The armed forces of the United States are just over 200 years old and have been involved in at least 318 military operations, according the the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. That number doesn’t count humanitarian missions or CIA operations.
So it may surprise you that America has only been at war 11 times.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war exclusively to the Congress, without describing exactly how that should be done. Congress figured it out by June 17, 1812 when it gave its first authorization for war, against Great Britain.
The only 11 Congressional declarations of war were:
Great Britain, 1812
That’s not to say all the other engagements were illegal or a violation of the Constitution. There were other times the Congress authorized funds for military actions and later, to support United Nations Security Council resolutions. It just means those other engagements weren’t officially a “war.”
There’s a distinct difference between a war declaration and an authorization of military force. The most important is that an official state of war triggers a new set of domestic laws, like giving the President the power to take over businesses and transportation systems, detaining foreign nationals, warrantless domestic spying, and the power to use natural resources on public lands. The authorization of force doesn’t give the President these powers.
The current way the President as Commander-In-Chief uses the military is defined by the War Powers Resolution of 1973. It requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids them from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution to reign in President Nixon’s use of the military, even overriding his veto to pass the law.
FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.
And he would know.
Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.
“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.
Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.
While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.
“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”
Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.
“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”
Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.
In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.
The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.
“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.
Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”
Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.
As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.
Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.
“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.
“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”
Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.
“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”
Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said
“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”
Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.
“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”
He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.
“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”
Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.
That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.
“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”
Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.
Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.
“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”
Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has prepared a dossier laying out evidence for what it calls “Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
The report alleges there are some 9,000 Russian troops deployed in Ukraine, forming 15 battalion tactical groups. The force includes about 200 tanks, more than 500 armored fighting vehicles, and some 150 artillery systems, according to the dossier.
The SBU also identifies by name five Russian generals who it says are playing leading roles in commanding and coordinating the military forces of the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking to Bloomberg, New York University professor and specialist in Russian security services Mark Galeotti said that by “embedding their senior officers,” the Russians are solidifying control over the separatist portions of Ukraine.
Russia has consistently denied any military involvement in the conflict there.
RFE/RL takes a closer look at the six officers who have been implicated:
Major General Oleg Tsekov
Tsekov graduated from a military institute in Chelyabinsk in 1988. He then served in various parts of the Soviet Union and Mongolia.
He graduated from the Academy of the General Staff in 2011. The same year, he was appointed commander of the 200th motorized special-forces brigade of the Northern Fleet. In September 2014, the volunteer information service InformNapalm published evidence that the unit had been mobilized from Murmansk Oblast to Rostov Oblast, together with evidence that service personnel from the 200th had been identified in Ukraine.
Tsekov was promoted to major general (equivalent of a U.S. two-star general) on February 21, 2015.
The latest SBU dossier charges that Tsekov commands the so-called 2nd brigade of the separatist forces near Donetsk.
Major General Valery Solodchuk
Born in Astrakhan, Solodchuk graduated from the paratroops institute in Ryazan in 1992. In 2012, he was named commander of the 7th guards air-assault division based in Novorossiisk. A media reference in 2014 identified Solodchuk as deputy commander of the 5th Army in the Far East.
Digital-forensic investigators have drawn attention to a soldier of the 7th guards air-assault division named Stanislav Ramensky. He posted on social media several photographs that seem to have been taken in Crimea in March 2014, when Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. He also published a photograph of the medal and certificate he was given on April 14, 2014, “for the return of Crimea,” which was signed by Solodchuk.
In an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta in March, Solodchuk was asked if the 7th guards air-assault division is a designated rapid-reaction unit within the Russian military. He answered that there are no such units and that the entire military is in a state of constant combat readiness. Asked if that meant that his unit is prepared to be ordered into battle at any moment, Solodchuk answered, “Exactly.”
The SBU dossier charges that Solodchuk is the commander of so-called 1st Army Corps of Novorossia in the Donetsk area.
Major General Sergei Kuzovlev
Sergei Kuzovlev was born in 1967 and graduated from the paratroops institute in Ryazan in 1990. He also studied at the Academy of the General Staff. He was promoted to major general in February 2014. Since 2014, he has been chief of staff of the 58th Army based in Vladikavkaz.
