World War II history buffs are going to lose their minds. A Syrian rebel faction called the al-Tawhid Brigade stumbled on an arms cache of 5,000 German WWII-era Sturmgwehr 44 (STG-44) rifles.
The STG-44 was designed to increase the volume of fire for German infantry units fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. It accomplished this mission but was developed too late in the war to make an impact.
The rebels thought they’d found a cache of Ak-47s. The two don’t look that much alike, but it’s understandable how the ill-armed and ill-equipped group would get excited at their find anyway.
Besides, there’s little reason to see how 5,000 Nazi-built rifles worth an estimated $30,000 apiece ended up in the Syrian desert.
The al-Tawhid Brigade was an Islamist faction originally allied with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition against the government of Bashar al-Asad. In 2013, the al-Tawhid Brigade along with 11 other factions, would leave the Coalition and join al-Qaeda. That same year, its head commander died of wounds sustained in a Syrian government air strike and the group’s membership would defect to the various other groups fighting pro-Asad forces. The group is now defunct.
There is no word on what happened to the rare, expensive Nazi relics. For those keeping tabs at home, that’s a $150 million dollar loss.
Keep an eye out for those STG-44s. They’ve shown up in state-sponsored gun buybacks in California and Connecticut.
A senior member of Russia’s defense and security committee told Russian TV that Norway has been added to the list of potential targets for a nuclear strike after Norway agreed to host 330 U.S. Marines for a rotational training deployment.
Norway has allowed other NATO militaries to use its country for cold weather training for years.
He later said, “Because we need to react against definitive military threats. And we have things to react to, I might as well tell it like it is.”
It’s not clear how the Marines provide a definitive military threat to Russia. While significant U.S. hardware is cached within Norway, the 330 Marines would have to invade through famously neutral Sweden to use a 700-mile route. Going around would add on hundreds of miles of travel distance and logistics problems.
And even Marines would struggle if they took on the Russian military in such small numbers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. already has troops permanently stationed in Germany, which is about the same distance from Russia, as well as service members on training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine — all of which share a border with Russia.
The Air Force, meanwhile, has forces permanently deployed to Incirlik, Turkey, which is also much closer to Russia than Værnes.
So it’s doubtful that Russia’s bluster is really about countering a valid military threat. More likely, this is Russia protesting what it sees as its continuing isolation as more and more countries deepen their ties with NATO.
Norway, for its part, insists that the Russian reaction to a training rotation of Marines is ridiculous.
Tensions between Russia and NATO have been on the rise, partially due to conflicting agendas in Syria where the U.S. and Russia are both conducting air strikes. But the dispute also comes from disagreements over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threatening actions, such as the Russian abduction and jailing of an Estonian intelligence officer.
The US Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a more than $14-million contract to integrate and test an advanced version of the Aegis Weapon System, the Department of Defense said in a press release.
“Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems Moorestown, New Jersey is being awarded a $14,083,369 contract for ship integration and test of the Aegis Weapon System for AWS baselines through advanced capability build 16,” the release stated on July 14.
Most of the work on the project will be performed in Moorestown in the US state of New Jersey over the next year and is expected to be completed by August 2018, the Defense Department said.
The AWS can simultaneously attack land targets, submarines, and surface vessels while automatically protecting the fleet against aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, according to Lockheed Martin.
For the past few years, DARPA has been working on a system called ARGUS-IR, or Autonomous Real-Team Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared, which can take video over an area that is so super high resolution — 1.8 gigapixels — it would take a fleet of 100 Predator drones to produce the same images.
A PBS documentary last year explored the program, which uses hundreds of cell phone cameras linked together into a sophisticated rig. Mounted underneath an RQ-4 Global Hawk for example, ARGUS could loiter over an area at 17,500 feet and capture images as small as six inches square on the ground, effectively being able to tell the color of the shirt you are wearing.
It’s pretty incredible — and somewhat scary — stuff.
Current infrared systems either have a narrow field of view, slow frame rates or are low resolution. DARPA’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program will break this paradigm by producing a wide-field-of-view IR imaging system with frame rates and resolution that are compatible with the tracking of dismounted personnel at night. ARGUS-IR will provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness.
In July, the Air Force made the first step toward making ARGUS a reality with the implementation of the Gorgon Stare Increment 2 pod on the MQ-9 Reaper.
