“Thousands of our post-9/11 veterans carry the invisible burden of post-traumatic stress, and there is an overwhelming need to expand the available treatment options,” DeSantis said in a statement. “The VA should use every tool at their disposal to support and treat our veterans, including the specialized care offered by service dogs.”
The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act is a five-year, $10 million program to give post-9/11 veterans with a service dog and veterinary health insurance. The veteran must have been treated for PTSD and have completed an established evidence-based treatment. They must remain significantly symptomatic, rating a 3 or 4 on the PTSD scale.
Service dogs are known to be effective in treating veterans with anxiety disorders, physical pain, and other limitations. The animals are proven to give new life and independence to recovering veterans.
China’s fight against the deployment of a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense missiles has now expanded to the deployment of hip-hop.
No, you didn’t read that wrong – China’s now using a rap video as a form of public diplomacy against the ballistic missile defense system, according to a report by the New York Times. The video seems to be bombing, with less than 50,000 views on YouTube.
The video, in English and Chinese, urges South Korea to reconsider the system’s deployment.
Dubbed “CD Rev,” the rap group is based out of Sichuan, China, and has done other videos in support of Beijing’s government — including one on that country’s claims in the South China Sea, a maritime flashpoint involving five other countries, as well as a video celebrating the legacy of Mao Tse-Tung.
A London Daily Mail report from 2011 noted that Mao was responsible for at least 45 million deaths during “The Great Leap Forward,” a brutal attempt to shift the country from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial one.
The deployment of THAAD has drawn sharp criticism from China – and the reactions have included hacking that targeted the South Korean company that allowed the battery of missiles to be placed on a golf course it owned. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also hacked. China has also been blocking videos of South Korean artists, particularly from the K-pop genre.
South Korea recently elected Moon Jae-in, who has favored diplomacy with North Korea, as President after the impeachment and removal from office of Park Geun-Hye.
The THAAD battery, consisting of six launchers that each hold eight missiles along with assorted support vehicles, was deployed to South Korea to counter the threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles. According to ArmyRecognition.com, the system has a range of over 600 miles.
The United States has other options to shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile, including the sea-based RIM-161 Standard SM-3. The system is considered far more capable than the MIM-104 Patriot systems that the United States, Japan, and South Korea have deployed.
Imagine going into the Emergency Room, bleeding from a car accident. The EMTs tell you it doesn’t have to be a serious injury as long as they can handle the blood loss. Imagine then being told they can’t actually handle the blood loss – even at the hospital.
That’s the reality the American Red Cross is facing today. It has only two days worth of Type-O blood left for the entire United States. Just six units for every 100,000 people.
An estimated seven percent of Americans have Type-O negative blood, but it can be transfused to any patient. So when the emergency department needs blood in a hurry and doesn’t have time to type a patient’s blood, a process that can take up to a half hour, they reach for the universal donor’s blood. But Type-O positive is also a critical blood type, being the most widely transfused type.
The Red Cross has tried a number of different gimmicks to try and get more people to donate, especially those with O-negative blood. The Red Cross in Arizona even offered a giveaway package to send a lucky donor to Los Angeles for the season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.
And that was back in February 2019. Nearly four months later, the show has ended, and the blood supply situation is critical and will only get worse. As the year turns to Spring and Summer, blood drives and school collections wind down, further shortening the supply.
With such a severe shortage, conditions that would normally be survivable could soon become more and more lethal. Transfusions are needed for much more than trauma from car accidents and the like. Blood is necessary for things we may even consider routine in our day and age, from cancer treatments to childbirth.
Russia recently announced that it would begin drawing down its deployment to Syria. One of the first major assets to depart will be its lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, according to a report by Agence France Press.
The Russian government produced a slick tribute video that harkens back to the 1950s Soviet Union, where the same M-4 Bison bombers were flown past the reviewing stands of the 1955 Aviation Day parade several times to make it look like the Soviets had tons of planes.
The new Kuznetsov video showed crewmen standing watch – some on the carrier’s flight deck with an assault rifle, as well as Su-33 Flankers taking off from the ship.
The Admiral Kuznetsov in drydock — a place it should never leave.
That said, there is a whole lot of stuff this video has left out. Regular readers of this site are familiar with the Kuznetsov Follies, coverage of the many… shortcomings, this carrier displayed on the deployment.
The highlight of these follies — well, let just say the term lowlight might be more accurate — would be the splash landings Russian Navy fighters made. In November, a MiG-29K made a splash landing shortly after takeoff. The next month, a Su-33 Flanker made its own splash landing. The Flanker wasn’t to blame – an arresting cable on the craptastic carrier snapped.
The carrier has been known to have breakdowns, too, and as a result, deploys with tugboats. Other problems include a central heating system that doesn’t heat, a busted ventilation system, broken latrines, and a lot of mold and mildew.
So, with all that in mind, here is the Russian video:
Air Force scientists are working to arm the B-52 with defensive laser weapons able to incinerate attacking air-to-air or air-to-ground missile attack.
Offensive and defensive laser weapons for Air Force fighter jets and large cargo aircraft have been in development for several years now. However, the Air Force Research Lab has recently embarked upon a special five-year effort, called the SHIELD program, aimed at creating sufficient on-board power, optics and high-energy lasers able to defend large platforms such as a B-52 bomber, C-130 aircraft or fighter jet.
“You can take out the target if you put the laser on the attacking weapon for a long enough period of time,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.
Possibly using an externally-mounted POD with sufficient transportable electrical power, the AFRL is already working on experimental demonstrator weapons able to bolt-on to an aircraft, Zacharias added.
Given that an external POD would add shapes to the fuselage which would make an aircraft likely to be vulnerable to enemy air defense radar systems, the bolt-on defensive laser would not be expected to work on a stealthy platform, he explained.
However, a heavily armed B-52, as a large 1960s-era target, would perhaps best benefit from an ability to defend itself from the air; such a technology would indeed be relevant and potentially useful to the Air Force, as the service is now immersed in a series of high-tech upgrades for the B-52 so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.
Defending a B-52 could becoming increasing important in years to come if some kind of reconfigured B-52 is used as the Pentagon’s emerging Arsenal Plane or “flying bomb truck.”
Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.
Defensive laser weapons could also be used to jam an attacking missile as well, developers explained.
“You may not want to destroy the incoming missile but rather throw the laser off course – spoof it,” Zacharias said.
Also, synchronizing laser weapons with optics technology from a telescope could increase the precision needed to track and destroy fast moving enemy attacks, he said.
Another method of increasing laser fire power is to bind fiber optic cables together to, for example, turn a 1 Kilowatt laser into a 10-Kilowatt weapon.
“Much of the issue with fiber optic lasers is stability and an effort to make lasers larger,” he explained.
Targeting for the laser could also seek to connect phased array radars and lasers on the same wavelength to further synchronize the weapon.
Laser Weapons for Fighter Jets
Aircraft-launched laser weapons from fighter jets could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.
Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.
Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.
Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, has taken place in the last few years at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.
Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.
Air Force Special Operations Command is working with both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.
Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.
Overall, officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.
Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”
And the U.S. Navy also has several developmental programs underway to arm their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.
As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a laser-drone weapon will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.
While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacharias explained.
“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.
Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.
Click here to view original article from Warrior Scout.
For the first time ever, six US Marine F-35s took part in Red Flag, a hyper realistic, three-week-long training exercise that takes place in the skies above Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The fifth-generation jets will take part in aerial combat and close-air support drills, as well as mock war games against opposing forces as part of the exercise. Red Flag is scheduled to run from July 11 to July 29.
However, in more recent simulations, the improved F-35 simply dominated F-15s in dogfights.
The Marine pilots seem optimistic about the F-35s’ prospects in the simulated combat, and they are pleased with the work it has done so far.
“We’re really working on showcasing our surface-to-air capabilities,” Maj. Brendan Walsh, an F-35 pilot said in a Marine Corps press release. “The F-35 is integrating by doing various roles in air-to-air and air-to-ground training.”
“With the stealth capability, the biggest thing that this aircraft brings that the others do not is situational awareness,” Walsh said.
“The sensor sweep capability that the F-35 brings to the fight, not only builds those pictures for me, but for the other platforms as well. We’re able to share our knowledge of the battle space with the rest of the participants in order to make everyone more effective.”
As with any warplane, the capability of the platform is directly tied to the skill of the pilot, and exercises like Red Flag provide unparalleled opportunities to train in realistic situations. This year, the F-35 will train with F-16s, F-22s, F-18s, B-52s and other current Air Force, Army, Marine, and Navy platforms.
Lt. Col. J.T. Bardo, the commanding officer of the Marine flight squadron taking part in Red Flag said of the F-35: “If I had to go into combat, I wouldn’t want to go into combat in any other airplane.”
Watch a video report on the F-35 at Red Flag below:
Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has refused to relinquish power for more than a year, and the Catholic Church has emerged as the leader in the fight against him.
Since December 2017, when Kabila again refused to step down, the church and a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee have organized a handful of protests, all of which have ended violently.
Most recently, anti-government protests in the capital city of Kinshasa on Feb. 25, 2018, left four people dead and two more injured, according to the Associated Press.
Kabila’s refusal to step down has also aggravated violence between government forces and multiple armed groups in other areas of the country. This includes the Kasai and Kivu regions, where mass atrocities have been carried out by both sides, killing and displacing thousands in the last few years.
Here’s what’s going on:
President Joseph Kabila took power of the DRC in 2001 after his father’s assassination.
Kabila helped unify the country after the two Congo wars of 1996-97 and 1998-2003, bringing back international business and raising GDP.
But at the same time, his government has been accused of gross incompetence, corruption, and human rights abuses.
Kabila was supposed to step down after his two-term mandate expired on December 19, 2016, but he stayed on after invoking a controversial law requiring a successor to be elected. This sparked a wave of protests.
In January 2017, the Catholic Church brokered a deal between Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and opposition parties that elections would be held in December 2017 and that Kabila would step down.
In December 2017, Kabila again refused to step down, saying that an election would have to be held at the end of 2018 because the government didn’t have enough money.
Election officials have even said that, because of continued financial and logistical problems, the election might be even held later than that.
With opposition parties in disarray, the Catholic Church, which had previously tried to stay neutral, organized anti-government protests together with a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee.
In the first demonstration on Dec. 31, 2017, seven demonstrators were killed by government forces.
On Jan. 21, 2018, another protest was held in which government forces killed 5 more protesters, firing live rounds and tear gas into crowds of demonstrators.
“We were dispersed by tear gas, stun grenades, and live bullets. We have again seen deaths, injuries, priests being arrested, and the theft of citizens’ property,” Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo said after the protests, according to Reuters.
“How can you kill men, women, children, youths, and old people all chanting religious songs, carrying bibles, rosaries, and crucifixes? Are we now living in an open prison?”
They organized another protest on Feb. 25, 2018, after mass, but government forces surrounded the churches that were planning to participate in the demonstrations before the parishioners could even take to the streets.
As police confined them, many churchgoers prayed and chanted slogans.
But violence soon erupted.
Police again fired live rounds and tear gas into crowds, and even beat, kicked, and arrested priests and protesters who were peacefully marching, which the video below shows.
Source: Jason Stearns
The violence reportedly left four dead and 47 more injured.
Source: Associated Press
The political violence unfolding in Kinshasa and other cities has also aggravated conflicts in different regions of the country, namely the regions of Kasai and Kivu.
In Kasai, the Congolose military has been battling a militia group called Kamuina Nsapu since August 2016, and in the Kivu, it has been battling an Islamist group called the Allied Democratic Forces since the 1990s.
Source: US News
The fighting between the two sides in Kasai has left more than 3,300 people dead and 1.4 million displaced since August 2016.
Dozens of mass graves have also been found in the region, which the Congolese military blames on the Kamuina Nsapu militia.
But the UN has also hinted that the Congolese military dug the graves after battling the militia.
Meanwhile, in Kivu, the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces killed 15 UN peacekeepers and five Congolese troops in December 2017.
Late February 2018, the Congolese military attacked an ADF base, and gruesomely massacred a number of its fighters.
Between June and November 2017, “at least 526 civilians were killed … at least 1,087 people were abducted or kidnapped for ransom, and there were at least 7 incidents of mass rape,” according to Human Rights Watch.
While Kabila has blamed militia groups for much of the violence, his own troops have been accused of carrying out a bulk of the human rights violations, according to Jason Stearns of the Congo Research Group.
With tensions continuing to rise, and Kabila seemingly intent on holding as long he can, only time will tell what the future holds for the DRC.
Distinguishing between the bravery of warfighters like these is tough. After all, what’s the exchange rate between five Navy Crosses and two Medals of Honor? These men cannot be ranked, but they can and should be commemorated. And in that spirit WATM presents this lineup:
1. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly
Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called the “fightenest Marine I ever knew” by the famed Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. In perhaps his most famous action, he encouraged the Marine advance at Belleau Wood in 1918 by turning to his men and yelling, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Daly was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Belleau Wood, but received the Distinguished Service Cross. He also received two Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, and a Silver Star in addition to a number of foreign awards for other battles during his career.
2. Maj. Audie Murphy
Commonly called the most decorated soldier of World War II, Maj. Audie Murphy received the Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, and two Bronze Stars with Combat V.
Murphy’s foreign awards were especially impressive. He received the French Forrager, Legion of Honor, and Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. He also received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.
3. Col. Edward V. Rickenbacker
When America entered World War I in 1917, race car driver Edward Rickenbacker volunteered for service. He started off as a staff driver but a chance meeting with Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, saw him reassigned to the new Army Air Corps where he became an “Ace of Aces” with 26 kills in only nine months.
The Distinguished Service Cross and one Navy Cross were received for actions Puller took at the Chosin Reservoir where he personally oversaw the Marine and Army defenses while under withering machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire over five days of fighting.
5. Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Williams
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Williams holds every level of valor award with a Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, two Navy and Marine Corps Medals, three Bronze Stars with Combat V, and two Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V.
In his Medal of Honor action, Williams was commanding a river patrol boat when he took fire from two enemy Sampans in Vietnam and gave chase. He was lured into an ambush but fought against overwhelming odds for three hours, leading a fight that saw 65 enemy ships destroyed by Williams’ crew and a detachment of helicopters that eventually reinforced him.
Politicians — we love to hate them. But occasionally we come across one that we want to know more about. Michigan Democrat Sen. Gary Peters is one of those politicians.
We Are the Mighty caught up with the senator last week to chat about his work for and with veterans, and we came away with five things we think everyone should know about him:
1. Peters is working on veteran issues
Peters served in the Navy from 1993 to 2005. He left the Navy Reserve in 2000, only to return to duty just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Not only has Peters had a heavy hand in incredibly pro-veteran legislation in the two years since he took office, he is actively looking for more ways he can contribute to the veteran community. Case in point: education.
The senator said that he was bothered that service members can spend entire careers in the military doing a specific job, and then find themselves in the civilian world and having to start completely over — either in college or in some sort of training for the very jobs they’ve just spent years doing.
“There should be some sort of translation,” Peters told WATM.
One of the career fields he specifically mentioned was that of EMTs and other first responders. After extensive military training in medical fields, service members find that, upon their return to the civilian world, they are required to do all of that training again in civilian schools.
His idea is to find a way to make sure that those veterans are getting legitimate credit for their experience, rather than as as electives credits.
Bottom line: Peters wants to look at the issues facing veterans and put into action actual solutions to solve them.
2. He knows his stuff
The Michigan Democrat holds four degrees, including two masters, and a law degree.
At 22 and fresh out of college, Peters was named the assistant vice-president of Merrill Lynch — a position he held for nine years. That was followed by a four year stint as the vice-president of Paine Webber (a stock broker firm acquired by Swiss Bank UBS in 2000) before he joined the Navy.
During his time in the Navy, Peters served as an assistant supply manager and achieved the rank of lieutenant commander. His deployments include the Persian Gulf and various locations immediately after 9/11.
Peters served as a Michigan representative to the U.S. Congress from 2009 to 2015.
Bottom line: Peters has spent time both as a veteran and a politician learning the ins and outs of veteran issues.
3. Peters is working on keeping jobs in America
We asked Peters about the Outsourcing Accountability Act, which serves to gather accurate information from American companies on whether they outsource work to other countries, where exactly that work is going, and how many American jobs are being lost to outsourcing.
The bill has wide bi-partisan support.
The question was, did the Peters believe that his bill as introduced to the House would help or hinder veterans who were trying to get jobs?
“The idea is to create more jobs stateside,” Peters told WATM. “This will, in turn, create more jobs for veterans stateside.”
Bottom line: Peters is working to make sure that veterans have better access to American jobs.
4. He’s working on PTSD and other mental and physical health issues veterans face
Veterans who receive less-than-honorable discharges lose all of their benefits, and Peters says he strongly believes that those who received those discharges as a result of subsequently diagnosed PTSD should get an opportunity to have them reviewed.
Bottom line: Peters shows a determination to get as much work done as possible while he serves his constituents.
5. Peters has a sense of humor
Peters was extremely limited in the amount of time he had to chat with We Are the Mighty, but when it was time for him to move into his next appointment, there was still one burning question that had been rolling around the office for days.
Given a choice, would the senator rather go into battle with one horse-sized duck or 1,000 duck-sized horses?
“Absolutely, 1,000 duck sized horses. I like to overwhelm my enemies with sheer numbers.”
Bottom line: He’s familiar with the sense of humor here at We Are the Mighty, and he digs it.
The chief of Naval Operations said today that the collisions in the Pacific that killed 10 sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald and seven sailors aboard the USS McCain were entirely preventable, and the service is committed to correcting the actions that led to the accidents.
Navy Adm. John Richardson told Pentagon reporters that many aspects combined to cause the accidents, including lack of training, hubris, sleep deprivation, failures in navigation, and failures in leadership.
The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain sailed when they shouldn’t have, he said, and that decision falls on the commanders, who are responsible for conducting risk assessments.
The demand for ships, or any military capability, is defined by the security environment, Richardson said, adding that the Pacific has been a very demanding environment of late.
The demand of the security environment must match against the resources that can be applied. “When you have a gap between those two, that’s risk,” the admiral said. “It’s all part of that … day-to-day assessment. Every commander has to wake up each day at their command level and say, what has changed in my security environment? What is my new risk posture? And how am I going to accommodate or mitigate that risk?”
At some point, commanders cannot mitigate the risk, and they should say no to the mission, he said, but the present culture is such that commanders will assess the risk to be acceptable when it is not.
Changing that culture is one goal for the chief — he wants commanders to be honest about assessments and the shortfalls they have.
While the changes are in the 7th Fleet area, the Navy is on all the seas. “A review of your Navy today shows that this morning there are 100 ships and 64,000 sailors and Navy civilians who are deployed,” Richardson said.
“This includes three carrier strike groups and their embarked air wings, three amphibious readiness groups, and their embarked Marine expeditionary units, six ballistic missile defense ships on station, 11 attack submarines, five [ballistic missile submarines],” he said. “The vast majority of these ships are conducting their missions, some of them extremely difficult, effectively and professionally, protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the seafloor, to space, and in cyberspace.”
The Navy and its sailors are busy, and they have been integral to the wars America has fought since 9/11. “Recent experience has shown that if we’re not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command,” the admiral said.
To address this, the Navy has taken some immediate actions, including restoring a deliberative scheduling process in the 7th Fleet, conducting comprehensive ready-for-sea assessments for all Japan-based ships, establishing a naval service group in the Western Pacific — an independent body in Yokosuka, Japan that will keep their eye on readiness generation and standards for the Pacific Fleet commander — establishing and using a near-miss program to understand and disseminate lessons learned, and establishing policies for surface ships to routinely and actively transmit on their automatic identification system, Richardson said.
Midterm actions will emphasize training, establishing comprehensive policies on managing fatigue and accelerating some of the electronic navigation systems upgrades, he said.
“Long-term actions include improving individual and team training skills, with an emphasis on basic seamanship, navigation and integrated bridge equipment; evaluating core officer and enlisted curricula with an emphasis on fundamentals [and] navigation skills,” the admiral said.
“I have to say that fundamental to all of this is how we prepare leaders for command,” Richardson said. “We will deeply examine the way that we prepare officers for increasing leadership challenges, culminating in assumption of command with the capability and the confidence to form, train and assess warfighting teams on the bridge, in the combat information center, in engineering and throughout their command.”
Marines in Afghanistan who need critical supplies in remote areas won’t have to lug their gear in trucks anymore. Instead, Corps planners have developed a new airdrop system that literally flied the supplies to their exact location.
Take that Amazon.
According to a Marine Corps Systems Command release, the last of 162 Joint Precision Air-drop Systems were delivered to the Marines in April. The system, based on the Firefly from Airborne Systems, is capable of delivering 2,200 pounds of supplies to within roughly 500 feet of an aim point when dropped from about 15.5 miles away.
“An average combat logistics patrol in Afghanistan that’s running behind a route clearance platoon may travel at only five to six miles an hour,” Capt. Keith Rudolf of the Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems said. “Depending on how much supply you have on there, you may have a mile worth of trucks that are slow-moving targets.”
The United States Army also operates the 2,200-pound version of the system and also operates a version of the system capable of delivering five tons of supplies. The Marines have also acquired a version known as JPADS ULW – which can deliver 250 to 700 pounds of supplies.
Both versions of the system enable a cargo plane like the C-130J Hercules or the MV-22 Osprey to drop the pallet from an altitude of 24,500 feet – far outside the range of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, RPGs, heavy machine guns, and small arms.
Marine Corps Systems Command is now shifting from the acquisition of the JPADS to sustainment of the system. This includes planning for upgrades to the system to keep it relevant as the missions evolve.
The Marines are also considering a version that will allow reconnaissance Marines to be parachuted in with their gear.
(Editor’s Note – The following is an updated repost of a story on the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine Epidemiology Reference Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which was originally published on March 27, 2018. It contains new information on the lab’s mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s epidemiology laboratory is the Air Force’s sole clinical reference laboratory, and as such, is testing and processing samples of COVID-19 sent from military treatment facilities around the world.
The lab was authorized by the Defense Health Agency to test samples from Department of Defense beneficiaries for COVID-19 in early March, and received its test kit from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shortly after.
“The USAFSAM Epi Lab is currently working long hours, testing and processing samples of COVID-19 that are coming in from MTFs globally,” said Col. Theresa Goodman, USAFSAM commander. “If you ask anyone on this team how they’re doing, they’ll tell you they’re fine–that they’re just doing their jobs. But I couldn’t be more proud of them right now — their selfless and tireless dedication to this mission. COVID-19 testing is our primary mission right now and the members of the Epi Lab are my front line to this fight.”
USAFSAM’s epidemiology laboratory, nested in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, has a long history of testing and identifying various infectious respiratory diseases, including those that occur on a regular basis like influenza, and the ones similar to COVID-19 that become a public health issue, spreading globally. Because of this, the team works closely with the CDC and other agencies.
Col. Theresa Goodman
“We have been in operation for approximately 30 years, and therefore involved with many other infectious disease outbreaks, for example SARS,” said Col. Dana Dane, USAFSAM Public Health Department chair.
This laboratory is only authorized to test samples coming in from DoD beneficiaries, but those outside this demographic have the support of their state public health departments for testing purposes. USAFSAM is working closely with public health professionals across the DoD, as well as with the CDC as the situation evolves. Per CDC guidelines, reference laboratories are no longer required to submit samples to the CDC for further testing and final confirmation. If the tests do show as positive, the USAFSAM Epi Lab marks the sample “confirmed positive.”
USAFSAM’s laboratory is not participating in vaccine development. It also is not the type of laboratory where people go to get blood drawn, nasal swabs, etc., like a CompuNet or clinic at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. USAFSAM’s clinical reference lab is set up to receive these samples from military treatment facilities. They run the tests on those samples and log the data.
“We’re all sensitive to those around the world who are grieving losses due to this awful virus as well as to others who are just downright scared. Our hearts go out to you,” said Goodman. “But just know that our epidemiology laboratory here in USAFSAM is waiting at the door 24/7 for any and all samples that come in from our DoD family.
Goodman also stated that the team is lockstep with public health personnel around the world as well as with our partners at the CDC.
“We truly are all in this together,” she said. “Fighting this virus will take all of us doing our part–from those staying at home washing their hands a little more often and checking on neighbors to USAFSAM’s public health team testing samples and getting the data where it needs to go.”
THE DISEASE DETECTIVES (ORIGINAL POST – MARCH 27, 2018 )
After slowly using a blade to cut through thick tape, a technician in a protective gown and glasses opens the flaps of a cardboard box revealing a polystyrene container. As her gloved hands cautiously remove the lid, a wisp of vapor rolls slowly over the edge of the box, clinging to its surface as it descends onto the tabletop.
The technician gingerly reaches through the fog and removes a plastic bag filled with clear vials from the container. This process is repeated over a hundred times each morning as carts filled with boxes of clinical patient specimens arrive at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Epidemiology Laboratory Service at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Created in 1990, the Epi Lab, as it is referred to at USAFSAM, focuses on clinical diagnostic, public health testing and force health screening, performing 5,000 to 8,000 tests six days a week (or about 2.1 million tests a year) for clinics and hospitals treating active duty service members, reservists and National Guard members and their dependents and beneficiaries.
The data collected from these tests not only enables the analysis of disease within the joint force, but is shared with civilian public health agencies contributing to the tracking of diseases, such as influenza and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as supporting disease prevention efforts, such as the formulation of vaccines.
While the lab receives most of its medical samples from Air Force bases around the world, it also tests specimens sent by Navy and Army hospitals and clinics, totaling more than 200 military medical facilities around the globe.
The Epi Lab’s workload is a result of its efficiency and economics, according to Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epi Lab.
Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., is a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The lab, which receives between 5,000 and 8,000 samples, six days a week, for analysis, routinely reports results to Department of Defense hospitals and clinics around the world within 48 hours of a sample being shipped to the lab.
“A lot of the testing is very specialized, and in some cases can be very expensive. Many of our Air Force clinics and laboratories are small and don’t have the personnel to do that kind of thing or the funding to get all the specialized instruments that we have,” Macias said. “Our personnel are comprised of military, government civilians and contractor civilians, so we have the expertise and the personnel to handle the workload.”
Nearly 30 people work throughout the morning, removing samples packed in dry ice from their boxes, ensuring the patient information on the specimen tubes and paperwork match the orders on the computer system and then re-labeling them for the lab’s computer system before sending the samples to the appropriate testing departments.
“The laboratory consists of three branches; Customer Support, Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology. Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology perform testing, such as immune status and screening for STDs, like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis and some other serology assays,” said Tech. Sgt. Maryann Caso, noncommissioned officer in charge of the immunodiagnostic section of the Epi Lab.
Just over a year ago, the Epi Lab adopted fourth-generation HIV testing, which enables the lab to detect an HIV infection two weeks sooner after a patient is exposed. This newer technology allows patients to receive treatment and counseling sooner.
There is a constant flow of samples requiring STD screening and immune status testing, as these are gathered as part of the in-processing screening for each new service member. The tests help screen for potentially infectious diseases as well as establish a baseline of antibody types and levels for each new recruit to precisely target which vaccines they need.
“For example, all the new recruits are tested for measles, mumps, and rubella. So if they have antibodies to those diseases then they’re not vaccinated again. This saves the Department of Defense because they don’t waste manpower and money to vaccinate somebody that is already protected against those diseases,” Macias said.
The lab has become more efficient and safer for laboratory technicians after the installation of an automated testing system last year.
Laboratory technicians unpack and log in blood serum, fecal, urine or respiratory samples which arrive from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as some other Department of Defense facilities Jan. 30, 2018. The Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, receives 100-150 boxes a day, six days a week. The lab, which tests between 5,000 and 8,000 samples daily, is a Department of Defense reference laboratory offering clinical diagnostic, public health, and force health screening and testing.
“The samples come in now and are put on an automated line. It will actually uncap the sample, spin it down, aliquot it (divide the sample into smaller portions for multiple tests) and sort it to whatever section and analyzer it needs for a particular test,” Caso said.
“Before, our techs had to manually uncap the tubes, aliquot the samples and sort them. When you have thousands of samples that you have to uncap and then recap by hand, you get repetitive-motion injuries to the wrist – such as carpal tunnel. The whole idea is to have automated processes and to eliminate or mitigate pre-analytical errors, such as specimen contamination.”
Once tested, the results are automatically returned to the submitting hospital or clinic via computer, unless the system notifies a technician to intervene and manually certify the test result.
“Specimens are collected at hospitals and clinics around the world and sent to us,” Macias said. “We receive the boxes within 24 hours and most of the results are completed within 24 hours… So, generally, we get those results back to the submitting clinic within 48 hours from when they are shipped to us, so the docs can then treat their patients appropriately and with a good turnaround time.”
In addition to the immunology testing that is performed in the lab, the Microbiology branch performs testing on bacterial cultures, examines fecal samples for parasites that cause intestinal disease, and performs influenza testing.
The Air Force began an influenza surveillance program in 1976 to collect data about disease and its spread in response to an outbreak of what was called “Bootcamp Flu.” In the close quarters of basic training, the virus spread through many barracks, according to Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the Virology and manual testing section at the Epi Lab.
Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the manual testing section, oversees the influenza surveillance program at the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.The lab identifies and sequences the genome of influenza samples received from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as other Department of Defense facilities. The data collected on active flu strains contributes about 25 percent of the total data used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to formulate its yearly influenza vaccine.
To combat illness, recruits needed to be regularly monitored, giving birth to Operation Gargle, in which recruits gargled with a solution and spit it back into a specimen cup which was then tested for influenza and other respiratory pathogens.
The Air Force program is now part of the Defense Health Agency’s Global, Laboratory-Based Respiratory Pathogen program which grows, sequences and collects data on influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.
The flu surveillance program at the Epi Lab has approximately 95 submitting laboratories scattered across the continental United States and the globe, from deployed areas to Europe, Japan and Guam.
In a typical flu season, the surveillance program receives between 5,000 and 6,000 specimens. This year, the Epi Lab has received 5,000 specimens in just the first few months of the flu season, according to Minnich.