Articles

This is proof that Mattis knows exactly how to talk to the troops

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is well known for having delivered some controversial quotes in the past, and he uttered yet another during a speech last week to sailors at Naval Base Kitsap in Washington.


During a short speech on August 9 followed by a question-and-answer period, Mattis thanked the sailors of the USS Kentucky for being in the Navy, saying they’d never regret that service.

“That means you’re living,” Mattis said, according to the official Pentagon transcript.

DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“That means you’re not some p–y sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.’ Because of what you’re doing now, you’re not going to be laying on a shrink’s couch when you’re 45 years old, say ‘What the hell did I do with my life?’ Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.”

The Navy reversed its policy of only allowing males to serve aboard submarines in 2010, according to the US Naval Institute. A spokesman for Submarine Group 9 confirmed the USS Kentucky does not currently have any female sailors assigned to it.

Mattis went on to say that he wished he were young enough to go out to sea with the Kentucky’s crew, though the retired general joked, “there’s a world of difference between a submariner and a Marine, you know what I mean?”

Articles

Army developing weapons for a major power war


The Army is developing its weapons, technologies and platforms with a greater emphasis on being ready for great-power, mechanized force-on-force war in order maintain cross-the-board readiness and deter near-peer adversaries from unwanted aggression.

While the service aims to be prepared for any conceivable contingency, to include counterinsurgency, counterterrorism and hybrid-type conflicts, the Army has been shifting its focus from 15-years of counterinsurgency war and pivoting its weapons development toward major-power war.

“We are excellent at counterinsurgency,” Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy, Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview. “We’re developing systems to be prepared for the full range of potential conflict.”

As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.

Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.

The M113A3 armored personnel carrier system has performed decades of service, but is getting old and obsolete. It will be replaced by the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as well as possibly other new vehicles. | U.S. Army photo

While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.

As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.

Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain that has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies.

New High-Tech Army Platforms – JLTV AMPV

While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrated technologies with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, Williamson explained.

Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.

As evidence of this approach, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as platforms well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare.

The JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Oshkosh Defense

The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.

The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.

The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.

The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.

With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.

The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.

TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.

Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.

Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which starts Oct. 1.

The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $30 billion, or about $559,000 per vehicle, according to Pentagon budget documents as cited in a report in Military.com.

When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.

The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.

Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.

Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle

The Army is also preparing to take delivery later this year of its new infantry carrier platform called the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or AMPV.

Built by BAE Systems, the platform is intended to replace the Vietnam-era M113 infantry carrier; several variants are planned, including a General Purpose Vehicle, Mortar Carrier Vehicle, Mission Command Vehicle, Medical Evacuation Vehicle and Medical Treatment Vehicle.

Overall, the Army plans to build roughly 3,000 AMPVs at a cost of $1 million to $1.7 million each.

The platform is designed to transport troops, evacuate injured Soldiers, escort logistical convoys and maneuver alongside larger vehicle such as Abrams tanks.  The AMPV is designed with the speed to maneuver such that it can increase its chance of avoiding Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. An ATGM is the kind of conventional weapon the Army would be likely to face in a hybrid or great-power engagement. The vehicle is also armored in order to reduce its vulnerability to long-range enemy weapons.

The AMPV is a tracked vehicle built on a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle chassis; it represents the Army’s push to be prepared for the full-range of conflict. For example, the Army is divesting some of its fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, specifically engineered for an IED or roadside bomb environment. While being ready for that possibility is still important to the Army – and still very much a future possibility — the service does not need to keep its full inventory and is instead preparing for a wider-range of possible wars.

The General Purpose AMPV transports two crew members and six passengers. It is armed with a 50-cal crew-served weapon and carry one injured Soldier on a litter.

The Mortar variant uses a crew of two with two Mortar technicians and an ability to fire 120mm rounds; the Medical variant carries a crew of three and six walking passengers.

The vehicle is also engineered with high-tech, software programmable radios designed to transmit IP packets of information across the force in real time; it has a vehicle intercom, driver’s vision enhancer and a radio and satcom communications network called Warfighter Information Network – Tactical.

These technologies, along with a force-tracking technology (Blue Force Tracker) displaying icons showing friendly and enemy force positions on a moving digital map, give the vehicle an ability to function as a node on a large-scale battlefield network. These kind of systems will allow the AMPV crew to conduct mission-command functions on the move, share combat-relevant information in real time and use sensor to detect enemy fire at longer ranges.

The AMPV also has a DUKE v3 electronic jammer engineered to identify and jam the signal of an electronically-detonated roadside bomb.