Here’s the view from an ARGUS system from 17,500 feet. It can capture a very wide area.
When an operator wants to zoom in, the system places boxes over cars, people, and other objects and tracks them in real time.
Now check out the PBS Nova documentary on the project:
North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missiles still have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for prime time, the Defense Intelligence Agency claims. North Korea in the past has had problems getting its missiles up – but that technological hitch may not last long.
According to a report by Bloomberg News, North Korea still faces a number of “important shortfalls” in its longer-range missiles like the Taepo-dong 2 and the KN-08 inter-continental ballistic missiles. Last month, North Korea saw a failure when it attempted to launch a missile during a test.
That said, senior American intelligence officials note with concern that North Korea is not letting the failures prevent a push toward developing a reliable ICBM inventory.
“North Korea has also expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces—from close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) to ICBMs—and continues to conduct test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States; it has publicly displayed its road-mobile ICBMs on multiple occasions. We assess that North Korea has taken steps toward fielding an ICBM but has not flight-tested it,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a written statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee prior to a May 11, 2017 hearing.
“North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the US mainland,” Coats added later in the statement.
The United States has currently deployed a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile battery to South Korea, and also operates MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries – systems also owned by South Korea and Japan. All three countries also have Aegis warships, capable of launching SIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missiles.
The United States has deployed a carrier strike group to the area around North Korea as tensions have increased.
The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.
Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.
Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.
Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.
“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.
This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.
Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.
Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.
As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.
“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.
Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.
Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.
Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.
“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.
Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.
For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.
Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.
Air Force Navy Robotics
The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.
In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.
These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.
The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.
Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.
At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.
The Army’s “live-fire” combat exercises involve large-scale battalion-on-battalion war scenarios wherein mechanized forces often clash with make-shift, “near-peer” enemies using new technologies, drones, tanks, artillery, missiles and armored vehicles.
The Army is expanding its training and “live-fire” weapons focus to include a renewed ability to fight a massive, enemy force in an effort to transition from its decade-and-a-half of tested combat experience with dismounted infantry and counterinsurgency.
Recent ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created an experienced and combat-tested force able to track, attack and kill small groups of enemies — often blended into civilian populations, speeding in pick-up trucks or hiding within different types of terrain to stage ambushes.
“The Army has a tremendous amount of experience right now. It has depth but needs more breadth. We’re good at counterinsurgency and operations employing wide area security. Now, we may have to focus on ‘Mounted Maneuver’ operations over larger distances,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, Training and Doctrine Command, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While senior Army leaders are quick to emphasize that counterinsurgency is of course still important and the service plans to be ready for the widest possible range of conflict scenarios, there is nonetheless a marked and visible shift toward being ready to fight and win against a large-scale modernized enemy such as Russia or China.
The Army, naturally, does not single out these countries as enemies, train specifically to fight them or necessarily expect to go to war with them. However, recognizing the current and fast-changing threat environment, which includes existing tensions and rivalries with the aforementioned great powers, Army training is increasingly focused on ensuring they are ready for a mechanized force-on-force type engagement.
At the same time, while large-scale mechanized warfare is quite different than counterinsurgency, there are some areas of potential overlap between recent warfare and potential future great power conflict in a few key respects. The ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over a period of more than a decade, involved the combat debut of various precision-guided land attack weapons such as GPS guided artillery and rocket weapons.
Weapons such as Excalibur, a GPS-guided 155m artillery round able to precisely destroy enemy targets at ranges greater than 30-kilometers, gave ground commanders an ability to pinpoint insurgent targets such as small gatherings of fighters, buildings and bomb-making locations. Guided Multiple-Launch Rocket System, or GLMRS, is another example; this precision guided long-range rocket, which can hit ranges up to 70-kilometers, was successful in killing Taliban targets in Afghanistan from great distances, among other things.
These kinds of precision munitions, first used in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the kind of weapon which would greatly assist land attack efforts in a massive force-on-force land war as well. They could target key locations behind enemy lines such as supplies, forces and mechanized vehicles.
Drones are another area of potential overlap. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan featured a veritable explosion in drone technology and drone use. For example, the Army had merely a handful of drones at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now, the service operates thousands and has repeatedly relied upon them to find enemy locations, spot upcoming ambushes and save lives in combat. These are the kinds of platforms which would also be of great utility in a major land war. However, they would likely be used differently incorporating new tactics, techniques and procedures in a great power engagement.
