In the 1950s, America’s nuclear bomber pilots had a very valid concern about firing their weapons. In many cases, an aircrew that fired a nuclear weapon would be hard-pressed to outrun the blast when the warhead detonated.
Operation Upshot-Knothole was a series of nuclear tests in Nevada. In the detonation named “Encore,” a group of three homes were tested against a 27-kt nuclear warhead. One house had old paint and trash in the yard, one house had new paint and trash in the yard, and a third house had new paint and no trash. In the test, the trash set on fire and burned down the first home. The second house experienced small fires on its most weathered areas that eventually grew and consumed the house. The third structure, with new paint and no trash, was scorched but survived the test.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has decided to be tried by a judge — not a military jury — on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s lawyers told the court in a brief filing last week that their client chose trial by judge alone, rather than a panel of officers. He faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy at his trial scheduled for late October at Fort Bragg. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Defense attorneys declined to comment on the decision. But they previously questioned whether Bergdahl could get a fair trial by jury because of negative comments President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail.
Earlier this year the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance rejected a defense request to dismiss the case over Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl.
Potential jurors had already received a questionnaire including questions about their commander in chief, but defense attorneys weren’t allowed to ask jurors if they voted for Trump.
Rachel VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer not involved in the case, said defense attorneys likely felt limited in how they could probe juror opinions.
“They lost their ability to ask all the questions they wanted to ask, one of those being: ‘Did you vote for President Trump?'” said VanLandingham, who teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. “They felt that was very important … for fleshing out whether a panel member could be fair.”
Beyond concerns about jurors, she said Nance has so far demonstrated his objectivity.
“His pretrial rulings have shown that he’s fair,” she said.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009. The soldier from Idaho has said he intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
He was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the trade jeopardized the nation’s security.
Bergdahl has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his case.
The Eager Lion exercise doesn’t have the long history of Cobra Gold or Team Spirit, nor does it have the immense scale of RIMPAC. But is still important, particularly with the Syrian Civil War raging – not to mention having to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
According to a CENTCOM release, 21 countries, including the United States, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and Poland are invading Jordan for the Eager Lion 2017 exercise.
“As brothers in arms, we fully understand how much our nations have paid in blood and treasure over the years to address security, particularly in this region,” Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for U.S. Central Command, told reporters at a press event launching the exercise. “For much of the past two decades our militaries have operated in the grey zones of military confrontation … where misunderstanding and miscalculation can easily escalate into a larger conflict.”
Here are some photos showing just what is going on with this friendly multi-national invasion:
1. They travel there by sea and air
It is said that half the fun is getting there. It’s a safe bet that the CO of USS Bataan (LHD 5) got tired of hearing 2,000 Marines ask, “Are we there yet?”
2. The gear gets set up
Exercises like Eager Lion are not thrown together on a whim. Support troops like these help make the multi-national wargame run smoothly.
3. They prepare for the worst
This includes being sure that the medevac people are fully spun up in case there is an accident during the training. Hopefully, they are very, very bored during Eager Lion 2017.
4. They hit the ground running
Fast-roping from helicopters helps to secure the LZ.
5. They move out to their objectives
Now that their way out has been secured, the troops are off to happily go about the day’s work of dropping tangos.
6. They achieve the objective…
…Which is for the last thing the bad guy sees to be something like this:
For the first time in over a decade, the US Air Force is publicly acknowledging it runs an air war out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
The US embassy in country recently worked with Emirati counterparts to make the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — an Air Combat Command-run unit at the base — known, officials told Military.com.
Military.com first spoke with members of the 380th on a trip to the Middle East earlier this summer on condition the name and location of the base not be disclosed, and that full names of personnel not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
While the 380th was established at the base on Jan. 25, 2002, the US military has had a presence on the base for approximately 25 years. The base is home to a variety of combat operations.
In addition to housing one of the largest fuel farms in the world, the wing houses such aircraft as the KC-10 tanker; the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude drone; the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft; the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.
Together, these aircraft carry out missions such as air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, ground attack, air support, and others.
The 380th also runs its own intel analysis and air battle-management command and control center known as “The Kingpin.”
Like moving chess pieces, “Kingpin has the [air tasking order] — they’re talking to people on the ground, they’re making sure these airplanes are provisionally controlled, getting them back and forth to tankers … they’re talking to the [Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar], they minimize the fog and friction for the entire [area of responsibility]” in US Central Command, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th AEW and an F-22 pilot.
