The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.
In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.
While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.
“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”
The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.
The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.
According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.
Checking out your weapon from the armory can be like standing in line at the DMV — it’s the worst game of hurry up and wait ever.
You were instructed to show up bright and early to check out your weapon, but the armorers never seemed to be there on time.
But once you received your rifle, life seemed to finally make sense now that you get to shoot something up. After an amazing day at the range, you now have the problem of cleaning the rifle so well the Marines working at the armory will take it back on your first pass.
If not you’ll stay and clean all evening long because the armors usually stand a 24-hour duty.
So check out how your day typically went after you checked out your rifle from the armory.
1. When you’re told to be on time at the armory but the gate is locked.
Where are they? (Images via Giphy)
2. After 20 minutes of ringing the bell and a few Starbucks espresso shots — you finally gain entry.
Hulk wants in! (Images via Giphy)
3. When the armorer’s window finally opens for the first time after waiting what felt like an eternity.
That’s freakin’ bright. (Images via Giphy)
4. The look you give when the armorer when he asks you for the weapon’s serial number but all the caffeine you drank pulled all the blood out of your brain. Good thing you brought your weapons card with you.
Damn, I’m having a brain fart. (Images via Giphy)
5. Then when you get your beautiful and perfectly oiled rifle from the armor.
It feels like f*cking Christmas. (Images via Giphy)
6. How you felt running to the range to take your stress out on a few already destroyed armored vehicles.
Move! Out of my way! (Image via Giphy)
7. How you felt after putting hundreds of rounds accurately down range.
I’m the strongest man alive! (Images via Giphy)
8. After the adrenaline goes away, you realized it’s already 1700, you still need to clean out all the carbon that’s built up, and you have a date in a few hours.
Where did the time go? (Images via Giphy)
9. This is how fast you ran back to the armory.
Move! (Images via Giphy)
10. You scrubbed your weapon in record time.
That looks good enough. (Images via Giphy)
11. But the armorer used his dirty finger and rejected taking the rifle back into storage.
That’s not the finger we were talking about but okay. (Images via Giphy)
12. Then you yelled …
We feel you. (Images via Giphy)
13. You then began angrily scrubbing your rifle.
F*ck you carbon! (Images via Giphy)
14. Then you noticed the other platoons going home for the day and you’re still stuck here.
Farewell. (Images via Giphy)
15. After your arm gets tired, the perfect idea pops into your head.
I got it! (Images via Giphy)
16. When you walk up to the armorer’s window and you clearly put $10 inside the weapon’s ejection port.
We think she’s trying to drop a hint. (Images via Giphy)
Some 50,000 troops and thousands of vehicles are ranging across Norway and the Norwegian and Baltic seas for NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which officials have said is the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War.
The focus for the dozens of ships and planes taking part turned in November 2018 to the naval portion of the exercise.
All 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland are taking part in Trident Juncture, but only about 16 countries are joining the naval drills, bringing 65 ships and submarines and eight maritime-patrol aircraft.
The maritime contingent will be split — about 5,000 sailors and 30 vessels on each side — sometimes facing off against each other.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman the North Sea, Oct. 23, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Raymond Maddocks)
US Naval Forces Europe-Africa chief Adm. James Foggo, who is leading Trident Juncture, has said the exercise, which is done regularly, was scheduled for autumn in the northern latitudes for a reason: “We’re toughening everyone up.”
Harsh conditions have taken a toll. Before Trident Juncture’s official start on Oct. 25, 2018, two Navy ships carrying Marines to Iceland for pre-exercises had to take shelter at Reykjavik. (The exercise ends on Nov. 7, 2018.)
On one of them, the USS Gunston Hall, heavy seas damaged the well deck and landing craft and injured sailors. The conditions also restricted what Marines could do in Iceland.
US Marines board a CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter aboard USS Iwo Jima during an air-assault exercise in Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018.
“Our Marines and their amphibious ships were coming to Iceland, were going to spend some time in the port of Reykjavik, and also conduct a practice amphibious land and a practice amphibious air assault,” Foggo said on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“Because of the weather, we did not get the amphibious landing off, but that is part of the learning curve of operating at this time of year in the latitudes of the high north,” he added.
“We’ve made it quite clear that we will look for operational risk management first,” Foggo said. “This is an exercise, not a crisis, but weather can be as capable an adversary as another nation that invades your territory, and we’re finding out that there’s some very challenging conditions out there.”
‘Colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas’
Thousands of sailors from NATO navies, including roughly 6,000 with the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group, are still at sea, operating in what can be tough conditions.
After a shortened deployment around Europe this summer, the Truman left Norfolk in late August 2018 and sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2018, becoming the first US aircraft carrier to do so in nearly 30 years.
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Michael Powell moves ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 23, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
Since then the strike group has been in the Norwegian Sea, at times working with Norwegian navy ships inside that country’s territorial waters, Lt. Cmdr. Laura Stegherr, a spokeswoman for the Truman strike group, said in an email.
The group took several steps to prepare its ships and crews to be “confronted by the trio of colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas operating in the Norwegian Sea and north of the Arctic Circle,” Stegherr said.
“This included ensuring all sailors exposed to the elements — such as sailors working on the flight deck, sailors conducting underway replenishments, and bridge wing lookouts — were outfitted with durable, high-quality cold-weather gear,” Stegherr added. “All equipment, from as small as a computer monitor to as large as a forklift, was secured for sea.”
Operational planners, meteorological and oceanographic experts, and navigators worked together to chart a safe course, Stegherr said.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Angelina Peralez mans a sound-powered phone for an aircraft-elevator operation in hangar-bay control aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 29, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Granado)
The high flight deck on a carrier would likely be spared from the churn at sea level, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
But ocean spray can reach topside on a carrier, Clark said, and “if you get some precipitation or something, you’ve got to think about going up there and de-icing the deck, which, if you’re on a ship, that could be a huge hassle.”