“This is not back to the future…this is moving towards the future where Army forces will face adaptive enemies with greater lethality. This generation of Army leaders will orchestrate simultaneous Combined ArmsManeuver and Wide Area Security” Smith said.
Nevertheless, many Army leaders now experienced with counterinsurgency tactics will need to reexamine tactics needed for major conventional warfare.
“You have a generation of leaders who have to expand learning to conduct simultaneous ‘Combined Arms’ and ‘Wide Area Security” Smith said.
“The Army has to be prepared across the entire range of military operations. One of these would be ‘near-peer’ operations, which is what we have not been fighting in recent years,” Smith explained.
Massive Land War “Decisive Action”
The new approach to this emerging integrated training is called “Decisive Action,” Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, Commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said.
Grigsby explained that live-fire combat at Fort Riley, Kan., affords an opportunity to put these new strategies into effect.
“Every morning I could put a battalion on the north side and a battalion on the south side – and just joust working “Combined Arms Maneuver.” I can do battalion-on-battalion and it does involve “Combined Arms” live fire,” said Grigsby. “Because of the airspace that we have here – and use the UAS – I can synchronize from 0-to-18,000 feet and do maneuver indirect fire.”
This includes the use of drones, Air Force air assets, Army attack aviation along with armored vehicles, artillery, tanks and infantry units equipped for small arms fire, he explained.
Some of the main tactics and techniques explored during “Decisive Action” live fire exercises include things like “kill what you shoot at,” “move to contact,” “synchronize indirect fire,” and “call-in 9-line,” (providing aircraft with attack coordinates from the ground), Grigsby said.
Grigsby explained that “live-fire” combat exercises now work to incorporate a wide range of emerging technologies so as to better anticipate the tactics, weapons and systems a future enemy is likely to employ; this includes the greater use of drones or unmanned systems, swarms of mini-drones in the future, emerging computing technology, tank-on-tank warfare tactics, electronic warfare, enemy aircraft and longer-range precision weaponry including anti-tank missiles, guided artillery and missiles.
In order to execute this kind of combat approach, the Army is adapting to more “Combined Arms Maneuver.” This warfare compentency seeks to synchronize a wide range of weapons, technologies and war assets in order to overwhelm, confuse and destroy an enemy force.
Smith likened “Combined Arms” to being almost like a symphony orchestra where each instrument is geared toward blending and contributing to an integrated overall musical effect.
In warfare, this would mean using tank-on-tank attacks, indirect fire or artillery, air defenses, air assets, networking technologies, drones, rockets, missiles and mortar all together to create a singular effect able to dominate the battlespace, Smith explained.
For example, air assets and artillery could be used to attack enemy tank or armored vehicle positions in order to allow tank units and infantry fighting vehicles to reposition for attack. The idea to create an integrated offensive attack – using things like Apache attack helicopters and drones from the air, long-range precision artillery on the ground joined by Abrams tanks and infantry fighting vehicles in a coordinated fashion.
Smith also explained how preparing for anticipated future threats also means fully understanding logistics and sustainment — so that supplies, ammunition and other essentials can continue to fortify the war effort.
Current “Decisive Action” live fire training includes an emerging emphasis on “expeditionary” capability wherein the Army is ready to fight by tonight by rapidly deploying over large distances with an integrated force consisting of weapons, infantry, armored vehicles and other combat-relevant assets.
At the same time, this strategy relies, to some extent, on an ability to leverage a technological edge with a “Combined Arms” approach as well, networking systems and precision weapons able to destroy enemies from farther distances.
In order to incorporate these dynamics into live-fire training, Grigsby said the battalion -on-battalion combat exercises practice a “move to contact” over very large 620 kilometer distances.
“This builds that expeditionary mindset,” he explained.
President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on June 23 that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military vets.
“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said during a White House ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”
“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”
The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The VA is the second-largest department in the US government, with more than 350,000 employees, and it is charged with providing health care and other services to military veterans.
Federal employee unions opposed the measure. VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, stood alongside Trump as the president jokingly suggested he’d have to invoke his reality TV catchphrase “You’re fired” if the reforms were not implemented.