Meanwhile, the general was candid about what the US mission could be after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria.
Corcoran said, “We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be.”
He added, “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”
The rise of Nazism in Germany was for many Germans a terrifyingly swift deviation in the nation’s moral compass.
The most famous example of Hitler’s attempt to make his plans for the establishment of a master race a little more commercial is undoubtedly the Hitler Youth program. In 1935, over 60% of the country’s young people were involved in the program, and in 1936, all other youth groups were banned, making the Fuhrer’s brainchild the best kids’ club by default. Awesome.
Program membership was mandatory for kids over 17, but Hitler knew that if he wanted to shape the younger generation, he would have to start small. Kids as young as ten years old were encouraged to join the movement, which was similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, except instead of teaching valuable skills about friendship and forest survival, Hitler was making sure the kids became bigoted military minions.
An entire generation of ordinary people was seduced by this mythos, and parents eagerly sent their children to become young men and women of the “Thousand Year Reich“, excited to watch their sons become soldiers and their daughters demure, obedient mothers who would populate the master race.
Not all kids were down with this idea, however. And because the program was compulsory and very restrictive, they had to get creative with their rebellion. Enter the Edelweiss Pirates — a teenage protest group with the classiest rebel name ever.
Comprised mostly of working class boys, the gang was not shy about it’s anti-authority, down-with-Hitler ideologies. The Pirates refused to wear the military-inspired uniforms of the Hitler Youth, opting instead for bohemian ensembles with a ton of fringe and cool-factor. Their defiance extended to all aspects of their lives, and the rebel kids could be heard singing banned songs, playing banned jazz music and dancing with the opposite sex — completely unapproved by the Nazi party.
These song lyrics, which served as the groups anthem, were particularly unwelcome:
Hitler’s power may lay us low,
And keep us locked in chains,
But we will smash the chains one day,
We’ll be free again.
We’ve got the fists and we can fight,
We’ve got the knives and we’ll get them out.
We want freedom, don’t we boys?
At first they were just considered an annoyance that needed to be weeded out and further indoctrinated into the party, nothing a fifteenth reading of “Mein Kempf” couldn’t fix.
Once WWII began, however, the teens started to appear like more and more of a legitimate threat to the state.
In 1942 Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS operations, wrote Reinhard Heydrich to discuss the rebellious boys and “worthless girls” who formed the resistance group:
“The youth should first be given thrashings and then [be] put through the severest drill and set to work. It must be made clear that they will never be allowed to go back to their studies. We must investigate how much encouragement they have had from their parents. If they have encouraged them, then they should also be put into a concentration camp and [have] their property confiscated.”
This didn’t stop the Pirates, but disdain for their antics was not limited to the higher ups of the Nazi regime. The Hitler Youth Patrol Service, made up of the same kids who participated in the Nazi group, were particularly brutal towards these rebellious outliers. The mini-police force, who were literally above the law, raided movie theaters, coffee shops and billiard halls looking to bust the Edelweiss Pirates and beat them up in the streets.
The Pirates existed in several different cities under different names, but their desire to undermine the fascism was uniform.
As the war raged on, many of the Pirates, now adults, joined the underground resistance movement. In Cologne, Edelweiss Pirates members offered aid and shelter to Nazi deserters and refugees who had escaped from concentration camps. Members even went so far as to raid military depots and supply reserves, sabotaging war production. They also continued their usual hi-jinks, graffitiing bridges and walls with the words “Down with Hitler”.
In response, the Nazis intensified their opposition to the fringe group. Pirates who were caught were sent to jail, reform schools, labor camps and psych wards, all in an effort to stamp out resistance. If caught in public, “defectors” were often humiliated in front of a crowd, and were beaten and shaved before being taken away. In 1944 Heinrich Himmler even ordered the public execution of thirteen Pirate members in Cologne, pictured below.
For the duration of the war these brave young people continued to stand firm in the face of overwhelming resistance and power, and continued to fight for the freedoms they believed in.
Shortly after the surviving forces of the Battle of Crete had evacuated, the British landed agents from the Special Operations Executive, also known as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, to advise and assist the resistance and conduct intelligence gathering. Crete was heavily garrisoned and an important part of Germany’s plans both in the Mediterranean and Russia.
Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, the German general commanding the 22nd Airlanding Division and assigned as the military governor of Crete, had a reputation for brutality that earned him the nickname “the Butcher of Crete.” The British decided to hatch a plan to get rid of him. However, they wanted to do more than just kill him; they wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the Germans everywhere.
Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and Captain William Stanley Moss conceived the plan to kidnap General Müller at the Club de Chasse in Cairo in 1943. Along with two members of the Cretan resistance, George Tirakis and Manoli Paterakis, they planned to infiltrate the island, link up with other members of the resistance, abduct the general, and then get off the island. They intended to do all of this while foregoing bloodshed. They also wanted to make the Germans believe it was a British-only operation to avoid reprisals against the local Cretans.
Because, as we mentioned, Müller was an a-hole… even more than your average Nazi.
Everything was set to begin on February 4, 1944. The four men took off from Cairo and flew towards Crete ready to parachute onto the German-held island and begin their mission. Unfortunately, once over the drop zone, only Major Fermor jumped because of bad weather. The rest of the team tried a dozen more times before finally deciding to attempt a landing by sea. This was finally accomplished on April 4, but during the time between when Maj. Fermor landed on the island and the rest of the team arrived, General Müller was replaced by General Heinrich Kreipe. The British forged ahead with the abduction of Kreipe.
Fermor, dressed as a shepherd, reconnoitered the general’s daily routine and finalized the plan to take the general. On the night of 26 April, the four man team, with Fermor and Moss dressed as German Military Police, set up a fake checkpoint to catch the General’s car as he returned to his quarters for the night. When the general’s car stopped Fermor and Paterakis grabbed Kreipe while Moss clubbed the driver with a baton and with the help of Tirakis, pulled him from the car. While the Cretans moved General Kreipe to the back seat Fermor and Moss took up positions in the front seat impersonating the general and his driver.
The group then headed off to make their escape, successfully passing through 22 other checkpoints. After an hour and a half, Moss, the two Cretan members of the team, and the general left the vehicle with Fermor to abandon. He left the car on a beach on the north side of the island along with documents indicating that the kidnapping had been carried out by British Commandos and that the general had already been removed from the island as well as a note indicating how sorry they were to have to leave behind such a beautiful car.
The group rendezvoused with Fermor and began their trek to the south side of the island for the extraction back to Egypt. By the next day, the Germans issued a proclamation notifying the civilians on the island that if General Kreipe was not returned in three days reprisals would begin. Meanwhile, German troops scoured the island and planes took to the air to search for the group. The group evaded the Germans and hiked across Mount Ida while Fermor and Kreipe recited the poetry of Horace. The team finally reached the southern coast and was picked up by a British Motor Launch on 14 May 1944. They returned to Egypt where General Kreipe was interrogated before being transferred to a POW camp in Canada.
Major Fermor was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Moss was given the Military Cross. General Kriepe was finally released by the British in 1947. In 1950, after censorship from the war had eased, Moss released his account of the operation in a book called Ill Met By Moonlight which itself was turned into a movie in 1957. Finally, in 1972 Kreipe was reunited with his kidnappers on a Greek TV show.
I hope you like fireworks because on July 4, 1776, America declared her independence from Great Britain.
The American Revolutionary War broke out the year before, but the colonies had opposed British policies since 1765. The Tea Act of 1773 became a tipping point, causing the beginning of the resistance.
In 1776, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet called “Common Sense” that argued for independence, an idea that quickly gathered support from the Continental Congress. Thomas Jefferson and a small committee drafted the Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 2 and formally adopted on July 4.
For those of you who like Americana trivia, Army Commander-In-Chief George Washington did not sign the Declaration of Independence. While the Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia, Washington and his forces were in New York. He received an official notification letter dated July 6, 1776, from John Hancock with a copy of the declaration. Three days later, on the parade grounds of Lower Manhattan, George Washington notified thousands of Continental soldiers that the country they were fighting for had declared its independence.
The Revolutionary War continued for five more years with over 230 skirmishes and battles fought. Finally in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed and the United States of America became a free and independent nation.
Featured Image: John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. The painting can be found on the back of the U.S. $2 bill. The original hangs in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
Two Air Force vets made a breakthrough in gun safety. They created an accessory that keeps pistols from firing in the wrong hands.
Dubbed the “Guardian,” it uses fingerprint technology to unlock a gun’s trigger by the owner. It attaches to most pistols without modifying the weapon and remains in place during use, making it quick and convenient to handle while serving its purpose.
It’s similar to unlocking your mobile phone. After authentication via fingerprint, the Guardian unlocks allowing the slide to snap forward granting access to the handgun trigger:
Skylar Gerrond and Matt Barido set out to solve two problems with the Guardian: safety and immediate protection. The best practice with children at home requires firearms be locked away with bullets stored in a different location. But this could defeat the purpose of having a firearm ready at a moment’s notice. To remedy this problem, some owners hide the weapon in an easy to access location, which can jeopardize safety. The Guardian solves both problems.
“That’s the dilemma that drives people to taking the worse course of action — a loaded handgun, not secured at all, in a ‘safe place’ where [they think the] kids doesn’t know about it,” said Gerrond in an interview with The Blaze. “We wanted something that never actually left the handgun. The slide retracts forward in front of trigger guard, allowing access for you to physically insert finger into trigger well.”
The Guardian’s target price will be $199 when it becomes available. The creators are still in the prototype phase and are using Indiegogo to fund its development.
“This allows the aircraft to identify a threat and actively prosecute that threat through avoidance, deception or jamming techniques,” Mike Gibbons, Vice President of the Boeing F-15 program, told Scout Warrior in an interview a few months ago.
These updated EW capabilities replace the Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite, which has been used since the 1980s, not long after the F-15 first deployed. The service plans to operate the fleet until the mid-2040’s, so an overhaul of the Eagle’s electronic systems helps maintain U.S. air supremacy, the contract announcement said.
Boeing won the initial contract for the EPAWSS project last year and hired BAE Systems as the primary subcontractor.
Overall, the US Air Force is vigorously upgrading the 1980s-era F-15 fighter by giving new weapons and sensors in the hope of maintaining air-to-air superiority over the Chinese J-10 equivalent.
The multi-pronged effort not only includes the current addition of electronic warfare technology but also extends to super-fast high-speed computers, infrared search and track enemy targeting systems, increased networking ability and upgraded weapons-firing capability, Air Force and Boeing officials said.
“The Air Force plans to keep the F-15 fleet in service until the mid-2040’s. Many of the F-15 systems date back to the 1970’s and must be upgraded if the aircraft is to remain operationally effective. Various upgrades will be complete as early as 2021 for the F-15C AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and as late as 2032 for the various EW (electronic warfare) upgrades,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese told Scout Warrior a few months ago.
The Air Force currently operates roughly 400 F-15C, D and E variants. A key impetus for the upgrade was well articulate in a Congressional report on the US and China in 2014. (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission —www.uscc.gov). Among other things, the report cited rapid Chinese technological progress and explained that the US margin of superiority has massively decreased since the 1980s.
As an example, the report said that in the 1980s, the US F-15 was vastly superior to the Chinese equivalent – the J-10. However, Chinese technical advances in recent years have considerably narrowed that gap to the point where the Chinese J-10 is now roughly comparable to the US F-15, the report explained.
Air Force and Boeing developers maintain that ongoing upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that this equivalence is not the case and that, instead, they will ensure the superiority of the F-15.
Among the upgrades is an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processer in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII.
“It is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput, translating into faster and more reliable mission processing capability for an aircrew,” Boeing spokesman Randy Jackson told Scout Warrior.
High tech targeting and tracking technology is also being integrated onto the F-15, Gibbons added. This includes the addition of a passive long-range sensor called Infrared Search and Track, or IRST.
The technology is also being engineered into the Navy F-18 Super Hornet. The technology can detect the heat signature, often called infrared emissions, of enemy aircraft.
“The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology,” Navy officials said.
IRST also provides an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, Navy, Air Force and industry developers said.
The F-15 is also being engineered for additional speed and range, along with weapons-firing ability. The weapons-carrying ability is being increased from 8 up to 16 weapons; this includes an ability to fire an AIM-9x or AIM-120 missile. In addition, upgrades to the aircraft include adding an increased ability to integrate or accommodate new emerging weapons systems as they become available. This is being done through both hardware and software-oriented “open standards” IP protocol and architecture.
The aircraft is also getting a “fly-by-wire” automated flight control system.
“Fly by wire means when the pilot provides the input – straight to a computer than then determines how to have the aircraft perform the way it wants – provides electrical signals for the more quickly and more safely move from point to point as opposed to using a mechanical controls stick,” Gibbons explained.
Along with these weapons upgrades and other modifications, the F-15 is also getting upgrades to the pilot’s digital helmet and some radar signature reducing, or stealthy characteristics.
However, at the same time, the F-15 is not a stealthy aircraft and is expected to be used in combat environments in what is called “less contested” environments where the Air Force already has a margin of air superiority over advanced enemy air defenses.
For this reason, the F-15 will also be increasing networked so as to better support existing 5th-generation platforms such as the F-22 and F-35, Air Force officials said.
The intent of these F-15 upgrades is to effectively perform the missions assigned to the F-15 fleet, which are to support the F-22 in providing air superiority and the F-35 in providing precision attack capabilities, Leese said.
“While these upgrades will not make these aircraft equivalent to 5th generation fighters, they will allow the F-15 to support 5th generation fighters in performing their missions, and will also allow F-15s to assume missions in more permissive environments where capabilities of 5th generation fighters are not required,” Leese added.
Gibbons added that the upgrades to the F-15 will ensure that the fighter aircraft remains superior to its Chinese equivalent.
“The F-15 as a vital platform that still has a capability that cannot be matched in terms of ability to fly high, fly fast, go very far carry a lot. It is an air dominance machine,” Gibbons explained.
In short, China has turned their coast guard into a sort of paramilitary force, the largest of it’s kind in the world. In some cases, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels have simply been painted white and repurposed for maritime “law enforcement.”
Sometimes, the .50 caliber machine guns still hang over the sides of vessels once used for war and now used to intimidate neighboring nations.
But unlike military disputes, where internationally agreed-upon accords regulate standard operating procedures, these coast guard ships fall in a legal gray zone that China has come to exploit.
“What we have is a situation in East Asia where China in particular is not using naval vessels to intimidate, not using [traditional] force, but they’re taking actions that are below that line of triggering any kind of military confrontation, and yet intimidating other actors,” Bonnie Glasser, an expert on security in the Pacific from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Glasser, who headed up the report on China’s coast guard, compiled 45 incidents in the South China Sea and found China’s coast guard involvement in two thirds of them.
But according to Glasser, “what we have been able to compile is just a fraction of the number of incidents in the South China Sea,” where China’s larger ships have repeatedly rammed, harassed, and used water cannons on fishing vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.
“In my conversations in the Philippines — Chinese ramming of other ships is considered to be part of their acceptable rules of engagement. That’s just what they do,” said Glasser.
According to Glasser, the legal framework marks a step in the right direction, but does nothing to stop the harassing actions of China’s coast guard, which operates as a navy in all but name. What’s more, the majority of signatories to the recent ASEAN CUES agreement had already signed a similar agreement in April 2014, rendering the agreement even more empty.
“China’s ASEAN CUES agreement is not new, and was already agreed upon. [Chinese state media] portrayed it as some breakthrough… Everyone is applauding, and it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t address the problem,” said Glasser. The real problem, of course, is that no meaningful laws regulate their paramilitary coast guard.
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche July, 16, 2014, during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery
“China is building very large coast guard vessels,” and lots of them in a “quantity as well as quality” approach, said Glasser. The sheer size of the ships, usually weighing more than 1,000 tons, as well as the way they’re armed, make other nation’s law enforcement craft “pale in comparison.”
Essentially, the Chinese bully civilian craft with hulking boats that intimidate on sight. Only Japan even comes close to having the capability to defend itself, with 105,000 total tonnage of coast guard ships to China’s 190,000. But Glasser says that actual military capability should come second to infrastructure, in the form of internationally agreed-upon law.
“Putting in place acceptable procedures of behavior and other confidence building measures is the way to go, rather than everyone having the ships the size of China’s,” said Glasser, nodding to the potential arms race that could result from China’s unilateral military buildup.
“Many different risks are posed if China goes ahead and develops the Scarborough Shoal… it would undermine US credibility, cause the Chinese to continue to test the US, and push forward a greater agenda of seeking control of the air and sea space,” Glasser said.
Furthermore, China undermining the US would cause “enormous anxiety in the region, with the US seen as weakening in it’s ability and will,” Glasser said.
“Reverberating effects, as well as security threats eventually posed by China having capability near main bases (the Subic Bay) would be a threat to the Philippines and the US.”
So for now, China has found a loophole in international law that allows its paramilitary “second navy” of a coast guard to muscle smaller nations out of their rightful claims. China has shown a persistent will to militarize and enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Unless the US, and its allies in the Pacific, can get China to agree to a legal framework, Beijing appears ready to continue pushing its claims by force.
There is a perceived weakness in the way international law is enforced at sea, and China is exploiting it handily. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “weakness is provocative.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. flies over the Gulf of Mexico, April 1, 2017. The Raptor was taking part in a flight alongside a KC-135 Stratotanker to show appreciation to the employers of Guard and Reserve Airmen.
Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation over the Utah Test and Training Range, March 30, 2017.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter arrives at the pickup zone at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, April 6. The aviators were taking part in a joint-training exercise with Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, in anticipation of working together during future Atlantic Resolve missions.
U.S. Army Soldiers from around the world compete in day three of the 34th Annual David E. Grange Jr., Best Ranger Competition, April 9, 2017, on Fort Benning, Ga. The competition is designed to determine the best two-Soldier Ranger team in the Army.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (April. 13, 2017) Aviation Boatswain’s Mates (Handling) Airmen Nathaniel Eguia, left, and Obadiah Hunter scrub aqueous film forming foam off of the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Gerald R. Ford is underway on its own power for the first time. The first-of-class ship-the first new U.S. aircraft carrier design in 40 years-will spend several days conducting builder’s sea trials, a comprehensive test of many of the ship’s key systems and technologies.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 12, 2017) An F/A 18C Hornet from the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet. U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups have patrolled the Indo-Pacific regularly and routinely for more than 70 years.
Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion take cover while conducting urban demolition breach training for Talon Exercise (TalonEx) 2-17, Yuma, Arizona, March 30, 2017. The purpose of TalonEx was for ground combat units to conduct integrated training in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.
Machine gunners assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa move toward an objective area during a Military Operation on Urbanized Terrain exercise with the Spanish Special Operations Group âGranadaâ in Alicante, Spain, March 29, 2017. The exercise provided an opportunity for Marines and Spanish SOF members to maintain joint readiness and strengthen relationships.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick stands proud facing the crowd of the commissioning ceremony at Coast Guard Base Ketchikan, Alaska, April 12, 2017. The cutter McCormick is the Coast Guard’s first 154-foot Fast Response Cutter to be commissioned in Alaska.
A New Hampshire Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter lands on the helipad at Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor on Sunday, April 9, 2017 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The helicopter was taking part in the 2017 Best Warrior Competition, which encourages the Guardsmen to strive for excellence and achievement through a variety of physical and mental challenges.
Your grandparents and great grandparents fighting in World War II were hit with just as much safety rules as troops are today, it’s just those rules rarely make it to the history books.
But they weren’t always given their safety rules in boring briefings. When the 1940s War Department and Department of the Navy really wanted to drive safety rules home, they made snazzy safety videos and posters.
The Navy used “Ensign Dilbert,” a soup-sandwich who always breaks safety rules, to highlight the grisly results of incompetency in aviation.
And Dilbert does some truly stupid stuff. He mishandles his weapons, tows aerial targets into ground crews, and even accidentally kills a civilian his first flight of the day. And the Navy isn’t afraid to show the (PG-13) bodies of his victims.
Last year, the world began waging a war against a new enemy: COVID-19. As the threat emerged and casualties mounted, the year 2020 brought changes in the way people conduct business, accomplish personal tasks, pursue education, and celebrate milestones. The pandemic also highlighted the mandate for a different type of leader: one who shares information transparently while taking appropriate measures to mitigate risk and – crucially – recognizing the importance of a more personal and human approach to communication.
Captain David Baird, USN, Commanding Officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, has been that leader. Baird and his leadership team developed and executed a plan to keep members of the NAVSTA Rota community safe, healthy and mission-ready. A central tenet of that plan was, in Baird’s words, “calm, compassionate, clear and factual communication.”
His strategy has been successful.
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases within the NAVSTA Rota community has remained low and relatively isolated. Meanwhile, the atmosphere on the base has been calm, and compliance with recommended public health measures has been high. Baird’s success navigating a public health crisis while fighting this new enemy, Covid-19, is a case study in effective leadership.
Preparing to Battle a New Kind of Threat
As COVID-19 ravaged Spain in Spring 2020, the NAVSTA Rota community remained focused on its mission. With cases rising sharply throughout the country, Baird and his leadership team were closely monitoring the spread of the virus and had taken measures to prepare for what might come.
By the end of March 2020, Spain was under a state of emergency, with all non-essential businesses closed and non-essential workers under a stay-at-home order. NAVSTA Rota had switched to a “minimum manning posture,” many base facilities were closed, and base schools had transitioned to remote learning. By early April, face coverings were required in all buildings.
Implementing these drastic operational changes was a massive undertaking, but an equally difficult challenge was less straightforward: successfully leading the NAVSTA Rota community through the pandemic. It was a tall order at a time when uncertainty about the virus warranted panic and fear, and face-to-face interaction had suddenly become extremely limited. Fortunately, Baird was able to draw on his combat and risk management experience to devise a strategy that all would embrace and that would keep everyone safe and informed, while also allowing his command to accomplish its mission.
Developing a Communication Strategy
Early in the pandemic, one of Baird’s first orders of business was figuring out how to communicate with the entire NAVSTA Rota community to keep everyone informed and avoid panic. With limited information, people were understandably anxious and feared for the safety of loved ones, both locally and back in the US.
Baird harkened back to advice a mentor once gave him: Rather than treating others the way you want to be treated, “treat them the way you want your children or your parents to be treated.” Baird added, “The parent part was so important, because many of us were worried about elderly parents, [who are] at a higher risk.” Baird summarized the advice another way: “View others in the way you view the people you care about the most.”
With that axiom as a backdrop to his communication philosophy, Baird was keenly aware of the importance of transparently sharing credible, accurate information. However, he recognized that “there is no such thing as perfect communication.” Rather, it’s an ongoing process of constant improvement and an effort to “connect with [people] in a meaningful way.”
All of this was the foundation for the communication plan that he and his leadership team devised. With in-person gatherings not an option, they had to find alternate ways to reach members of the NAVSTA Rota community. Baird and his public affairs officer (PAO) decided they would “use every other means available,” including social media and AFN Rota radio to share information, answer questions, and keep the community informed in real time.
Communication without face-to-face interaction
In developing the communication strategy, Baird recalled his conversation, many years earlier, with the PAO at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan regarding the 2011 Fukushima disaster and how the command had communicated about the evacuation of dependents. Answering questions and sharing information ‘round the clock via Facebook proved to be the most effective communication tactic.
Baird explains, “people crave every piece of information they can get. If information is not provided by an official source, they’re going to find an unofficial source that probably isn’t as credible.” He and his team determined that communication via Facebook would work well in the face of this new crisis, and he began publishing frequent updates on the Naval Station Rota Facebook page.
Initially, the updates consisted primarily of data on the spread of COVID in the Andalusia region of Spain, but in late March 2020, Baird began taking a new approach. As members of the Rota community were suddenly confined to their homes and severely restricted from daily activities, sharing numbers wasn’t enough. He wanted to put the information into perspective and help them truly understand what it all meant.
He explained, “I started telling stories using some of my life experiences to help figure out: How can we frame our current situation, and what does the future look like?”
Baird talked about everything from personal courage, to fear, to his experiences training for an Ironman triathlon and as a member of the rowing team at the United States Naval Academy. Each update was focused on helping the NAVSTA Rota community understand the current situation and where it was all headed, while keeping everyone motivated. The updates were honest, personal, and empathetic, and they quickly resonated with the community. Readers commented on the posts, thanking Baird for his candor, positivity, and leadership.
In response to one of Baird’s early “story-telling” updates, a member of the Rota community commented, “NAVSTA Rota is exemplifying true leadership right now. Capt. Baird, you are setting the standard for military leadership through this experience and I hope other commanders follow your example.”
A hallmark of Baird’s updates is transparency. He has been careful to share what his leadership team knew – and what they didn’t know – at all times: “Acknowledging there are a lot of things that we don’t know is important to establish credibility and maintain credibility about the things that [we] are stating as fact.”
He also explained the “why” for each new constraint on daily activities: “Every restriction we put into place was grounded in some sort of data.” His explanations, along with his acknowledgement of how difficult and frustrating the restrictions could be, made the news more palatable to the NAVSTA Rota community.
As one Facebook follower commented, “We know this is a super challenging situation and one that none of us planned on or wanted to be in, especially while living abroad. But we truly do appreciate your transparency and communication, and we commend you for how leadership has handled this difficult time here.”
The constant COVID-related communications through Facebook, town hall meetings and on AFN Rota – more than 300 since the start of the pandemic – prompted more than 10,000 comments and questions from the NAVSTA Rota community; a clear indication that members have been engaged and paying attention.
The global military community takes notice
Current members of the NAVSTA Rota community weren’t the only audience for Baird’s Facebook updates. Among the thousands of people following along were family and friends of service members stationed in Rota, retired service members, and those who served at NAVSTA Rota in the past. Baird’s leadership has meant a lot to them.
One parent wrote, “My daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter are currently stationed on your base during this crazy event. I’m extremely pleased with the way NSR is keeping everyone posted on the current issues in and around the base and country.”
Another parent simply said, “Our son and family are with you. Glad you are in Command.”
In response to one of Baird’s very candid updates about the need for all members of the NAVSTA Rota community to keep their guard up, a Navy retiree had this to say:
“As a sailor who once served in Rota, ultimately retiring from the US Navy, I have seen and read many memos of consequence. Your writing and eloquence in communicating the current issues on healthcare and the pandemic are simply outstanding. I have not, as a healthcare professional, seen better than what you transmit. If more leaders did what you do, we would all be in a better place pandemic-wise.”
The path forward and lessons learned
Baird and his leadership team continue to remain vigilant and share continual communication amidst the gradual lifting of COVID-related restrictions in Spain and rollout of the vaccine. As of April 2021, Naval Hospital Rota had already administered both doses of the Moderna vaccine to thousands of members of the NAVSTA Rota community, including active duty service members and US civilian workers, along with their adult family members. TRICARE-eligible retirees and family members were also offered the vaccine.
More than a year into the pandemic, Baird continues to refine his leadership strategy. He explains, “I’ve realized that maintaining a sense of calm is important.” He also recognizes that it is important to “meet people where they are in terms of their current level of knowledge of the COVID situation.” When imposing new COVID-related restrictions or making changes to the base routine, Baird must provide context and justification to explain why those measures are necessary.
Baird says that one of the most important lessons learned through this pandemic is “the value of having a team that works well together and supports one another.” Indeed, Baird has been surrounded by a strong team who helped navigate all aspects of the pandemic. Long before the vaccine became available, the Naval Hospital Rota team established a very effective testing and contact tracing system. DoDEA leadership quickly transitioned base schools to remote learning. The Public Health Emergency Officer (PHEO) examined every line of operations on the base to confirm that sufficient COVID restrictions were in place. The Spanish Liaison Office translated more than 1,700 pages of legal documents to ensure Baird and his leadership team understood the current Spanish laws and policies. Baird’s PAO worked around the clock ensuring that all communication reflected the latest restrictions and guidance, some of which changed several times per week. And MWR leadership made numerous overhauls to their supply chain and other processes at base eateries to accommodate changing restrictions.
Members of the base community also came together to help and support each other. They made and distributed homemade face-coverings before masks were widely available. They purchased food and other items for those who had PCS’d to Rota and were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. They looked out for each other’s children and pets. And they complied with base and local COVID safety measures.
Successfully navigating through the pandemic has been a group effort, but it all starts at the top. Through his leadership, Baird set the tone for an environment where members of the NAVSTA Rota community could trust and support one another.
As COVID restrictions are gradually lifted and the future remains unknown, the wisdom Baird offered to the community last year, in the throes of the pandemic, still rings true and illustrates why he has been an effective leader for NAVSTA Rota during this crisis: “The transition process will take time. We will need to proceed slowly and methodically. It will be frustrating at times, and we may need to reverse course at times. But each transition will bring us one step closer to our new normal, and each step forward will be a sign of improvement. It will be a long road to travel, but I look forward to traveling it with all of you.”
Featured image: Capt. David Baird, commanding officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Hospitalman Viviana Lao, assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Rota, Spain, at NAVSTA Rota’s movie theater on 16 January, 2021. USNH Rota has begun administering the vaccine to frontline healthcare and first responders as part of the vaccination campaign. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eduardo Otero)