to register for Selective Service. That provision is expected to be removed during closed-door meetings between the two houses of Congress as they prepare a compromise bill for President Obama to sign.

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The Coast Guard’s “Homing Pigeon” saved 126 lives on D-Day

The coast Guard’s “Matchbox Fleet” was comprised of 60 wooden, 83-foot cutters that performed dangerous lifesaving missions under fire at Normandy, pulling more than 400 men from the water.


One of these vessels was known as the “Homing Pigeon” and successfully saved 126 survivors, the most of any single ship.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes

The Homing Pigeon, officially named Coast Guard Cutter 16, had been serving stateside on anti-submarine patrols like the rest of the Matchbox Fleet before recieving orders to a new, secret mission. Navy Adm. Ernest King was going to use 60 of the Coast Guard ships to form Rescue Fotilla One, a D-Day lifeguard force.

The ships were repainted, renumbered, modified, and carried to England on frieghters. They practiced the landings on English beaches with the rest of the invasion force and, on Jun. 6, 1944, the rescue ships went in right behind the first wave of landing craft.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Photo: US Coast Guard

The plan had originally called for the Matchbox Fleet to stay away from the shores and some ships did stay two miles out. But many crews realized that they had to get closer to reach the men in danger and the Homing Pigeon was one of the cutters that moved forward.

It began its mission at 5:30 a.m., sailing back and forth near the coast and grabbing men out of the water. In the first four hours CGC-16 rescued 90 sailors and soldiers. That’s a save every three minutes.

The crew took the personnel they fished out of the water to the Navy’s USS Dickman where the wounded were treated. Over the course of the day, the Homing Pigeon would come to the aid of another 36 men, bringing the crew’s D-Day total to 126, all tallied on a board on the vessel.

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Photo: US Coast Guard photo courtesy of Terry Hannigan

Other crews distinguished themselves at Normandy as well. CGC-1 rescued 43 and spent much of the day within 2,000 feet of the beaches. CGC-34 pulled 32 British troops and sailors from the English Channel. CGC-53 rescued five men while under fire from a German shore battery. The HMS Rodney came to the cutter’s rescue and destroyed the shore battery with its naval guns.

After D-Day, the Matchstick Fleet continued their duties until Dec. 1944 when they were disbanded. In the seven months of operation, the 60 ships saved 1,438 people. Many of the ships were then transferred to allied navies where they served for the duration of the war.

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Skip Wells Foundation cuts ties with ‘Marines and Mickey’ over stolen valor claims

The military built an app to call in bomb strikes
Skip Wells’ girlfriend, Caroline Dove, holds his photo. (AP photo by Russ Bynum)


On February 26 the Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation announced that it was disassociating from “any and all relationships with the Marines Mickey Foundation” alleging organization’s founder, John Simpson, was misrepresenting his rank in the Marine Corps and misappropriating his charity’s funds.

The Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation was created to honor Skip Wells – one of the four Marines killed in the Chattanooga shooting tragedy. It donates to organizations in and around the area Skip had grown up. The foundation also gave over $135,000 to Marines Mickey – an organization that sends Marines and their families to Disney World. Skip’s mom Cathy, who heads the foundation had partnered with the charity because she and her son had always taken yearly vacations to the resort. She wanted other Marine families to have that experience as well.

But now, they feel their donations were given under false pretenses, and want the funds returned.

A post on Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation’s Facebook said John Simpson claims to be a Former Recon Marine, Drill Instructor and Msgt., but they no longer believe this to be true. The post states he was discharged from the Marine Corps due to bad conduct – and was an E1 admin clerk. The post goes on to say ‘there will be federal charges for stolen valor, 501c3 tax fraud, and many other criminal charges the authorities at the federal level are currently investigating.”

A letter from John Simpson was posted on the Marines Mickey website homepage that countered the accusations of the Wells Foundation, claiming he too had spoken to authorities, and that he was advised that the actions against him amount to blackmail and extortion.

“We did several events that had Marines and Mickeys name and Skip Wells’ name attached to it, these funds raised sent 14 families to Disney since October 2015. In my opinion, a donation made is not stolen when used for the mission plainly stated and publicly known. Our Mission had existed for over a year and a half prior to the tragedy in Chattanooga. and that is why, Representatives, Representing Ms Wells called my Foundation the night of the tragedy… telling us, they wanted to send all monies expected to be donated to her over the coming weeks to be instead given on to Marines and Mickey for the purpose of Sending Marines to Disney.”

After that letter was published, Skip Wells Foundation page posted the following:

We had to act immediately to protect Cathy and the Foundation from further loss. What you personally do with the information we provided is up to you. He is telling people that we are attempting to take over his foundation and harm his reputation. We can assure you that our one and only priority is to protect Cathy and recover over 135k in fraudulent donations to Marines and Mickey and him personally….

As far as Stolen Valor, I never said I was a Force Recon Marine, never said I had been on one tour to Afghanistan, much less four.

Many are following these developments and are posting own findings: James Hill found a cached copy of the site’s “About Us” page and posted a screenshot of it in the comments. The photo shows there was a section on the page titled, “How We Came About” and it reads: “Marines Mickey began in May 2014, Founded by John Simpson, a Retired Marine, who was a Recon Marine and also a Parris Island Drill Instructor….”

The current version of that page no longer contains this section.

Cait Nestor posted a photo of Parris Island’s Off-Limits Establishments list which includes Marines Mickey.

The Wells Foundation is in the process of obtaining an official copy of Simpson’s DD-214 using the Freedom of Information Act. Ms. Wells told WSB-TV2 if the funds are recovered, she will put them back into her foundation.

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Army Veteran spends his days comforting the dying

Julian Scadden, by his own admission, was not always all that likable.  He had some rough edges.


“I didn’t use to be a nice guy,” he said. “In fact, I use to be a bouncer.  I would take out my frustrations by throwing guys out of the bar.  I’m 5-foot-4 and I just loved throwing big guys out of the bar.”

But that was a long time ago.  The 67-year-old Vietnam-Era Veteran now spends his days doing quieter work.  He’s a housekeeping aide at the Denver VA’s Community Living Center. But his custodial skills are not his primary contribution to the hospital.   Over the last nine years Scadden has developed another skill:  comforting Veterans in their final hours.

Good Instincts

“Julian is an incredibly important part of our care team here,” said Dr. Elizabeth Holman, a palliative care psychologist who works with Scadden. “He has an instinct for what people need when they’re nearing the end.  Sometimes they just need his quiet presence.  Sometimes they need words of encouragement.  He’s just so ‘present’ with these Veterans.  He makes them feel safe.”

He’s so humble…he doesn’t realize the tremendous value of his services, and of his heart.

She continued:  “It makes such a difference, to spend your last moments with someone who is kind and caring. And it’s such a comfort to family members, knowing that their loved one wasn’t alone when they died.”

“I didn’t think I would be any good at it,” Scadden admitted. “I didn’t think I could handle it. But they give you training.”

Scadden’s training, however, got off to a rough start.  At one point his trainers began to wonder if he really had the ‘right stuff’ to become a member of the Denver VA’s Compassion Corps  —the volunteers who spend time with dying Veterans.

“They had their doubts about me,” he said.  “During training they told me I was doing everything right except one thing.  I said, ‘What’s that?’  They said, ‘You have to learn how to talk to people!'”

It was a sad truth.  Scadden’s people skills had become a bit rusty.  He had plenty of compassion, but it was hidden somewhere deep inside where no one could see it.

“I had to learn to be polite,” he said.

And so he learned.

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Of Ducks and Water

“I’m glad they were patient with me during the training,” said the Army Veteran.  “Once I completed the training they just put me out there and I took to it like a duck to water.  And it’s made me a better person, to be honest with you.  I think this is my calling.  This is what my higher power wants me to do.”

But not all patients — even those who are dying — believe in a higher power.  And that’s okay with Scadden.

“My very first patient didn’t believe in a higher power,” he recalled. “But about a week before he died, he told me to thank my higher power for allowing me to be there with him.”

Scadden said that during his nine years of hospice work he’s seen some patients get very angry at what’s happening to them.  Some get mean.  Some get abusive.

“You see every kind of scenario,” he said.  “Some of them are just scared, or confused.  They don’t want to die. They’ll ask things like, ‘Why me?’   They feel like they’ve led a good life, and they don’t understand why they have to go through all this suffering.”

Other patients, as the end nears, slip quietly into a coma.  Scadden said this can be unsettling for some family members, who feel they can no longer communicate with their loved one.

“Just because their eyes are closed doesn’t mean they can’t hear you,” he said.  “I try to explain that to the family.  I tell them, ‘Talk to him, tell him you love him, because he can still hear you.”

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8 weird ‘off-the-books’ traditions in the US military

The U.S. military is awash in regulations, laws, and official traditions. How troops march and salute, what uniform to wear to what event, or what you are supposed to say when greeting a superior are all examples of “on-the-books” behaviors expected of service members.


And then there are the “off-the-books” traditions. They are the unwritten rules: traditions that go back way before the books were printed. These activities — especially the ones involving hazing — are often frowned upon, but still continue to happen, usually without any official recognition.

Here are eight examples.

1. Fighter pilots (or members of flight crew) get hosed down after their final flight.

The “fighter pilot mafia” is definitely a thing in the Air Force and Navy, which is the nickname for the pilot sub-culture within each service. Soon after aviators get to a new unit they will go through an unofficial ceremony of receiving their callsigns, and they usually are not very flattering.

On the flip side is the final flight. Much like a football coach gets a giant cooler of Gatorade dumped over their head at the end of a game, pilots sometimes will get hosed down with water by their comrades. In some cases, they’ll be doused with champagne.

In the case of Maj. Vecchione (shown below), his peers also threw string cheese, flour, and mayonnaise on him. Personally, I would’ve thrown in some ketchup and mustard, but hell, I wasn’t there.

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2. At a military wedding with a sword detail, the wife gets a sword-tap to her booty to “welcome her” to the family.

Nothing like a little tradition that allows some dude to tap your brand new wife on the butt. When a service member wants to go through the pageantry of having a “military wedding” — wearing their uniform at the altar and bringing along a sword detail — they can expect that at the end of it all, some random dude will be sexually harassing his wife for the sake of tradition.

It goes like this: On the way out right after the ceremony, the couple passes over an arch of swords on both sides. They go through, kiss, go through, kiss, then they get to the last one. Once they reach the final two and pass, one of the detail will lower their sword, tap the bride, and say “welcome to the Army [or Marine Corps, etc]!”

Here’s the Navy version:

3. When a Navy ship crosses the equator, sailors perform the “crossing the line” ceremony, which frankly, involves a lot of really weird stuff.

The Crossing the Line ceremony goes far back to the days of wooden ships. According to this Navy public affairs story, sailors were put through this hazing ritual designed to test whether they could endure their first time out at sea.

These days, sailors crossing the line for the first time — called Pollywogs or Wogs for short — can expect an initiation into the club of those who have done it before, referred to as Shellbacks. During the two-day event, the “Court of Neptune” inducts the Wogs into “the mysteries of the deep” with activities like having men dress up as women, drink stuff like a wonderful mix of hot sauce and aftershave, or make them crawl on their hands and knees in deference to King Neptune. I swear I’m not making any of this up.

In the modern military that is decidedly against hazing rituals, the events have toned down quite a bit. In 1972 a sailor may have expected to be kissing the “Royal Baby’s belly button,” which again, is totally a real thing.

Nowadays however, there’s much less of that sort of thing, and the Navy stresses that it’s all completely voluntary (ask any sailor, however, and they’ll probably tell you it’s “voluntary” with big air quotes).

shellback ceremony Photo: Wikimedia Commons

4. Before going on deployment, Marine infantrymen who have never deployed need to shave their heads.

Don’t ask me where this unwritten rule came from or why — other than to distinguish who the total boots in the platoon were — but Marine grunts who have never done a deployment are often told to shave their heads before they move out.

Again, this is one of those “voluntary” you-don’t-have-to-do-this-if-you-don’t-want-to kind of things, but there were 3 guys in my platoon who decided to keep their hair before deploying to Okinawa in 2003. Interestingly enough, they were put on plenty of cleanup details and other not-so-fun jobs as a result.

5. When achieving the next rank or earning parachute wings or other insignia, a service member may get “blood-pinned,” though it’s rare these days.

Soldiers who get through five successful jumps at Airborne School in the past could expect to get “blood wings,” but that practice has died down in recent years as the public has learned of it. After a superior pinned their wings on, a soldier would get their new badge slammed into their chest, which often draws blood.

This kind of thing is frowned upon — and prohibited under military regulations — but it still sometimes happens. In some cases, it’s considered a rite of passage and kind of an honor. I personally endured pinning ceremonies that I volunteered for when I picked up the ranks of lance corporal and corporal.

Volunteer or not, it’s a ritual which the brass has endured plenty of bad press over, so they tend to discipline anyone involved whenever it happens.

6. Some units have mustache-growing contests in training or on deployment to see who can achieve the most terrible-looking ‘stache.

The military regulations on facial hair offer little in the way of good looking when it comes to shaves. Most men are not allowed to grow beards (except for some special operators) and although they are allowed, mustaches are generally frowned upon. Why they are frowned upon usually comes down to how terrible they often look.

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Photo: MCB Hawaii

Don’t expect any mustache greatness ala Rollie Fingers; troops usually have to keep the mustache neatly trimmed within the corners of their mouth. Those regulations give way to the terribleness derived from the “CAX ‘stache,” which is what Marines refer to as the weird-looking Hitler-like mustache they’ll grow out while training at 29 Palms.

These contests sometimes extend overseas, especially when junior troops are away from the watchful eyes of their senior enlisted leaders. But whenever the sergeant major is around, you might want to police that moostache.

7. First-year West Point cadets have a giant pillow fight to blow off steam after the summer is over.

Before they become the gun-toting leaders of men within the United States Army, first year cadets are beating the crap out of each with pillows in the school’s main courtyard. The annual event is organized by the students and has occurred since at least 1897, according to The New York Times.

While it’s supposed to be a light-hearted event featuring fluffy pillows filled with things that are, you know, soft, some [blue falcon] cadets have decided to turn the event bloody in recent years. One first-year cadet told The Times in September: “The goal was to have fun, and it ended up some guys just chose to hurt people.”

That quote came from a story that broke months ago after the “fun” pillow fight ended with at least 30 cadets requiring medical attention, 24 of which were concussions.

8. Naval Academy midshipmen climb a lard-covered monument for a hat.

Around the same time that first-year West Point cadets are beating each other and causing concussions, 1,000 screaming Navy midshipmen are charging toward a 21-foot monument covered in lard with a hat on top. The goal: Retrieve the first-year “plebe” hat and replace it with an upperclassmen hat, a task which signifies their transition to their next year at the Academy.

Beforehand, upperclassmen hook up the plebes with about 200 pounds of greasy lard slapped on the sides of the Herndon Monument, making their task a bit more difficult. They need to use teamwork and dedication to climb their way to the top, which can take anywhere from minutes to over four hours (Class of 1995 has the longest time 4 hours, 5 minutes).

According to the Academy’s website, the tradition is that the first guy to make it to the top will likely rise to the rank of admiral first. That is if he or she doesn’t get themselves fired first.

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