This is the Air Force's massive training exercise in Alaska - We Are The Mighty
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This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska

The U.S. Air Force needs a lot of space to train, especially when it wants fighters, refuelers, and other aircraft to work together in a way that realistically simulates combat conditions where jets chase each other at twice the speed of sound and refuelers run race tracks near the edges of the battlefield.


That’s why it conducts the Red Flag – Alaska training exercise. While the Red Flag exercises in Nevada are more famous, Red Flag – Alaska lets the Air Force conduct missions using approximately five times the space available in Nevada. The total area is roughly equivalent to the state of Florida.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron out of Kadena Air Base, Japan, connects with a KC-135 Stratotanker out of McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., Oct. 10, 2016, during a RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1 mission. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

“The large amount of space forces pilots to figure out the logistical problem of working in such a large scale, similar to an entire theater of operations,” Lt. Col. Julio Rodriguez, the 18th Aggressor Squadron commander, told a military journalist. “The multiple uses the [Joint Pacific Alaska Range complex] provides is imperative to the success of our training. We can go faster here than any blue force has ever trained, almost to Mach 2 to show the pilots what it’s like if the enemy were to do use that as one of its tactics”

The JPARC contains 65,000 square miles of airspace, 2,490 square miles of land, and 42,000 nautical miles of sea and airspace in the Gulf of Alaska.

International partners are invited to the exercise which usually lasts 10 days. While most of the participating aircraft are American, Korean, Canadian, and New Zealand crews have participated in recent years.

The Red Flag exercise attempts to simulate combat conditions across a broad range of missions. Obviously, this includes air combat, but it also includes refueling, resupply, and even the air insertion of paratroopers.

“I’ve got a lot of young aviators that have never seen something at this level with this many aircraft going against a very good and proficient threat, both on the air-to-air side and the surface-to-air side,” said Marine Lt. Col. Gregory A. McGuire, commanding officer of a Marine Corps fighter unit. “For me, I’m happy about giving my guys the opportunity to see this kind of real-world kinetic, large-force exercise so they can see how we would employ should we be called upon to do so.”

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
Paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, board a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules during Red Flag Alaska 17-1 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 12, 2016. During Red Flag-Alaska 17-1, approximately 2,095 U.S. service members will participate in the exercise – approximately 1,295 personnel from outside Alaska and 203 international visitors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Monroy)

Thousands of people from around the world take part in the exercise. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson takes in an additional 1,000 personnel on its own when the exercise comes to town.

Of course, with so many pilots coming from so many places, the support staff on JBER have to increase their activity and precision, meaning that they get good training as well.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
Three U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 137, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wa., take off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 2, 2016, during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

For instance, pilots from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan took part in the exercise in 2016, and weather squadron personnel took extra care to make sure that their weather predictions were as accurate as possible. This ensures that air crews unfamiliar with Alaska weather will at least know what to expect.

The exercise takes place multiple times per year. See more photos from recent years below:

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson flies behind several C-130J Hercules during a training sortie, Oct. 19, 2016. Training sorties are imperative to pilot development and overall mission effectiveness. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

 

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft is prepared for a training sortie Dec. 14, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-16 is assigned to the 354th Fighter Wing and flown by pilots from the 18th Aggressor Squadron and 353rd Combat Training Squadron during routine training, RED FLAG-Alaska and other exercises around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)

 

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
From left, U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Robert Wallace, Anthony Marshall, and Eric Smith, all 354th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controllers, manage the air space around Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 5, 2016, during RED-FLAG Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. Eielson air traffic controllers must know how to operate radio equipment to relay flight and landing instructions, weather reports and safety information to pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

 

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, receives fuel May 10, 2016, during a RED FLAG-Alaska 16-1 exercise. The KC-135 Stratotanker, part of the Tanker Task Force, provides mid-air refueling to sustain fighter aircraft during a RED FLAG-Alaska exercise. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Cassandra Whitman)

 

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
An E-3 Sentry lifts off the ground at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson June 8 during RED FLAG-Alaska 16-2. RF-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise for U.S. and international forces, which provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large-force employment training in a simulated combat environment. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Kleiser)

 

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

 

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
A U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II, assigned to the 17th Special Operations Squadron out of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, prepares to drops a heavy pallet over Malemute drop zone during Red Flag Alaska 16-1 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, May 11, 2016. Red Flag Alaska 16-1 provides joint offensive, counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment. The Commando II flies clandestine, low visibility, single or multi-ship, low-level air refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft, as well as infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces in politically sensitive or hostile territories. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Alejandro Pena)

 

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
A U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., takes off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, as part of Red Flag-Alaska, May 3, 2016. The F-15 is deployed to JBER for Red Flag-Alaska, a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. and international forces, providing combined offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

A C-17 Globemaster III, assigned to the 535th Airlift Squadron, 15th Wing, glides past Waianae Range as it prepares to land at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, Oct. 24, 2016. The C-17 made a rare landing at Wheeler Army Airfield to pick up Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and transport them to the island of Hawaii in preparation for exercise Lightning Forge 17.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon

Zombies emerge from the forest as the sun begins to set at the annual Zombie Stomp run Oct. 29, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. More than 100 runners participated in ducking, dodging and evading hungry zombies over the 5K course.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.

Army:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, defends an objective during training at the National Training Center, located at Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 29, 2016.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Guy Mingo

A 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Soldier talks on a radio during an air-mobile exercise, part of a defense support of civil authorities training mission at Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, Va., Nov. 1st, 2016.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody W. Torkelson

Navy:

BREMERTON, Washington (Nov. 2, 2016) Seaman Aaron Thompson, from Columbia, S.C., and Seaman Jake Ridley, from Oklahoma City, raise the ensign during morning colors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is conducting a scheduled maintenance availability at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dakota Rayburn

PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 30, 2016) Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft land on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). The F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant is the worldâs first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. America, with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) embarked, are underway conducting operational testing and the third phase of developmental testing for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft, respectively. The tests will evaluate the full spectrum of joint strike fighter measures of suitability and effectiveness in an at-sea environment.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kyle Goldberg

Marine Corps:

Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, conduct a company attack range in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Oct. 21, 2016. Bravo Company is participating in Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 1-17 and preparing to support Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah N. Petrock

Marines with Jump Platoon, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, inspect gear prior to a mission during a field exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 19, 2016. 1st Marine Division is employed as the ground combat element of I Marine Expeditionary Force and provides the ground combat forces necessary for ship to shore forcible entry operations.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph Prado

USCG Station Point Judith, R.I., crews conduct tactical boat training on a 29-foot response boat. Station Judith has 35 members and operates two 45-foot Motor Life Boats and a 29-foot Response Boat – Small.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll

The crew of USCG Cutter Waesche marked the end of a record year in counterdrug operations offloading more than 39,000 pounds of seized cocaine, worth over $531 million, in San Diego.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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This must-read essay explains the military’s discomfort with ‘Thank you for your service’

When a stranger says “Thank you for your service” to a veteran, it’s often an awkward — and short — conversation. For some veterans, being thanked for their job seems odd: I didn’t really do much, some may think. You’re thanking me for something you don’t even understand is another thought that may come to mind.


When I hear it, I cordially say thank you back. In my opinion, it takes some guts for a random stranger to approach and express that appreciation. But I sometimes think it may be the wrong sentiment. Sadly, “Thank you for your service” has become the end of the conversation, not the beginning. It’s a phrase that has become a punchline in military circles — thought as empty and overused — and takes away from what could be a chance for civilians to ask questions and really understand what troops have done.

Air Force veteran Elizabeth O’Herrin responds in a similar way, saying “my pleasure” in response. But was it really? As she explains in a wonderful essay at the website Medium, the exchange of pleasantries can take a quick turn:

Upon returning home, being thanked for my service became something I found awkward. My experience was not that traumatic. It was not that dangerous. It didn’t truly feel like a sacrifice. Other people certainly deserved a thank you, but not me. Not when I remembered leaning over a guy who had just lost his leg, scrubbing blood from his hands, attempting a conversation to soothe him when he was incoherent, doped up on morphine. Digging through his bag to find his Purple Heart because he became panicked when he couldn’t remember where they put it. I dug through the normal shit he packed in his bag earlier that day, back when he had two legs, like bubble gum. “Thank you for your service.”
I didn’t deserve much thanks for anything.

O’Herrin, who helped fuse bombs on jets that were later dropped on the bad guys, is and should be proud of her service. Like many of the post-9/11 military generation, she volunteered at a time of war and performed an essential job that most certainly resulted in saved lives on the ground.

In her essay, she recalls seeing a wounded veteran on the D.C. metro, and making eye contact with his mother. She struggles in that moment with wanting to tell the mother — who has no idea she is a veteran — that she understands at least some of what she’s going through. She wants to empathize with her, and tell her that she feels her pain.

“But I knew I couldn’t say something without sounding vapid and empty, swiping at some semblance of shared experience and missing entirely,” O’Herrin writes.

In this experience, she learns an important point, and one that perhaps all veterans should take to heart. While “thank you for your service” can sometimes sound like an empty phrase, just remember in that time before you heard it, that person had to work up the courage to approach when they were not obligated in any way. Far from the awful homecoming of our Vietnam veterans who were sometimes cursed by those who never served, this generation of veterans should accept that phrase and embrace it.

“They wanted me to know they felt something, and chose to say it,” O’Herrin writes in her closing. “And I feel grateful for their words.”

Now read the entire thing over at Medium

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Here’s what it took to pull off the Commander-in-Chief Forum

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
(Photo: Ward Carroll)


Just over two weeks after the Commander-in-Chief Forum aired during prime time on NBC, IAVA chief Paul Rieckhoff is still recovering from the event, riding the high of having had a big hand in pulling it off but also weathering a substantial wave of social media criticism — much of it from fellow veterans — about how it fell short.

 

 

“What the critics don’t understand is events like this are a four-way negotiation,” Rieckhoff says over the phone while riding an Uber between Newark Airport and Manhattan after attending a “VetTogether” — a gathering of IAVA members — at comedienne Kathy Griffin’s home in Los Angeles. “It’s us, the network, and each of the candidates. Anybody can walk away at any time. Concessions are made on all sides to pull it off.”

Rieckhoff and his team started planning the forum about two years ago using Pastor Rick Warren’s “Conversation on Faith” as a model.

“He brought the candidates to his church one after another for a one-on-one conversation,” he says. “It was widely watched and really drove the issues front and center.”

The IAVA wishlist had a few key elements: It should take place around 9-11. It should take place in New York City “because of the media traction,” Rieckhoff says. And it should take place aboard the USS Intrepid, the retired aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson River at midtown.

They also knew it needed to happen before the final three debates.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
(Photo: Ward Carroll)

“We’re politically savvy enough to know that’s it’s all about the art of the possible,” Rieckhoff says. “The idea that you’re going to get the candidates for three hours and get everything you want is not grounded in the reality of the landscape.

“The idea was straightforward,” he continues. “Bring together the candidates where vets could ask the questions on as big a stage as possible. Respect to the American Legion and VFW, but nobody watches their conventions but them.”

Two cable networks expressed interest in airing the event, but Rieckhoff held out for something bigger.

“It needed to be as big as possible in order to attract the candidates,” he says.