In January, the Ukrainian SBU released an audio recording that it alleged showed Kuzovlev organizing the military forces of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine. The SBU says Kuzovlev goes by the pseudonyms “Tambov” and “Ignatov.”
Major General Aleksei Zavizion
Aleskei Zavizion was born in Narva, Estonia, in 1965 and graduated from a military institute in Chelyabinsk in 1986. He served in the Far East, in Chechnya, and as commander of Russian forces in Tajikistan.
In 2009, he began studies at the Academy of the General Staff.
In March, Ukraine’s SBU claimed Zavizion, using the nom de guerre Alagir, directed the shelling of Kramatorsk and Mariupol. Referring to Zavizion, SBU official Markiian Lubkivskyi wrote on Facebook that “a citizen of the Russian Federation…with the call sign Alagir is currently in Donetsk within the rotational assignment of running the Operational Headquarters since January 2015, coordinating military operations with the participation of representatives of illegal armed formations.”
“Alagir is the person in charge of the deployment of artillery, mobile rocket systems, and heavy equipment,” Lubkivskyi continued. “Major bloody attacks on Ukrainian cities, particularly on Kramatorsk and Mariupol, were carried out under his direct command and coordination.”
Lubkivskyi also wrote that Zavizion was scheduled to be replaced by Russian Major General Andrei Gurulyov.
Major General Roman Shadrin
Roman Shadrin was born in Rostov Oblast in 1967 and graduated from a military institute in Kazan. He served in the Soviet contingent in East Germany after graduating in 1988. In 1995, he was awarded the Hero of Russia medal for his service during the first war in Chechnya. After service in Armenia and the North Caucasus, Shadrin was named deputy commander of Interior Ministry troops in the Urals region. In 2008, he served during the conflict with Georgia in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, after which he was promoted to major general.
In September 2013, he was elected to the Yekaterinburg City Duma from the ruling United Russia Party.
The SBU dossier says Shadrin is the so-called minister of state security for the self-proclaimed “Luhansk Peoples Republic” (LNR) in eastern Ukraine. According to a media report on July 3, Shadrin denies the allegation, saying he has only traveled to Ukraine’s Donbas region “with a humanitarian mission.”
The Yekaterinburg-based Novy Den news agency reported the same day that Shadrin has “repeatedly traveled to eastern Ukraine with humanitarian missions.” It also noted that Shadrin resigned as chairman of the city legislature’s security committee in January and quoted an unidentified source in the Yekaterinburg Duma as saying Shadrin “holds one of the top positions in the security service of the LNR.”
The same source said it is not known when Shadrin will return to his duties in Yekaterinburg, but there have been no efforts to strip him of his mandate.
“Recent developmental testing provides no statistical evidence that the system is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago,” the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOTE), Dr. Michael Gilmore, noted in an August 3 memo. In other words, $700 million down the drain, and there’s no way to prove it’s any less likely to break than it was a decade ago.
The system has come under harsh criticism from Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The senators slammed the RMMW as unreliable and pressed the Navy to consider alternatives, which they outlined in a letter obtained by Breaking Defense.
It looks like the Navy is taking that advice. According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the service is chartering an independent review of the RMS, which will report back within 60 days.
After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.
RMS Titanic in Southampton England April 9, 1912 (Wikimedia Commons).
Who has never been daunted by the idea of packing gear for an extended field op? You have to make a list of everything you will need or you think you will need, you have to make sure that your gear’s weight is what the S-3 says it’s supposed to weigh, everything has to fit. When it’s only for leave, your life doesn’t depend on these preparations. You might get chewed out, but you rarely run the risk to freeze to death or turn to cannibalism.
However, when it comes to exploration, expeditions, adventures and other journeys, preparedness is everything. In the most remote corners of the planet, what you carry is all you have, and every decision can be a matter of life or death. Indiana Jones, with his bullwhip, Fedora hat, and roguish charms, might make exploration look easy, but it takes a lot more than an impish smile and witty replies to survive through those expeditions. It requires planning, knowledge, grit and leadership to be a successful adventurer. Some expeditions made it, leading to great discoveries and the retreat of the world’s frontiers. Proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance, as it is said in the Corps.
It might seem strange to imagine that Christopher Columbus, a man celebrated for opening an entire continent to European exploration, might have led a failed expedition. However, it makes a lot more sense when we know that the proposed aim of the expedition that reached the Americas in 1492 was actually to reach the Indian subcontinent, then known as the East Indies, by sailing westward and circumnavigating the globe. Also, we cannot say that his voyage was a failure, but the lack of knowledge regarding world geography was sure to stand in the way of his first purpose. At first, he was so sure to have reached his destination that he called the natives “Indians.” Although he travelled four times to the Americas, he never reached India.
The Burke and Wills Expedition
What happens when you combine a man with no experience of life in the Australian bush and an exploration commission? An unmitigated disaster. In 1860, the Australian government was offering a reward of 2000 pounds to whoever would cross the continent north to south. The Royal Society of Victoria organized an expedition of 19 men, led by Robert Burke and William Wills. However, the interior of the Australian continent was largely unknown to non-natives. The expedition was ill-prepared for the challenges they would face. Scorching temperatures would reach 122°F in December. Not to mention the severe vitamin B and C deficiency caused by a lack of knowledge on the local flora. Monsoon rains and rough terrain allowed only one man to survive the return trip.
The Darien Scheme
This is a failed venture that almost bankrupted an entire country. In order to compete against England’s trading power at the end of the 17th century, Scotland tried to establish a colony that would serve as a trading post on the Isthmus of Panama. It rested on the Gulf of Darién, a region that is considered one of the deadliest on Earth. Plagued with poor planning and poor leadership, the scheme was set for failure. Due to epidemics, poor provisioning and a lack of demand for goods, the English and the Spanish Empires came together to ensure the doom of the colony. When the few survivors returned to Scotland, they were often shunned by their families, as the failure of the expedition led to the near financial ruin of the entire country.
The Terra Nova Expedition
In 1910, two rival expeditions were vying to reach the South Pole first. One, led by experienced Norwegian explorer Roal Amundsen, managed to reach its objective on the Dec. 14, 1911. However, in contrast to that team’s relatively smooth trip, the team led by British Captain Robert Falcon Scott went through Hell and never came back from it. The difference came down to planning and preparation.
The British mindset at that time had some very precise, rigid ideas about what was and wasn’t appropriate. Dogs were a no. For Scott, sled dogs were not a grand enough way to travel, unlike horses. Moreover, he didn’t train his men to ski prior to the journey, he took five men when he had packed for four, mishandled the fuel and wrongly marked the return route. The team eventually made it to the South Pole, over a month after Amundsen’s expedition, but none of them survived the return trip.
The Titanic was a tale of hubris. The ship was unsinkable… yet, it sunk on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912. At the time, it was the biggest ship afloat, not only in length but also in weight. It was nearly twice as heavy as the second biggest ship. Confident in the size of the ship despite its flawed design, its engineers thought it would be enough to withstand any collision or weather conditions, so they allowed themselves to skimp on safety measures.
In the example made famous by the movie, the Titanic only carried 20 lifeboats, which only allowed room for 1178 passengers. It was more than was legally required, but it was still not enough for the 3327 people it could take on board. As a result, out of the 2224 passengers and crew who were part of its maiden voyage, over 1500 died. To date, it is still the deadliest sinking of a cruise ship in times of peace.
A Marine Corps veteran and co-chair of Donald Trump’s national veterans coalition is under investigation by the Secret Service after saying Hillary Clinton should be “shot for treason.”
Al Baldasaro, a state representative in New Hampshire and delegate for the Republican presidential nominee, first made the remarks on Tuesday during a radio interview on WRKO in Boston.
“I’m a veteran who went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm. I’m also a father who sent a son to war, to Iraq, as a Marine Corps helicopter avionics technician. Hillary Clinton, to me, is the Jane Fonda of the Vietnam,” Baldasaro said.
He was referring to the actress’ 1972 visit to Hanoi, during which she was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun — a trip that stirred many Americans to call her a traitor and earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane.”
Clinton “is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi,” Baldasaro said.
The 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi in which four Americans were killed has been a recurring topic this week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Patricia Smith, the mother of one of the Americans slain in the attack, on Monday spoke at the event and said she blamed the presumptive Democratic nominee for the tragedy that resulted in the death of her son Sean Smith, a U.S. foreign service information management officer; Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens; and the others.
Referring to Clinton, Baldasaro said, “She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back-up security. Something’s wrong there. I wish they made the documents public. … This whole thing disgusts me. Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
Baldasaro, whose LinkedIn page states he retired as a first sergeant after serving 22 years in the Marine Corps, went on to refer to Marine Maj. Jason Brezler, a reservist and member of the New York City Fire Department, whose military career hangs in the balance of a legal case stemming from improperly handling classified material.
In 2012, Brezler sent colleagues an email from a Yahoo account containing a classified profile of an Afghan policeman whom the Marines believed was corrupt and sexually abusing young Afghan boys.
Baldasaro was angry at what he said was a different level of legal scrutiny applied in the Marine’s case. “They’re trying to kick him out of the military,” he said.
Baldasaro hasn’t apologized for his remarks about Clinton. Indeed, on Wednesday he repeated his calls for her to be executed during an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire.
“I’m a military man first, and anyone who takes information about our CIA or Secret Service and people at our embassy and puts it out on a server where anyone can grab it, putting Americans in danger to be killed, should be held accountable,” he said, according to The New York Times. “As far as I’m concerned, it is treason and the penalty for treason is the firing squad — or maybe it’s the electric chair now.”
Baldasaro in May defended the Trump campaign for having distributed $5.6 million to veterans charities. The money was raised during a fundraiser in January, though many large charitable donations had only been distributed in the week before the press conference detailing the gifts, the Associated Press reported.
Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said the agency is aware of comments made by New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro and that it “will conduct the appropriate investigation,” according to the newswire.
A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, Hope Hicks, told reporters that Baldasaro doesn’t speak for the campaign, the AP reported. She didn’t say whether he would continue to serve as a veterans adviser to the candidate.
Last year, the Army announced its new initiative to provide workspace for military spouses, complete with comfy chairs, desk space and reliable Wi-Fi. The initiative is part of growing efforts across the branch to provide more stable working conditions for military spouses, who often have difficulty finding work through frequent moves.
It’s no secret that military spouses — and their careers — often take a huge hit with each PCS. There’s the inability to find a new job, or simply not being able to gain tenure with a single company. Add in stigmas about sudden PCSs, and the hits just keep on coming.
For many military spouses, this has meant finding work that they can do remotely or even starting a business of their own. The former was only increased through the COVID-19 pandemic. Army spouses across all bases were working from home offices, or even looking for office space to rent in order to maintain their careers. Of course, both options came with problems — the former with distractions at home and the latter is expensive.
Enter the new workspace initiative.
Powered by the Army Quality of Life Task Force, military spouse coworking spaces are slotted to land in eight bases in the U.S.
Fort Belvoir, Virginia opened its space this March, located in the Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center. Where the co-working area now sits was once a barely-used respite lounge, said Lisa Marie Riggins, president and CEO of USO Metro. Wanting to do the project justice, the USO donated $80,000 and dedicated the space toward working spouses.
Space that’s now open to Fort Belvoir spouses includes state-of-the-art workspaces with new tech for video calls, noise-canceling telephone booths, an equipped conference room, outdoor seating space, ergonomic features and a coffee bar/lounge area.
Work has also begun at Fort Knox, Kentucky, with plans to open later in 2021.
Additional coworking locations are planned for Fort Drum, New York; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and West Point, New York.
The program was announced in December of 2020 by Lt. Col. Keith Wilson, a regional director for the Soldier for Life Program.
Wilson said a survey was sent out among service members, revealing that spouse work situations are a large factor in soldiers’ decision to stay in the Army. The survey was sent out in 2019 through Hiring Our Heroes. Of those answering, 48% of soldiers whose spouses had an upper-level degree said they considered leaving the military to allow for better employment options for their spouses; 40% of all participants said the same, regardless of their spouse’s education.
Spouses responded that they work remotely in order to add income to their family, find fulfillment and utilize upper-level degrees, whether that’s done through a home office or at various Wi-Fi spots near their current duty station, either on or off post.
“While most of our installations offer quality education centers, libraries and cyber cafes, none offer dedicated professional workspace focused on our self-employed and remote-working military spouses. That needs to change,” Wilson said.
General Lori Robinson experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. From 2012-2014, she added a star per year to her epaulets. She was the deputy commander of the USAF’s CENTCOM area of responsibility and the vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s global strike force. She became the first female to command USAF combat forces when she took over Pacific Air Forces, which controls Air Force operations from the United States to the east coast of Asia and from Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean.
Now, she’s poised to make history again in 2016.
The current Air Force Chief of Staff (CSAF), General Mark Welsh III, is set to retire in the summer, and Robinson is on the short list to replace him.
She’s also in the running to head the U.S. Northern Command, which would make her the highest ranking combatant commander, tasked with defending the contiguous United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico.
Robinson is also a unique choice because she would be the first non-pilot to be named CSAF. Her experience, however, includes more than 900 flight hours as a “senior battle manager” in the E-3B/C and E-8C aircraft.
“As far as the woman part of it all, I’m the commander at Pacific Air Forces,” Robinson recently said during an interview. “I’m a general of the United States Air Force; I’m an airman, and I happen to be a woman.”
Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. “Happy Veterans Day,” parades, free meals, “thank yous,” and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.
But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?
While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.
But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.
So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.
1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe,” the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying “happy Veterans Day” by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.
2. “Thank a Vet” in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.
3. Serve all year long. Veterans don’t just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town’s downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.
4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community’s veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don’t ignore veterans on purpose — they just don’t really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.
5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don’t have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups’ (or countless others’) events. You won’t be sorry.
There’s nothing wrong with wishing anyone a “happy Veterans Day” or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let’s keep the momentum going all year long.
The Marine Corps is accepting delivery of its first new Amphibious Combat Vehicle that can fire stabilized weapons, maneuver in littoral areas and launch faster, more survivable ship-to-shore amphibious attacks from beyond-the-horizon.
Referred to by Corps developers as ACV 1.1, the new vehicle is engineered to replace the services’ current inventory of Amphibious Assault Vehicles, or AAVs – in service for decades. There is an existing effort to upgrade a portion of its fleet of AAVs to a more survivable variant with spall liner and other protection-improving adjustments such as added armor.
Nevertheless, despite the enhancements of the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or AAV SU, the Corps is clear that it needs a new vehicle to address emerging threats, Kurt Mullins, ACV 1.1 Product Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“ACV 1.1 gives us the ability to operate throughout the range of operations. The current AAV is limited because of its survivability. The new vehicle will be significantly more survivable than a standard AAV,” Mullins said.
The Corps is now in the process of acquiring a number of Engineering, Manufacturing Development vehicles for further testing and evaluation from two vendors – SAIC and BAE Systems. Mullins said the Marine Corps plans to down-select to one manufacturer by 2018 and have an operational new ACV 1.1 by 2020.
Marine Corps fleet plans call for more than 200 of the new vehicles to support attacking infantry battalions. They are building both personnel and recovery variants, he explained.
The ACV 1.1 will serve alongside and improve upon the upgraded portion of the existing AAV fleet. The Marines have operated a fleet of more than 1,000 AAVs over the years ; some will “sunset” and others will receive the survivability upgrade.
Stabilized .50-cal machine guns and Mk 19 grenade launchers will make the new ACV for lethal and accurate in attacks against enemies; engineers are building in an up-gunned weapons station operating with Common Remotely Operated Weapons Systems, or CROWS, able to allow attackers to fire weapons from beneath the protection of the vehicle’s armor.
Unlike the tracked AAVs, the new ACV 1.1 is a wheeled vehicle designed for better traction on land and operations involving enter and egress from Amphib ships.
“Wheeled vehicles are more reliable, when operating across the range of military operations.”
Given that the new vehicle is being built for both maritime and land combat operations, requirements for the emerging platform specify that the platform needs to be better equipped to defend against more recent threats such as IEDs and roadside bombs. This, at least according to BAEs offering, includes the construction of a “V” shaped hull in order to increase the vehicle’s ground clearance and deflect blast debris away from the crew compartment.
“It needs to be able to provide significant armor and stand-off distance from the ground to the bottom of the hull,” Mullins added.
An ability to better withstand emerging threats and new weapons likely to be used by enemies is said to be of crucial importance in today’s evolving global environment; enemies now have longer-range, more precise weapons and high-tech sensors able to find and target vehicles from much further distances.
Accordingly, emerging Marine Corps amphibious warfare strategy calls for an ability to “disaggregate” and spread approaching amphibious vehicles apart as necessary to make the much more difficult for enemies to target. They are also being engineered operate more successfully in ground combat environments wherein approach vehicles need to advance much further in from the shoreline.
The new ACVs are also being designed to work seamlessly with longer-range, more high-tech US Navy and Army weapons as well. As US Navy weapons and sensors operate with a vastly improved ability to detect and destroy enemy targets – on land and in maritime scenarios – amphibious assault strategy will adjust accordingly.
BAE Systems ACV 1.1
The first BAE Systems ACV 1.1 vehicle has been delivered to the Marine Corps for additional assessment and testing, company officials said.
In a special interview with Scout Warrior, BAE weapons and platform developers explained that their offering includes a number of innovations designed to best position the vehicle for future combat.
BAE’s emerging vehicle uses no axl but rather integrates a gear box for each wheel station, designed for better traction and mission such as driving up onto an amphibious vehicle or rigorous terrain on land.
“It has positive drive to each of the wheel stations so you don’t have gear slippage and have positive traction at all times. All eight wheels are driven at the same time,” Swift said.
The absence of an axl means engineers can create greater depth for the vehicle’s “V-shaped” hull, he added.
Their vehicle is built with a 690-horsepower engine, composite armor materials and can travel up to 12 nautical miles with a crew of 13; also, the BAE ACV 1.1 can travel 55mph on land, and six mph in the water, BAE developers said.
Blast attenuated seats where seat frames are suspended from the ceiling are another design feature aimed at further protecting Marines from attacks involving explosions underneath the vehicle.
Fuel tanks on the new ACV 1.1 are stored on the outside of the vehicle as part of a method of reducing damage to the crew and vehicle interior in the event of an attack.Finally, like many emerging platforms these days, BAE’s offering is being engineered with an often-used term called “open architecture” – meaning it is built for growth such that it can embrace and better integrate new technologies as they emerge.
The Marine Corps awarded BAE a $103 million deal in November of last year; the company has delivered its first of 16 prototypes planned to additional testing.
The Marine Corps’ Future of Amphibious Attack
The Marine Corps future plan for amphibious assault craft consists of a nuanced and multi-faceted plan involving the production of several more vehicles. Following the ACV 1.1, the Corps plans to engineer and produce a new ACV 1.2 variant with increased combat and technical mission abilities.
“We are working on requirements for ACV 1.2, which will be informed by our ACV 1.1 experience,” Mullins said.
However, this next ACV 1.2 will merely serve as an interim solution until much faster water-speed technology comes to fruition, a development expected in coming years.
Meanwhile, Corps weapons developers from the advanced Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory are already in the early phases of preparation for when that much faster water speed exists. A future mission ability or vehicle of this kind, to be operational by 2023, could involve a number of different possible platform solutions, Mullins explained.
“Some sort of high-water speed capability that may not be a single vehicle solution. It could be a high-water speed connector that gets that vehicle to shore,” he said.
The Marine Corps is revving up its fleet of 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles to integrate the latest technology and make them better able to stop roadside-bombs and other kinds of enemy attacks, service officials said.
The existing fleet, which is designed to execute a wide range of amphibious attack missions from ship-to-shore, is now receiving new side armor (called spall liner), suspension, power trains, engine upgrades, water jets, underbelly ballistic protections and blast-mitigating seats to slow down or thwart the damage from IEDs and roadside bombs, Maj. Paul Rivera, AAV SU Project Team Lead, told Scout Warrior.
“The purpose of this variant is to bring back survivability and force protection back to the AAV P-variant (existing vehicle),” he said.
The classic AAV, armed with a .50-cal machine gun and 40mm grenade launcher, is being given new technology so that it can serve in the Corps fleet for several more decades.
“The AAV was originally expected to serve for only 20-years when it fielded in 1972. Here we are in 2016. In effect we want to keep these around until 2035,” John Garner, Program Manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault,” said in an interview with Scout Warrior last year.
The new AAV, called AAV “SU” for survivability upgrade, will be more than 10,000 pounds heavier than its predecessor and include a new suspension able to lift the hull of the vehicle higher off the ground to better safeguard Marines inside from being hit by blast debris. With greater ground clearance, debris from an explosion has farther to travel, therefore lessening the impact upon those hit by the attack.
The AAV SU will be about 70,000 pounds when fully combat loaded, compared to the 58,000-pound weight of the current AAV.
“By increasing the weight you have a secondary and tertiary effects which better protect Marines. We are also bringing in a new power train, new suspension and new water jets for water mobility,” Rivera said.
A new, stronger transmission for the AAV SU will integrate with a more powerful 625 HP Cummins engine, he added.
The original AAV is engineered to travel five-to-six knots in the water, reach distances up to 12 nautical miles and hit speeds of 45mph on land – a speed designed to allow the vehicle to keep up with an Abrams tank, Corps officials said.
In addition, the new AAV SU will reach an acquisition benchmark called “Milestone C” in the Spring of next year. This will begin paving the way toward full-rate production by 2023, Rivera explained.
The new waterjet will bring more speed to the platform, Rivera added.
“The old legacy water jet comes from a sewage pump. That sewage pump was designed to do sewage and not necessarily project a vehicle through the water. The new waterjet uses an axial flow,” Rivera said.
The new, more flexible blast-mitigating seats are deigned to prevent Marines’ feet from resting directly on the floor in order to prevent them from being injured from an underbelly IED blast.
“It is not just surviving the blast and making sure Marines aren’t killed, we are really focusing on those lower extremities and making sure they are walking away from the actual event,” Rivera said.
The seat is engineered with a measure of elasticity such that it can respond differently, depending on the severity of a blast.
“If it’s a high-intensity blast, the seat will activate in accordance with the blast. Each blast is different. As the blast gets bigger the blast is able to adjust,” Rivera said.
In total, the Marines plan to upgrade roughly one-third of their fleet of more than 900 AAVs.
The idea with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, known for famous historical attacks such as Iwo Jima in WWII (using earlier versions), is to project power from the sea by moving deadly combat forces through the water and up onto land where they can launch attacks, secure a beachhead or reinforce existing land forces.
Often deploying from an Amphibious Assault Ship, AAVs swim alongside Landing Craft Air Cushions which can transport larger numbers of Marines and land war equipment — such as artillery and battle tanks.
AAVs can also be used for humanitarian missions in places where, for example, ports might be damaged an unable to accommodate larger ships.
So what would it look like if an American and Chinese fleet went to blows in the western Pacific? While the U.S. could win the seapower contest, China has enough land-based assets in the area to more than make up the difference.
The fighting would likely start with an innocent mistake during a freedom of navigation operation conducted by the U.S. Navy such as the planned deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. Vinson is headed into the South China Sea along with two destroyers, the USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, and the cruiser USS Lake Champlain.
Meanwhile, China’s aircraft carrier Liaoningdeployed to the South China Sea in late 2016/early 2017 with three guided-missile destroyers, two guided-missile frigates, an anti-submarine corvette, and an oiler.
If the two forces came to blows, the American force would enjoy an initial advantage despite the Chinese numerical superiority. That’s because America’s air wings on the carrier are vastly more capable than China’s.
They would be facing off against Carrier Air Wing 2, the air wing currently assigned to the Vinson. Air Wing 2 has three strike fighter squadrons — 2, 34, and 137 — which fly 10-12 F/A-18 Hornets each. They have approximately 34 Hornets which would be supported by the four E-2C Hawkeye early warning radar planes of the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113.
The entire force would also be supported by the EA-18G Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron 136.
So 13 Chinese fighters would fly partially blind and with limited weapons against approximately 34 American fighters backed up by early warning radar and electronic attack aircraft. The American forces would annihilate the Chinese.
Which they would have to do, because the Americans need all that firepower still available to take out the more plentiful ships of the Chinese strike group.
The Growlers would be essential to limiting the anti-air capabilities of the five guided-missile ships — all of which carry anti-air missiles — and the Liaoning which carries the Type 1130 close-in weapons system which is potentially capable of firing 10,000 rounds per minute at missiles and aircraft attacking it.
The Hornets could be joined by the MH-60Rs of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 and the MH-60Ss of Helicopter Sea Squadron 4, but the Navy may prefer to keep the helicopters in reserve.
In the not-so-distant future, the pilots would likely receive the Harpoon Block II with a 134-nautical mile range. That’s long enough that the planes could fire on the guided-missile ships from just outside of their long-range surface-to-air missiles, the HQ-9 with its 108-nautical mile range.
But if the Vinson is stuck with just the earlier Harpoons, those have only a 67-nautical mile range. While the Hornets could still get the job done, they’d have to fly near the surface of the ocean, pop up and fire their missiles, and then evade any incoming missiles as they make their escape.
Still, they could destroy the Chinese fleet, even if they lose a couple of Hornets in the attack.
But the American fleet would then need to withdraw, because Chinese planes and missiles from the Spratly and Paracel islands could strike at the carrier fleet almost anywhere it went in the South China Sea.
While the American strike group could complete a fighting withdrawal — hitting all known locations of Chinese missile batteries within range using land-attack missiles from the cruiser and destroyers — the group just doesn’t have the firepower to really try to take out all of China’s militarized islands and reefs.
So, rather than go on the attack, the carrier group would likely use its Standard Missiles for ship defense and withdraw out of range. If a battle this size took place, it would surely be the start of a major war.
Better to save the Vinson and bring it back later with another strike group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit that can take and hold the ground after the Tomahawk missiles, Harriers, and Hornets soften the islands up.
Pirates have returned to the waters off Somalia, but the spike in attacks on commercial shipping does not yet constitute a trend, senior U.S. officials said Sunday.
The attacks follow about a five-year respite for the region, where piracy had grown to crisis proportions during the 2010-2012 period, drawing the navies of the United States and other nations into a lengthy campaign against the pirates.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at a military base in the African nation of Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, that even if the piracy problem persists, he would not expect it to require significant involvement by the U.S. military.
At a news conference with Mattis, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said there have been about six pirate attacks on vulnerable commercial ships in the past several weeks.
“We’re not ready to say there’s a trend there yet,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, adding that he views the spurt of attacks as a response to the effects of drought and famine on the Horn of Africa.
He said he was focused on ensuring that the commercial shipping industry, which tightened security procedures in response to the earlier piracy crisis, has not become complacent.
Navy Capt. Richard A. Rodriguez, chief of staff for a specially designated U.S. military task force based in Djibouti, said piracy “certainly has increased” in recent weeks. But he said countering it is not a mission for his troops, who are focused on counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and developing the capacities of national armies in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
Several other countries have a military presence on or near that U.S. site, including France, Italy, Germany and Japan. This reflects Djibouti’s strategic location at the nexus of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
Mattis made a point of spending several hours in Djibouti during a weeklong trip that has otherwise focused on the Mideast. As a measure of his concern for nurturing relations with the Djiboutian government, he flew four hours from Doha, Qatar, and then flew right back.
At his news conference, Mattis praised Djibouti for having offered U.S. access to Camp Lemonnier shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“They have been with us every day and every month and every year since,” he said.
The U.S. rotates a range of forces through Lemonnier and flies drone aircraft from a separate airfield in the former French colony. U.S. special operations commandos are based at Lemonnier for counterterrorism missions in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
During Mattis’ visit, elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including V-22 Osprey aircraft and Harrier attack jets were visible on Lemonnier’s airfield.
The U.S. military presence has grown substantially in recent years, as reflected by construction of a new headquarters building, gym, enlisted barracks and other expanded infrastructure.
Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden. The country is sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea, and also shares a border with Ethiopia.
Mattis is using the early months as defense secretary to renew or strengthen relations with key defense allies and partners such as Djibouti, whose location makes it a strategic link in the network of overseas U.S. military bases.
Djibouti took on added importance to the U.S. military after 9/11, in part as a means of tracking and intercepting al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded that country in October 2001.
The U.S. has a long-term agreement with Djibouti for hosting American forces; that pact was renewed in 2014.
Over the past week Mattis has met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar.