Articles

This Air Force EOD tech spent 20 hours clearing IEDs under fire

In May 2014 then-Tech Sgt. Kristopher Parker, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader, was out of comms in the middle of a firefight between U.S. troops and Taliban insurgents.


According to an Air Force release, the firefight started when Parker and other American forces who had been sent to clear an improvised explosive device factory came across the insurgents holed up in a cave.

Parker and his fellow troops faced RPGs, small-arms fire, and even hand-thrown IEDs during the 20-hour engagement with the enemy.

Despite all that incoming, Parker was doing a lot of multitasking. He swept the area for IEDs. He cleared routes. He pulled wounded personnel out of the line of fire. He marked cache locations.

Related video: Air Force EOD tech spent 20 hours clearing IEDs under fire

“Kris saved the lives of so many Soldiers, Marines and Airmen,” Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Global Strike Command, said in the release. “He put their lives first and took care of them and that is so honorable.”

When the fight was done, 18 insurgents were dead. Parker had also cleared and destroyed over 200 pounds’ worth of homemade explosives.

On March 17, Parker, now a retired Master Sergeant, was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during that 20 hour battle. The award is the third highest that can be presented for valor in combat.

“We are so lucky to be here with this true hero,” Rand said. “A hero who has deployed several times in harm’s way. A hero that saved lives. I’m so humbled and appreciative of his incredible service. It’s a great time to be an Airman.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers got to fire the Army’s new pistol — and they liked what they saw

McGregor Range, New Mexico – Eager soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.

“The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. “I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter.”


2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.

The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.

The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.

“When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts.

“Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they’re carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go.”

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

“Coyote brown” in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.

2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol at a target, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow-point projectile. It provides improved terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow-point cartridge.

The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full-metal-jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.

A soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, checks his target for accuracy after he engaged it with an M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.

“I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have soldiers who say ‘Cool, I’m so excited to go and shoot these,’ so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun,” said Martin. “During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what’s different about them.”

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, walks back to his firing position after collecting his target during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army’s continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.

The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, carry their equipment prior to a qualification range with their new M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.

“Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality,” said Martin. “It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

UFOs, aliens, and the Navy—oh my!

A recent increase in UFO sightings has caused the Navy to revamp guidelines with which to report a UFO sighting officially. This comes on the heels of a 2018 sighting that was reported by the Washington Post and then seemingly disappeared back into the national never-before-truly-confirmed zeitgeist alongside bigfoot and infants that don’t cry on airplanes.


“advanced aircraft” is a farcry from the traditional UFO explanation of weather balloons (pictured)

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Politico has reported that the Navy is developing a formal process, with pilots and military servicemen, to report UFO sightings.

This move is directly related to the recent spike in what has been referred to by Navy officials as “a series of intrusions by advanced aircraft on Navy carrier strike groups.”

B-2 Bombers have been the subject of many a “UFO” sighting

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A Navy spokesperson told Politico, ” There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years […] For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”

The current process has led to some gridlock and complications with reporting ‘unidentified flying objects’ so the format is being streamlined by the Navy to make sure that “such suspected incursions can be made to cognizant authorities.”

Obviously, one possible knee-jerk public reaction is going to use this as military confirmation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life or “aliens” on earth. However, the Navy has made no such comment on the matter, as it is far more likely that these “UFOs” are either allied/enemy covert aircraft.

Ex-UFO program chief: We may not be alone

www.youtube.com

This is not to say that the possibility hasn’t been explored in a military context. In fact, the Department of Defense established a program entirely dedicated to further investigation of UFO sightings: The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

However, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) only ran from 2007-2012. Its eventual folding in 2012 was because it was “determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change.”

Former military intelligence official Luis Elizondo, who apparently led the AATIP, is in favor of ramping up UFO sighting efforts.

He describes the paradox with military sightings in relation to civilian UFO sightings, “If you are in a busy airport and see something you are supposed to say something” he said.

“With our own military members it is kind of the opposite: ‘If you do see something, don’t say something. … What happens in five years if it turns out these are extremely advanced Russian aircraft?”

Chris Mellon, an associate of Elizondo’s and a co-contributor to the upcoming docuseries “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation” piggybacked on Elizondo’s comments.

“Right now, we have a situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored,” he told Politico. He continued on saying that it is a common occurrence that military personnel “don’t know what to do with that information — like satellite data or a radar that sees something going Mach 3.”

It is unclear what military officials believe these anomalies could be, but one thing is for certain now—they’re on the radar.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why peacetime training actually matters

It’s easy to complain about training for a sh*t deployment to Okinawa, Japan, when there’s an active war going on that you would rather be fighting in. Realistically, training exists for a reason. If there wasn’t a solid reason for it, you’d go straight from boot camp graduation to combat, but, after centuries of warfare all over the world, we’ve learned a thing or two.

We get it. You didn’t join the military in the post-9/11 era just to be sent to some stable country in East Asia, but you knew the deal when you signed the contract: Where you go and what you do when you get there is officially no longer your choice after you set foot on those yellow footprints.

But just because there’s a war going on doesn’t mean your “peacetime” training is pointless or worthless. Here’s why:


Just cause you use fake rifles now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing it that way forever.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

So you don’t get complacent

It’s been famously said — complacency kills. If you get too used to training against a fictional enemy to the point of no longer putting forth effort, you’re just going to start performing that way. If you’re slacking when real bullets are flying, there’s a good chance you’ll f**k things up.

You don’t want to be the unit that goes to combat only to get whooped by the enemy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

So you’re prepared for the next real mission

You don’t train like you fight, you fight like you train. If you train like sh*t, you’re going to fight like sh*t. If you take every training event as seriously as real combat, your unit will be better off for it.

Depending on where you’re at and what you’re doing, chances are a mistake in training won’t get someone killed.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

So you can learn from your mistakes the easy way

If you step on a simulated IED, you won’t lose your limbs — but you’ll sure-as-hell remember the mistakes you made that led you there. This is a little bit easier than waking up in a hospital room wondering what you could’ve done differently.

Train your boots like their life depends on it.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dylan Chagnon)

So you can prepare the next generation 

Even if you never go to combat while you’re in, you’ll still be responsible for training the FNGs as they fill the ranks. But here’s the thing — they’re going to stick around long after you’re gone and they’re going to train the guys after them. This cycle continues until, eventually, someone goes to war — and they’ll have generations of experience at their backs.

Those Korean Marines just might experience some real sh*t after you leave.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

So you can prepare other countries

If you get the opportunity to train with another country, keep in mind that they might be using the knowledge they gain from you on a combat mission in the near future. You can teach them to be just as lethal on the battlefield as you are and they’ll get the chance to prove it.

Articles

These 5 new military technologies will make your combat lifestyle POG-easy

Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Some of the tech the Army and other scientists are working on aren’t quite in the realm of magic, but given the incredible nature of the work they’re doing, there are many reasons to be excited about the future if you’re a U.S. servicemember. There’s no telling how long it will take to apply these ideas to military life, but the possibilities seem endless.


1. Robo-Parachutes

The U.S. Army is working on a new airdrop system it calls JPADS – Joint Precision Airdrop System. JPADS is intended to be used to drop critical supplies to troops in dangerous locations without endangering more troops by using a truck convoy. Current systems use GPS guidance systems that are prone to the same errors as any satellite system, such as satellites being out of place and their vulnerability to hacking. The new JPADS doesn’t use GPS. It drops the pallet from 25,000 feet at distances up to 20 miles. The JPADS optical sensors analyze the local terrain and compare it to preprogrammed satellite imagery so the chutes move the cargo to its programmed destination.

2. Stealth Coating

It turns out stealth aircraft technology isn’t 100 percent fail proof. Radar works by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of objects to pinpoint their locations. Original stealth technology scrambled the returning waves using “destructive interference,” solid layers of material that would amplify the waves so that they effectively cancel out the returning waves. It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, however. Scientists have created a polarized crystal material that absorbs radar waves to prevent them from bouncing back instead. Hexagonal boron nitride captures 99.99 percent of radar waves and prevents refraction. Researchers will now need to create a thin coating to be able to apply it to current aircraft.

3. Smart Tanks

DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s premier think-tank for future weapons, is developing a light armor all-terrain tech for vehicles called “Ground X-Vehicle Technology.” This next-gen tank is lightweight, highly mobile, and hard for the enemy to spot on any spectrum, visual, infrared, or electromagnetic. The “crew augmentation” system on the X-Vehicle gives the tank “semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.” The external sensors on the vehicle allow for the tank not only to avoid being spotted by enemy tanks but to dodge incoming fire if they are.

4. Space Drones

NASA’s Proteus Unmanned Space Shutte (U.S. Air Force photo)

DARPA strikes again. The new XS-1 space shuttle doesn’t go into space but rather boosts a payload into low-Earth orbit as it flies to the edge of space. The new shuttle has no pilots, but will be so reusable that it could fly ten times in ten days. A flight to boost something into space will still run as high as $5 million, but DARPA is working with private contractors Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, and the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to make the trips faster, smoother, and cheaper. DARPA already developed a space drone for military purposes, the X37-B, but few details are available, as the X37-B is classified.

5. Jetpack-Assisted Running

The Wearable Robotics Association conference opened in Phoenix last Wednesday and featured there were Arizona State University students who developed a jetpack that enhances a troop’s ability to run in combat. Using compressed air, the pack can boost running speeds up to 15 mph.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog are livestreaming a comedy show tonight. Here’s how to watch.

One of the few perks of quarantine is watching the entertainment community rally around those of us at home by providing us with incredible content to consume while we’re eating all of our quarantine snacks and longing for the days of simply being around other people.

If you’re going to be in social isolation, you might as well be laughing through it. And tonight, thanks to the great folks at the Armed Services Arts Partnership, you absolutely will be when you watch renowned comedian Rob Riggle interview Seth Herzog and other veteran comics perform. Here’s how to watch.


The what

Tune in to ASAP’s live-stream show featuring a conversation with Rob Riggle and Seth Herzog, and stand-up comedy from ASAP veteran comics. Tonight’s event is just one in a series of great performers. For the full list, visit ASAP’s website.

Rob Riggle is a comedian, actor, and Marine Corps veteran best known for his roles on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, The Hangover, and The Other Guys.

Seth Herzog is a NYC-based stand-up comedian featured on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

The where

Access to the live-stream will be provided to ticket holders after registering. Space is limited. Here’s where you can purchase tickets for only . Stage Pass holders gain free access. All proceeds from ticket sales support ASAP’s community arts programs.

The who

The Armed Services Art Partnership’s mission is to cultivate community and growth with veterans, service members, military families, and caregivers through the arts. Learn more here.

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Michael Garvey and Liberty perform at The White House in Oct. 2016.

The why

For one, this show is going to be awesome. Also, ASAP has an incredible mission. Here’s their story:

We believe that trauma and loss breeds creativity and discovery.

The veterans and military families in Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)’s community prove this point. But, it also holds true for our founder, Sam Pressler. After losing a family member to suicide while in high school, Sam turned to comedic expression to cope. When he later learned about mental health challenges affecting veterans through his college research at William Mary, Sam felt compelled to act. While at WM, he launched the country’s first comedy class for veterans, as well as the largest veterans writing group in the Southeast. Within a year, a supportive community formed – one that gave veterans permission to process and express, connect and grow, heal and serve others.

After receiving the Echoing Green Fellowship, Sam converted the student organization into ASAP, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Today, ASAP is thriving in the D.C. Metro area and Hampton Roads, VA, serving thousands of veterans and military families, and empowering its alumni to become artistic leaders in their communities. As a result of our impact in the communities we serve, we have received significant attention. We have performed at The White House, have been featured on a PBS documentary, and have been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 list for “Social Entrepreneurship.”

The reintegration of our nation’s veterans is not just a veterans issue. It involves veterans and civilians, community arts organizations and local health providers, military recruiting and VA care. It requires social, physical, and artistic outlets just as much as it demands traditional medical care. Through our collaborative, community-driven, and deeply focused program model, we are forging a new path for veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, and for our communities to welcome them home.

Articles

This soldier showed up without an eye and was reprimanded…then given the MOH

When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.


Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.

On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.

The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.

It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.

Also read: Meet the 4 heroes who earned Medals of Honor for heroism on D-Day

A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.

The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.

Fearless Rescue

According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.

After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”

The dire situation didn’t deter him.

Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.

He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.

As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.

He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.

But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.

Heroes: Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated war heroes of World War II

With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.

When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.

Drowley was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 6, 1944.

After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.

In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.

‘What Did You Do?’

“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”

Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.

He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.

While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.

Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Graduating with a degree or certification is an important milestone and a huge accomplishment. Right now, though, you may be facing some economic challenges as you look for a job during a time of fierce competition and high unemployment rates.

Good news: VA is still hiring. New, open positions are posted daily on our career site, www.vacareers.va.gov.


“VA is always looking for motivated, highly qualified candidates in direct patient care and support positions to help us achieve our mission of providing the very best health care to our nation’s Veterans,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.

At VA, we support new graduates through tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, and provide pathways to continue your education if you choose.

Pay off your loans faster

At VA, you don’t have to let student loan debt hold you back. We provide many programs to help you pay off your debt faster, from several types of tuition reimbursement to federal loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector.

Through the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), some employees may be eligible for up to ,000 in debt repayment assistance. Be sure to ask about eligibility for SLRP when submitting your application.

Medical professionals in hard-to-fill direct patient care positions might be able to receive up to 0,000 in student loan repayment through the Education Debt Repayment Program. Check job descriptions to see if positions are eligible.

Federal jobs, like those at VA, are also eligible for loan forgiveness. After making 120 payments on your loans while employed full time in public service, you could have your remaining debt balance waived.

Continue your education

Gain marketable skills, valuable training and hands-on work experience through the Pathways Recent Graduates Program. You’ll receive a mentor and a supervisor for dedicated guidance and support, and once you successfully complete the program, you may be eligible to convert to a full-time position.

We also provide scholarships to some full- and part-time employees who pursue degrees in health care. As a VA employee, you can sign up for general or specialized courses from nearby colleges and universities or broaden your work experience through temporary assignments to other agencies.

Enjoy other generous benefits

In addition to education support, you’ll receive competitive pay and performance-based salary increases.

Want to explore another part of the country? We have facilities across the United States and its territories.

Other perks include:

  • Up to 49 days of paid time off each year.
  • Paid vacation that accrues right away, unlimited accumulated paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
  • Premium group health insurance effective on the first full pay period after start date.
  • A robust federal retirement package.

Work at VA

Consider making a VA career your first career. Help care for those who have bravely served their nation.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Before the F-35, these 10 airplanes became legends after rough starts

Critics of the F-35 have jumped on the fact that it has suffered a host of problems during the developmental test process while Air Force leadership has remained bullish on the jet’s transformational potential. This isn’t the first time this dynamic has come into play while fielding an airplane.


Here are ten planes that had rough starts, but eventually became mainstays.

1. F4U Corsair

(Photo: U. S. Navy)

The “Ensign Eliminator” was a high performer, but the complexity of the plane lead to a lot of fatal accidents. In fact, at one point, the Navy was willing to let the Marine Corps use the plane from land bases during World War II, sticking with the F6F Hellcat (not a bad bird, either). The plane kicked butt, to put it mildly. Eventually, the Navy began to fly Corsairs off carriers near the end of World War II, when it needed high performance to take down kamikazes. The plane then proved to be a good ground-attack bird, particularly during the Korean War.

2. P-51 Mustang

The first version of the P-51, the P-51A, was saddled with the Allison engine. That gave it problems at higher altitudes. Still, some recognized that the P-51 had potential, and decided to try the Rolls Royce Merlin. We all know how that worked out.

3. P-38 Lightning

Hard to believe that a plane designed by the legendary Kelly Johnson of Lockheed “Skunk Works” fame would have problems. But the plane used by Tom Lanphier to take out Isoroku Yamamoto had trouble – lots of trouble. Early versions of the Lightning were crippled by issues with compressibility. One such incident over a wheat field near Rostock nearly spelled the end for the legendary Robin Olds. Eventually, new dive flaps fixed the compressibility problems, and the P-38 went on to a glorious career – with Yamamoto as the most famous “kill” among many.

4. F-111 Aardvark

(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

The “Vark” had long range, high speed, and a heavy payload. It also had teething problems that earned it the wrath from William Proxmire, who called it a “Flying Edsel.” Well, the kinks got worked out – and the plane became a reliable all-weather attack bird – and during Desert Storm, F-111E and F-111F planes flew hundreds of sorties, with no losses.

5. B-1B Lancer

It had a reputation as a “hangar queen” in the 1980s, and it had problems with the ALQ-161 jammers. Just procuring the plane was a huge fight in Congress. But in the 1990s, the B-1B came into its own as a conventional bomber.

6. C-17 Globemaster

This plane had huge issues during RD. It nearly ended up canceled after only a few dozen airframes were built. However, the plane soon proved it was more than capable of replacing the C-141, and now is not only in service with the Air Force, but with NATO, the Royal Air Force, and a number of other countries around the world.

7. C-5 Galaxy

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Justin D. Pyle)

This plane had its problems, too. Cracks in the wings and cost overruns put this plane in jeopardy and lead to load limits. Those have been fixed, though, and the C-5 is getting a round of modernization that will keep in service for decades to come.

8. V-22 Osprey

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

This plane was in the aviation equivalent of “development hell.” Many times, pundits, politicians, and even Dick Cheney wanted to cancel it. But the Osprey survived, became a game-changer, and now is the backbone of Marine Expeditionary Units.

9. F/A-18 Hornet

An F/A-18C Hornet with 10 AMRAAM and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

This plane had its problems, notably short range (which was somewhat overblown – in the fighter role, it actually had longer range than the F-4 Phantom), and the ever-familiar cost over-runs. But the Navy and Marine Corps stuck with the Hornet and that plane became the backbone of carrier air wings in the 1990s and early 2000s.

10. F-16 Fighting Falcon

Three U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 30 aircraft from the 80th Fighter Squadron fly in formation over South Korea during a training mission. (DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Quinton T. Burris, U.S. Air Force.)

The Air Force brass initially didn’t want it. The engine would cut out in the middle of flight, forcing pilots to make deadstick landings. But the F-16’s problems were resolved, and the plane has a long service record with the United States Air Force, the Iron Eagle movie franchise, and many export buyers.

So, when people want to chop a defense program over some teething problems, just remember that even the successful planes once had those problems, too.

Lists

7 mind-numbing phrases leaders use to seem smarter

Nothing hurts the ears of everyone in the platoon like hearing the same phrase used in countless situations. At points, it seems like entire conversations are geared toward that specific phrase just to make whomever is speaking feel like the smartest person in the room.


Officers, senior enlisted, and even the occasional high-speed specialist who’s trying to prove themselves are guilty of using these phrases to feel smarter than the rest.

Related: 11 things First Sergeants say that make troops lose their minds

7. “I’m basically infantry, so…”

No. No you’re not. Unless you’re infantry, you’re not infantry. Even the famous Marine saying, “Every Marine is a rifleman” has its limits.

You can be a grunt commo guy or whatever and do grunt sh*t, regardless of MOS. You can even have an Infantryman MOS but be POG as f*ck. Use the right terminology if you’re trying to seem more badass.

Real infantry don’t constantly say they’re infantry. They just hang their blue cord off their rear view mirror to remind everyone. (Photo by John Rives, Wikimedia Commons)

6. “Back in my day…”

It’s understandable when this phrase comes from the old, salty Sergeant First Class who probably remembers serving with Baron Von Steuben, or even if you’re talking with an older vet at some bar.

What really makes people scratch their head is when this line is spoken by the guy who enlisted just a year before them.

5. “Make sure to have your battle buddy!”

Sounds likes great advice in a safety brief, but you’re basically just saying, “don’t do something dumb alone.” Whether or not the command team agrees, soldiers are full-grown adults. The young private may not act like it sometimes, but on paper, they’re adults.

Not only is the phrase “battle buddy” way too childish and silly, but it’s a pain in the ass not being able to leave post without having to call up your “Battle Buddy” to go to Wal-Mart.

Besides, we don’t need to be reminded to do dumb sh*t with our bros. We’ll do it anyways. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

4. “However, comma,”

Spoken language is fun. You can up the emphasis wherever you want in a sentence and change the intent entirely.

One of the many benefits is that you don’t need to sound out punctuation marks. Commas are a soft pause in the train of thought. You can just as easily just say, ‘however’ and then wait to get everyone’s attention.

And you just fake a laugh when they say it to be funny. via GIPHY

3. “To piggy back off what ___ said…”

Let’s be honest. How many times in the history of safety briefs has this phrase ever added new information or completely contradicted what was just said?

Just saying it brings a sense of dread across the faces of the already eager-to-leave soldiers.

I don’t even know what the range safety brief is about and I can assume they’re given the same speech by the third person. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Eaddy)

2. “This is the easiest job you’ll ever have!”

Don’t get me wrong: Right time, right place, and right uniform is all you need to get a paycheck — but easier than everything else in the civilian world? Are you sure about that? You can misspell names at Starbucks and make a living. You can work a manufacturing gig where you press the same button 500 times a day and make a living. You can even get a job as a beer taster and make a living.

This saying is one part condescending and another part retention conspiracy.

Get paid for what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. (Image via SAYS.com)

1. “It would behoove you…”

Used as an intransitive verb, Dictionary.com describes behoove as “to be worthwhile to, as for personal profit or advantage. Every time it’s spouted out, it comes out of the mouth of someone who is swirling a figurative glass of scotch.

So by saying, “it would behoove you to be at formation on time” or whatever, the speaker is being facetious and the throwaway joke get tired quickly, just like every other joke repeated ad nauseam.

Basically. (Image via Reddit)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The cyber career field is booming amid increasing attacks

Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.

“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.

That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.


“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”

Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)

An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.

“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.

For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.

“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.

Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.

“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.

Robinson echoed his sentiments.

“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.

Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.

A C-17 Globemaster III.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”

That capability means filling a variety of roles.

“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”

Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.

“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.

“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”

Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.

“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”

The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.

Those partnerships are important.

“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”

For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.

Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.

That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.

“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.

The result was a total redo of network systems.

“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”

It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.

“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.

“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.

The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.

“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”

Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.

“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.

“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The British special operators who terrorized Japanese forces

In 1943 and 1944, specially chosen units of the British Empire were sent into the jungles of Burma on “Chindit” expeditions that went deep behind Japanese lines and assaulted railways, logistic hubs, and bridges to cripple Japanese forces and force them to redirect forces from other fronts. Most soldiers sent into the jungle were wounded, killed, or fell ill, but they made the Japanese pay.


British officers Brig. Gen. Mike Calvert, Lt. Col. Shaw, and Maj James Lumley discuss tactics after the capture of Mogaung in Burma in June 1944 during the second Chindit expedition.

(Imperial War Museums)

The first Chindit expedition, Operation Longcloth, was effected by the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade when they marched into Japanese-occupied Burma in 1943. They attacked Japanese supply depots as well as rail and communication lines.

The unit was made up of multiple infantry regiments, a commando company, eight sections of the Royal Air Force, a signal section, and a mule transport company. Despite the large infantry elements the unit had on paper, they were predominantly a special operations force and they were trained that way, spending months in India working out how to move and live in the jungle with limited resupply or permanent structures.

The first expedition damaged critical infrastructure but saw less direct fighting with Japanese forces. This caused a shift in Japanese thinking, making them feel that they were too vulnerable with a defensive posture in Burma. The efforts of the 77th Brigade pushed the Japanese to go on the offensive, making them give up troops in ultimately failed attacks on Allied forces.

But the effort was costly. A third of the troops were lost in the jungle or too wounded or sick to march out. The British left them behind. Another 600 were too ill after their return to civilization to fight again, and were sent to hospital until released from service.

Geurilla leaders, including British Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate at center, pose for a photo.

(Imperial War Museums)

Still, the efforts had proved that a single brigade of irregular forces, properly organized and trained, could shift the strategic balance in the jungle. The commander, British Gen. Orde Wingate, proposed a second, larger expedition for deployment in 1944. Prime Minister Winston Churchill readily agreed and assigned six brigades to the task and the American 1st Air Commando Group was assigned to support the operation.

While training the forces for the second Chindit expedition, Wingate took some time to help train America’s 5307th Composite Unit, which would earn fame under the name “Merrill’s Marauders” for operations similar to the Chindits’.

Operation Thursday began with two forces making their way into the country on the ground in the opening weeks of 1944 while four more brigades were to be inserted via glider. The initial glider landings on March 5 were unopposed but still faced major problems. Aerial reconnaissance had failed to spot ditches and trees on the dropzone and glider crashes killed 30 men and wounded 28.

Another 400 men landed safely and improved the runway enough for Dakota aircraft to start ferrying in supplies and additional men. 18,000 troops quickly arrived on the ground with everything they needed to move through the jungle and hunt Japanese soldiers, and more followed over the next few days.

A column of Chindit troops crosses a river in Burma in 1943.

(Imperial War Museums, Public Domain)

Wingate’s orders could be broadly summarized in three points. He was to:

  1. Draw off and break up Japanese forces fighting in the Ledo Sector where Gen. Joe Stilwell was trying to create a road for U.S. resupply,
  2. Prepare the battlefield for the Chinese forces advancing from the east, and
  3. Absolutely destroy every Japanese target that presented itself.

Operation Thursday took place in the middle of Japan’s supply and logistics operations in Burma. Wingate said his force “had been inserted into the enemies’ guts.”

Unlike the 1943 operation, the second expedition relied on some static defenses and bases.

“White City” was constructed on a Japanese railway to control operations there, while a landing site named “Broadway,” one of the three original dropzones, was built into a large and powerful airbase. Other installations included “Aberdeen” and “Blackpool.” Except for the White City and Blackpool, both built on the railroad, Chindit installations were built into the jungle where they were less likely to stumble into Japanese forces.

Chindits prepare a roadblock as a precaution against Japanese attacks.

(Imperial War Museums)

The men were deployed in columns of about 400 men at a time, fighting when they encountered an appropriate enemy force but melting into the jungle and re-forming when faced with a larger Japanese element.

Occasionally, an especially tough target needed to be brought down, and the columns would re-form into battalions or brigades.

All of this would prove disastrous for a Japanese force already heavily committed to a fight with Allied forces under Gen. Joe Stilwell while suffering guerrilla attacks from other irregular forces, like the Kachin Rangers under U.S. Army Col. Carl Eifler of the OSS.

The mission achieved its main objectives by the end of March, supporting the efforts of their allies across Burma, but the force stayed in position and continued to hamper Japanese elements.

British Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate died in a plane crash in 1944, causing his force to later fall under direct command of American Gen. Joseph Stilwell who was unpopular for sending the guerrilla force on conventional infantry missions without proper support.

(Imperial War Museums, Public Domain)

On March 24, the mission suffered a major setback when Wingate died in a plane crash. His successor, Brig. Gen. Joseph Lentaigne maintained the Chindits’ mission until ordered in May 1944 to fall in under Stilwell. Stilwell deployed the force like a typical infantry unit for a number of attacks, but failed to provide it with sufficient artillery and air support in some cases.

Estimates for casualties under Stilwell’s direction range as high as 90 percent of all casualties suffered by the six brigades. The 77th Brigade suffered 50 percent losses in a single battle when ordered against Moguang.

Stilwell later ordered the 77th to take Myitkyina despite being at only 10 percent strength. The commander turned off his radios and marched out instead.

Chindits prepare tea during a halt in Burma.

(Imperial War Museums)

Eventually, the Japanese forces in Burma began to find and conduct serious assaults on Chindit strongholds, especially White City and Blackpool on the rail networks. White City held out for its entire existence, suffering some penetrations past the wire, but always repelling the enemy force eventually.

Blackpool was not so lucky. Close to Japanese lines, it was eventually isolated thanks to Japanese anti-aircraft guns that prevented aerial resupply. The men were finally forced to fight their way out — 2,000 starving and sick men cutting past the jungle and the Japanese.

The rest of the Chindits, meanwhile, were suffering from the intense fighting, jungle heat and humidity, and disease. By late July, Lentaigne made the decision that the 111th Brigade was no longer fit to fight and withdrew them on his own authority. The rest of the Chindits followed over the next month and the last emerged from the jungle in late August 1944.

A survivor of the expedition estimated that they had killed 25 Japanese troops for every Chindit they lost.

The Japanese forces in Burma were falling as were many of the Japanese positions across the Pacific, but the Chindits had once again paid dearly for their success. Over 1,000 men were killed, 2,400 wounded, and 450 missing. Meanwhile, over half of the survivors who made it out had some illness that required hospitalization or special diet.

Maladies like malaria, dysentery, and jungle sores were most common, and many soldiers had two or three of the conditions at once.

The 77th Brigade was the only one to fight in both expeditions. It was later disbanded but has been re-activated as a cyber warfare force focused on unconventional warfare in the digital domain.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines experiment with new tech during island attacks

For the last three years, engineers and project officers from Marine Corps Systems Command have descended on the island of Oahu to put new technology to the test.

In the fall, MCSC — along with Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment and partner organizations from the requirements community — conducted the “Island Marauder” technology demonstration to integrate and evaluate emerging technologies with existing Marine Corps gear to help inform future capability decisions for the Corps.


“We conducted the Island Marauder technology demo to see if mature but leading edge command and control technologies work when we integrate them with our fielded systems,” said Basil Moncrief, Networking-on-the-Move team leader at MCSC. “We also wanted to see what fleet Marines thought about the emerging technology. [Island Marauder] helps Headquarters Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group validate that the emerging technology supports or enhances the latest warfighting tactics and strategies they want to pursue.”

Marines use an armored vehicle equipped with the Networking-on-the-Move satellite communication system during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The demonstration included one week of intensive, hands-on field engineering and system integration, and a second week of VIP demonstrations. Most of the tactical command and control — or C2 — capability was integrated into a battlefield network controlled through the 3rd Marines’ Networking-on-the-Move Systems. NOTM is a vehicle-mounted satellite communication system that extends C2 for commanders and their staffs while on the move and beyond line of site at the tactical edge.

Developed by MCSC, NOTM has been fielded to all three Marine Expeditionary Forces.

“One of the powerful elements of the Island Marauder demonstration is a challenging tactical scenario that requires insertion of new technology and warfighting approaches while using currently-fielded equipment and fleet Marine operators,” Moncrief said. “The 3rd Marine Regiment gives us extremely useful information during Island Marauder that influences engineering, sustainment and user interface. This, in turn, assists HQMC with advanced concepts and out-year planning.”

During one demo, Marines on the ground used NOTM to simulate calling in air strikes and a medical evacuation — a feat that had not been successfully performed with live aircraft in past demonstrations.

Island Marauder also enables MCSC to perform integration engineering, troubleshoot any related issues and train Marines on how to use new equipment, Moncrief said.

“This year, we brought in some other MCSC programs that have a direct relationship with NOTM,” he said. “For example, the project officer for Identity Dominance Systems-Marine Corps recognized early on that NOTM could be a game changer for that program.”

“When Marines downrange encounter a person of interest, they use IDS-MC to collect biometric data,” said Teresa Sedlacek, lead engineer for Identity Operations at MCSC.

A Marine from the 3rd Marine Regiment uses a Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld to call for simulated casualty evacuation during the Island Marauder Technology Demonstration.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)

Typically, Marines then have to get to a forward operating base or Combat Operations Center to download the information to receive feedback on submissions, she said. During Island Marauder, the demonstration team successfully connected IDS-MC wirelessly with NOTM, which enabled them to receive data retrieval and feedback almost immediately.

“That’s the kind of thing that’s important to us on the Island Marauder Team because it improves combat capability for other programs and for the Marine operating forces,” Moncrief said.

The command also demonstrated the ability to integrate the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld — or MCH — with NOTM, the Joint Tactical Common Operating Picture Workstation and Target Handoff System II. The MCH is a handheld C2 program that enables dismounted Marines to use tactical software applications on commercial handheld computing devices while securely accessing higher-level C2 systems for data, services and tactical sharing.

“Island Marauder 2018 was invaluable in generating user feedback for follow-on development and helping to inform future programmatic purchases,” said Maj. Travis Beeson, MCH project officer at MCSC. “Island Marauder continues to be MCH’s go-to event to demonstrate interoperability with other MCSC systems and to assess innovative developments in a tactical relevant environment.”

Other programs and technologies that were part of the Island Marauder demonstration included the Secure Tactical Terminal and secure wireless networking techniques.

“Since the beginning, Island Marauder has been super useful in helping us push the envelope for technology exploitation,” Moncrief said. “As C2 technology continues to accelerate and Marine warfighting strategies adapt to new challenges, we need to show decision-makers some potential match-ups demonstrated together. In this way, Island Marauder enables a better understanding of the near-term possibilities by integrating new technologies with existing capabilities.”

Planning for Island Marauder 2019 is already in progress with the focus on joint C2 and disconnected operations.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.