This machine gun could replace the legendary M2 .50 cal for ground units - We Are The Mighty
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This machine gun could replace the legendary M2 .50 cal for ground units

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been a cornerstone of American military firepower for nearly 100 years. Its long range capability coupled with a heavy round combine for a devastating mixture on the battlefield — a weapon powerful enough to destroy a building or shoot down aircraft.


But for troops on the ground, the M2’s advantages come at a severe cost — namely weight. The typical M2 weighs in at a crushing 84 pounds, not to mention the weight of the ammunition itself (which is over 140 pounds for 500 linked rounds). That means despite the M2’s firepower, it’s not a man-portable weapon, requiring a heavy tripod for a mount that makes it more suitable for defensive positions and vehicle-mounted options.

A few years ago General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems proposed an alternative to the M2 and medium M240 chambered in an innovative new caliber. The company argued that its new machine gun came in at nearly 1/4 of the weight of the M2, but delivered a similar knockout punch to bad guys at .50 cal ranges.

Dubbed the “Lightweight Medium Machine Gun,” the new weapon is chambered in .338 Norma Magnum — a favorite of some precision shooters for its ability to reach out to targets at extended ranges while still having enough knockout power to take down the enemy.

While outside experts saw the capability as a game-changer, there really wasn’t any money available to add a major weapons program for ground forces at the time.

The .338 Norma Magnum has a maximum effective range close to the M2 .50 cal at a fraction of the overall weight. (Photo from General Dynamics OTS)

Now, five years later, the Army is in the market for ways to lighten its soldiers’ load and provide increased firepower with a smaller footprint. So there’s a renewed interest in the LWMMG program.

Weighing in at only 25 pounds, the General Dynamics-designed machine gun has a maximum effective range of more than 1,800 yards and can reach out as far as 6,000, according to company documents. The LWMMG in .338 NM has a lot of advantages over the current 7.62mm M240 machine gun as well, the company says.

The General Dynamics Lightweight Medium Machine Gun delivers a ballistic punch similar to an M2 .50 cal with less weight than the current M240. (Photo from General Dynamics Land Systems briefing documents)

“At 1,000 yards the LWMMG is capable of defeating Level III body armor and incapacitating soft skinned vehicles by delivering more than four times the terminal effects of the 7.62mm NATO cartridge,” General Dynamics documents say.

GD has also developed a new “Short Recoil Impulse Averaging” system that the company says delivers the same recoil as an M240 despite the larger .338 NM round.

Some argue that the increased weight of the .338 round cancels out the LWMMG’s advantages for dismounted troops, since 1,000 rounds of 7.62 weigh about as much as only 500 rounds of .338 NM. But new developments in polymer case technology could combine to make the new machine gun a lighter option overall than the M240 while delivering the killer punch at M2 ranges.

 

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9 items deployed troops use instead of cash

Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.


When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.

Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.

1. Cigarettes

Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.

2. Dip

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/OAC

Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.

3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)

Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.

Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.

4. Beef jerky

Mmmmm…..

High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.

5. “Surplus” gear

Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith

Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.

The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.

6. Hard drives (the contents)

Photo: US Air Force Airman Taylor Queen

Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.

7. Electrical outlets

Electrical safety Army currencies Marine Corps deployed trades trading Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks

These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.

8. Lighters and matches

Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.

9. Girl Scout cookies

Photo: DoD by Capt. Andrew Adcock

Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.

The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.

NOW: 18 terms only soldiers will understand

OR: 19 of the coolest military unit mottos

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How the US can kick Russia in their hacking balls

It’s been nearly a year since US intelligence agencies accused top Russian officials of authorizing hacks on voting systems in the US’s 2016 presidential election, and mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against the hacks as strongly as possible.


But attributing and responding to cyber crimes can be difficult, as it can take “months, if not years” before even discovering the attack according Ken Geers, a cyber-security expert for Comodo with experience in the NSA.

Even after finding and attributing an attack, experts may disagree over how best to deter Russia from conducting more attacks.

But should President Donald Trump “make the call” that Russia is to blame and must be retaliated against, Geers told Business Insider an out-of-the-box idea for how to retaliate.

Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)

“It’s been suggested that we could give Russia strong encryption or pro-democracy tools that the FSB [the Federal Security Service, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI] can’t read or can’t break,” said Geers.

In Russia, Putin’s autocratic government strictly controls access to the internet and monitors the communications of its citizens, allowing it suppress negative stories and flood media with pro-regime propaganda.

If the US provided Russians with tools to communicate secretly and effectively, new, unmonitored information could flow freely and Russians wouldn’t have to fear speaking honestly about their government.

The move would be attractive because it is “asymmetric,” meaning that Russia could not retaliate in turn, according to Geers. In the US, the government does not control communications, and Americans are already free to say whatever they want about the government.

Moscow rally 24 December 2011. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“What if we flooded the Russian market with unbreakable encryption tools for free downloads?,” Geers continued. “That would really make them angry and annoy them. It would put the question back to them, ‘what are you going to do about it?'”

To accomplish this, the NSA could spend time “fingerprinting” or studying RUNET, the Russian version of the internet, according to Geers. The NSA would study the challenges Russia has with censorship, how it polices and monitor communications, and then develop a “fool-proof” tool with user manuals in Russian and drop it into the Russian market with free downloads as a “big surprise,” he added.

“You’re just trying to figure out how to kick them in the balls,” Geers said of the possible tactic. “But they’d probably figure out how to defeat it in time.”

Geers acknowledged that such a move could elicit a dangerous response from Russia, but, without killing or even hurting anyone, it’s unclear how Russia could escalate the conflict.

Russian President Putin and former US President Obama’s relationship was contentious, to say the least. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As it stands, it appears that Russian hacking attempts have continued even after former president Barack Obama expelled Russian diplomats from the US in retaliation last year. Cyber-security experts attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.

Taking bold action, as Geers suggests, would leave Russia scrambling to attribute the attack to the US without clear evidence, while putting out fires from a newly empowered public inquiry into its dealings.

The ball would be in Russia’s court, so to speak, and they might think twice about hacking the US election next time.

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From shoot to BOOM! This is the deadly science behind the RPG

What started as a way for Soviet ground troops to take out German tanks in World War II has since turned into a global weapons phenomenon: The rocket-propelled grenade.


Related: This is how the Sabot round turns enemies into a fine mist

While the original anti-tank technology was meant to have a one-off use, the modern RPG is a reloadable weapon, with a shaped-charge explosive used by militias and official military forces alike.

“The Russians were extremely impressed by the panzerfaust,” said Will Fowler, an explosives expert, in the video below. “It was the basis for their RPG-2 program which went on to the now-famous RPG-7.”

With varying degrees of celebration.

When an RPG is fired, it leaves the barrel at 383 feet per second. An additional rocket fires and deploys stabilizing fins as the shell spins toward a target.

The RPG’s cone shape forms a jet of explosive energy outward when the shell strikes its target. That’s where the weapons gets its armor-penetrating power.

The RPG is a simple, cheap, and efficient system that can completely destroy a soft-skinned vehicle and can cause grievous harm to some up-armored ones.

Troops who encounter an RPG round in combat are lucky to survive to tell the tale.

“When I was in Iraq, the RPG was a deadly weapon,” Staff Sgt. Matthew Bertles, a U.S. Army M240 gunner, told the show Weaponology. “An RPG struck my 240, blew me back, destroyed our vehicle, and injured me.”

Watch the history of the RPG in the video below:

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A special ops commander got fired for repeatedly getting drunk in public


The Army general who oversaw U.S. Special Ops in Central and South America was fired from his job last year for repeatedly getting drunk in public, according to new documents revealed by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, 55, was said to have retired “for health and personal reasons” but the documents revealed multiple times when he got drunk at a golf club bar near his Special Operations Command-South headquarters in Florida, as well as an alcohol-related incident during a deployment to Peru.

WaPo’s Craig Whitlock has more:

In a brief telephone interview, Mulholland said he had been affected by “some medical issues,” including post-traumatic stress disorder and a moderate case of traumatic brain injury. He said his actions were triggered by a lack of sleep, but he declined to comment further about the incidents.

“I’m not in favor of your printing any of this, truly,” he said. “I don’t need this harassment. . . . I just want to be left alone.”

Mulholland took command of SocSouth on Oct., 2012, according to a news release. He resigned in Aug. 2014, The South-Dade Newsleader reported.

Read the full story at The Post

SEE ALSO: The 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

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US Navy official: Russia’s submarine activities are at their highest since the Cold War

Wiki Commons


The US Commander of Naval Forces in Europe has warned CNN in an interview that Russian submarine activity has reached levels not seen since the Cold War.

Speaking of the spread of submarines, their aggression, buildup, and capabilities, Admiral Mark Ferguson warned that the situation could pose serious problems for NATO in the coming years.

“The submarines that we’re seeing are much more stealthy,” Ferguson told CNN. “We’re seeing (the Russians) have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges, and we also see their operating proficiency is getting better as they range farther from home waters.”

Ferguson’s concerns echo those raised by NATO Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, who told IHS Jane’s 360 in February that Russian increase has once again made the North Atlantic a primary area “of concern” to the military alliance.

Additionally, the admiral warned that such levels of Russian activity are nearly unprecedented.

There is now more reported “activity from Russian submarines than we’ve seen since the days of the Cold War,” Johnstone told Jane’s.

And it is not just the number of Russian submarines in a previously uncontested area that has NATO concerned. Although Russia’s navy suffered strongly after the fall of the USSR, Moscow’s submarine forces continued to stay effective.

Playing to its strengths, the Kremlin has successfully continued to focus on its submarine forces through both an effort to modernize and professionalize that segment of the Navy.

US Navy Rear Adm. Dave Johnson said, during a 2014 symposium at the Naval Submarine League, that he was so impressed by the new Russian nuclear guided missile submarine Severodvinsk that he had a model of the submarine built from unclassified data.

“The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still,” Johnson said.

Johnstone echoed these comments from Johnson to Jane’s. Russia, in his view, has made “technology leaps that [are] remarkable, and credit to them.”

And retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, told CNN that “Russian subs pose an existential threat to U.S. carrier groups,” as the US can no longer maintain “100% awareness of Russian sub activity.”

This sudden Russian expansion is additionally deeply troubling to NATO due to a lack of knowledge about what Moscow’s potential plans may be. This, coupled with Russia’s perceived willingness to interfere in Ukraine and other neighboring states, has unnerved NATO members.

“Just outside NATO’s territory we face major challenges that could have direct consequences for Norwegian and allied security,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide writes. Norway has increased military spending by 9.4% for 2016.

The US has also slated an increase in funds for submarines. Over the next five years, the Pentagon is hoping to have $13 billion for submarine research, development, and procurement.

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This Army captain refused to let cancer keep her from serving

At age 25, Monica Rosario was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, a diagnosis that would start her on a personal battle, not only for her future as a Soldier, but for her life.


Capt. Monica Rosario, a cancer survivor, is at Fort Leonard Wood awaiting her pick-up for Engineer Captain’s Career Course. (Photo Credit: Stephen Standifird)

“When they told me, I felt very numb,” Rosario remembered. She was a first lieutenant serving as a company executive officer in the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina at the time.

It never occurred to Rosario, now a captain at Fort Leonard Wood awaiting her pickup in Engineer Captain’s Career Course, that the reason for her frequent visits to her doctor could be so dire. Doctors kept telling her she was just dehydrated and needed to go home and rest.

During one emergency room visit in January of 2015, however, a doctor inquired about Rosario’s frequent medical issues, and her responses prompted him to recommend a colonoscopy.

Her mother and father, who lived not far away in her hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, accompanied her to the appointment. That’s when they learned it could be cancer. The diagnosis was confirmed at a follow-up exam.

“It really hit [my mom] harder than it hit me,” Rosario said. “She was more emotional than I was because I had no idea what I was getting into.”

Also read: Competing in the Warrior Games also helped this Navy officer fight breast cancer

Rosario’s mentor and commanding officer at the time, Capt. Chinyere Asoh, said she understood what Rosario was about to endure.

“I served as a commander and, each day, I heard news of Soldiers going through the worst unimaginable concerns of their lives, but I stayed strong for them and their families,” Asoh said.

When Asoh heard the news her executive officer had cancer, she couldn’t hide the emotion.

“For me, this was different,” Asoh admitted. “My fighter [Capt. Rosario] was going down, and there was nothing I could do. The day I found out, I called my battalion commander as I cried.”

Rosario approached her situation from another perspective — one inspired by former ESPN anchorman, Stuart Scott, who fought a seven-year battle with cancer. Scott lost that battle in 2015 at age 49.

“Whenever you are going through it, you don’t feel like you are doing anything extraordinary because you are only doing what you have to do to survive,” Rosario said.

Rosario confessed that, while she was undergoing treatment, it made her uncomfortable when people called her a hero. There was nothing she was doing that made her special, she believed.

“When you have to be strong and you have to survive, you don’t feel like you are doing anything special,” she said.

The Army provided Rosario with the time and support she needed in order to devote herself to recovery, she said.

“I can say the Army served me when I needed it most, and I am forever grateful,” she said. “I know there were many times I could have quit. I could have settled for someone telling me I should medically retire. But I knew the Army had more in store for me.”

Rosario said it took about two weeks to recover from her surgery before she could start chemotherapy. Following six months of chemo, it took another two months before she was able to resume her physical training.

She fought hard to keep herself ready to return to full-duty so she could continue her career. Her will to fight was an inspiration to her husband.

“My wife is literally the strongest person I know,” said Bernard McGee, a former military police officer. “She has been through it all and has mustered the strength to take on even more challenges. She is a true warrior.”

Asoh agreed.

Related: This Army officer beat cancer twice while going through Ranger School

“Monica is a true fighter, and I am happy to state that she is a survivor,” Asoh said. “Her illness did not define her. Rather, it broadened her view of life.”

Rosario credits positive thinking and the support of her Army family for keeping her in the Army so that she could make it to Fort Leonard Wood to complete the Engineer Captain’s Career Course.

“The Army’s resiliency training has instilled in me the ability to stay strong and stay resilient in all aspects of life,” she said. “Being resilient has helped me and still helps me on a daily basis. Seeking positive thought, and staying away from negative thoughts impact how we feel and how we live every day.”

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A Navy SEAL describes what it’s like to receive the MoH

Navy Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers, Jr., was on an assault team conducting the rescue of Dr. Dilip Joseph. After a four-hour foot patrol to the target location, a group of special operations volunteers hit the suspected building.


Senior Chief Edward Byers, a Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Byers distinguished himself multiple times in the moments that followed, sprinting to the building after a guard spotted the team 25 yards out, fighting against multiple enemies while trying to fix a problem with his night vision and find the doctor, and protecting the doctor with his own body while engaging multiple hostile targets.

He was later honored with a well-earned Medal of Honor for his actions.

In this video from the Navy’s All Hands Magazine, Byers talks about a seldom explored part of becoming a Medal of Honor recipient, the actual process of learning you will receive the award. From scheduling and receiving the president’s phone call to being inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon.

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The Army is taking social security numbers off of dog tags, but no worries: China has them on file

After more than 40 years without a change, Army dog tags will have the Social Security numbers replaced with a random 10-digit Department of Defense identification number.


Photo: US Army Human Resources Command Daniela Vestal

The change comes six months after the Office of Personnel Management admitted that 21.5 million people, mostly federal and military employees, had their Social Security Numbers stolen by Chinese hackers. The OPM and the DoD established a service for monitoring the credit of people affected by the hack.

The new DoD identification numbers are being slowly implemented across the military as an attempt to prevent identity theft. The numbers are randomly generated as they are assigned.

New ID cards already carry the DoD number instead of a Social Security number and TRICARE is switching soon, according to an Army spokesman.

No Chinese hackers were available to comment on how this will affect their bulk data collections. It will certainly reduce their ability to collect them one at a time.

Learn more about the change at Army.mil.

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Air Force concerned that VIP helicopters are dangerously old

Gen. Abidin Ünal, Turkey’s Air Force Chief of Staff, waves during takeoff in a UH-1N Iroquois at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 6, 2016. Ünal flew with the 1st Helicopter Squadron during a U.S. visit to build U.S. – Turkey relations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan J. Sonnier)


On Apr. 6, Turkish Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Abidin Ünal smiled and waved as the U.S. Air Force’s 1st Helicopter Squadron took him on an aerial tour of the Washington, D.C. area. What Ünal’s hosts probably never mentioned was that their “White Top” UH-1N Twin Hueys are getting dangerously old.

The flying branch bought their first Twin Hueys nearly five decades ago. Despite numerous attempts to replace the choppers, the UH-1Ns continue to fly security missions around nuclear missile fields, shuttle dignitaries around the nation’s capital and stand ready to help out after a disaster or other emergency.

“[The] UH-1N doesn’t satisfy many assigned mission requirements,” Air Force officials wrote in a presentation for defense contractors in August 2015. “Emphasis is on expedited fielding of replacement aircraft.”

We Are The Mighty obtained a redacted copy of this document through the Freedom of Information Act. According to the “rules of engagement” section, the hosts banned attendees from recording the industry day gathering or taking photographs.

First flown in 1969, the Bell UH-1N has a top speed just shy of 150 miles per hour and a range of over 300 miles. Compared to earlier Hueys, the N models have twin Pratt and Whitney T400-CP-400 turboshafts – hence the “Twin” nickname.

Depending on the internal configuration, the Twin Huey can carry up to 13 passengers in addition to its crew of three, at least on paper. Unfortunately, temperature and other weather conditions can dramatically change how much any helicopter can lift.

The briefing highlights three missions that were driving the push to replace the choppers. The first two were convoy escort and security response operations around missiles silos and related sites. The third, but equally important mission was carrying “distinguished visitors” like Ünal in and around Washington, D.C.

So, since the release of the Pentagon’s latest budget in February, and with serious concerns about these limits and overall age of the Air Force’s UH-1N fleet, American lawmakers have begun to demand action. But the safety of the country’s nuclear missiles has been at the center of the outcry.

“I look at the helicopters and I see glaring weaknesses and vulnerabilities which put our nation and … the mission at stake,” Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Republic congressman for Montana, said in a statement on Mar. 9. “This is not a mission that can fail. Our nuclear triad is at stake.”

Armed with fast-firing miniguns and rocket pods, the Air Force originally rushed the UH-1Ns to Southeast Asia to schlep commandos around South Vietnam and Laos during the final years of the Vietnam War. By the end of the 1980s, the flying branch had largely replaced them in the special operations role with the more powerful HH-60G Pave Hawk.

Of the 62 UH-1Ns, 25 eventually wound up serving with squadrons guarding nuclear sites across the western U.S. The 582d Helicopter Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming oversees those units and their missions.

However, nearly as many Twin Hueys are busy transporting “distinguished visitors” at home and abroad. The 1st Helicopter Squadron at Joint Base Andrews owns 20 of the choppers, while the 459th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base in Japan has another four aircraft.

Commonly known as “White Tops” because of their striking blue and white paint jobs, the 1st Helicopter Squadron’s choppers fly foreign officials like Turkey’s Ünal around on a regular basis. On top of that, the unit is prepared to act if a natural disaster or major terrorist attack threatens the most powerful city in the free world.

In 2011, the 479th‘s white and gray UH-1Ns got put the test after the Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan. The choppers and their crews help moved critical American and Japanese personnel around the disaster area – including near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – to survey and assess the situation.

On Feb. 29, the Air Force announced that two of the Twin Hueys in Japan had gotten new hoists to help rescue trapped or injured individuals in a crisis. Unfortunately, on the same day, the service admitted that one of the UH-1Ns had made a “precautionary” landing at Chofu Airport in Tokyo after experiencing engine trouble.

“They’ve run an exercise, a couple of them, and every time they use the Hueys, they fail,” Zinke said in an interview with Congressional Quarterly in February, referring to some of the 582d’s aircraft stateside.

If a UH-1N were to crash while carrying an American or foreign government official, it would be a major embarrassment for the Air Force and Washington as a whole, if nothing else. Depending on who was involved and if there were any fatalities, the fallout could be just as devastating as a breach of nuclear security.

Unfortunately, Pentagon and the Air Force have had serious problems trying to fix the problem. Since 2004, the service has repeated pushed back the plans due to budget cuts, competing priorities and delays with other projects.

Had these sailors saved this Huey in ’75 (pushed overboard to make room on the flight deck during the evacuation of Saigon) it might still be flying VIPs around DC today. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In 2009, the Pentagon dealt one of the biggest blows to the plan by canceling the program to replace the HH-60G rescue choppers. Three years earlier, the flying branch had hired Boeing to supply new HH-47 Chinooks.

Other competitors quickly filed official complaints accusing the service of mismanaging the contracting process. After the Government Accountability Office sided with the protesting companies, the Air Force tried and failed twice more to jump-start the program.

Ultimately, the flying branch inked a deal with Sikorsky to supply an updated HH-60W version of their iconic Black Hawk. But the Connecticut-based company, now part of Lockheed Martin, doesn’t expect to deliver any of those aircraft to the Air Force before 2019.

There’s no guarantee that these new aircraft would free up any of the older Pave Hawks either. In their 2015 briefing, the flying branch was willing to consider upgrading the choppers as a possible solution.

The Air Force made it clear that they wanted a single, common replacement for all the UH-1Ns scattered across the service, including another dozen assigned to training and test units. But, at the time, the presenters added that there was no program of record or funding stream for any replacements for the aging choppers.

On Feb. 26, Zinke and 13 other legislators co-signed letters to the House Armed Services Committee and the House Appropriations Committee asking them to put money for new helicopters in the 2017 budget. Their proposal would involve adding to an existing U.S. Army plan to purchase HH-60M Black Hawks, but sending the extra aircraft to the Air Force.

“By adding Black Hawks … we can address the problem immediately rather than more delayed action,” the messages explained. “Not only does the Huey create security vulnerabilities, it has been proven inefficient and costly to operate and maintain.”

Neither congress nor the Pentagon has made a final decision on how best to proceed. In the meantime, foreign officials like Ünal will have to continue riding in the old Twin Hueys when they visit Washington.

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Army investigating ‘We Were Soldiers’ legend for inflating awards

Command Sgt. Maj. Plumley and Lt. Col. Harold Moore in Vietnam. (UPI photo by Joe Galloway, used with permission)


The U.S. Army is investigating allegations by a military researcher that the late Command Sgt. Major Basil Plumley — a legend in the airborne and infantry communities — wore unauthorized combat and valor awards that exaggerated the wartime achievements that made him famous.

Plumley, who died Oct. 10, 2012 from cancer at the age of 92, was a major figure in the 1992 book, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” coauthored by Joseph L. Galloway and retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore.

The book was moving account of the November 1965 Battle of Ia Drang Valley in the Vietnam War and the heroic fight that 450 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, put up against a superior force of 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers at LZ X-Ray.

Brian Siddall, an independent researcher whose father and uncle served during World War II — the latter as a paratrooper who was killed during the D-Day invasion of Europe — leveled the allegations against Plumley after an extensive study of his service records. He said he has been doing research for his website for the last decade.

“It’s been a lifelong thing for me,” he told Military.com. “My uncle was killed on June 6, 1944. He was a paratrooper in Company B of the 307th Airborne Engineers.”

Siddall added, “Even as a kid, I used to ask my father — because it was his kid brother — what happened to him, and he didn’t have an answer. And by the way, my dad was a navigator on a B-17 in World War II.”

His research into Plumley’s famed exploits in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II later prompted him to write two online articles in 2015 that show discrepancies between Plumley’s service records and the awards and actions he took credit for.

According to Siddall, who obtained Plumley’s service records, Plumley inflated his heroism in battle by wearing two Silver Stars and Bronze Star medals for valor in combat instead of wearing the single Silver Star he was awarded in Vietnam.

Plumley also exaggerated the number of Combat Infantry Badge awards he was authorized, Siddall maintains. The CIB is a sacred award only bestowed upon infantrymen for engaging in direct combat with the enemy.

In light of Siddall’s research, officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are investigating the allegations and are considering Siddall’s request to have the information on Plumley’s headstone corrected.

AN AIRBORNE LEGEND

In “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” Plumley is described as “a two war man and wore master parachutist wings with five combat-jump stars,” referring to Plumley’s service in World War II and the Korean War.

“Plumley had survived all four combat jumps of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II: Sicily and Salerno in 1943, and then in 1944, D-Day at Normandy, and Market-Garden in the Netherlands,” according to the book. “For that matter, he also made one combat parachute jump in the Korean War, with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment.”

In the 2002 Hollywood movie “We Were Soldiers,” Actor Mel Gibson, playing then Lt. Col. Moore, gave a similar description of Plumley, who was played by actor Sam Elliott.

Siddall argues Plumley’s records show that he served in 320th Glider Field Artillery Battalion as a scout. Plumley was Glider, meaning he was an 82nd Airborne Division gliderman, not an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper, Siddall writes.

As a scout, Plumley’s job was to search out locations for emplacements for the 105mm guns, according to Siddall.

The 320th participated in two glider assaults in the European Theater, Siddall writes. Plumley’s first was on June 6, 1944, during the invasion of Normandy, he writes. Plumley’s second was for Operation Market Garden on Sept. 18, 1944, he writes. Plumley was shot in the hand the same day, according to copies of Army records in Siddall’s articles.

Glider operations in WWII were extremely dangerous. The plywood Waco and Horsa gliders presented larger targets to enemy ground fire and often crash landed, resulting in heavy casualties, according to historical sources.

Plumley was authorized to wear the glider badge and master parachutist wings, according to Army records. Plumley graduated a jump school set up by the 82nd Airborne Division in 1943, Plumley’s records show.

But Plumley never served in Korea during the Korean War, so he couldn’t have participated in one of the two combat jumps of that conflict, according to Siddall’s research.

“When you look at his overseas assignments it speaks for itself,” he wrote. “Look where Plumley was between 1951 through 26 February 1953, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky then he went to Germany,” he wrote, adding that Plumley’s service records show him serving in Korea in 1972-73.

“When I spoke with him in July of 2011, he never claimed to have jumped out of an airplane in combat in WWII or any other wars,” Siddall writes. “He did talk briefly about that he jumped out of helicopters but never an airplane in wartime.”

Talking to Military.com, Siddall said, “We talked for seven minutes on Skype. I asked him about the four jumps and he laughed and said ‘no'” he had never jumped from a plane in combat.

The reason he got really interested in doing research on Plumley was after he noticing Galloway’s obituary on Plumley contained the same exaggerations about Plumley’s career, Siddall said.

EXAGGERATED ACHIEVEMENTS

The best-selling book and the Hollywood movie elevated Plumley to celebrity status long after his retirement from the Army in 1974.

A May 2010 photograph of Plumley appearing at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in an Army Dress Blue uniform shows him wearing a Combat Infantry Badge with two stars — which means three CIB awards — one for WWII, one for the Korean War and one for the Vietnam War, Siddall maintains.

Plumley’s service records show he was only authorized to wear one CIB for his service in Vietnam, Siddall argues.

“When Plumley retired December 31, 1974 on his DD 214 he had 2 CIBs listed not three,” Siddall wrote. “When Plumley was interviewed by Galloway for the book he said he had three CIBs by that time (early 1990s). The Awards and Decorations Branch has Plumley listed as one, not three CIBs. Plumley didn’t meet the criteria for WWII and wasn’t in Korea so his first and only CIB was in Vietnam.”

Among the many documents Siddall provides in his research is an Oct. 2, 2015, letter from Army Lt. Col Wil Neubauer, chief of Awards and Decorations Branch, confirming that Plumley was authorized to wear one CIB and states that “we are unable to verify” the Combat Infantry Badge with “one star” listed on Plumley’s DD Form 214.

Click here to see the Army’s Oct. 2, 2015, memo on Plumley’s awards.

In that same photo, Plumley wore valor awards he did not earn, Siddall wrote. Plumley wore a Silver Star with a bronze oak leaf cluster, which indicates a second Silver Star. Plumley also wore a Bronze Star with a V device for valor and one bronze oak leaf cluster for two awards.

The October 2015 letter from the Army states Plumley was authorized only one Silver Star and the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster, not two OLCs. The letter also states that Plumley was not authorized to wear the V device with his Bronze Star medals.

TRUE HEROISM

What’s indisputable is that Plumley did earn a Silver Star for courage and valor he showed during the Battle of Ia Drang Valley.

In the early-morning hours of Nov. 16, 1965, the command post of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, fell under heavy attack.

“The command post was being savagely attacked by an unknown number of Viet Cong,” according to a copy of Plumley’s Dec. 27, 1965, Silver Star Citation.

Enemy automatic weapons fire was pouring into the forward command post and aid station area, which was located about 150 meters behind the “line of contact,” it states.

“At approximately 0500 at the height of the savage attack, a flare, still burning landed in an open box of fragmentation hand grenades in the pile of small arms, mortar and other ammunition less than 10 meters from the battalion command group,” according to the document.

“Sergeant Major Plumley, voluntarily and unhesitatingly, rose up in the face of intense small arms and automatic fire, dashed to the burning flare, lifting it with his bare hands out of the box of grenades and threw it. He extinguished the flare with his feet as well as other small fires which it had ignited around the ammo area,” it states.

Plumley’s brave action, it goes on, “performed under fire with complete disregard for his own personal safety, undoubtedly prevented the complete ammunition supply from exploding.”

CSM Plumley at West Point in 2010. (Photo: Wikimedia)

In his research, Siddall acknowledges that “Plumley received the Silver Star Medal for what he did, and it was important,” Siddall writes.  But, he adds, “that wasn’t enough for someone like Plumley. Plumley had to build himself up even more. For Plumley to be seen wearing the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with the 3 CIB Badge at West Point in 2010 was disgusting.”

Military.com contacted Galloway about Siddall’s research and why Plumley’s service records contradict what Galloway, the only journalist present at LZ X-Ray, wrote about Plumley. Military.com sent Galloway Siddall’s two articles, which contained hyperlinks to Plumley’s service records.

Galloway wrote the following response by email:

“I don’t know a thing about Mr. Siddall and his research that slanders a fine old soldier who died four years ago and can’t speak for himself.

“My co-author Lt. Gen. Hal Moore vouched for CSM Plumley when we were working on the books. I read the Plumley biography when Moore and Plumley received the Doughboy Award quite a few years ago. It sure looked official to me and matched details I had been told about his service. I have no interest in commenting on this any further.”

The Doughboy Award is presented annually to recognize an individual for outstanding contributions to the United States Army Infantry. The award is a chrome replica of a helmet worn by American Expeditionary soldiers during World War I and the early days of World War II.

PLUMLEY’S HEADSTONE

Siddall sent his findings to Fort Benning in late 2015 and asked if the information on Plumley’s headstone was going to be corrected.

Fort Benning officials eventually referred Siddall to Army Human Resources Command’s Awards and Decorations Branch.

Military.com contacted Benning on May 4 about Siddall’s request.

Col. Andy Hilmes, the garrison commander for Fort Benning, said his office is reviewing the request and that it’s possible Plumley’s headstone will be corrected.

The issue is the information in question on Plumley’s headstone — which reads “Silver Star with OLC” and “BSM W/V 2nd OLC” — comes from Plumley’s DD 214, the Army’s separation of service form.

Hilmes acknowledged Siddall’s research of Plumley’s records shows several discrepancies and that Plumley’s DD 214 does not match the official letter from the Army’s Awards and Decoration Branch stating there is no verification that Plumley is authorized more than one Silver Star or the Bronze Star Medal with V Device for Valor with a second oak leaf cluster.

“I want to do the right thing,” Hilmes said. “I have looked at how do we go about changing the headstone. … I can’t change the DD 214 at Benning; that is really up to the Department of the Army.”

Fort Benning reached out to Plumley’s daughter, who is currently looking through her father’s records.

Among the records she sent to Benning is a diploma from the 82nd Airborne Parachute School, stating that Plumley became a qualified parachutist on March 11, 1943. The document is signed by Maj. Gen. James M. Gavin, commander of the 82nd Airborne during World War II.

The documents she sent, however, contain no mention of any combat jumps in WWII or the Korean War.

The plan is to forward all of Plumley’s personal records to Army Human Resources Command for a further review, according to Benning officials.

Military.com tried to contact retired. Lt. Gen. Harold Moore, who commanded the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, but he “suffers from advanced dementia and is unable to discuss this matter,” according to his son Dave Moore in an email to Military.com.

“Having read the allegation and scanned portions of Mr. Siddall’s extensive research, it is clear that discrepancies exist,” Dave Moore wrote the email. “The fact that the DoD could not verify all of the CSM’s awards is not surprising given the lack of rigor in the maintenance of records in the 1940s. I am confident that my father wrote the truth as he knew it, and that Mr. Galloway accepted that truth. I am confident there was no willful intention to deceive readers.”

Steve Moore, another son of Lt. Gen. Moore’s sons, said even his own father was the victim of poor record-keeping when he was being added recently to Fort Leavenworth’s International Hall of Fame.

“As part of that process, they coordinated with the family to obtain [Moore’s] bio and other material,” Steve Moore wrote in an email. “One of the items they shared with us was the current bio the General Officer Management Office (GOMO) had for Dad. We were horrified. It showed him with a CIB with 2 stars and added an extra award of the BSM/V and other medals.

“Apparently, the clerk who assembled the list years ago did not know that an oak leaf cluster represented the 2nd and subsequent award. So “CIB(2Awd)” on Dad’s DD214 became a CIB with 2 stars, added extra BSM/V … Thank goodness we fixed this before there were any stolen valor accusations.”

Siddall says he just wants the record about Plumley to be corrected.

“I just want the correct information out there because there are so many people that are really heroes, and it is so frustrating when they give the hero status to someone who was anything but,” he said.

Military.com also reached out to Doug Sterner, curator for Military Times Hall of Valor, for his insight into this story. Sterner, who has been compiling and digitizing military awards for more than 20 years, has exposed many individuals for stolen valor, or wearing unauthorized military awards.

Sterner said he doesn’t see the point in bringing up the discrepancies about Plumley, a man he calls a “genuine hero” because he earned a Silver Star in battle. He said he knows of hundreds of cases in which soldiers have been awarded Silver Stars or other valor awards and the records cannot be found.

“I don’t see the point in trying to be so historically accurate we destroy a genuine hero,” Sterner said.

–Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why MRE directions use ‘a rock or something’

If you’re familiar with the phrase “rock or something,” then you’ve probably used a Flameless Ration Heater to warm up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.


To this day, the phrase remains part of a pictogram on the package of the heater, known as the FRH, which was developed at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. It refers to directions that advise warfighters to place the FRH at an angle when heating up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as an MRE.

“The term ‘rock or something’ has now reached cult status,” said Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team at Combat Feeding. “It’s just taken on a life of its own.”


Oleksyk was there at the beginning with colleagues Bob Trottier and now-retired Don Pickard when the FRH and that memorable phrase were born in 1993.

“We were designing the FRH directions and wanted to show an object to rest the heater on,” Oleksyk recalled. “(Don) said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something. So we wrote ‘rock or something’ on the object, kind of as a joke.”

The joke has legs. As Oleksyk pointed out, there now are T-shirts and other items for sale that bear those words. “Rock or something” even has its own Facebook page.

Introduced to the heater years ago, famed chef Julia Child insisted on following the package directions and activating it by herself. With no rock handy, she decided to employ a wine glass stem.

Lauren Oleksyk of the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, holds a Flameless Ration Heater and a Meal, Ready-to-Eat. This is the 20th anniversary of the heater’s introduction.
(Photo by David Kamm)

“Which is so classic Julia,” Oleksyk said, laughing. “So there have been many things other than the rock or something that have been used. There are many, many Soldiers over the years that have their own personal joke about what they might use in place of a rock.”


The FRH is no joke, however. Adding an ounce and a half of water to the magnesium-iron alloy and sodium in the heater will raise the temperature of an eight-ounce MRE entrée by 100 degrees in about 10 minutes.

“Some of the challenges were keeping it lightweight and low volume, and not requiring a lot to activate it,” Oleksyk said.

The heater’s arrival gave warfighters the option of a hot meal wherever they went and whenever they wanted.

“I’ve heard more feedback on this item than any other item I’ve ever worked on in my career here,” said Oleksyk, who has been at Natick nearly 30 years. “They’re so grateful to have this heater in the MRE. It’s almost always used whenever they have 10 minutes to sit down for lunch.”

Prior to the FRH, warfighters used Trioxane fuel bars with canteen cups and cup stands to heat their MRE entrees. As Oleksyk pointed out, the fuel bars couldn’t be packed alongside food in the MRE package.

“So if the fuel bar and the MRE didn’t marry up in the field,” said Oleksyk, “they really had no way to have a hot meal.”

The FRH has remained essentially the same over the past two decades because, as Oleksyk put it, “it’s tough to find a better chemistry that’s lighter in weight, lower in volume and that heats as well.” A larger version has been developed, however.

“We’ve expanded it to a group ration,” Oleksyk said. “So now we have a larger heater that is used to heat the Unitized Group Ration-Express. We call that ration a ‘kitchen in a carton.’ It serves 18 Soldiers.”

The next-generation MRE heater is being tested now, and it will eliminate the need to use one of the most precious commodities in the field.

“The next version of this is a waterless version,” Oleksyk said. “It’s an air-activated heater, so you wouldn’t have to add any water to activate it at all, but that’s still in development and will have to perform better than the FRH overall if it’s ever to replace it.”

Oleksyk remembered sitting on a mountain summit one time during a weekend hike with friends. Suddenly, she heard laughter behind her.

“I hear a guy — sure enough, he says, ‘Yeah, I need a rock or something,'” said Oleksyk, who turned to see him wearing fatigues, holding a Flameless Ration Heater, and telling his buddies how great it was.

“So it’s far reaching,” Oleksyk said. “It really had an impact on the warfighter.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

5 possible replacements for Michael Flynn as national security adviser

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s abrupt resignation made waves on Monday evening, as pressure mounted amid controversy over his communications with a Russian ambassador.


Nevertheless, as the principal adviser on national security issues, the opening in President Donald Trump’s administration is a crucial one that the administration is most likely to fill quickly.

Vice Adm. Robert Harward, a former deputy commander of US Central Command, is the front-runner to replace Flynn, according to Washington Post reporter Robert Costa. The New York Times also reports that Harward is the leading candidate to take over.

Former US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. | via Flickr

The position is appointed by the president, and does not require a lengthy confirmation hearing from the Senate.

Here are five possible candidates that may become the next national security adviser to Trump:

Peter Jacobs contributed to this report.

Retired Gen. David Petraeus

DoD photo

Retired Gen. David Petraeus’ career includes 37 years of service in the US Army and a role as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

In addition to commanding the entire coalition force in Iraq, the four-star general headed US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees all operations in Middle East.

Petraeus was briefly considered for Secretary of State by the Trump administration.

Stephen J. Hadley

Flickr

Stephen Hadley served as the National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009.

He served on several advisory boards, including defense firm Raytheon, and RAND’s Center for Middle East Public Policy. Together with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, he helps head the international strategic consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates LLC.

He also wrote the “The Role and Importance of the National Security Advisor,” which, as the title implies, is an in-depth study of the National Security Adviser’s role.

Retired Gen. Keith Kellogg

Major General Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., USA (uncovered)

As the interim National Security Adviser filling in for Michael Flynn, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg was the chief of staff for the Trump administration’s National Security Council (NSC).

Prior to that, he worked in the Joint Chiefs of Staff office and was part of computer software giant Oracle’s homeland security team.

Tom Bossert

Screengrab via CNN/YouTube

Tom Bossert, a cybersecurity expert, serves as the Homeland Security Adviser in the White House.

The former Deputy Homeland Security Adviser to President George W. Bush co-authored the 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security, the government’s security policies established after the 9/11 terror attacks.

In a 2015 column in The Washington Times, Bossert seemed to defend the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by writing, “To be clear, the use of military force against Iraq and Afghanistan was and remains just … The use of force in Iraq was just and, at the time, necessary, even if Mr. Obama disagrees with how things went.”

Retired Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward

DoD photo

Retired Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward is a US Navy SEAL and the former Deputy Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM).

He served as the commander of SEAL Team 3 and was the Deputy Commanding General of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Harward also served on the National Security Council as the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Office of Combating Terrorism, and is also the CEO for Lockheed Martin in the United Arab Emirates.