Articles

A corpsman’s advice to ISIS militants who fake injuries to get out of jihad


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Bad back, knee sprains, and other injury claims ISIS militants are using to scam out of duty are child’s play compared to excuses deployed by the finest members of the E-4 Mafia.

“For starters, headaches and stomachaches are rookie excuses,” says Tim Kirkpatrick, a former Navy corpsman and newest member of the We Are The Mighty Team. “There’s no way to diagnose these ‘chief complaints’ because they’re subjective.”

As a veteran with multiple deployments, Tim has heard every excuse in the sick call commando’s manual and can tell you what works and what doesn’t.

“A Marine rarely gets out of a hike,” he says. “He has to be dead or dying to get out of it, but there are ways.”

In this episode of the “Mandatory Fun” podcast, Tim and reformed members of the E-4 Mafia — your hosts, O.V. and Blake — divulge their ‘skating’ tips to ISIS fighters looking to file a proper jihad-ache.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

  • [02:00] ISIS militants are faking illnesses to get out of fighting.
  • [05:30] Common excuses Marines use to try and get out of work.
  • [09:10] The best ways to fool a corpsman into giving you a medical pass.
  • [13:00] Who are ISIS doctors?
  • [15:00] ISIS penalties for faking injuries.
  • [18:00] How ISIS organizes its fighters.
  • [27:30] That time a Taliban fighter shot his kid as an excuse to come on to a FOB to check out security.
  • [31:30] The risk Blake is willing to undergo for a buddy.

Music licensing by Jingle Punks:

  • Sideshow Donuts V2
  • Heavy Drivers
MIGHTY CULTURE

US spending on ‘war on terror’ blows past $6 trillion

Federal spending on post-9/11 military action in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world stands at $6.5 trillion through fiscal year 2020, according to a new study from the Cost of War project at Brown University.

And its cost to American taxpayers will keep climbing for decades to come.

The staggering amount reflects spending across the federal government and not just the Department of Defense, the study noted. Much of it has been paid for deficit spending as taxes were not raise to cover the cost.

The study said military action taken after the 9/11 attacks has now expanded to more than 80 countries, making it “a truly global war on terror.”


Its human costs have been profound as well. Over 801,000 people died as a direct result of the fighting — 335,000 of them being civilians, according to the report.

The report said the US government should expect to spend at least id=”listicle-2641427189″ trillion in benefit payments and disability claims for veterans in the next several decades. Last year, there were 4.1 million post 9/11 war veterans, making up around 16% of all veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

U.S. Army soldiers perform security measures during a security halt on a route reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan, April 4, 2007.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)

“Even if the United States withdraws completely from the major war zones by the end of FY2020 and halts its other Global War on Terror operations, in the Philippines and Africa for example, the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,” study author Neta Crawford wrote.

Back in March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have cost each US taxpayer around ,623 to date.

Open-ended military operations overseas have stretched on for so long that starting on Sept. 11 2018, an 18-year-old person could enlist in the military and fight in the wars that the 9/11 attacks ushered in.

The estimate drew attention from one of the leading Democratic presidential candidates: Sen. Bernie Sanders, who quipped on Twitter about its colossal price tag on Nov. 21, 2019. The Vermont senator had previously slammed “costly blunders” made in US foreign policy over the years.

Moderate rivals had criticized Sanders for the sweeping costs of his progressive agenda, which include implementing a universal healthcare system, forgiving all student debt, and tackling climate change through the Green New Deal.

Several Democratic candidates, including Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (an Afghanistan war veteran) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have vowed to wind down US military operations overseas. Others like former vice president Joe Biden say some nations would continue requiring American military support.

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

Articles

How the military decontaminates itself after WMD attacks

While nuclear weapons usually get the big, scary headlines when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, the whole triad is a serious threat. Chemical and biological weapons are easier for rogue states to produce and deploy and any WMD can cause severe damage to American warfighters.


Beyond the immediate threat as the weapons rain down, weapons of mass destruction leave agents that can persist for anywhere from minutes to years, leaving vehicles, buildings, and even the ground lethal for soldiers.

Of course, the U.S. can’t just avoid their equipment or the battlefield for years. Instead, they send specialized troops in to spearhead decontamination efforts.

1. After a chemical attack, the U.S. is left with few good options. Decontaminating takes time and resources, but leaving the chemicals in place could result in dead troops.

(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Malik Gibson)

2. Typically, specially trained crews will rush with their gear into a staging area and prep for decontamination.

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

3. Once all gear and personnel are certified ready-to-go, the troops get to work.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado)

4. Teams have to wade into the target area, assessing what areas have been affected by the weapon, whether chemical, biological, or nuclear.

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

5. Of course, these teams face the chances of follow-on attacks and have to be ready to defend themselves.

(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Malik Gibson)

6. These teams will report to their headquarters what areas have been affected and specialists will assess how long it will take for the threat to dissipate on its own (if ever).

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

7. Any equipment in the affected area, whether present at the time of the attack or that entered during combat operations or decontamination efforts, has to be thoroughly decontaminated.

(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Josephine Carlson)

8. Chemical, biological, and nuclear threats are all broken down and removed using different techniques, but soap and water help in nearly all cases.

(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Josephine Carlson)

9. Depending on the type and extent of contamination, the cleaning process may be completed by special teams or by the vehicle’s normal crews.

(Photo: U.S. Army Capt. John Strickland)

10. Many biological and chemical agents spread throughout all the nooks and crannies of the vehicles, making them a nightmare to clean.

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Julio McGraw)

11. And any mistakes could be lethal. If the wrong biological agent is left behind, it could get into someone’s system and doom them, possibly triggering an epidemic.

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Julio McGraw)

12. Some positions, like aircrews, require especially challenging decontamination efforts. Their personal gear includes everything from g-suits to breathing gear.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost)

13. And each crewmember and pilot has to be kept separate until they can be decontaminated, leading to hilarious photos like this one.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost)

14. One of the more common powders used is the specialized resin in M291 Chemical Decontamination Kits. It absorbs many agents and facilitates their destruction.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie Holochwost)

15. One of the most important things about personnel decontamination is preventing recontamination, so troops are washed in a set process, typically top to bottom.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Abby L. Finkel)

16. And protective gear has to be switched out at set intervals, so this process has to be repeated multiple times per day.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Abby L. Finkel)

All in all, WMDs are terrifying at worst and a hassle at best. Let’s hear your MOPP gear stories.

Articles

This new special operations C-130 Hercules can do it all

One of the world’s most reliable military workhorse aircraft is getting a makeover that emphasizes beefed-up special operations for an international market.


On June 20th, at the Paris Air Show, executives with Lockheed Martin Corp. presented the C-130JSOF, a variant of the C-130J Super Hercules built for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed overwatch, and on-demand forward aerial refueling, among other features.

Painted a stealthy black, the aircraft is depicted in promotional materials targeting tanks from the air, dropping parajumpers, and swooping low for exfiltration operations.

Tony Frese, vice president of business development for Air Mobility and Maritime Missions for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said the concept for the aircraft variant is built on experience and feedback from customers on how they use the Super Hercules.

C-130J Hercules soars over Jordan. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

“It is in the world of special operations and special missions the true versatility of the C-130J is on display, accrued day after day in life and death situations,” he said. “In more than 50 years, the C-130 has been synonymous with special operations and special missions.”

The United States already uses the C-130 for special operations, with purpose-built American configurations including the MC-130E/H Combat Talon, flown by the Air Force and used for airdrop, special ops helicopter in-flight refueling, and psychological operations, and the MC-130J Commando II, flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.

The new SOF aircraft is the first time a purpose-built configuration has been made available for the international market, Frese said.

MC-130J Commando II. USAF photo by Senior Airman James Bell.

Lockheed expects interest from nations in the Pacific and Middle East, he said, and anticipates building 100 to 200 of the aircraft for international buyers. As is standard practice, all international sales of the aircraft would have to be approved by the US government.

While standard configurations of the C-130J sell for roughly $70 million, Frese said this aircraft would likely start in the mid-$80 million range, with more for additional modifications.

“We understand the world we live in today is increasingly unpredictable,” he said. “Our operators, current and potential, tell us they need to support their special ops forces with a solution that is reliable, affordable and effective and, in this case, proven to support special operations in the sky and on the ground.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the funeral costs the VA will actually pay

It’s something none of us want to think about: our demise. What will happen after we’re gone? Will we have a big funeral? Will anybody show up?

If you want to have a big funeral and a fancy tombstone in a nice cemetery, it will cost a lot. That’s OK. You’re a veteran; the Department of Veterans Affairs will pay. Right?

Well … not so fast.


The high cost of dying

Before we discuss what the VA will pay, let’s discuss the major costs associated with dying.

Funeral prices

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral with burial in 2017 was ,755; the average cost of a funeral with cremation was ,260.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Hazard)

That’s just the cost of transporting and preparing the body, and holding a small viewing. If you want a service and a wake, expect to pay more.