The legislation, which many veterans’ groups supported, cleared the House last week by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 368-55, replacing an earlier version that Democrats had criticized as overly unfair to employees. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote a week earlier.
Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded the move, saying, “In a nasty, partisan environment like we’ve never seen, veterans’ issues can be a unique area for Washington to unite in actually getting things done for ordinary Americans.”
The bill was a rare Trump initiative that received Democratic support. Montana Sen. Jon Tester said the bill “will protect whistleblowers from the threat of retaliation.”
The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the Senate-passed measure was seen as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version – 180 days versus 45 days. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
USMC Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Boling
The bill also turns another of Trump’s campaign pledges into law by creating a permanent VA accountability office, which Trump established by executive order in April.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the bill signing “a significant step to reform the VA with a renewed purpose and ability to serve our veterans.”
“The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible,” McCarthy said.
The VA has been plagued for years by problems, including the 2014 scandal, where employees created secret lists to cover up delays in appointments. Critics say few employees are fired for malfeasance.
We Are The Mighty’s editor-in-chief Ward Carroll recently sat down with Got Your 6‘s executive director Bill Rausch — a West Point graduate and Iraq War vet — to talk about the organization’s campaign to compel Americans to vote by viewing the experience through the lens of military veterans and for vets to lead the effort by their example.
WATM: What do you hope to gain by going to the conventions?
Bill Rausch: Over the next two weeks, Cleveland and Philadelphia will be the epicenter of the presidential campaign, which is why our attendance as veteran leaders is critical. Both campaigns have been supportive in providing credentials to our team helping us achieve four main objectives, which are to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets, engage the candidates on issues of importance to the veteran and military communities, compel veterans to participate in the electoral process as voters, community leaders, and candidates themselves, and, finally, to leverage the service and experience of veterans and military personnel as inspiration for all Americans to vote.
WATM: What should the veteran community take from your efforts over the next few weeks?
BR: Well, it’s not really about what veterans should take from it, it’s more like a challenge to veterans and the entire military community. Like we did during our time in uniform, we need to lead. As veterans and civic assets, we have a responsibility to call the country to action this November by participating in the electoral process — whether it be by registering and committing to vote, volunteering for a campaign, or running for state or local office. We need to engage candidates on policy issues that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Any candidate running for federal, state, or local office should be challenged to clearly define their policy stances on issues of importance to veterans. And, vets need to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets. Veterans may have taken off the uniform but their commitment to service has not faltered. Veterans vote at higher rates, volunteer more, and participate in their communities at rates higher than their civilian counterparts. It’s time we change the narrative of the damaged veteran by showcasing and highlighting actual veteran leaders serving their communities.
WATM: And what about the broader American public; what should they take from this effort?
BR: Good question. We also want to challenge the American public. While we’re focused on the military community, this campaign applies to everyone. All Americans can honor the sacrifice of veterans by actively participating in our democratic process. Register and vote in November, regardless of your background or political leanings. We can all unite in the goal of increasing the political engagement of our citizens. In January 2005, 80 percent of registered Iraqis went to the polls to vote in the first national election after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Images were beamed around the world of Iraqi voters holding up their ink-stained fingers as a sign of pride and hope for the future. Despite our national commitment to spreading the institution of democracy to others, America’s voting turnout was a paltry 54 percent of the eligible voting public in November 2012. We can and should do better. And all of us — not just vets, but all of us — should insist that the debates deal with real issues, ones that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Civilians have a responsibility to challenge candidates to outline their plans for supporting and empowering our veterans.
WATM: You’ve worked on a major presidential campaign, testified in front of congress and work with government leaders as the executive director of Got Your 6. Of all of that experience, what do you think informs this campaign the most?
BR: I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in May of 2006 on the heels of the December 2005 Iraqi election and I met with so many Iraqis who proudly showed me photos of themselves and their families holding up their purple fingers on election day. These men and women faced down roadside bombs, suicide bombers, and snipers to participate in their democracy with 80 percent turnout. Over the past 100 years, we’ve not even come close to that level of turnout. We can do better. We should do better. We will do better.
WATM: Given the plans and statements made by both candidates on reforming the VA, is there a candidate that you support?
BR: Got Your 6 is a non-partisan, non-profit veterans organization. We do not publicly support one candidate or party over the other. I am a member of the ‘veteran party’ and serving the veteran and military family community is my primary purpose this campaign cycle.
WATM: Do you know who you are going to vote for?
BR: I can tell you that I plan on voting at my local polling place, Fire Station No. 4 in Alexandria, VA with my wife and 2-year-old son. I believe that voting is a civic responsibility and that our country is stronger when more people participate in our democracy. For me, voting as a family is a way to lead by example and show my son the importance of voting in every election. It’s our duty and obligation as citizens of this great country to vote on November 8th, 2016 which happens to be veterans week and I can’t think of a better week for election day to fall on.
WATM: Agreed. Thanks for your time Bill, and we look forward to watching you and your team in Cleveland and Philadelphia over the next few weeks.
Long before they collaborated on “Unbroken,” which opens nationwide on Christmas Day, Louie Zamperini and Angelina Jolie were neighbors in the Hollywood Hills. When Hollywood decided to make a movie about Zamperini’s life, the star actress was chosen to direct.
“There is a saying: ‘Never meet your heroes,'” Jolie says. “I got the chance to meet mine, and he was an even greater man than I could have hoped for. Meeting him and knowing him changed my life.”
The American Legion magazine interviewed Jolie via email about the experience.
How did you get involved with the project?
I read a brief description and was interested in the themes of the strength of the human spirit, resilience and faith. I read Laura Hillenbrand’s book and became desperate to tell the story, walk in his footsteps and take this journey. It wasn’t as a filmmaker but as a human being that I asked to do this film.
During an interview on NBC’s “Today,” you said that Zamperini has been a help to you. How?
He was a living reminder of what a person could be. He wasn’t perfect or born into a charmed life. He made mistakes. He did the wrong thing many times, especially as a youth. But when it came down to it, he rose up. He fought hard. He worked on improving himself and on giving to others. And through it all, he remained full of that fun and fire that made him the man we all came to love and admire.
Sitting with him in his living room, talking about life, made me a better person. He was always happy to take the time to give guidance. He had such clarity. So much wisdom. And with that was a man with the greatest sense of humor. I was always laughing. I would wake up feeling sad and ask if I could come up for breakfast. By the time I left, I was smiling. Always.
His story is one of survival, resilience and redemption. Did you see those traits as you worked with him?
Even in his hospital bed, he was taking care of others, making jokes to help us all not to feel sad.
You showed him the nearly-finished movie while he was hospitalized. What was his reaction?
It was a deeply moving experience. I felt very privileged to witness this man I admire and love so much watch his own life play out on screen. It was especially moving as he was watching scenes with his family and the friends who he survived the war with. As a man of faith, it seemed he was internally preparing himself to pass away and be reunited with them. He was very peaceful. He smiled when he saw his mother making gnocchi. He jumped a bit when the flak exploded and hit the planes. At one point, he said “Phil” (pilot and fellow POW Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips) under his breath. It made me realize how difficult the last few years must have been, when all his closest friends were gone.
The book and upcoming movie have generated a lot of buzz among veterans and nonveterans alike. Why?
Most people are interested in history, especially when a particular time in history shapes our world, as was the case for World War II. But above all, I believe people are drawn to Louie’s story because it is inspirational. Louie always reminded me that the purpose of the film is not to show how extraordinary he was but to help those watching it discover that they have the same strength inside them.
What was your last conversation with Zamperini?
My last moments with him were two days before he passed away. We held hands and looked into each other’s eyes. The last thing I said was, “I love you.” I miss him.
Though the Navy is dancing in the end zone over its newest destroyer, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), the futuristic ship has already lost one of the major pieces of its arsenal.
To be more precise, the 155mm Advanced Gun Systems will need a new round to fire.
The future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials April 21, 2016 with the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of DDG 1000, the future guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). Following a crew certification period and October commissioning ceremony in Baltimore, Zumwalt will transit to its homeport in San Diego for a Post Delivery Availability and Mission Systems Activation. DDG 1000 is the lead ship of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, next-generation, multi-mission surface combatants, tailored for land attack and littoral dominance. (U.S. Navy/Released)
According to a report by Popular Mechanics, the Navy has cancelled the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). This round, guided by GPS satellites, was to have been used to hit targets as far away as 60 miles. One of the biggest issues came about because of the cut in the buy of the Zumwalt – from 32 ships to only three. The Daily Caller noted that cutting the size of the Zumwalt buy caused the per-unit cost to go up from $4.1 billion to $7 billion. That meant that the cost per shell went up to $800,000, largely because the RD cost is being borne by far fewer rounds than originally thought. As a result, the program met the Pentagon chopping block.
Now, this does not mean that the Zumwalt’s AGS is reduced to an ornament. The good news about the 155 round is that there are a host of options aside from the proverbial spitballs. Here are a few:
M107 High-Explosive: This is a conventional round – but there are a lot of them in stock, and it can still do a lot of damage. The M549 adds rocket assistance to increase range. Newer shells like the XM1113 and XM1128 will provide longer range and near-precision capability.
M864 Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM): Think of this as a very small cluster bomb. The bomblets can take out armor or infantry, and it allows room for error. On a ship, these rounds could do a lot of damage to exposed antennas for radars and radios.
M712 “Copperhead”: This is a laser-guided artillery round. And a lot of UAVs have laser designators, including the MQ-8 Fire Scout (which can be operated off ships). While intended for land use, it should be noted that the Navy has used laser-guided weapons at sea, notably AGM-123 Skippers against the Iranian frigate Sahand during Operation Praying Mantis.
The M982 Excalibur 155mm round leaves the barrel of an M777 Howitzer during a live fire shoot conducted by Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, at Oro Grande Range Complex, N.M., Dec. 5. The shoot was the first of its kind conducted outside of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., and combat. (US Army photo by Sgt. Sean Harriman, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, Public Affairs)
M982 “Excalibur”: This is a GPS guided shell already in service with the Army. Costing $68,000 a shell, it doesn’t have the range that LRLAP would have brought to the table, but it is combat-proven in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vulcano: The Vulcano from OTO Melara uses infra-red guidance to hit its targets at ranges of about 50 miles. The Italian firm offers this shell in 76mm and 127mm versions as well as its 155mm version. Laser guidance is also an option for these shells. Vulcano might be a better bargain than LRLAP, since it is also capable of being used as an anti-ship weapon.
Every day, countless men and women who served in the armed forces return home from war with wounds that are invisible — most never reach out to seek help.
As new mental health treatments are developed, many don’t want to be placed on a cocktail of medication they can’t pronounce and put them in a fog. That’s where an organization called Mutual Rescue can help.
David Whitman and Carol Novello created a national animal-welfare initiative that aims to connect loving and homeless pets with people who are in need of specialized care.
“Even before he was my cat, before he even knew me that well, Scout saved my life,” said Josh Marino, an Iraq war vet. “He put me on a different path. He gave me the confidence to try to come back from all the adversity that I was feeling.”
Check out Mutual Rescue‘s video for Josh Scout’s uplifting story of how animals can rescue their owners.
A group of tank restorers was working on a World War II Hellcat when they realized that the man who worked that exact Hellcat from Omaha Beach to V-E Day, Don Verle Breinholt, happened to live just a few miles down the road from them.
The restorers rushed to finish their restoration in time for Breinholt and his tank to reunite at a veteran appreciation event.
The M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer was one of the fastest and most agile armored vehicles of World War II. It was custom designed to cripple Germany’s Panzer Corps, quickly moving to the heart of the action and firing its 76mm main gun into Nazi armor. It would also dart ahead of an enemy thrust and then lie in wait to launch an ambush.
The Hellcat was so fast that America’s modern and feared Abrams Main Battle Tank, widely praised for its speed, is actually slower than the Hellcat. The Abrams can book it across the battlefield at 45 mph. The Hellcat can swing past it at 53 mph.
And the ammo on the Hellcat was vicious. While the gun itself was similar to the one on most American medium tanks, Hellcats carried high-velocity, armor-piercing rounds designed to jet molten metal right through German armor.
While Hellcats were lethal, they were also vulnerable. The Hellcats carried minimal armor and could be killed with everything from tank rounds to panzerfausts to heavy machine guns.
That’s what makes it so amazing that Breinholt made it from Omaha as a gunner to where he met up with the Russians as a vehicle commander without suffering his own life-threatening injury or losing his Hellcat.
You can watch the restoration and learn a lot more about the M18 Hellcat and the modern M1 Abrams in the video below. Breinholt speaks throughout the video, but you can see him meet his old vehicle for the first time since May 1945 at the 46-minute mark: