USAFA cadets do, in fact, kill, skin, cook, and eat rabbits in the Expeditionary Survival and Evasion Training Program. The “sustenance” portion of the class teaches cadets how to find water as well as skin and cook a wild animal.
Air Force spokesman Zachary Anderson told the Air Force Times in July 2016 the Air Force tries to find the best balance between the humane treatment of animals and properly preparing aircrew cadets for real-world scenarios.
“The Air Force is aware of PETA’s concerns,” Anderson said. “However, the use of animals in Air Force survival training plays a critical role in equipping our airmen with skills needed to stay alive in a combat environment.”
While PETA wants the USAF to get out of the animal business entirely, the animal rights group also alleges the rabbits are sourced from a business that routinely violates the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Citing a FOIA request, PETA says the academy doesn’t file proper reports to the Department of Agriculture on the number of rabbits and chickens used and that the dealers aren’t even registered with the Agriculture Department.
“We were contacted by an individual who reported that cadets bludgeon docile, domesticated rabbits to death during these training exercises,” PETA Senior Laboratory Methods Specialist Shalin Gala wrote the Colorado Springs Independent. “This person expressed concern that cadets do not actually learn anything from killing tame animals who are used to being handled by humans… USAFA has previously informed the media that cadets are taught to kill animals with a rock or club.”
The Department of Agriculture did not have an open investigation at the time of the academy’s refusal to give up the practice.
The Air Force Times‘ Stephen Losey found the animals are sourced from Fancy Pants Rabbitry, a Gunnison, Colorado-based supplier. Fancy Pants’ owner Kathy Morgan, vehemently denies any wrongdoing.
“Our rabbits are raised in compliance with USDA standards as far as cage sizes and operations, so we are comfortable our rabbits are raised in the best possible conditions,” Morgan said. “They are treated humanely, and when necessary, they are dispatched humanely. I’m comfortable with the quality of our product and the quality of their lives while they’re with us.”
Fancy Pants sold roughly 300 rabbits per year for the past two years to the USAF Academy. PETA is correct that Morgan’s business is not registered with the USDA. Because it sells rabbits as food and meat, it is registered with the FDA.
There is a precedent for giving up meat in the field. DoD directives require that other means of training besides animals are to be used whenever possible. PETA was instrumental in the animal “sustenance” portion of the Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds survival course and the Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center, saying tame chickens and rabbits are unlikely to be found in a combat zone.
The animal rights group wants the academy to switch to book and classroom learning.
For centuries, friends and foes of Russia marveled at the fierce fighting skills of their Cossack Warriors. The Cossacks fought to defend the Russian Czar against any manner of enemies – from Ottoman Turks to Napoleon’s Grande Armée, through a World War, and even against the Bolshevik Red Army.
They expanded the borders of the Russian Empire, conquering Siberia and the Caucasus regions for the Czar, all the way to the Bering Sea – capturing one-sixth of the Earth’s land area. Their martial prowess was unmatched in the region for a long time and they refused to be tied to any master. Even the name “Cossack” in the Turkic languages of the time and area meant “free,” “adventurer,” or “wanderer.”
Cossack loyalty to the Russian Czar was earned over centuries of fighting to maintain that independence. Many Czars were faced with Cossack uprisings and were forced to deal with them in their own ways, from putting down the rebellion or forcibly moving the population to another area of the Russian Empire.
From a young age, Cossacks raised their children to be elite warriors and ethnically Cossack in every way possible. Training could begin in infancy and only ever stop in an actual pitched battle.
Eventually, the Russian nobility came to accept the Cossacks, endowing them with certain rights and privileges in the Empire for their continued service in defending Russia’s borders. And they earned those rights, too. After his Grand Armée was forced out of Russia, the Cossacks harassed them all the way back to France. It was the Cossacks who captured Paris and unseated the French Emperor.
When the Empire fell during World War I and the Czar abdicated, the Cossacks were divided between the Red and White factions of the Russian Civil War. They fought primarily for the White (anti-Communist) Russians, which earned them persecution when the Bolsheviks won the war and founded the Soviet Union.
The persecution got so bad, many Cossacks fought for Nazi Germany during WWII.
In late October, two inaugural events brought members of the military entrepreneurial community together in Dallas and the Bay Area. On Oct. 23-24, the Military Influencer Conference hosted hundreds of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs and community leaders that are dedicated to supporting the military. Just a day later, on Oct. 25, Bunker Labs hosted their inaugural Bay Area Muster as part of their Muster Across America Tour.
I had the opportunity to attend the stand-out session of each event, the Shark Tank Survivors Panel. The panels consisted of veterans and military spouses who not only lived to tell the tale of surviving ABC’s Shark Tank, but also walked away with a partnership agreement with business legend, Mark Cuban.
Members of the Shark Tank Survivor Panel at the Military Influencer Conference Oct. 23 included veterans Eli Crane, Founder of Bottle Breacher, Matthew “Griff” Griffin, Founder of Combat Flip Flops, and military spouses Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley, Co-Founders of R. Riveter. Glenn Banton, CEO of Operation Supply Drop, moderated the panel. Two days later, at the Bay Area Muster hosted by Bunker Labs on Oct. 25, I saw Eli and Griff at it again along with and an additional veteran entrepreneur, Kim Jung, CEO of Rumi Spice. Tristan Flannery, co-founder of Zero Hour Media, moderated the Bay Area panel.
Post Shark Tank Success
All four of these start-ups enjoyed wild success after they struck deals on their episodes of ABC’s Shark Tank. However, their AARs of Shark Tank ran deeper than just telling the audience about the deals they landed or how intimidating Mark Cuban can be when he peppers you with questions.
Instead, the Shark Tank Survivors shared their intimate stories with the audience. They shared how they bootstrapped their companies from the ground up in their garages and basements. They explained the realities of entrepreneur life and described their after-show successes. While panel members shared their successes with the audience, they also shared failures and what they learned along the way. Matt “Griff” Griffin, CEO of Combat Flip Flops, revealed supply chain issues he had even after the show.
“Being a part of the panel enables several veteran-owned businesses to share those lessons in the hopes of propelling other veteran entrepreneurs to success,” he said. He expanded, “Shark Tank pushes the limits of any business–marketing, sales, and operations. Through that experience, we learned many lessons, enabling us to be more effective leaders.”
The Warrior Class has what it Takes to Succeed
The back-to-back Shark Tank panels demonstrated how the climate of the military entrepreneurial community is changing. Veterans and military spouses experience adversity, each in their own way. However, when they come out on the other end, they’ve grown, they’ve learned, and they’re poised to do big things. These panels were a perfect example of veteran entrepreneurs showing future entrepreneurs of the military community that they are capable of going after their dreams.
Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher shared his thoughts on the Military Influencer Conference. “I think it was a great conference. They definitely brought in some serious firepower in various verticals.” He added, “all boats rise with the tide and I personally think this country could use way more veterans in influential positions.”
The Shark Tank panelists embody exactly what Crane mentions above. They are showing the American public that veterans and military spouses have what it takes to be successful as entrepreneurs. Hand-outs and sympathy are not what they need; they want a chance to put their skills to the test. They’re not just satisfied with their own personal successes either. They are supporting their peers and showing that the military community is strongest when it works together.
Eli Crane stressed the importance of veteran entrepreneurs mentoring within the military community. He said, “when we exit the service and become successful, it’s imperative that we turn around and guide our brothers and sisters who are behind us looking to do the same.”
Innovating Giving Back
All four of these companies share another unique trait in that they are impactful beyond just the success of their physical products. Their products are unique and innovative, but they are literally changing lives at home and around the world.
Two of the Shark Tank survivors are changing the way people look at American manufacturing. When things get stressful, Eli from Bottle Breacher explained, “we don’t just call up China and increase our order.” Bottle Breacher products are 100% made in the United States and have a 25% veteran hiring rate. Likewise, every R. Riveter bag creates mobile and flexible income for military families through their network of military spouse “riveters.”
Similarly, two other panelist saw the opportunity to manufacture commercial products for peace, where there had once been war. For every pair of Combat Flip Flops sold, a girl in Afghanistan goes to school for a day. Rumi Spice employs private farmers to grow their saffron. They are currently the largest private employer of Afghan women in the world.
Respect, commitment, and working towards a higher purpose are standard behaviors among the military community. These Shark Tank survivors demonstrated to the audience exactly what can happen with persistence, passion, and a lot of grit.
Sergeant Henry Gunther was actually a private the day he charged a German machine gun nest for the last time in World War I. He had just been busted down in rank for criticizing the war in a letter he wrote home, and he wasn’t happy about it.
Luckily for millions of other soldiers and civilians in Europe, everyone knew the Armistice would come into effect on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
This is why so many question why Sgt. Gunter charged a German machine gun nest at 10:59 that same day.
Gunther and his unit came across a German position north of Verdun on Nov. 11, 1918. As they took cover from the machine guns, they received word that the war would be over in less than an hour.
That’s when Sgt. Gunther charged the position with a fixed bayonet.
The Germans fired a number of warning shots and tried to yell at Gunther – in English – to stop.
But Gunter wasn’t the only troop to die in that last hour of World War I. Some 3,000 men died in that short time. Some historians even speculate that Gunther was ordered to charge the machine guns.
Even though so many others died around the same time, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force General John J. Pershing declared that Gunther would be known as the last man killed in action in the war.
Sergeant Henry Gunther was engaged before the war started and just secured a job as a bookkeeper in the Baltimore area before he was drafted in 1917.
After his death was recorded at 10:59, his fellow troops moved his body and buried him near where his company was posted. His remains were moved to the United States in 1923.
On Veteran’s Day 2008, a memorial was constructed on the site where he was killed in Chaumont-devant-Damvillers, France.
It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.
Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.
Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.
But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.
“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”
Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.
These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.
Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”
In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.
Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.
More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.
Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.
The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.
Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.
Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.
In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.
On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI. Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.
French-made anti-tank weapons supplied to the Kurds and U.S. versions given to the Iraqi Security Forces have been blunting a main method of attack by the Islamic State, according to Kurdish and U.S. Central Command officials.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces used the MILAN (Missile d’Infanterie Leger Antichar, or light infantry anti-tank missile) to stop ISIS counter-attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in the successful push to take the northwestern Iraqi town of Sinjar last week, according to the Kurdish Security Council and Western reporters traveling with the Kurds.
The MILANs were used to defend against at least 16 vehicle-borne IED suicide attacks by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in the initial stages of Operation Free Sinjar, according to Kurdish commanders cited by Rudaw, the Kurdish news agency.
The U.S. has also been supplying hundreds of AT-4s — a shoulder-fired, Swedish-made recoilless weapon — to the ISF. The AT-4s have been appearing on Iraqi Security Forces frontlines in the long-stalled effort to retake Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
In addition, Syrian fighters backed by the U.S. have been using U.S. BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically- tracked, Wire-guided, or TOW, anti-armor missiles supplied by the CIA against the armored columns of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to Syrian activist groups.
The MILANs, portable medium-range, anti-tank weapons manufactured by Euromissile in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, have become standard weapons for NATO allies and other countries. The system was initially developed for the French and German armies.
Germany began supplying the MILANs and other weapons directly to the Kurds last year to avoid the chokepoint that can develop by shipping arms through Baghdad. The Germans have also taken Kurdish officers back to Germany for training in the use of the MILANS.
Rudaw quoted Gen. Araz Abdulkadir, commander of the Kurdish 9th Brigade, as saying, “The MILANs are very important” in offensives in stopping ISIS suicide attacks with vehicle-borne IEDs. “They greatly improve the morale of the Peshmerga. The troops know it is a very clever weapon, which can stop any car bomb.”
ISIS used the weapons to devastating effect in shattering Iraqi defenses in taking Ramadi last May in a major setback for the campaign to degrade and defeat the terrorist group. Iraqi forces fled the city, leaving behind much of their equipment.
Following the fall of Ramadi, a senior State department official, speaking on background, said that ISIS used a coordinated series of at least 30 suicide car and truck bombs to take out “entire city blocks” as the ISF fell back.
Since the capture of Ramadi, the U.S. has launched airstrikes specifically targeting sites where ISIS was believed to be manufacturing vehicle-borne IEDs.
In an August briefing to the Pentagon, Marine Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea said that airstrikes had destroyed a facility near the north-central Iraqi town of Makhmur where ISIS was making vehicle-borne IEDs.
“These strikes, conducted in coordination with the government of Iraq, will help reduce the ability of Daesh to utilize their weapon of choice – VBIEDs,” Killea said, using an Arabic term for ISIS.
In several briefings to the Pentagon from Baghdad, Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Centcom’s Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, has described the supply of AT-4s to the ISF and the training by U.S. troops of the Iraqi Security Forces in their use.
Warren said ISIS uses the vehicle-borne IEDs “almost like a guided missile” in the offense to break Iraqi Security Forces lines and allow advances.
Everyone knows special operators are an elite warfighting team. Not to take anything away from conventional forces, we’re just saying that everyone has their place and special operations is a hard job.
Sometimes sending 10,000 warfighters into a country with all their support units just isn’t feasible. They get the job done, sure, but when you’re conducting heart surgery, you want a doctor with a scalpel, not an axe. Also, a mission calling for a small force would require each member of the unit to have multiple specialties, so the Special Forces (SF) side of the Army gets a lot more training than the rest of big Army.
When the United States has that much invested in you, you get a little bit more leeway when it comes to daily Army life, as former Green Beret Mark Giaconia noted on Quora in June of 2021. He admits he can only speak for the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but you have to admit the everyday perks are pretty good.
1. No Formations
Special Forces soldiers don’t really have the same work or life schedules as the rest of the U.S. Army. They also likely have a whole host of pretty important things to do — some of them secret, others ordinary.
This means they don’t have time for all the formations most military units often have. Some Army units have as many as three formations a day. Giaconia says his SF unit had one formation a day at most, and usually when something important needed to be discussed.
2. No Inspections
Ever see Special Forces guys out in the field or catch a photo of one of them at work? They don’t look like soldiers in the United States Army most of the time, and that’s a really important point. They aren’t necessarily supposed to look like soldiers while they’re deployed, so grooming standards are usually much more relaxed.
If this is the case, then it doesn’t really make much sense to have a uniform inspection. The same goes for their nonstandard equipment (which we’ll delve into later).
3. Better Training and Pay
Green Berets get a number of stipends, Giaconia writes. On top of those special stipends, they also get extra pay for any number of special trainings they received. This includes jump pay, HALO (high altitude, low opening) pay, scuba certification and literally anything else you can get trained to do and receive specialty pay for. These guys see it all and they get paid for knowing how to handle it.
On top of the pay, they also receive better per diem rates, as they mostly live off the local economy while deployed.
4. Better Gear
What is probably best known about how Army Special Forces operates is that they have a lot of leeway in choosing what equipment and which weapons work best for any given mission. In his own experience, Giaconia says he had a different kit setup for carrying a SAW than when carrying an M4 or M21.
5. Flying Commercial Air
Depending on the mission and which Special Forces Group they’re in, America’s Green Berets don’t always have to rely on military aircraft to hitch a ride to where they’re going. In some cases, a military aircraft won’t even be an option, as they may not want anyone to know they’re with the U.S. military anyway.
6. Drinking Is Part Of The Job
Special Forces are often exempt from the U.S. military’s no alcohol rules, where they’re applied, especially while working with foreign units whose culture centers around drinking. Giaconia says while in Bosnia and Kosovo, he and his fellow Green Berets were attached to a Russian liaison, and needed to drink vodka with them.
In early 1943, the 1st Ranger Battalion, known as Darby’s Rangers, was still relatively unknown and rather untested. All of that was about to change.
The Rangers had been formed less than a year before at the insistence of Gen. George Marshall. Marshall believed that the Americans needed a commando unit and ordered Major Orlando Darby to make it happen. On June 19, 1942, the 1st Ranger Battalion was activated from “volunteers not adverse to dangerous action.”
Though over 2,000 men had volunteered, only 575 officers and enlisted men were accepted into the battalion. The British Commandos then trained these men at their training facility at Achnacarry, Scotland.
Less than six months after their formation, the Rangers spearheaded the Allied invasion of North Africa by taking out Vichy French artillery batteries at Arzew, Algeria. In a quick but decisive move, the Rangers captured the guns and some 60 prisoners.
After helping secure the port facilities and a nearby town, the Rangers were withdrawn from action. They began an intense training period, focusing on forced marches and night fighting. Both would prove useful in the near future.
With the rapid advance of Allied forces across North Africa, and commanders unsure of what to do with a specialized raiding force like the Rangers, they were not involved in the ongoing combat.
That changed in February when the Rangers were called upon to conduct raids against Axis forces to gather intelligence and weaken enemy morale.
Darby devised a plan to attack the Italians at Sened Station.
Trucked to within 20 miles of their objective the Rangers set off in total darkness. The Rangers set a blistering pace and stealthily covered some fourteen miles before taking shelter among the rocks for the day.
Word was passed around for that night’s mission — the Rangers would leave their mark.
“They’ve got to know that they’ve been worked over by Rangers,” Capt. Roy Murray said. “Every man is to use his bayonet as much as he can. Those are our orders.”
While his men concealed themselves among rocks and brush, Darby and his executive officer, Major Herman Dammer, conducted a leaders’ reconnaissance of the Italian outpost.
With the final plan set, the Rangers prepared to move out as the sun set. Faces were blackened and anything that jingled or rattled was secured to ensure silence. Helmets had been traded for wool caps the night before.
Once the moon set, the Rangers began their movement toward the objective.
The raiding force consisted of three line companies and a detachment of 81mm mortars. They moved out three companies abreast, toward positions within 500 yards of the outpost.
Darby was able to track the movement of his men by an ingenious method. Using red-lensed flashlights covered with a shroud mounted on the pack of a few men, he was able to see when his units were in position. This also ensured that no man wondered off course.
When all was ready, Darby sent forward the order to fix bayonets and move out.
Slowly, silently, the Rangers crept toward the unsuspecting Italian garrison.
Some amount of noise must have made it to the Italians at their posts because they became suspicious. With the Rangers still some 200 yards out, Italian machine guns opened fire. In the pitch black, their fire was wild and inaccurate. The Rangers held their fire and continued to creep forward.
As the Rangers made it to within 50 yards of the wire, the Italian’s fire became too close for comfort. Italian sentries called out into the night, “Qui va la? Qui va la?” (“Who goes there?”)
All at once the Americans responded. The Rangers leapt up and charged across the short distance to the Italian perimeter. American Tommy Guns riddled the outpost as riflemen tossed hand grenades and stormed across the Italian defenses with their bayonets.
One Ranger, Cpl. James Altieri, stumbled into a trench and right on top of an Italian soldier. In the brief struggle, Altieri dispatched the man by stabbing him in the stomach. It was his first hand-to-hand kill. He immediately vomited before continuing the fight.
Altieri later described the fighting by saying, “We worked them over furiously, giving no quarter.”
As the Rangers cleared the outpost, the 81mm mortars pounded the Italian positions and cut off their retreat.
The victory had cost the Rangers one man and another 20 wounded.
As Darby conferred with the assault commanders and consolidated his position, he could hear the distant rumble of tracked vehicles — German armor. This was expected; the raid had been intended to draw out the Germans to help commanders determine their strength. But it also meant it was time for the Rangers to get out of Dodge.
The Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons able to incinerate enemy targets from the sky, service officials said.
Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.
Lasers use intense heat and light energy to precisely incinerate targets without causing a large explosion – and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The promise of directed energy is that electricity is cheap. Plus, you get the speed of light working for you so incoming missiles are easier to shoot at,” Zacharias said.
Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.
Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., service officials said. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The first airborne tests are expected to take place by 2021, Air Force officials have said.
The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force leaders said.
Air Force weapons developers are also working on the guidance mechanisms to enable laser weapons to stay on-track on a particular target, Zacharias added.
Zacharias explained that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power-source small enough to integrate onto a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology, he added.
“The other part is all the component technology. You are going to give up fuel or some armaments. It is not just getting enough power on board it is getting the aiming technology. Its dealing with turbulent air flow on a high-speed platform,” Zacharias said.
Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.
Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.
A key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion.
Another advantage is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts explained.
Drones Fire Lasers
Air Force drones will also one day fire high-tech laser weapons to destroy high-value targets, conduct precision strikes and incinerate enemy locations from the sky, senior service officials told Scout Warrior.
When it comes to drones, there does not yet appear to be a timetable for when fired lasers would be operational weapons – however weapons technology of this kind is moving quickly.
Zacharias also said future laser weapons could substantially complement existing ordnance or drone-fired weapons such as a Hellfire missile.
Laser weapons allow for an alternative method of destroying targets, rapid succession of fire, reduced expenditure of dollars and, quite possibly, increased precision, service officials have explained.
For instance, a key advantage of using laser weapons would include an ability to melt or incinerate an incoming missile or enemy target without necessarily causing an explosion. This would be of particular relevance, for example, in air attack such as the current campaign against ISIS over Iraq and Syria.
ISIS fighters are known to deliberately blend in among civilians, therefore making it difficult to pinpoint enemy targets without endangering innocent civilians. Precision attacks without an explosion, therefore, would provide a useful additional tactical option.
Zacharias said laser-armed drones could likely provide an impactful part of an on-the-move arsenal of weapons.
“You might want to put lasers on board so you have a distributed package when you have a bunch of different platforms carrying different parts – of weapons, sensors and even fuel in one very expensive fighter package. It is like having distributed satellite. You could have distributed fighter packages as well,” Zacharias said.
Firing laser weapons would certainly provide a different option than a 100-pound, explosive, tank and building-killing Hellfire missile.
Although firing lasers from drones is expected to be more complicated than arming fighter jets or aircraft with lasers, the existing development of laser weapon technology is quite likely to inform drone-laser development as well.
As technology progresses, particularly in the realm of autonomous systems, many wonder if a drone will soon have the ability to find, acquire, track and destroy and enemy target using sensors, targeting and weapons delivery systems – without needing any human intervention.
While that technology is fast-developing, if not already here, the Pentagon operates under and established autonomous weapons systems doctrine requiring a “man-in-the-loop” when it comes to decisions about the use of lethal force, Zacarias explained.
“There will always be some connection with human operators at one echelon or another. It may be intermittent, but they will always be part of a team. A lot of that builds on years and years of working automation systems, flight management computers, aircraft and so forth,” he said.
Although some missile systems, such as the Tomahawk and SM-6 missiles, have sensor and seeker technologies enabling them to autonomously, or semi-autonomously guide themselves toward targets – they require some kind of human supervision. In addition, these scenarios are very different that the use of a large airborne platform or mobile ground robot to independently destroy targets.
Aerial refueling has always been risky business. Tankers fly through the sky, loaded to the gills with flammable fuels while dragging long hoses or booms behind them as jets chase after them like hungry mosquitos.
But if that’s risky, the first aerial refueling was straight-up crazy. Wesley Mays, a famous daredevil of the late-1910s and early-1920s, climbed from one biplane onto another with a 5-gallon jug of fuel strapped to his back.
From there, he waited for Daugherty to bring his wingtip in range and grabbed it. Mays lifted himself onto the wing and worked his way between the planes’ wings and into the cockpit. He poured the gas into the engine and strapped himself into his waiting seat, sealing his place in history.
The Army Air Corps got in on the aerial refueling action 2 years later in Jul. 1923, but they needed a way to transfer much more than 5-gallons at a time. So they opted to use a tanker aircraft, a hose, and a receiving aircraft. First Lt. Virgil Hines flew a DH-4B outfitted as the tanker ahead of 1st Lt. Frank W. Seifert’s DH-4B receiver. Hines dangled the hose behind and beneath his aircraft where Seifert could reach it.
The fuel was transported without incident, but engine trouble in Seifert’s plane prevented the duo from achieving a planned endurance record. Still, they developed techniques that allowed another Air Corps team to set the record with a 37-hour, 25-minute flight in Aug. 1923.
As veterans re-enter the civilian workforce, many struggle to make the transition. This is why opportunities (ahem — touring with famous heavy metal bands) for employment are so important. Five Finger Death Punch has made it a mission to offer such opportunities.
Not only does the band provide direct jobs for veterans, but they also raise money for different veteran initiatives — like PTSD awareness — through their merchandise site, which also acts as a resource guide for accessing help through various links.
Zoltán Báthory, guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, is a founding board member of the veterans nonprofit Home Deployment Project, which provides safe places to live for displaced veterans suffering from symptoms of PTSD. He is also a member on the Board of Advisors at the anti-Poaching organization Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife. Although Zoltán himself is a civilian, his support for the military is without question.
“I have a lot of veterans around me and it’s not an accident.”
Videographer Nick Siemens is a Marine Corps Combat veteran touring with Five Finger Death Punch. He describes the energy and movement of working with the band as being very similar to that of his time as an active duty Marine.
“I absolutely fell in love with this job and it gave me a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging that I had lost when I left the Marine Corps and I haven’t looked back.”
Check out the video above for an inside look at what it’s like for the veterans on tour with Five Finger Death Punch.
We scraped through job reviews on Glassdoor.com, a site that lets employees rate their employers and their careers anonymously, to find out what the most loved jobs in the military are. Here are 12 of the highest rated careers in uniform:
Access to all of the ship or command’s goods while hanging out on ships (mostly) near the coasts. Sounds great. Storekeepers can go further out, serving primarily on icebreakers and cutters when they’re not on the shore. They specialize in inventory and supply. (Average rating is a 4.1.)
8. Coast Guard Information Systems Technician (4.2)
It’s an IT job, but with the Coast Guard. Keep computers properly hooked up and set up new networks when needed; you could even get called to keep all the computers on an ocean-going cutter working together. And odd note about the Glassdoor for this job though: the IT guys are less likely to recommend the Coast Guard to a friend (62 percent vs. 88 percent) than Coasties as a whole reported. (Average rating is a 4.2.)
A combination of hospital nurses and field medics, Navy corpsmen give medical aid to sailors, Marines, and others both on ship and shore as well as in combat around the world. Obviously, this can result in a lot of stress but can also be very fulfilling. (Average rating is a 4.2.)
5. Army Human Resources Specialist (4.2)
It’s one of the more ridiculed jobs, an “uber-POG” position that rarely sees combat. But human resource specialists seem happy with their desk jobs, tracking personnel and making sure pay goes through properly. (Average rating is a 4.2, vs. an average of 3.4 for the infantry).
4. Army Logistics Manager (4.2)
The Glassdoor ratings for “Army Logistics Manager” cover a variety of jobs, mostly in the transportation branch. They drive trucks, plan routes, and send convoys through enemy territory. So, a little adventure on some days, but humdrum the rest of the time. A sweet life, unless we run into another era like the rise of the IED. Then it sucks. Horribly. (Average rating is a 4.2.)
3. Military officer (4.4)
“Officer” is a wide catch-all that includes everything from the folks who manage door kickers to those who manage desk jockeys to those who manage truck drivers. (Glassdoor has a separate “Officer” category for each branch, but they all average ratings between 4.3 and 4.5.)
2. Army Operations Manager (4.5)
This is another ratings category where the reviewers came from different jobs, but these are the folks who worked their way into an operations shop and are now in charge of planning missions and ensuring the teams have everything they need for success, from engineers building new roads to infantrymen slaying bodies. (Average rating is a 4.5.)
The US Navy is currently testing a robotic ship that would be able to autonomously hunt enemy diesel submarines.
Originally conceived as a DARPA project, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is designed to hunt the next generation of nearly silent enemy diesel submarines.
Diesel submarines are quickly proliferating around the world due to their low cost. Russia recently announced that it has launched the world’s “quietest submarine.”
To accomplish its submarine-hunting mission, the ACTUV project is structured around three primary goals: the ability to outmatch diesel submarines in speed at significantly less cost than existing systems, the system’s ability to safely navigate the oceans in accordance with maritime law, and the ability to accurately track diesel submarines regardless of their location.
Tests of the ACTUV have been promising. Defense One reported in March that during six weeks of testing off the coast of Mississippi the ACTUV was capable of autonomously avoiding randomly moving vessels while navigating around natural obstacles.
The next major test for the ACTUV will be having the drone attempt to trail a submarine while other vessels attempt to block it.
Although diesel submarines are not capable of carrying out open ocean operations for as long or as quickly as nuclear submarines, diesel submarines still present the US with an asymmetric challenge. Significantly cheaper and more quiet-running than their nuclear counterparts, diesel subs can enable navies around the world to harass military and civilian transport along coastal routes.
The threat of diesel submarines could increase, as Franz-Stefan Gady notes at The Diplomat, as the next generation of these vessels will feature propulsion systems and lithium-ion batteries, making them even quieter and harder to detect.
The technical challenges are steep: “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” Rear Admiral Frank Drennan said in March 2015.
By creating the ACTUV, the US Navy will be able to more accurately track the proliferation of enemy diesel submarines. The transition to using drones for such missions will also ultimately save the Navy considerable resources and manpower.
“Instead of chasing down these submarines and trying to keep track of them with expensive nuclear powered-submarines, which is the way we do it now, we want to try and build this at significantly reduced cost,” DARPA program manager Ellison Urban said at a National Defense Associate Event in Virginia.
“It will be able to transit by itself across thousands of kilometers of ocean and it can deploy for months at a time. It can go out, find a diesel-electric submarine and just ping on it.”