Articles

Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.


The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.

Related: 6 ways to use those retired Predator drones

“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”

Tech. Sgt. William, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing sensor operator, flies a simulated mission June 10, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 432nd WG trains and deploys MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircrews in support of global operations 24/7/365. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen/Released)

The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.

Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.

Also read: Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.

U.S. Air Force photo

The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.

The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.

Articles

4 reasons the Aardvark and Switchblade could still kick ass today

In this day and age, the F-111 Aardvark and its larger variant, the FB-111 Switchblade, are often forgotten. That shouldn’t be the case. Here are four reasons that these planes could still kick a lot of ass.


1. Speed

The F-111 was fast – with a top speed of Mach 2.5, according to GlobalSecurity.org. The FB-111 was also capable of going fast, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. Not just at high altitudes, but also on the deck. In fact, these planes were designed to deliver a knockout punch at treetop level.

A General Dynamics FB-111A Aardvark on display at the Barksdale Global Power Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base. This plane could fly over twice the speed of sound – and deliver 35,500 pounds of bombs. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. Payload

The B-2, B-1B, and B-52 get a lot of press for their huge payloads — anywhere from 51 to 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. But the F-111 and FB-111 could each carry 36 Mk 82s. That is nothing to sneeze at. During the Vietnam War, Baugher noted that four F-111s were delivering as many bombs as 20 F-4s.

A left side view of an F-111A dropping 24 Mark 82 low-drag bombs in-flight over a range on May 1, 1980. The aircraft was assigned to the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. (USAF photo)

3. Range

Baugher notes that the FB-111 could fly over 2,500 miles with four AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missiles and internal fuel. That is a long reach – without tying up tankers like the KC-135, KC-46, or KC-10. While the AGM-69 is no longer in service, imagine what sort of distant targets could be hit by a squadron of FB-111s carrying AGM-158 JASSMs based at Aviano Air Base in Italy.

The F-111F demonstrated this range in an operational context during Operation El Dorado Canyon, when 18 planes from the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing flew from bases in England around Spain to hit targets around Tripoli. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the mission was about 6,400 miles — the longest fighter mission in history.

Ground crew prepares an F-111F of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing for a retaliatory air strike on Libya. (USAF photo)

4. Accuracy

The F-111 was very capable with laser-guided bombs, but the planes could also deliver unguided bombs accurately. During Desert Storm, that the F-111Es from the 20th Fighter Wing carried out attacks with conventional “dumb” bombs — and suffered no combat losses doing so.

A U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-111F aircraft, equipped with an AN/AVQ-26 Pave Tack laser target designator, banking to the left over Loch Ness (UK). (USAF photo)

In short, the Aardvark and the Switchblade had a lot of life left when they were sent to the boneyard in the 1990s. One could imagine that with upgrades to carry JDAMs, AGM-154 JSOWs, and even the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER systems, that these planes would certainly be a huge assets in today’s global hotspots.

MIGHTY TRENDING

MI6 Head says Russia has violated prime rule of espionage

The head of MI6 says Russia broke one of the prime rules of espionage and won’t be trusted again after it tried to assassinate a former Russian agent despite giving him away in a spy swap.

Alex Younger said British spies had to revise their assumptions about Moscow after Skripal was attacked with a deadly nerve agent, in an operation which Britain has pinned on Russia’s GRU spy agency.


Younger is the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, more commonly known as MI6, and gave a speech to students at St Andrew’s University in Scotland, which was reported by the Financial Times.

In the speech, Younger said the UK had partly trusted Russian President Vladimir Putin when Russia pardoned Skripal in 2010 in return for its own agents.

Younger said that he and his agents assumed that Moscow’s spy swap “had meaning” and would be honored, but that they revised their opinion in light of the Skripal attack.

Who is the Salisbury spy Sergei Skripal?

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He said, according to the Financial Times: “Mr Skripal came to the UK in an American-brokered exchange, having been pardoned by the president of Russia and, to the extent we assumed that had meaning, that is not an assumption that we will make again.”

Skripal was part of an ambitious spy swap deal with the US in 2010 when four Russian agents who had betrayed their country were released by the Kremlin in exchange for 10 Russian spies in the US.

The UK accuses Russia of being behind the attack on Skripal in March 2018, a charge the Kremlin denies.

Novichok, the nerve agent used in the poisoning, has been traced to Russia, and the two men accused by the UK of attempting to assassinate Skripal have been identified by Investigative journalism site Bellingcat as GRU officers.

Spy swaps

Professor Anthony Glees, the director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, told Business Insider that the Russians take spy swaps “very seriously” because of the concern that “no one will ever do a swap with them again” if they break faith.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two men accused of poisoning the former spy Sergei Skripal.

(London Metropolitan Police)

He said that if Russia had really wanted to kill Skripal, it could have executed him in prison.

So Russia would need believe it had a good reason to attempt to assassinate Skripal on UK soil.

“The idea that they would do it for fun or anything less serious is to be discounted,” Eyal said.

A state of confrontation

Speaking on Dec. 3, 2018, Younger said that Russia was in a “perpetual state of confrontation” with the UK, and warned the Kremlin not to underestimate the UK’s determination to fight attempts to interfere with its way of life.

“The conclusion [Russia] arrived at is they should apply their capabilities across the whole spectrum to . . . our institutions and our partnerships,” Younger said.

“Our intention is for the Russian state to conclude that whatever benefits it thinks it is accruing from this activity, they are not worth the risk.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Army will revolutionize long-range precision fires

In kick-starting its efforts to prepare for future high-end conflicts, in late 2017, the U.S. Army identified six modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the Network, Air and Missile Defense, and Soldier Lethality. To support this plan, the Army stood up Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) for each of these areas focused on speeding up the process of developing requirements and ensuring that the programs in each of these areas are achievable, affordable and effective. The bulk of the Army’s Science and Technology resources were refocused on these six priorities.


But not all priorities are equal. In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Secretary Mark Esper revealed that Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) is his service’s top priority. The criticality of LRPF to the future of the Army’s future ability to dominate in a high-end conflict was made clear by Brigadier General Stephen Maranian, the leader of the CFT for long-range fires:

The Army has got to modernize our surface-to-surface fire capabilities at echelon to guarantee that we have clear overmatch in the close fight, in the deep fight, in the strategic fight. If we are unable to do that we will not be able to do for the joint force what it is that surface-to-surface fires do; which is to open those windows of opportunities to allow our joint and Army aviation forces to exploit deep.

German soldiers assigned to Surface Air and Missile Defense Wing 1 fire the Patriot weapons system at the NATO Missile Firing Installation.

Creating overmatch in long-range fire is about more than merely increasing the range of artillery and surface-to-surface rockets and missiles. Dr. Thomas Russell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, defined the key elements of a plan for LRPF: “The Army’s top modernization priority is to regain dominance in artillery and missile system range, lethality, and target acquisition with respect to strategic competitors.” Success in these areas could well return the artillery to its erstwhile status of queen of the battlefield.

Currently, the Army has a multi-phased program designed to first improve and then transform the capabilities of its artillery, rocket and missile systems. The need for volume fires, particularly in the close battle, makes it vitally important to modernize the Army’s artillery systems.

In the near-term, this means increasing the supply of precision rounds such as Excalibur and providing jamming-resistant precision-guidance kits for 155 mm artillery projectiles. It also requires the rapid completion of the program to upgrade the Army’s fleet of Paladin self-propelled howitzers.

The Army should consider ways of expanding its inventory of mobile artillery tubes, regardless of what kinds of rounds they fire. One option is to equip infantry and Stryker brigade combat teams with the Hawkeye, a version of the widely deployed Humvee, carrying a modified version of the M20 105 mm howitzer designed by the Mandus Group.

Humvee-Mounted Howitzer

The Army hopes that by the early 2020s it can substantially increase both the range and lethality of tube artillery with the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program involving the Army’s Picatinny and Watervliet Arsenals. ERCA involves both a new projectile, the rocket-assisted XM1113 and a longer barrel for existing 155mm artillery pieces.

Together these improvements could increase the system’s range to as much as 70 km. The Navy has a program, the Multi Service-Standard Guided Projectile (MS-SGP), which is expected to extend the range of five-inch naval guns and Army and Marine Corps 155 mm howitzers out to a range similar to that of the ERCA.

For the longer-term, the Army is looking at the possibilities for land-based extremely high-velocity artillery systems. There are several paths being explored including hypervelocity or ramjet rounds fired from ERCA artillery or a rail gun. Not only would such systems fire shells out to ranges of 100 km or more, but their high velocities also make them potential candidates for engaging air-breathing and even short-range ballistic targets.

With respect to guided rockets and missiles in the near-term, the Army is seeking an extended range variant of its currently deployed, highly effective Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) that would provide an area strike capability out to 150 km. This would cover some of the targets now the responsibility of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) which has a range of up to 300 km. The Army is considering upgrading the ATACMS with a new seeker and warhead thereby expanding its capabilities to include a land-based anti-ship capability.

Finally, the Army has initiated the Precision Strike Missile (PRSM) program as a longer-range replacement for the ATACMS. The desire is for a missile smaller than the ATACMs so that two can be carried in a single GMLRS launch cell but with a range approaching 500 km and a precision targeting capability.

The Army’s new Long-Range Precision Fires modernization effort is looking at how to increase the range of cannon artillery among a variety of other efforts.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

The Army is currently planning to test prototype PRSMs designed by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin in 2019 with plans to deploy an initial version in the mid-2020s. There have been suggestions that a PRSM program also will look at longer-range options, so-called strategic fires, in the event the U.S. withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

An issue the Army needs to address is the high-quality targeting information needed by these new long-range, precision strike systems. The Air Force wants to cancel the Joint Surveillance Targeting Attack Radar replacement program. Neither the Air Force nor the Army has an unmanned aerial vehicle that can survive in a high threat air defense environment. It makes no sense to develop long-range fires that can strike deep if the Army cannot see that far.

The Army vision for LRPF would fundamentally transform land-based fires and counter Russian and Chinese efforts to achieve dominance in indirect fires. The question is how rapidly the Army can implement this vision. While the CFT is suggesting that new capabilities could be rolled out in as little as five years, the Army is only asking for $1.6 billion over the Future Years Defense Program for its number one modernization priority, well below the amounts requested for next-generation combat vehicles or improvements to the network. One way to save money is by speeding up the acquisition process.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Postal Service is suspending service because of polar vortex

The United States Postal Service said it would suspend mail delivery in some states on Jan. 30, 2019, because of extreme cold from a polar vortex in much of the country this week that has sent temperatures plunging well into negative degrees.

“Weather forecasters are warning of dangerously cold conditions in parts of the nation,” the agency said in a press release on Jan. 29, 2019. “Some places could see wind chill readings as low as 60 below zero.”


It added that “due to this arctic outbreak and concerns for the safety of USPS employees, the Postal Service is suspending delivery” on Jan. 30, 2019, in several three-digit ZIP code locations:

  • Michigan: 486-491, 493-499
  • Indiana: 460-469, 472-475, 478, 479
  • Chicago: 606-608
  • Lakeland: 530-532, 534, 535, 537-539, 541-545, 549, 600, 602, 601, 611
  • Detroit: 480-485, 492
  • Central Illinois: 601, 603-605, 609, 613, 614, 616, 617
  • Northern Ohio (Cleveland and Lima areas): 441, 458
  • Ohio Valley (Cincinnati and Columbus areas): 452, 430-432
  • Western Pennsylvania: (Erie and Bradford areas): 165, 169-177, 188
  • Northland: 540, 546-548, 550, 551, 553-564, 566
  • Hawkeye: 500-514, 520-528, 612
  • Dakotas: 580-588, 570-577
  • Eastern Nebraska: 680-689

It’s unclear when deliveries will resume in those areas.

What To Expect As The Polar Vortex Brings Extreme Weather To The US

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More than 220 million Americans will be forced to contend with below-freezing temperatures. The temperature in Chicago on Jan. 30, 2019, was about 20 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service, with the windchill extending even more into the negatives.

“It’s cold, period,” the NWS’s Chicago office said, adding that it’s rare to see temperatures in the -20s and windchill figures below -45.

In many places, it’s simply too cold for people to be outside safely. The NWS, as well as other weather and medical officials, has warned that the frigid wind can cause hypothermia and frostbite in minutes.

“You’re talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds,” Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center, told The Associated Press.

More than 1,500 flights were canceled in Chicago and other airports on Jan. 29, 2019, because of the weather — and Jan. 30, 2019, isn’t looking any better, with 2,461 cancellations nationwide as of 8:45 a.m., according to FlightAware.

Schools were closed in Chicago and parts of eastern Iowa on Jan. 30, 2019, in addition to closures in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is modernizing all of its aviation systems

The U.S. Army believes that future, high-end conflicts will require aviation assets, particularly helicopters, that are long range, fast-moving, and highly lethal. Future military helicopters will need to lift more weight, generate greater power, and use less fuel.


This is why the Army has been spending billions on technologies for virtually every aircraft system: airframe, engines, flight controls, avionics, sensors, and weapons. Many of these are part of the Army-led, multi-service Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, the ultimate goal of which is to replace most of the U.S. military’s fleet of helicopters beginning in the 2030s. The Army has identified FVL as one of its highest modernization priorities.

Also read: The Army wants a series of futuristic new helicopters

The FVL program is focused initially on developing a new scout helicopter as well as replacements for the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk and the Boeing AH-64 Apache. Ultimately, the plan is to also develop a heavy lift helicopter and a super-size platform with a payload capacity equivalent to that of existing fixed-wing tactical aircraft such as the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Airbus A400M Atlas.

In order to ensure that FVL can achieve its ambitious goals, the Army began the Joint Multi-Role Rotorcraft Technology Demonstrator (JMR TD) program in 2004. JMR’s primary objective is to develop and test advanced rotorcraft designs that can achieve a revolutionary leap in capabilities. In addition, JMR seeks to develop a common digital backbone and open architecture that will allow new systems, components, and weapons to be rapidly integrated.

A Soldier is lowered from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

The Army selected designs by two teams to build and fly JMR demonstrators. Bell Helicopter is offering the V-280 Valor, a third-generation tilt-rotor platform. The V-280 conducted its first successful test flight this past December. A Sikorsky-Boeing team will soon begin flight tests of the SB1 Defiant, a revolutionary design with two coaxial rotors on top and a pusher propeller in back. The current plan is to begin production of a new aerial platform around 2030, although there is growing belief that the current schedule could be substantially accelerated.

Related: This is what Sikorsky thinks should replace the Blackhawk

Although the FVL has received the lion’s share of media attention, the Army has a second major aviation modernization program underway. This is the Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). ITEP is an Army-led program to develop a new engine for the military’s Blackhawk and Apache fleets, one that is 50 percent more powerful and 25 percent more fuel-efficient at no increase in weight. In addition, the ITEP engine will be designed with ruggedized parts to support operations in austere and stressful environments.

Why is the Army pursuing both the FVL programs for a new generation of rotorcraft and ITEP to put new engines in current helicopters? Put simply, even on an accelerated schedule, it will be decades before the products of the FVL program can replace the more than 2,000 Blackhawks and nearly 1,000 Apaches in the U.S. inventory. Since many U.S. allies also operate Blackhawks and Apaches, there is a long-term global requirement to modernize both platforms.

AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter hovers before takeoff (Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

ITEP is critical to ensure the continued effectiveness of the Blackhawk and Apache fleets. As new technologies are added and additional protective measures deployed, the weight of military helicopters has steadily increased. It is estimated that the Blackhawk has gotten 78 pounds heavier every year since it was first deployed. Also, the U.S. military finds itself operating in more challenging environments and at higher altitudes than existing helicopter engines can readily support. Blackhawk and Apache crews often have had to reduce their loads of personnel, munitions, and even fuel to get off the ground.

ITEP is currently in the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase. Two companies, both with extensive experience producing high-performance engines, are competing to be the single provider of the new Blackhawk/Apache power plant. One is GE Aviation. Its design for ITEP, the T901 Turboshaft Engine, is a single spool engine meaning that it consists of a compressor and turbine section connected by a single shaft. GE Aviation believes that this design provides reliability and ease of maintenance.

More: This is what happens when the Army puts a laser on an Apache attack helicopter

The other competitor is the Advanced Turbine Engine Company, a joint venture of Honeywell and Pratt Whitney. Its T900 engine is a dual-spool design with two rotating turbine-compressor assemblies instead of one. A dual-spool engine automatically distributes the load between the two assemblies, allowing real-time adjustments to optimize performance, run cooler, and reduce fuel use. As a result, the new engine can be designed with less need to make compromises in key performance requirements such as speed and power. The dual spool approach also tends to result in less wear-and-tear and reduced maintenance costs.

The Department of Defense needs to move forward aggressively with both FVL and ITEP. This means providing sufficient funding to accelerate FVL while also ensuring that ITEP can successfully develop a higher performance engine for legacy Blackhawks and Apaches.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.

Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.

“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”


The medically retired Air Force captain is walking with the aid of a wearable exoskeleton robotic device as part of a study at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.

Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.

Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.

“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”

Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.

Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places

An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.

“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”

“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”

Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.

“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”

Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.

“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”

“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”

Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.

Basic training needed to master balance skills

“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”

The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.

When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.

He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.

“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”

Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.

“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”

“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.

At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.

“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”

After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army, Navy, Air Force team up on 3-way surgery

A joint surgical team comprised of three separate branches assembled at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, in December 2018 to perform an operation.

Consisting of a Navy surgeon, Air Force nurse, and Army technician, the team was organized to perform a functional endoscopic sinus surgery to restore a patient’s sinus ventilation to normal function.

“It’s always a great experience working with different branches in the operating room where we are able to learn from each other and share different perspectives,” said Army Spc. Travona Parker, Specialty Care Unit surgical technician.


Providing health care in a joint environment works to improve readiness by ensuring that health care providers have the capabilities they need while providing patients with convenient access to care.

U.S. service members assigned to a joint surgical team prepare for surgery at Joint Base-Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Dec. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)

At the end of August 2018, Fort Eustis’ McDonald Army Health Center closed its operating room and joined the Navy in conducting surgical procedures at Hospital Langley. While operating-room time has always been a hot commodity, having both the Army and Navy integrated into the Hospital Langley facility has maximized their utilization.

According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Erni Eulenstein, Surgical Operations Squadron Operating Room flight commander, “Allowing multiple services to operate at Langley has helped reduce the duplication of effort while also increasing efficiency.” If an operating room is not being used by the Air Force, it is often able to be filled by an Army or Navy surgeon to help increase utilization.

Of the surgical operations currently going on at Hospital Langley, roughly 68 percent are done by Langley providers, 28 percent are done by Fort Eustis providers, and the rest are done by Portsmouth providers.

With different services coming together, challenges would be expected. However, besides a few scheduling issues, things have run smoothly. “Everyone seems to be integrating and working well together,” Eulenstein said.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, prepares the OR for surgery on Dec. 11, 2018 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Samuel Eckholm)

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dinchen Jardine, Navy Medical Center Portsmouth Department of Otolaryngology, served as the lead surgeon during the FESS procedure and appreciates the opportunity to utilize Hospital Langley’s facilities while working side-by-side with the Air Force and Army. “It definitely helps everyone see and understand best practices that then in turn can add to providing the best care possible for patients.”

Air Force Maj. Mandy Giffin, Surgical Operations Squadron operating room nurse, has served in all three branches, bringing a lot of experience into the operating room. She enlisted in the Army before joining the Navy reserve as a surgical technician. She then joined the Air Force and went to nursing school where she now serves on active duty at Hospital Langley.

Giffin believes there are many benefits to working as a joint surgical team. “You are able to hear what everyone’s different experiences are and you can compare them to how you do things yourself.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of the worshippers heroically grabbed a shooter’s gun in New Zealand

A survivor of a mass shooting in a New Zealand mosque said a man wrestled the shooter’s gun out of his hands and then chased him out of the mosque in a bid to save more lives.

Syed Mazharuddin, a witness of the shooting in Christchurch’s Linwood Mosque on March 15, 2019, told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that a “young guy who usually takes care of the mosque” tackled the gunman.

He said the man “pounced” on the gunman, “took his gun,” and then chased him out of the building.



“The hero tried to chase and he couldn’t find the trigger in the gun … he ran behind him but there were people waiting for him in the car and he fled,” Mazharuddin said.

Seven people were killed in the Linwood Mosque and 41 people were killed in a connected attack at the Al Noor Mosque 3 1/2 miles away. One person died at Christchurch Hospital, where 48 others, including children, are being treated for gunshot wounds.

Al Noor Mosque.

Khaled Al-Nobani, a survivor of the shooting at the Al Noor Mosque, told the Herald that a man tried to take the gun from the shooter at that mosque but that the gunman “shot him straight away.”

Mazharuddin told the Herald that the shooter fired at people who were praying at the Linwood Mosque.

“Just around the entrance door there were elderly people sitting there praying, and he just started shooting at them,” he said.

Mazharuddin said he has friends who were shot in the chest. He said one was shot in the head.

One of his friends was killed, he said. “I ran out and then the police came, and they didn’t let me come back in again, so I couldn’t save my friend,” he said. “He was bleeding heavily.”

Survivors shared their accounts of New Zealand’s ‘darkest day’

Other survivors have shared their accounts of the terrorist attacks, including seeing piles of bodies, some dead.

One witness told CNN that he lay still “praying to God, oh God please let this guy run out of bullets.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described March 15, 2019, as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

Police have charged one man with murder, and two other people are in custody.

The gunman appeared to livestream the shooting on Facebook, and a manifesto claiming responsibility for the shooting praises far-right terrorists and describes hatred for Muslims and immigrants.

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

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What would happen if the Battle of Little Bighorn was fought today

The fall of Custer and five of the companies under his command at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, known by the Sioux Nation as the Battle of Greasy Grass, was as much a failure of reconnaissance and intelligence as of strategy and tactics, and a modern battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux Nation would play out differently.


First and foremost, modern military formations have better intelligence gathering assets. While Gen. George A. Custer labored under the false impression that Sitting Bull, the Lakota leader, had only 800 warriors with him, it’s more likely that he had well over 1,000 and possibly as many as 2,500.

When Custer first spotted the signs of the camp on June 25, he wanted to spend time scouting and resting his men before attacking but thought his presence had been detected by Sioux forces and would soon be reported. So, he ordered hasty preparations for an attack.

The Battle of Little Bighorn. (Lithograph: Library of Congress by Charles Marion Russell)

But modern drones and listening devices would have let him know that the fighters who spotted his men were actually leaving the encampment and not reporting to Sitting Bull. Once Custer knew that and was able to spend time gathering intelligence, he would have learned of the size of the enemy force and at least hesitated to attack with his 647 men without getting reinforcements.

His force was just part of one of three columns of U.S. government forces in the area.

But if he did press the attack anyway, that battle would be most similar to a clash between uneven forces of cavalry and mounted infantry. While Custer’s men would likely have enjoyed a technological advantage, the four-to-one numerical advantage of the Lakota, Dakota, Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne forces would have been too much to overcome.

Photo: U.S. Navy Journalist 2nd Class John J. Pistone

While Custer tried in 1876 to break through to the civilian parts of the camp to force the enemy to either fire in the direction of their loved ones or surrender, a modern Custer would likely try to draw out the enemy forces instead.

To help overcome his shortage of manpower, Custer would likely do this with a careful attack, trying to minimize civilian casualties while inflicting maximum damage on enemy vehicles.

Custer’s best chance would likely have been to send anti-armor missile teams into cover and concealment near the Sioux while one or two mechanized infantry companies deployed their Strykers just below the peak on nearby ridge lines.

Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Victor Ayala

Then, at a prearranged signal, the Strykers would roar over the ridge and fire TOW missiles at the Sioux vehicles. To keep the technological gap between the U.S. and Sioux forces, we’ll say the Sioux predominantly have Bradleys and HMMWVs.

As the Sioux, who were mostly sleeping or resting at the start of the battle, rushed to their vehicles and started moving them to the battlefield, the hidden anti-armor teams could start hitting the vehicles as they passed through chokepoints in the camp and the terrain around it, penning up vehicles.

The mortars embedded in the infantry companies could then start laying it on thick, slamming rounds into the top armor of enemy vehicles and hitting treads and tires with shrapnel to get mobility kills.

Paratroopers fire a mortar system during a call-for-fire exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 3, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Anthony Hewitt)

But Custer’s force of almost 650 troops would find it nearly impossible to keep over 2,000 enemies penned in for long, and the Sioux vehicles would make it into the open sooner or later. Once they did, their superiority in numbers would quickly turn the tide.

Custer could claim a victory at this point, satisfy himself with the large losses already inflicted and conduct an orderly withdrawal while radioing other U.S. government forces to be ready to attack the Sioux forces if they dispersed across the area.

If the Sioux followed him as a large group, he would be able to draw them to a larger government force and wipe them out.

The Bradley main armament is the M242 25mm (Bushmaster) Chain Gun. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute, and has a range of 2,000 meters, making it capable of defeating the majority of armored forces including some main battle tanks. (Photo: Department of Defense)

If, instead, he pressed his luck, and continued to fight near the Little Bighorn River, it’s likely that the final result would once again be a victory for the Sioux. Once the government anti-tank Strykers and anti-armor teams had expended their missiles, attempts to take the Bradleys out with the Stryker guns would take much longer.

Sitting Bull would be able to get a force assembled, likely by staging it behind one of the hills that dominate the area, and then launch it from behind cover and into the American flank.

An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Once the American lines were properly disrupted, more and more Sioux vehicles would be able to escape from the camp and launch additional attacks against the beleaguered 7th Cavalry.

While the Sioux would have suffered much heavier losses than in the actual 1876 battle, the end result of a standing battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux nation would always be subject to the huge numbers disparity on the ground.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mark Zuckerberg announces Facebook will now allow users to turn off political ads

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced the platform would allow its users to turn off political ads.

“Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content,” Zuckerberg wrote in a USA Today op-ed article. “For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads.”

“We’ll still remind you to vote,” he added.


Facebook will begin implementing the feature for some users Wednesday and plans to make it available to all users over the next several weeks, a company representative told CNBC.

Users will be able to turn off ads about political, social, and electoral issues from political candidates, super PACs, and other organizations that have a political disclaimer indicating an ad is “paid for by” a certain entity, CNBC reported.

Zuckerberg also announced in his op-ed article that Facebook would seek to boost voter registration, voter turnout, and marginalized voices ahead of the 2020 presidential election and that the platform hoped to help 4 million people register to vote.

To that end, he said Facebook would create a Voting Information Center with information about registration, early voting, and voting by mail. The center will also include details on how and when to vote, Zuckerberg said, adding that the company expected 160 million people in the US to see “authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November.”

Zuckerberg also said Facebook would continue working to combat foreign interference on its platform by tracking and taking down “malicious accounts.”

The company removed 3.3. billion fake accounts in 2018 and 5.4 billion last year as of November.

Zuckerberg’s announcement comes as Facebook continues facing scrutiny over its decision to show political content to users even if that content contains misinformation or false claims.

The social-media network has been under the microscope particularly in the past few weeks after it refused to follow Twitter’s lead in flagging President Donald Trump’s misleading statements on its platform.

Shortly after Twitter shared links debunking two of Trump’s tweets spreading conspiracy theories about voting by mail, Zuckerberg criticized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Fox News interview.

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said.

Dorsey hit back at Zuckerberg, tweeting: “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”

He added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”

Zuckerberg appeared to allude to the recent strife over Trump’s tweets in his op-ed article, writing, “Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content.”

“We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them,” he wrote. “But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.”

Zuckerberg added that he believes the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting.

“I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves,” he wrote. “That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”

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

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This soldier thinks it’s time to retire the Pathfinder badge

The de-activation of the Pathfinder Company at Fort Campbell and the Army’s recent decision to do away with Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Detachments got me thinking: Why do we even have Pathfinder school anymore?


Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career.  But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too.  After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”

U.S Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldiers earn their Pathfinder Badge at Fort Bragg, N.C. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres

I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them.  The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity.  Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.

Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.

Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility.  It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why this Afghanistan veteran could soon be deported

A U.S. Army veteran and green card holder with a felony drug conviction could be deported as soon as this week, his attorney said Jan. 29 after a federal court denied his appeal to remain in the U.S.


Miguel Perez Jr., 39, a Chicago resident who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and recently finished a prison term on a drug conviction, had sought to remain in the U.S., arguing his life would be in danger if he were deported to Mexico, where he has not lived since age 8. A three-judge panel for the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument last week.

Perez’s attorney, Chris Bergin, said the case highlights hypocrisy in how the country treats some American military service members.

“If you’re going to put your hand on your hearts every time at a game, you’re going to say thank you for your service and wear American flag lapel pins, and you’re going to criticize football players for taking a knee during the national anthem, it seems that’s all superficial and false patriotism if you’re not caring about an actual military veteran,” Bergin said.

In a statement, Perez’s supporters said Jan. 29 the ruling has left his family “distraught.”

“From the beginning, Miguel has fought his deportation, not only for himself, but in solidarity with other green-card veterans who have been or who are now facing deportation after having served their country in combat,” they said.

Related: A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

Perez, who has two children who are U.S. citizens, is one of many legal permanent residents who served in the U.S. military then confronted the possibility of deportation to their native countries after committing a crime.

Perez said he mistakenly thought he became a U.S. citizen when he took an oath to protect the nation. His military superiors never offered to help him expedite his citizenship, Bergin reiterated in court Jan. 31.

After his military service, Perez sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Maywood, where doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was supposed to return for more tests to determine whether he also had a traumatic brain injury.

In the meantime, he reconnected with a childhood friend who provided free drugs and alcohol. On Nov. 26, 2008, while with that friend, Perez handed a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. Perez pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.

While Perez was convicted of delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine, prosecutors have said he was arrested for delivering much more and received a reduced sentence after a plea deal. Prosecutors also pointed out that Perez was given a general discharge from the military after a drug infraction.

Perez said he discovered the citizenship oversight when he was summoned to immigration court shortly before his September 2016 release from Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg. Instead of heading home to Chicago from prison, Perez was placed in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and transferred to a Wisconsin detention center for immigrants awaiting deportation.

File photo. (Photo courtesy of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.)

When legal residents or people who are here illegally commit crimes, ICE’s standard protocol is to let them serve most of their sentence for the crime in the U.S., then deport them.

Roughly 18,700 legal permanent residents are in the U.S. armed forces, and about 5,000 join every year, according to the Department of Defense.

After oral arguments to the appeals court panel this month, Perez’s mother, Esperanza, fought back tears. In Spanish, she said she could not bear hearing her son’s fate discussed in such callous terms.

“He defended this country, and the same system wants to throw him away like garbage,” she said through a translator. “It’s so sad for me to think if they send him back to Mexico he’d be just another statistic.”

In court, Perez cited the United Nations Convention against Torture, a protection that resembles asylum. Under that international provision, the U.S. agrees not to deport people who are not American citizens or nationals to another country where they could face imminent danger.

Prosecutors rejected the argument that the danger allegedly facing Perez qualifies under the torture provision and asked the judges to affirm the immigration court’s order for removal.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents gear up before a raid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Bergin said he has filed a stay on two grounds. One is based on a medical evaluation finding that Perez needs immediate attention for PTSD and his brain injury. The other seeks retroactive citizenship for Perez to when he joined the military in 2001.

Perez and his supporters are also preparing, if necessary, to file an appeal to the full panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit and have asked Gov. Bruce Rauner to grant a pardon to Perez for his criminal conviction, supporters said. If Rauner grants the pardon, it’s not clear how that might affect the deportation case.

Congress should also address the problem facing green card veterans, supporters said.

Bergin hopes somebody at ICE “has a sense of decency and says, ‘Look, we’ve got to credit the service this guy did.’ ”

“Every step of the way, we’ve tried to get somebody to be sympathetic and reasonable,” Bergin said.