In early May NBC offered an hour in primetime. Another major network indicated interest but “dawdled,” as Rieckhoff puts it, so IAVA accepted NBC’s offer. Right before Memorial Day both candidates agreed to participate. But at that point, the work was only starting.

“It was a constant negotiation with the campaigns right up to the event itself,” Rieckhoff says. “They were always threatening to pull out if they didn’t get what they wanted.”

And among the negotiations was agreeing to who the host would be. IAVA made a few suggestions, NBC personalities with some experience in the defense and foreign policy realms. The network and campaigns came up with their own option.

“The campaigns preferred not to have hard-hitting questions, and NBC wanted somebody who’d resonate during primetime,” Rieckhoff says. “Suffice it to say Matt Lauer was not IAVA’s choice.”

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
(Photo: Ward Carroll)

But Matt Lauer got the nod, and for the first hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, he fumbled his way through the format, dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to issues other than those of critical importance to the military community. His poor performance in the eyes of viewers even spawned a hashtag: #LaueringTheBar.

 

 

“We would’ve like the opportunity to separate foreign policy from veteran’s policy,” Rieckhoff says. “Matt Lauer found that out the hard way.”

But beyond that Rieckhoff is pleased with the outcome of the forum.

“Plenty of folks may be criticizing the event or the host,” he says. “But the bottom line is every critic or whatever got an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the issues because this thing happened.”

The broadcast was viewed by 15 million people, and Rieckhoff believes that the overall impact needs to be framed in terms much bigger than that.

“The reach has to be considered beyond the ratings of the show itself,” he says. “It was the entire day prior, the day of, and at least one day afterward where every morning show, every newspaper, and every columnist was writing about vet issues.”

That sense is shared by IAVA board member Wayne Smith, an Army vet who served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War and went on to be one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was seated in the crowd during the forum.

“I come from a generation of war vets who had no voice for decades, who were rejected by vets from previous wars not to mention the nation at large,” Smith says. “I was blown away by the brilliance of this forum, this first time we had the undivided attention of both candidates. I hope this is the first of many.”

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These tough, grungy sailors are turning 75

A Navy Seabee is probably the one sailor that Marines love the most — next to the platoon doc, of course.


Camouflage is their typical working uniform. They spend most of their time in the field and dirt. They don’t shy away from messy jobs. As one Marine captain once told a journalist in Iraq: Seabees build things, they blow things up, and they shoot straight.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, engage a simulated force during NMCB 3’s Final Evaluation Problem (FEP). (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Gomez/Released)

The Navy’s “Can Do” sailors do a lot. They build field toilets and bunkers, construct camps and pour concrete, fix damaged utilities and buildings, help civilians in distress and even kill the enemy when required. Their work building airfields and camps across the Pacific during World War II undoubtedly helped in the allied victory.

A fraction of that force today, Navy Seabees are the backbone of the Naval Construction Force that includes 11 naval construction battalions and two amphibious construction battalions. Battalions send detachments of Seabees to as many as a dozen countries, and missions vary from repairing water lines, building schools and roads or pulling camp security.

Seabees serve in one of seven ratings – builder, construction mechanic, engineering aide, equipment operator, steelworker and utilitiesman – but every one will tell you they’re a Jack-of-all-trades among warfighters. Seabee ingenuity gets things done.

The classic round Seabee logo of the “Fighting Bee” holding a Tommy gun, wrench, and hammer — one of only a few Navy-approved insignias that sailors can wear on their uniforms — is as relevant today, 75 years after the first Seabee units were formed, as it was on March 5, 1942.

Combat readiness is a critical a mission because Seabees training for, say, a western Pacific rotation to Okinawa might be sent to a combat zone elsewhere. “You could be building a schoolhouse in the Philippines… and go to war,” said Chief Utilitiesman Phil Anderton, 31, a Seabee with Naval Construction Battalion 3 based at Port Hueneme, Calif.

Anderton learned that lesson as an 18-year-old Seabee in 2005. His battalion prepared to deploy to Rota, Spain, but ” they canceled leave, and for three weeks we trained to go to war,” he recalled. “It’s like that fast. Three weeks.” They ran scores of convoy security missions across volatile Iraq.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
Seaman Jonathan Rosa and Petty Officer 2nd Class Leroy Jimmy, both assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 (NMCB 18) return fire during a training evolution as part of a field training exercise (FTX). (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Carver/RELEASED).

It’s little surprise that Seabees going through their battalion final training exercise, required to certify as combat-ready, looks like they’re already in the hot zone. “This right here is the culmination of ‘be ready for war.’ It’s awesome,” Anderton said as he escorted a journalist through an expeditionary forward operating camp NMCB-3 built on an empty lot for its final training exercise at Fort Hunter-Liggett, Calif., last fall.

The air hummed with the sound of diesel trucks, generators and heavy machinery. Dust kicked up from medevac Humvee. The sound of gunfire echoed. Helping set that combat mindset was an opposing hostile force that kept trying to sneak along a creek to infiltrate perimeter lines and attack the camp. For three days since they arrived, and with little sleep, the battalion’s 550 Seabees grappled with an indirect fire attack from the mock enemy that wounded 17 and damaged the nearby airfield.

“Lately we’ve been seeing the small-arms attacks in the dark,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Matthew Lundeen, the quick reaction force commander.

In the midst, civilian-actors pleaded in their native language for the Americans to leave while others wanted their help, or so it seemed.

All Seabees get combat tactics training, and they have to learn what seasoned grunts do by instinct. “We put a lot on our E-4s and E-5s to make very sound, tactical decisions, putting bullets down the range to keep us safe,” said Anderton, the Bravo Company operations chief and a former drill instructor. “The first line of defense is them. They’re the ones in the pit when the aggressions happen.”