Casket prices

If you want a fancy casket, expect to pay an average of ,000 for it. Amazon, Costco, and Walmart sell caskets for less than id=”listicle-2632767403″,000, but some fancy ones cost more than ,000.

If you just want to be buried in a pine box, be sure to check local laws. Some states don’t allow that.

Cemetery prices

The cemetery will cost you even more.

While some states allow you to be buried in biodegradable caskets and some even have natural burial preserves where they allow you to be buried in the woods, most don’t.

A burial plot in a public cemetery will cost between 0 and ,000. If you want to be buried in a private cemetery, that price can go up to ,000 in some places. If you’re in a city, the price can easily go up to ,000 for the gravesite alone.

If you want to be cremated and have your ashes buried, expect to pay up to ,500 for the plot.

Of course, there are additional fees. You have to pay for them to dig the hole and fill it back up; this can cost more than ,000. Just doing the paperwork (some places require a permit to be buried) can reach up to id=”listicle-2632767403″,000. Some fancy cemeteries even charge a fee for “perpetual care;” this is the cost of upkeep for the cemetery — cutting grass, planting trees etc.

If you want a tombstone, expect to pay at least 0 to ,000.

Paying the high cost of dying

Cemeteries aren’t regulated by the federal government. They don’t have to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, which requires an itemized bill allowing you to pick and choose which services you wish to buy. Some states have regulations, but many do not.

Don’t expect to get a line of credit from the funeral home or cemetery, either. They want payment up front. What will they do if your family doesn’t pay the bill, dig you back up?

What will the VA pay?

Since you’re reading this, you probably are a veteran. Doesn’t the VA pay for all of this?

It will pay some, but not all, of your burial costs, and probably very little of your funeral costs. Of course, all these benefits are only for veterans with at least an “other-than-dishonorable” discharge.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)

Burial and plot allowance

The VA will pay a burial allowance to an eligible veteran’s family to help defray burial and funeral costs. The burial allowance is a tax-free benefit paid automatically. If you are eligible for a plot allowance the VA requires receipts to show the actual cost paid.

  • If the death occurs while hospitalized by the VA, it will pay a 0 burial allowance and 0 for a burial plot.
  • If the death is considered service-connected, the VA will pay a burial allowance of up to ,000 and may reimburse some of the costs of transporting remains.
  • If the death isn’t service-connected, the VA pays a burial allowance of 0.
  • For an indigent veteran with no next of kin, the VA will furnish either a casket or cremation urn for interment in either a national, state or tribal veterans cemetery.
  • The Social Security Administration also will pay a death benefit of 5.

These amounts usually change every year.

Cemetery

All veterans with other-than-dishonorable discharges are eligible for free burial in a national VA cemetery. Space is limited; the VA recommends you request a pre-determination of burial eligibility to avoid any delay when the time comes.

Most states have their own veterans cemeteries. Usually, the eligibility requirements are the same as for federal cemeteries.

In most cases, spouses are eligible for burial next to the veteran at little or no cost. Also, markers are provided.

Arlington National Cemetery has very limited space for burial; there is more space available for inurnment of cremated remains. Only certain veterans are eligible for burial at Arlington.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. James K. McCann)

If you wish to be buried in a civilian cemetery, the VA may pay a small fee, as described earlier, for your plot allowance. It will also provide a free headstone. Some states also help with the cost of burial and the cost of setting a headstone.

You can always choose to be buried at sea from a Navy ship.

Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to make a plan. Also, remember that the funeral director can help with a lot of this stuff. They know how to submit the paperwork to the VA, and usually how to get the most out of your state benefits as well.

Check out all our information about memorial benefits, including requesting military honors at a funeral.

Stay on top of your veteran benefits

Military benefits are always changing. Keep up with everything from pay to health care by signing up for a free Military.com membership, which will send all the latest benefits straight to your inbox while giving you access to up-to-date pay charts and more.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.

The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.

Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.

He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.


He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.

“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”

Embedded with industry, academia 

Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.

Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.

The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.

The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.

A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.

The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.

“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.

The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added

Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.

In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.

More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.

Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.

“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”

In on the groundfloor

Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.

It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.

The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.

The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.

Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.

The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.

“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”

As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.

Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.

Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.

By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.

The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.

Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.

“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”

Culture change

Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.

A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.

“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”

Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.

“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”

A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.

The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.

While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

(Photo by Anthony Small)

“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”

For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.

As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.

Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.

“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”

Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.

“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.

(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.

“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”

Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”

“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”

The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.

For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.

“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force lab in charge of processing COVID-19 samples from military facilities around the world

(Editor’s Note – The following is an updated repost of a story on the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine Epidemiology Reference Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which was originally published on March 27, 2018. It contains new information on the lab’s mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

For the latest Air Force information and guidance on COVID-19 go to https://www.af.mil/News/Coronavirus-Disease-2019/

UPDATE – COVID-19 AND THE USAFSAM EPI LAB

The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s epidemiology laboratory is the Air Force’s sole clinical reference laboratory, and as such, is testing and processing samples of COVID-19 sent from military treatment facilities around the world.


EPILAB

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The lab was authorized by the Defense Health Agency to test samples from Department of Defense beneficiaries for COVID-19 in early March, and received its test kit from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shortly after.

“The USAFSAM Epi Lab is currently working long hours, testing and processing samples of COVID-19 that are coming in from MTFs globally,” said Col. Theresa Goodman, USAFSAM commander. “If you ask anyone on this team how they’re doing, they’ll tell you they’re fine–that they’re just doing their jobs. But I couldn’t be more proud of them right now — their selfless and tireless dedication to this mission. COVID-19 testing is our primary mission right now and the members of the Epi Lab are my front line to this fight.”

USAFSAM’s epidemiology laboratory, nested in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, has a long history of testing and identifying various infectious respiratory diseases, including those that occur on a regular basis like influenza, and the ones similar to COVID-19 that become a public health issue, spreading globally. Because of this, the team works closely with the CDC and other agencies.

Col. Theresa Goodman

“We have been in operation for approximately 30 years, and therefore involved with many other infectious disease outbreaks, for example SARS,” said Col. Dana Dane, USAFSAM Public Health Department chair.

This laboratory is only authorized to test samples coming in from DoD beneficiaries, but those outside this demographic have the support of their state public health departments for testing purposes. USAFSAM is working closely with public health professionals across the DoD, as well as with the CDC as the situation evolves. Per CDC guidelines, reference laboratories are no longer required to submit samples to the CDC for further testing and final confirmation. If the tests do show as positive, the USAFSAM Epi Lab marks the sample “confirmed positive.”

USAFSAM’s laboratory is not participating in vaccine development. It also is not the type of laboratory where people go to get blood drawn, nasal swabs, etc., like a CompuNet or clinic at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. USAFSAM’s clinical reference lab is set up to receive these samples from military treatment facilities. They run the tests on those samples and log the data.

“We’re all sensitive to those around the world who are grieving losses due to this awful virus as well as to others who are just downright scared. Our hearts go out to you,” said Goodman. “But just know that our epidemiology laboratory here in USAFSAM is waiting at the door 24/7 for any and all samples that come in from our DoD family.

Goodman also stated that the team is lockstep with public health personnel around the world as well as with our partners at the CDC.

“We truly are all in this together,” she said. “Fighting this virus will take all of us doing our part–from those staying at home washing their hands a little more often and checking on neighbors to USAFSAM’s public health team testing samples and getting the data where it needs to go.”

THE DISEASE DETECTIVES (ORIGINAL POST – MARCH 27, 2018 )

After slowly using a blade to cut through thick tape, a technician in a protective gown and glasses opens the flaps of a cardboard box revealing a polystyrene container. As her gloved hands cautiously remove the lid, a wisp of vapor rolls slowly over the edge of the box, clinging to its surface as it descends onto the tabletop.

The technician gingerly reaches through the fog and removes a plastic bag filled with clear vials from the container. This process is repeated over a hundred times each morning as carts filled with boxes of clinical patient specimens arrive at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Epidemiology Laboratory Service at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Created in 1990, the Epi Lab, as it is referred to at USAFSAM, focuses on clinical diagnostic, public health testing and force health screening, performing 5,000 to 8,000 tests six days a week (or about 2.1 million tests a year) for clinics and hospitals treating active duty service members, reservists and National Guard members and their dependents and beneficiaries.

The data collected from these tests not only enables the analysis of disease within the joint force, but is shared with civilian public health agencies contributing to the tracking of diseases, such as influenza and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as supporting disease prevention efforts, such as the formulation of vaccines.

While the lab receives most of its medical samples from Air Force bases around the world, it also tests specimens sent by Navy and Army hospitals and clinics, totaling more than 200 military medical facilities around the globe.

The Epi Lab’s workload is a result of its efficiency and economics, according to Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epi Lab.

Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., is a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The lab, which receives between 5,000 and 8,000 samples, six days a week, for analysis, routinely reports results to Department of Defense hospitals and clinics around the world within 48 hours of a sample being shipped to the lab.

PHOTO BY J.M. EDDINS JR.

“A lot of the testing is very specialized, and in some cases can be very expensive. Many of our Air Force clinics and laboratories are small and don’t have the personnel to do that kind of thing or the funding to get all the specialized instruments that we have,” Macias said. “Our personnel are comprised of military, government civilians and contractor civilians, so we have the expertise and the personnel to handle the workload.”

Nearly 30 people work throughout the morning, removing samples packed in dry ice from their boxes, ensuring the patient information on the specimen tubes and paperwork match the orders on the computer system and then re-labeling them for the lab’s computer system before sending the samples to the appropriate testing departments.

“The laboratory consists of three branches; Customer Support, Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology. Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology perform testing, such as immune status and screening for STDs, like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis and some other serology assays,” said Tech. Sgt. Maryann Caso, noncommissioned officer in charge of the immunodiagnostic section of the Epi Lab.

Just over a year ago, the Epi Lab adopted fourth-generation HIV testing, which enables the lab to detect an HIV infection two weeks sooner after a patient is exposed. This newer technology allows patients to receive treatment and counseling sooner.

There is a constant flow of samples requiring STD screening and immune status testing, as these are gathered as part of the in-processing screening for each new service member. The tests help screen for potentially infectious diseases as well as establish a baseline of antibody types and levels for each new recruit to precisely target which vaccines they need.

“For example, all the new recruits are tested for measles, mumps, and rubella. So if they have antibodies to those diseases then they’re not vaccinated again. This saves the Department of Defense because they don’t waste manpower and money to vaccinate somebody that is already protected against those diseases,” Macias said.

The lab has become more efficient and safer for laboratory technicians after the installation of an automated testing system last year.

Laboratory technicians unpack and log in blood serum, fecal, urine or respiratory samples which arrive from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as some other Department of Defense facilities Jan. 30, 2018. The Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, receives 100-150 boxes a day, six days a week. The lab, which tests between 5,000 and 8,000 samples daily, is a Department of Defense reference laboratory offering clinical diagnostic, public health, and force health screening and testing.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

“The samples come in now and are put on an automated line. It will actually uncap the sample, spin it down, aliquot it (divide the sample into smaller portions for multiple tests) and sort it to whatever section and analyzer it needs for a particular test,” Caso said.

“Before, our techs had to manually uncap the tubes, aliquot the samples and sort them. When you have thousands of samples that you have to uncap and then recap by hand, you get repetitive-motion injuries to the wrist – such as carpal tunnel. The whole idea is to have automated processes and to eliminate or mitigate pre-analytical errors, such as specimen contamination.”

Once tested, the results are automatically returned to the submitting hospital or clinic via computer, unless the system notifies a technician to intervene and manually certify the test result.

“Specimens are collected at hospitals and clinics around the world and sent to us,” Macias said. “We receive the boxes within 24 hours and most of the results are completed within 24 hours… So, generally, we get those results back to the submitting clinic within 48 hours from when they are shipped to us, so the docs can then treat their patients appropriately and with a good turnaround time.”

In addition to the immunology testing that is performed in the lab, the Microbiology branch performs testing on bacterial cultures, examines fecal samples for parasites that cause intestinal disease, and performs influenza testing.

The Air Force began an influenza surveillance program in 1976 to collect data about disease and its spread in response to an outbreak of what was called “Bootcamp Flu.” In the close quarters of basic training, the virus spread through many barracks, according to Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the Virology and manual testing section at the Epi Lab.

Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the manual testing section, oversees the influenza surveillance program at the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.The lab identifies and sequences the genome of influenza samples received from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as other Department of Defense facilities. The data collected on active flu strains contributes about 25 percent of the total data used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to formulate its yearly influenza vaccine.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

To combat illness, recruits needed to be regularly monitored, giving birth to Operation Gargle, in which recruits gargled with a solution and spit it back into a specimen cup which was then tested for influenza and other respiratory pathogens.

The Air Force program is now part of the Defense Health Agency’s Global, Laboratory-Based Respiratory Pathogen program which grows, sequences and collects data on influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

The flu surveillance program at the Epi Lab has approximately 95 submitting laboratories scattered across the continental United States and the globe, from deployed areas to Europe, Japan and Guam.

In a typical flu season, the surveillance program receives between 5,000 and 6,000 specimens. This year, the Epi Lab has received 5,000 specimens in just the first few months of the flu season, according to Minnich.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may finally scrap its only aircraft carrier

Russia is admitting it may be forced to scrap its only aircraft carrier as the troubled flagship suffered a catastrophic shipyard accident in 2018.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier which was built during the Soviet-era, was severely damaged October 2018 when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the carrier on board.

The carrier was undergoing an extensive overhaul at the time of the incident.

While the ship was able to pull away from the sinking dry dock, it did not escape unscathed. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large gash in the hull and deck.


By Russia’s own admission, the dry dock was the only one suitable for maintenance on the Kuznetsov, and the sudden loss of this facility “creates certain inconveniences.”

A view shows the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at a shipyard.

(Flickr photo by Christopher Michel)

“We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov,” Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told the state-run TASS news agency in November 2018.

At that time, observers began to seriously question whether or not it was worth attempting to salvage the carrier given its history of breakdowns and poor performance. As is, the Kuznetsov is almost always accompanied by tug boats, preparation for practically inevitable problems.

The ship is rarely seen at sea. Between 1991 and 2015, the Kuznetsov, sometimes described as one of the worst carriers in the world, set sail on patrol only six times, and on a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.

Now Russian media is discussing the possibility of scrapping the Kuznetsov, putting a Soviet vessel plagued by many different problems out of its misery once and for all, The National Interest reported April 7, 2019, citing Russian media reports revealing that the carrier “may be written off.”

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

“Not everyone considers the continuation of repair to be appropriate,” one military source told Izvestia, a well-known Russian media outlet. “There are different opinions,” the source added, explaining that it might be better to invest the money in frigates and nuclear submarines, a discussion also happening in the US Navy, which is pushing a plan to retire an aircraft carrier decades early.

Another source revealed that even if the ship does return, it may simply serve as a training vessel rather than a warship. Whether or not it will return is a big if given the almost insurmountable challenges of recovery.

The Kuznetsov currently sits along the wall of the 35th Repair Plant in Kola Bay.

Rather than attempt to salvage a ship that offers limited capabilities to the Russian navy, Russia could instead invest more in smaller, potentially more capable vessels that can be maintained more easily than a carrier that has been problematic since it was first commissioned in 1990.

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

Articles

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

What was the worst thing about being a soldier assigned to the invasion of Normandy? Probably the beaches with Nazi machine guns raining hell down, right?


Well, some historians make a pretty good case that it was actually the French gardens and farms that spread throughout Normandy.

The hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula. (Photo: Public Domain)

While American farms and yards are split by fences — split rail fences in the early days and mostly barbed wire by the World War II years — the farms in Normandy were split by ancient hedgerows.

Originally built by the Romans, the hedgerows were mounds of dirt raised in irregular patterns that served as fences between plots of land. Irrigation ditches with raised sides provided water to all the fields and animals.

Over the hundreds of years since the dirt mounds were raised, thick, tall growths of plants had turned the ditches into tunnels and raised virtual walls of up to 16 feet on top of the mounds.

Normandy, France, July 15, 1944. (Painting by Keith Rucco for The National Guard)

These wall of vegetation were thick and seemingly impossible to quickly cut through. And the hedgerows were everywhere, an aerial photo of a typical section of the battlefield showed over 3,900 hedged enclosures in less than eight square miles.

Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.

Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.

Advancing through an opening in the hedgerows was risky at best. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.

All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.

(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.

But Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, an armor soldier from New Jersey, figured out the fix. He welded a bar across the front of the tank and added four metal prongs across it. The prongs acted as plows and cutters, allowing the tanks to push through the hedgerows, destroying the obstacles without exposing any of the tanks’ weak points.

(Photo: U.S. Army)

This allowed the tanks to cut new routes for the infantry while reducing their own vulnerabilities as well. The Allied soldiers began engaging in a true combined arms manner with tanks opening the way and infantrymen advancing just behind.

The infantry would help quickly knock out anti-tank weapons while the tanks could help destroy fortified machine gun nests and cut through hedgerow after hedgerow.

To see what the American GIs had to fight through, check out this video:

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

MilSpouse and NASA’s last living ‘Hidden Figure,’ Katherine Johnson, dies at 101

NASA legend, mathematician, race barrier breaker, women’s rights advancer, mother, military spouse: Katherine Johnson was truly out of this world. The once in a generation mind passed away at age 101 on February 24, NASA announced.


We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://go.nasa.gov/2SUMtN2 pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW

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Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. From an early age, she demonstrated a love of counting and numbers far beyond her peers and well beyond her years. By age 10, Johnson was already through her grade school curriculum and enrolled in high school, which she finished at 14. She enrolled in West Virginia State College at only age 15 and started pursuing her love of math.

According to NASA, while at WVSC, Johnson had the opportunity to study under well known professor Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor. Claytor guided Johnson in her career path, once telling her, “You’d make a great research mathematician.” He also provided her guidance with how to become one. In an interview with NASA, Johnson recalled, “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path. Professor Claytor made sure I was prepared to be a research mathematician.” Claytor’s spirit of mentorship was something that Johnson paid forward. “Claytor was a young professor himself,” she said, “and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday’s lesson. But sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what he was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.”

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Johnson became the first black woman to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school. Following graduation, she became a school teacher, settled down and married. She spent many years at home with her three daughters, but when her husband became ill, she began teaching again. In the early 1950s, a family friend told Johnson that NACA (the predecessor to NASA) was hiring. According to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics were specifically looking for African-American females to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department. In the 1950s, pools of women at NACA did calculations that the engineers needed worked or verified.

Johnson applied but the openings were already filled. The following year, she applied again, and this time she was offered two contracts. She took the one as a researcher. She started working at NACA in 1953. In 1956, her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959, Johnson remarried James A. Johnson, an Army captain and Korean War veteran.

Johnson was a pioneer for multiple reasons. Not only was she a working woman in the 1950s, an era during which women were generally secretaries if they worked at all, she was also a black woman. In an interview for the book “Black Women Scientists in the United States,” Johnson recalled, “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.”

If Johnson was intimidated, she never showed it. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained in an interview with NASA. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”

NASA photo

Johnson was so well known for her capabilities, that John Glenn personally asked for her before his orbit in 1962. According to NASA, “The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to ‘get the girl’—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. ‘If she says they’re good,” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, ‘then I’m ready to go.’ Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.”

Johnson was an instrumental part of the team and was the only woman to be pulled from the calculating pool room to work on other projects. One of those projects: putting a man on the moon.

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Johnson lived a remarkable life and had a prestigious career. Her awards and decorations are numerous, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, honorary doctorate from William and Mary, a facility being named after her at NASA’s Langley campus and even a Barbie made in her image. She had a fervor for learning and a love of life.

“Like what you do, and then you will do your best,” she said.

Rest in peace, Ms. Johnson.

Articles

The Border Patrol was actually founded to stop illegal Chinese immigration — from Mexico

A lot gets said about “America’s porous borders,” especially in an election year. Forget for a moment, about the argument about whether or not a wall would be effective along the U.S.-Mexican border (and forget about who is going to pay for it). Right now, there is no wall and there are three borders, guarded by a thin green line called the U.S. Border Patrol.


The boats, horses, and men of the Border Patrol weren’t originally meant to be on guard against illegal Mexican immigrants, drugs, and guns from coming over the southern U.S. border, they were formed to keep the American southwest free of illegal Chinese immigrants.

The Border Patrol is no joke. The agency has a Congressionally-mandated 21,370 agents covering a staggering 19,000 miles across the U.S. northern and southern borders as well as the Caribbean. It has its own SWAT team, special operators, and search and rescue squads. They finish a 13- to 21-week long basic training course (depending on how well the trainee speaks Spanish) and then complete 12 to 16 weeks of field training at their first duty station – just to call themselves “agent.”

In 1904, the nascent Border Patrol was known as the Mounted Guards. Operating out of El Paso, Texas, 75 horsemen scanned as far west as California in an attempt to stem the tide of Chinese immigration.

(National Archives)

Around the turn of the 20th Century, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, restricting immigration from China. During the Gold Rush and the building of the Transcontinental Railroads, Chinese laborers were welcomed to the U.S. in droves. After the economic booms of the post-Civil War years and the end of the Gold Rush, the once-welcomed source of cheap labor lost their appeal and public opinion quickly turned sour.

A mix of these Mounted Guards, U.S. troops, and Texas Rangers kept an eye out for the unwanted immigrants. In 1915, the Mounted Guards became Mounted Inspectors and had Congressional authority – but they had to bring their own horses.

The Border Patrol still does mounted operations today, but horses are provided. (National Archives)

In those days, catching customs violations were more important than cutting off illegal immigration. The Border Patrol as we know it was born in 1924, both as a response to Prohibition and to Congressional restrictions on the number of legal immigrants coming into the U.S.

With Prohibition, defending the northern border became as important as the south. Based in Detroit, the northern area had to cut illegal immigration as well as the illegal import of Canadian Whiskey. The American government authorized 450 agents to patrol all of America’s borders.

(National Archives)

In 1925, Pancho Villa and his “Villistas” invaded American territory, sacking Columbus, New Mexico and killing it inhabitants. It was the largest American loss of life on American soil until the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Columbus didn’t receive Border Patrol agents until 1927 – two men guarding 135 miles of border, a microcosm of the modern Border Patrol’s modern long-distance mission.