“Making that tactical decision that is either going to put him in jail or save his life,” he said. “That’s the most critical, that they would pull the trigger at the right time.”

“This is a pressurized environment that really tests the leaders,” said Cmdr. Laurie Scott, NMCB-3’s commander, especially for junior Seabees who haven’t yet served overseas. “This is a lesson in sleep deprivation,” he said. “You kind of get the sense of how people react under pressure.”

The night before, a Seabee spotted some infiltrators in the scrub and bushes who had been harassing them. “We walked down to the lines and, sure enough, there was someone out there and we started shooting,” said Steelworker 2nd Class Shianne Chlupacek with Charlie Platoon. “It was pretty cool.”

A half-dozen or so enemy tried to infiltrate the camp. “We saw them with the thermals setting up,” Builder 3rd Class John Skoblicki[cqgf] said. “They set up right in between (Pit) 4 and 3, and then they opened up. We shot back.”

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 15, pour concrete as they work to complete a runway expansion project. NMCB 15 is currently mobilized in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and is an expeditionary element of U.S. Naval Forces that support various units worldwide through national force readiness, civil engineering, humanitarian assistance, and building and maintaining infrastructure. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Garas)

“We’d been tracking them for awhile,” as enemy flashlights prodding the pit line gave them away, said Steelworker Seaman Korey Benton[cqgf], 20. “We engaged and fired back,” added Skoblicki. No casualties among the Seabees, but Skoblicki blew through the first can of ammo with the M240 machinegun before it jammed with the blanks. “It tends to do that,” he said. Benton provided covering fire with the M16 rifle until they could get the 240 up and running. “You just have to keep racking,” he said.

Chlupacek stood in an M16 pit the Seabees carved from the brown-mocha dirt with their E-tools and the help of a Catepillar 420 backhoe. (To a Marine, it’s a fighting hole. To Seabees, it’s a “defensive fighting pit.”) “It’s definitely part of being a Seabee,” said Chlupacek, who grew up around farms and hunting and got into welding in her small Nebraska town.

This was her third FTX. A cold front had blown chilly rain through the region just as the Seabees arrived to build their FOB. “It was the first day when we started doing trenching. It was hard to keep morale up,” she said. “I’d walk the lines for about 16 hours, and I’d keep telling the troops that it’ll be over soon. It was wet and it was cold.”

“Once you get entrenched, it’s pretty easy,” she said. “We didn’t get entrenched until the third day we were here. At first, it was just sitting on the ground, in like a skirmish room.”

Perhaps more than most seagoing sailors, Chlupacek is comfortable in the rugged outdoors. “I love tactics, so this is one of my favorite things to do,” she said. “You get in the game, and you feel it. OK, there’s enemy out there, and let’s kill ’em. I like it.”

Living like a grunt isn’t for every Seabee. Others take well to the “build-fight” life. “I love either side, tactics or building. I joined to be a Seabee,” said Builder 2nd Class Harlee Annis, 23, of Ukiah, Calif., who enlisted after he saw a pamphlet about Seabees while at a junior college. “I got my first gun when I was 7 years old.”

On this day, Annis was the gunner who manned the M16 service rifle, a qualification he earned during NMCB-3’s “homeport” period at Port Hueneme. “This is probably the funnest part, to get to fire it,” he said. He wasn’t on shift during the attack the previous night and was eager to get this first shot off. “I was hoping,” he said. “Today. Maybe.”

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Local police are about to get a lot more of this surplus military gear

President Donald Trump is preparing to lift restrictions on surplus military equipment that can be passed on to local law enforcement agencies in spite of past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were escalating confrontations with protesters.


Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate Trump was preparing to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition, and other surplus military equipment.

Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a August 28 speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, a person familiar with the matter said. The person insisted on anonymity to discuss the plan ahead of an official announcement.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Image from the Office of Public Affairs.

The changes would be another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that views federal support of local police as a way to drive down violent crime.

National police organizations have long been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

In 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to give surplus equipment to police to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.

Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the surplus program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs, and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
Police in tactical gear at the Ferguson riots, 2014. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Loavesofbread.

Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police. As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets, and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.

Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

“In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.

This is the Air Force’s massive training exercise in Alaska
M16 assault rifles. DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement August 27 that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.

“Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for Black and Brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” the LDF said.

“The President’s decision to make this change in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and against a backdrop of frayed relations between police and communities of color further reflects this administration’s now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country,” the organization said.

The documents, first reported by USA Today, say Trump’s order would emphasize public safety over the appearance of the heavily equipment. They describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature,” intended to protect officers from danger.

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Police gather around an armored vehicle in Ferguson, Missouri, 2014. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Loavesofbread.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the expected move.

Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

“It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.

Sessions has said he believes improving morale for local law enforcement is key to curbing spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street.

Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain law enforcement agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.

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These Combat Tracker teams were America’s secret weapon in Vietnam

As American forces became embroiled in the conflict in Vietnam it was quickly apparent to commanders that they were fighting a war for which they were not prepared.


The guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics of the Viet Cong were difficult to counter, especially for conventional forces. Luckily, our allies, the British, had already developed a tactic that they had used to great effect in Malaya.

Facing a communist insurgency of their own, but with limited resources, the British had developed specialized teams to track the enemy through the jungle and destroy them. This tactic was so effective the British would employ it against insurgencies all across the empire.

Knowing the French tactics had been insufficient, and not wanting to meet the same fate, Gen. Westmoreland sent observers to the British Jungle Warfare School in Malaya to see if the tactics could be adopted by American forces.

Impressed by what they saw the Americans made a deal for the British to train fourteen teams, to be known as Combat Tracker Teams, at the British Jungle Warfare School. Due to British neutrality, the soldiers to be trained traveled on official government passports and used only British gear while in training so as to maintain secrecy and low-visibility.

The basic organization of the Combat Tracker Teams consisted of two to four sections of five-men. The section was composed of a team leader, a visual tracker, a cover man, a radio operator, and a dog handler with a well-trained Labrador retriever. Not typical for combat operations the Labs were highly-effective in Vietnam. They were effective trackers, quiet in the field, and, most importantly, due to their even-temperament could more easily change handlers – a prized-quality for an army rotating men out of country, but often heart-breaking for their handlers.

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Australian soldiers helped Americans train for combat tracking tactics in Vietnam. (Photo Bryan Campbell via Flickr)

The teams were in for intense training once they arrived in Malaya. For the dog handlers training was three months long, for everyone else it was two months. The cadre consisted of British and New Zealand SAS as well as Gurkhas, who usually played the enemy to add to the realism. Wash out rates were high.

The initial address to the trainees was often quite shocking to them. They were told the problem with the American army was that it was more focused on rank than knowledge. And that by the time they were done, they would feel more at home in the jungle than the North Vietnamese themselves.

After surviving the grueling training, the first teams returned to Vietnam in 1967 to be assigned to combat units. The team assigned to the 101st Airborne Division was told they must go through the division’s finishing school before they would be allowed in the field. Part-way through the first day it became obvious to the cadre that the trackers knew more than they could possibly teach them and they were passed through the course on the spot.

According to their group’s website, once in country, the Combat Tracker Teams were to “reestablish contact with the ‘elusive enemy’; reconnaissance of an area for possible enemy activities; and locate lost or missing friendly personnel.”

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Americans in Vietnam adopted a tactic used by the British for decades during their insurgent wars throughout the empire. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Once the troops hit the ground, they knew why their trainers had pushed them so hard – keeping up with a dog in the jungle while staying absolutely silent, as well as being alert and constantly ready for action is very hard work.

But that work paid off for the Americans. It was common to hear from the grunts about how the enemy could just “melt back into the jungle.” And that was where the trackers came in. Pushing out well ahead of the line infantry units no detail was too small for either the visual tracker or the working dog to pick up.

John Dupla, a combat tracker with the 1st Cavalry Division, said “we were taught to develop a sixth sense, utilizing methods Native American scouts used, such as looking for broken twigs and turned over leaves and rocks.”

Depending on the conditions and situation either the visual tracker or the dog handler and his lab would lead the team. Always right behind him was the cover man. Since the point person’s attention was focused on searching for trails and clues the cover man became his lookout, providing protection.

Although the unit’s mission was often not to directly engage the enemy, sometimes it was unavoidable. As one combat tracker related “if you got into something, you shot your way out.” Ideally, the trackers would locate the enemy and call the infantry behind them into the fight.

However, as the Viet Cong became aware of the effectiveness of the trackers they sought ways to counter them. Retreating groups would often send a contingent off in a different direction to draw the trackers away from the main force and into an ambush. One Combat Tracker Team lost their visual tracker and cover man to enemy snipers in this manner.

In a further effort to disrupt the trackers, and a sure sign of their effectiveness, the North Vietnamese put out bounties on their heads. The fear they struck in the enemy gave the trackers great pride.

Despite their effectiveness many American commanders simply did not understand how to properly employ the trackers. Their small size and the secrecy of their training meant few in the infantry understood how they operated. They were sometimes thought of as scouts and to simply walk point for a larger formation.

The program was disbanded in 1971 as American drew down forces in Vietnam. The trackers were broken up and folded into their parent infantry units. Veiled in secrecy and lacking the notoriety of Special Forces the legacy of the Combat Tracker Teams quietly faded away.

There is no doubt though that the Combat Tracker Teams were effective, saved lives, and made life much harder for the enemy.

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This is why West Point graduates have big shoes to fill

The United States Military Academy (also known as West Point, the Point, the Academy or the Long Gray Line) was founded in March 1802 by Thomas Jefferson. The university, located in West Point, New York, is one of the top educational institutions in the United States. Being selected to study at West Point is very difficult, with only 10 percent of applicants admitted each year.

The high standard of education offered has resulted in a number of very successful alumni. Although it is an institution that produced many brilliant military careers, the achievements of its graduates are not limited to the battlefield. Military, business, politics, sciences or downright groundbreaking achievements, over the years, the West point alumni have brought honor to the Academy in many fields. Some of them have even shaped the future of the United States and played an important role on the international stage. Whatever their field, the West Point graduates carry the motto of their school with them: Duty, Honor, Country.

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Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin L.E. Bonneville

Class of 1815. Fearless explorer who ventured into the uncharted American West, mapping the Yellowstone, Green, Salmon, and Snake rivers, as well as the Great Salt Lake. The Bonneville Salt Flats, now used to establish speed records on land, is named after him.

Jefferson Davis

Class of 1828. Successful politician, member of Congress, Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857. He went on to become the President of the Confederate States of America.

Robert E. Lee

Class of 1829. General in Chief of the Confederate forces during the Civil War, he became the president of the Washington & Lee University after the war.

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This painting depicts Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant on the field during the Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia, May 5-7, 1864. (U.S. Army)

Ulysses S. Grant

Class of 1843. General in Chief of the Armies of the United States of America during the Civil War, he went on to become the President of the United States from 1869 to 1877.

John J. Pershing

Class of 1886. Nicknamed “Black Jack,” he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Forces during WWI and became General of the Armies in 1919. His tactics were often criticized for their high cost of lives, but he achieved several important military victories.

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U.S. Army

Douglas MacArthur

Class of 1903. Supreme Commander of the Pacific from 1941 to 1945, Supreme Commander of the UN Forces in Korea from 1950 to 1951. He received a Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Bataan.

George S. Patton, Jr

Class of 1909. Member of the U.S. Olympic team of 1912 (Pentathlon), he became a commander of the forces in the European Theater during WWII. Known for his bold tactics, he butted heads with his superiors a few times, but he achieved some great victories against the Nazis.

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U.S. Army

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Class of 1915. Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe from 1943 to the victory in 1945, reaching the 5-star general rank and organizing Operation Overlord. He went on to become President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

Robert F. McDermott

Class of 1943. A fighter pilot during WWII, he achieved the rank of brigadier general before having a successful business career, where he became Chairman of USAA.

Fidel V. Ramos

Class of 1950. An international cadet, he became an officer in the Phillipino Army, then served in the Philippino government, before becoming President of the Republic of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.

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NASA

Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin

Class of 1951. Astronaut from 1963 to 1972, he became the second man to ever walk on the Moon in July 1969.

Edward White II

Class of 1952. Astronaut from 1962 to 1967, he became the first American to do a spacewalk. He died tragically in 1967, during the Apollo spacecraft fire.

James V. Kimsey

Class of 1962. Served two tours in Vietnam as a Ranger. He co-founded and headed AOL as Chairman until 1995 and created the Kimsey Foundation upon retirement.

Marshall Larsen

Class of 1970. He became COO of the Goodrich Aerospace Corporation, CEO and chairman of Ithaco Space Systems, Inc, and chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association.

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Wikimedia Commons

Robert Alan McDonald

Class of 1975. Politician and businessman, he became the eighth Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the United States and went on to become CEO of Proctor & Gamble.

Alex Gorsky

Class of 1982. After graduation, he became an Army Ranger, where he reached the rank of Captain. He successfully transitioned into a business career, where he became CEO of Johnson & Johnson.


Feature image: U.S. Army photo

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Navy officer accused of espionage is about to go to trial

A military trial is set to begin for a Taiwan-born Navy officer accused of passing military secrets to China or Taiwan.


Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Turo, a Navy spokeswoman, confirmed on May 3 the espionage trial in Norfolk will begin May 4.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin is accused of failing to report foreign contacts and passing along secret national defense information. He is being held in a Navy brig in Virginia.

Also read: 7 ways to prove your spouse is really a spy

Court documents do not reveal whom Lin is accused of spying for. But officials told The Associated Press last year that the country involved is China or Taiwan, and possibly both.

Civilian defense attorney Larry Younger declined to comment. Lin’s sister, Jenny Lin, wrote to members of Congress last year and said the Navy lacks evidence to support the charges.

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The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

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Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan after conducting an aerial refuel Dec. 6, 2012. VMA-231 deployed to Afghanistan to provide close air support for counter-insurgency operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)


Dubbed the “widow-maker” in some aviation circles, the AV-8 Harrier is as dangerous to America’s enemies as it is to the pilots who commandeer it.

From its commissioning to as recent as 2013, there have been about 110 fighters involved in Class A mishaps — accidents causing death, permanent injury or at least $1 million in losses.

Related: This Marine pilot makes landing his Harrier fighter on a stool look easy

“Measured by its major accident rate per 100,000 flight hours, which is the military standard, the Harrier is the most dangerous plane in the U.S. military,” said Los Angeles Times reporter Alan C. Miller in the video below. “Overall the Marines have lost more than one-third of the entire Harrier fleet to accidents.”

The first Harrier model, the AV-8A had a Class A mishap rate of 31.77 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The Marines improved the rate to 11.44 per 100,000 hours with the introduction of the AV-8B in the mid-1980s, according to Miller.

By contrast, the Harrier has more than twice the accident rate of the F-16, more than three times the rate of the F/A-18, and about five times the rate of A-10.

Despite its astronomical accident rate, the fighter is beloved and remains in service more than 40 years since its introduction in 1971.

“One Marine general who flew the plane early on described it as an answer to a prayer,” Miller said.

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An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to the air combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) performs a vertical landing on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer June 16, 2013. Boxer is conducting amphibious squadron and MEU integrated training.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)

The Corps’ need for an aircraft with a vertical landing and short takeoff capability can be traced to the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal. The Marines lost over 1,000 men during that fight and felt abandoned by the Navy to fend for themselves.

“Since then, the precept that the Marines in the air should protect the Marines on the ground has been an essential part of the Corps’ ethos,” Miller said.

This History Channel video shows how the Harrier supports the Marine Corps’ mission to fight anywhere, anytime regardless of the risks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUFBV–62tA

Engineering Channel, YouTube

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5 ways US military combat uniforms have changed since Vietnam

When you’re asked what’s the most important tool for any U.S. service member who’s facing down a bad guy in battle, the most obvious response is his or her weapon.


When it comes down to it and the shots are flying, it’s the rifle or handgun that can make the difference between victory and defeat. But there’s a lot more to it than that, and oftentimes it’s what the trooper is actually wearing that can determine whether the bullets start flying in the first place.

Military uniform designers and suppliers over the last half century have been developing new ways to help soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines avoid fights if they want to and to survive them when things go loud. From things as simple as pocket placement and camouflage, to fabrics that won’t burn or show up in night vision goggles, the folks who build combat uniforms for America’s military have taken the best of material science and matched it with the conditions and operations troops are facing in increasingly complex and austere combat environments.

While the “modern” battle uniform traces much of its lineage to the Vietnam War, a lot has changed in the 50 years since that utilitarian design changed the course of what U.S. service members wear when they fight.

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The Vietnam war saw the first major evolution in combat uniforms since World War II. When troops needed better access to their gear, clothing manufacturers answered the call. (DoD photo)

1. Combat uniform pockets

It was really the Korean war that introduced the pant-leg cargo pockets we all know today, according to an official Army history. But combat uniforms issued to troops in Vietnam took those to another level.

With bellowed pleats and secure flaps, there were few items the side cargo pocket couldn’t handle. Vietnam-era combat blouses also used an innovative angled chest pocket design that made it easier to reach items in the heat of battle.

In the 1980s, the U.S. military ditched the angled chest pockets for vertical ones, mostly for appearance, and the combat trousers maintained their six-pocket design until the 2000s.

But when America went to war after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, pocket placement and design took a quantum leap. Way more “utilitarian” than combat threads of Vietnam and the Cold War, the new battle rigs are like night and day — with everything from pen pockets near the wrist of a combat blouse, to ankle pockets on the trousers to bellowed shoulder pockets.

Interestingly, it was special operations troops that developed the shoulder pocket later adopted by both the Marine Corps and Army for their combat uniforms. During the opening days of the Global War on Terror, spec ops troops cut cargo pockets off their extra trousers and sewed them onto the arms of their combat jackets, giving them extra storage within an arm’s reach.

Modern combat uniforms now also incorporate internal pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, so when a trooper has to take a knee or go prone in a hurry, he’s not banging his joints on the dirt.

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Marines in Iraq were issued fire-resistant flight suits to guard against burns from IED strikes.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

 

2. Combat uniform material

By Vietnam, the heavy cotton and polyester of the Korean War-era uniform were replaced with a tropical-weight cotton ripstop that was wind-resistant yet cooler for troops operating in the sweltering heat of Southeast Asian jungles.

Both trousers and jackets were made of this cotton-poplin material for years, until the Army adopted the so-called “Battle Dress Uniform” in the early 1980s. That uniform was made with a nylon-cotton blended material with was more durable and easier to launder than the Vietnam-era combat duds.

But the military was forced to offer a variation of the BDU in cotton ripstop after operations in Grenada proved the nylon-cotton blend material too hot in warmer climates.

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Though today’s combat uniforms are made with similar materials to those of the BDU-era, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan proved that some front-line troops need kit that’s resistant to the flame and flash of roadside bombs and IEDs.

Early on, some troops — including Marines deployed to Iraq — wore flight suits manufactured with flame resistant Nomex during combat operations. But that fabric wasn’t durable enough for the rigors of battle on the ground. So companies developed new, more durable flame-resistant fabrics for combat uniforms like Defender-M and Drifire.

Now all the services offer variants of their standard combat uniforms in flame-resistant material that protects troops against burns from improvised bombs.

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American Special Forces soldiers adopted the camouflage pattern of ARVN Rangers dubbed “tiger stripe” to blend into the Southeast Asian jungles.
(Image by Bettmann/CORBIS by Shunsuke Akatsuka via Flicker)

 

3. Combat uniform camouflage

Ahhh, camouflage.

It’s like the 1911 vs. (everything) debate, or the M-16 versus the AK-47 argument.

For decades, the question of camouflage patterns has been as much art as it was science. And over the last half century, the U.S. military has seen no fewer than 11 different patterns bedecking America’s warfighters.

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The six-color Desert Combat Uniform is the iconic look of Operation Desert Storm.
(U.S. Military photo via Propper)

 

Most Joes in the Vietnam War were clad in olive drab combat uniforms. But special operations troops began using camouflage garments in greater numbers during the war, and acted as the bleeding edge for pattern development within the wider military.

From ARVN Ranger “tiger stripes” to old-school duck hunter camo, the commandos in The ‘Nam proved that breaking up your outline saved lives. With the adoption of the BDU in 1981, the military locked into the service-wide “woodland” camouflage pattern.

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The Marine Corps was the first service in the U.S. military to dramatically change its uniforms from the BDU design. The service also was the first to adopt a “digital” camo pattern.
(U.S. Military photo via Propper)

 

In the early ’90s, the services developed desert combat uniform with a so-called “six-color desert” pattern (also known as “chocolate chips”). These uniforms were issued to troops conducting exercises and operations in arid climates and were more widely issued to service members deployed to Operation Desert Storm.

The woodland BDU dominated for more than 20 years until shortly after 9/11. And it was the Marine Corps that took the whole U.S. military in an entirely different direction.

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Soldiers complained that the UCP didn’t really work in any environment
(U.S. Army)

 

The Corps was the first to adopt a camouflage pattern with so-called “fractal geometry” — otherwise known as “digital camouflage” — that diverges from the curvy lines and solid colors of woodland to a more three-dimensional scheme designed to literally trick the brain. While the Marines adopted a digital woodland pattern and a desert version in 2003, the Army decided to try a single pattern that would work in a variety of environments a year later.

Dubbed the Universal Combat Pattern, or “UCP,” the green-grey pallet flopped, with most soldiers complaining that instead of working in a bunch of environments, it made Joes stand out in all of them. As in Vietnam, special operations troops engaged overseas adopted a commercial pattern dubbed “Multicam,” which harkened back to the analog patterns akin to woodland.

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The Navy recently adopted a new camouflage uniform in a pattern developed by the SEALs.
(U.S. Navy)

 

Pressure mounted on the Army to ditch UCP and adopt Multicam, and by 2015, the service abandoned the one-size-fits all digital pattern and adopted Multicam for all its combat garments.

Likewise, the Air Force and Navy experimented with different patterns and pallets since the Army adopted UCP, with the Sea Service issuing a blue digital uniform for its sailors and the Air Force settling on a digital tiger stripe pattern in a UCP pallet. In 2016, the Navy ditched its so-called “blueberry” pattern for one developed by the SEALs — AOR 1 and AOR 2 — which looks similar to the Marine Corps “MARPAT” digital scheme.

The Air Force still issues its Airman Battle Uniform in the digital tiger stripe pattern to all airmen except those deploying to Afghanistan and on joint missions in the combat zone.

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New uniforms incorporate innovative technology from the outdoor sports industry.
(DoD)

 

4. Combat uniform design

Aside from the rapid development and deployment of new camouflage patterns, some of the most impressive changes to U.S. military combat uniforms have been with their overall design.

Gone is the boxy, ill-fitting combat ensemble of troops slogging through the rice paddies and jungle paths of Southeast Asia. Today’s battle uniform traces its design to the high-tech construction of the extreme outdoor sports world, from high-altitude climbing to remote big game hunting.

Troops in the services now have uniforms that have pre-curved legs and arms, angled and bellowed pockets that stay flat when they’re empty, Velcro closures and adjustable waists. The services even use specially-designed combat shirts that ditch the jacket altogether and use built-in moisture-wicking fabric to keep a trooper’s torso cool under body armor yet provide durable sleeves and arm pockets for gear needed in the fight.
With integrated pockets for knee pads and elbow pads, the new combat uniforms’ design takes “utilitarian” to a whole new level.

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US Marines inside the Citadel in Hue City rescue the body of a dead Marine during the Tet Offensive.
(Photo via Flickr)

 

5. Combat armor

Aside from the actual clothing an American combat trooper wears, there are a host of new protective items that make up his or her battlefield loadout. These items have evolved exponentially over the last half century, and many uniform manufacturers have supplied protective accessories to integrate with their clothing.

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Students from the Saint George’s University of Medicine pose with a member of the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation Urgent Fury.
(U.S. Military photo via Flickr)

 

Late in the war, the Vietnam-era soldier or Marine was issued a body armor vest that would protect him against grenade fragments and some pistol rounds. Made of ballistic nylon and fiberglass plates, the armor was best known as the “flak jacket.” It was heavy and didn’t protect against rifle rounds.

In the 1980s, the U.S. military developed a new body armor system using steel plates and Kevlar fabric that could stop a rifle round. First used in combat during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, the so-called Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops, or PASGT, was a revolution in personal protection.

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Today’s armor and helmets are lighter, more protective and offer a host of methods to modify the loadout for specific missions.
(Photo courtesy Propper)

 

Still heavy and bulky, armor evolved over the years since 9/11 to be lighter, with a slimmer profile and much more protective than the flaks of yore. Today’s vests can protect against multiple armor-piercing rifle rounds, shrapnel and pistol shots — all in a vest that weighs a fraction of its PASGT brethren.

Like the armor vest, the “steel pot” of Vietnam has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. The new Army Combat Helmet and Marine Corps Lightweight Helmet can take multiple bullet strikes and shrapnel hits, allow for greater mobility than the Vietnam-era one or the PASGT and now incorporate various attachment points for accessories like night vision goggles, IR strobes and cameras.

 

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USAF vet nabs lead role in psychological thriller

U.S. Air Force veteran Skye P. Marshall (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Good Sam) has landed her first lead role in the psychological thriller Daft State.

You may recognize Skye as one of We Are The Mighty’s most dynamic video hosts. She’s a fantastic talent in her own right and Hollywood is starting to take notice.

The film, scripted by Chad Bishoff and Sam Harter, follows the mysterious psychological destruction of Easton (played by Mindhunter’s Christopher Backus) as he is driven to the edge of sanity, and possible self-harm, by those that love him most — his wife (Marshall) and daughter.

“I’ve always been inspired by great psychological thrillers. Mental health is also a central figure in our film, and with everything that’s happening in the world right now, we have to shed light on this important topic,” said Bishoff. “I’m grateful for our creative team and our amazing actors who will bring this story to life. It’s so important.”

Marshall, who is currently in Nebraska filming Daft State, will also appear as Dr. Lex Trulie in the new CBS series Good Sam, starring Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill, Chicago Fire). Good Sam focuses on Dr. Samantha Griffith (Bush) as she learns the ropes as the new top surgeon at Lakeshore Sentinel Hospital, a role she’s had ever since the legendary leader of the place her father (Jason Isaacs) — fell into a coma.

Marshall is perhaps best known for her portrayal of badass Haitian Voodoo Priestess Mambo Marie on Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and for playing Ms. Fowdy for two seasons on The CW/DC’s superhero series Black Lightning

We can’t wait to see what she does next.

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A Chinese jet nearly collided with a US Navy plane again

A United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance plane had a near-collision with a Chinese fighter in the East China Sea. The incident is the latest in a series of close calls between Chinese and American military assets.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, a Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighter armed with air-to-air missiles flew under the EP-3 and pulled up about 300 feet in front of the Navy plane, forcing it to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision.

The incident reportedly took place in international airspace, about 90 miles from Qingdao, headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet.

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According to GlobalSecurity.org, the North Sea Fleet includes some of China’s most powerful assets, including a number of the nuclear-powered submarines in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The incident came days after Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke with his Chinese counterpart about North Korea.

The United States and China have been involved in a number of incidents in recent months. This past May, another pair of J-10s had a close encounter with a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, coming within 200 yards of the plane, and making slow turns in front of the plane.

Also in May, the crew of an Air Force OC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane were on the receiving end of a “Top Gun” intercept that the Department of Defense characterized as “unprofessional.” In 2001, a J-8 “Finback” collided with an EP-3E, killing the Chinese pilot, and forcing the EP-3E to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield.

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Chengdu J-10 taking off. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The United States has carried out a number of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region, including a passage within six miles of Mischief Reef. China has threatened to fine ships that do not obey its maritime edicts in the South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.

While not as prominently in the news as the South China Sea, the East China Sea is also the location of territorial disputes, notably the Senkaku Islands, which both Japan and China claim.

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