Crews on aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships also have to worry about aircraft, which are vulnerable to the cold.
“When you go up in the North Atlantic, even at lower altitudes you’re running into some temperature problems, and you’ve got much higher humidity, so icing can be a problem” on fixed-wing aircraft, Clark said.
Rotor blades on helicopters and other aircraft can accumulate ice, weighing them down.
“Also hydraulics are a problem,” especially for aircraft, Clark added. In intense cold, “the hydraulic oil starts to become too viscous, and the system is designed to operate at a certain level of viscosity, and if it starts to become too thick, the pressure goes up and you could end up blowing seals.”
Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
On ships with the Truman, like guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut and USS Forrest Sherman and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, where crews are closer to the water, harsh conditions can be felt more acutely.
“On a surface ship you’ve got parts of the ship that are not very well heated,” Clark said.
On “the bridge, for example, you have sliding doors, essentially, that go out to the bridge wings, and in the bridge wings you’re exposed. You’re out there exposed to the elements, and the bridge itself is not particularly insulated, because it’s got a bunch of windows.”
“It sort of affects people’s performance, just because you’re constantly cold,” Clark added.
On surface ships, the masts and antennas sprouting from the superstructure can gather ice, affecting the performance of that equipment and even the handling of the ship — in extreme cases, the ship’s centers of gravity and buoyancy can be affected.
De-icing solutions are available, but they aren’t always effective on every surface. “So you kind of have to constantly go up there and chip and clear ice off of the mast,” Clark said.
Sailors on the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut supervise the refueling probe during a replenishment-at-sea with fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn, Oct. 20, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Cameron M. Stoner)
Even below deck, the outside environment is still a factor.
“For the engineering plants, you use the seawater to cool a lot of your components,” Clark said. “In the case of a surface ship that’s got gas-turbine power plants, you use that to cool the gas-turbine power plant, depending on how old the ship is.”
Cooler water can make engines and other components more efficient, but water that’s too cold can also take a toll.
“If you’re trying to cool a gas-turbine generator … there’s kind of an ideal temperature range that you want to maintain it at,” Clark said. “So if the cooling water becomes too cold, it’s hard to keep it in that normal range. It actually gets too cold, and you start to get less efficiency out of your turbine.”
Using water that’s too cold to cool components can also lead to condensation, which in turn can cause corrosion or short-circuits in electronics, Clark added.
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 26, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)
‘Rebuilding our muscle memory’
Despite the challenges of operating in northern latitudes, the Navy says its presence there will grow.
The “Truman is making the most of an operating area where carriers typically haven’t gone for a couple of decades, and in doing so, we’re kind of rebuilding our muscle memory,” Foggo said on his podcast. “It’s very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike-group deployments … because it’s very challenging conditions up there.”
The Truman strike group returned to Norfolk in 2018 after three months deployed in the 6th Fleet area of operations, which cover the eastern Atlantic and Europe.
That was a departure from the usual six-month deployment — a change comes as a part of the “dynamic force employment” concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to add unpredictability to US military operations.
The Truman’s trip to the Arctic Circle is also part of that — “showing the Russians that we’re not bound by this constant carrier presence in the Middle East, so that we can go and operate closer to Russia and into areas that Russia traditionally has operated in, like in the Cold War,” Clark said.
“The other thing is to get US naval forces more practiced operating in these environments in case they have to in the future,” Clark added. “Because in particular one of the things they’re likely doing is anti-submarine warfare.”
An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter lands on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 5, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)
The submarines in Russia’s Northern Fleet, which is based not far from Russia’s border with Norway, are considered highly capable, Clark said. Foggo himself has warned about Russian submarines — their land-attack cruise missiles in particular.
“That’s the primary trend up in the Northern Fleet,” Clark said. “So I imagine a lot of what the carrier strike group is doing up there is anti-submarine warfare.”
Stegherr said strike group aircraft had carried out operations at sea and over land to support Trident Juncture and that “the strike group conducted high-end air, surface and subsurface warfare operations” with partner forces, which were meant “to refine our network of capabilities able to respond rapidly and decisively to any potential situation.”
The Truman strike group’s presence in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Arctic Circle “demonstrates to our allies and partners that we will uphold our commitments, regardless of the vastness or the unforgiving nature of the sea,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, commander of the Truman strike group, said in a statement.
“This may be the first strike group to operate for this length of time this far north in many years, but it will not be the last.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In January 2017, the CIA release a large number of newly-declassified documents about information collected on the Soviet Union. One of those documents included two pages of Russian jokes about the Soviet Union.
Headed “Soviet Jokes for the DDCI” (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence), the jokes make reference to Mikhail Gorbachev, so they date from at least as late as the 1980s. The jokes are surprisingly directed at all Soviet leaders, from Lenin to Brezhnev.
It’s good to know there were chances for levity behind the Iron Curtain. One thing’s for sure, people didn’t love Communism as much as the Russians led us to believe.
A worker standing in a liquor line says, “I have had enough, save my place, I am going to shoot Gorbachev.” Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line. His friends ask, “Did you get him?” “No,” he replied. “The line there was even longer than the line here.”
Q: What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek*?
A: Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know it yet.
*(Alexander Dubcek led the Czech resistance to the Warsaw Pact during the Prague Spring of 1968, but was forced to resign)
Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition class essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They are all communists.” Sentence from the same boy’s composition the following week: “My cat’s seven kittens are all capitalists.” Teacher reminds the boy that the previous week he had said the kittens were communists. “But now they’ve opened their eyes,” replies the child.
A Chukchi (a tribe of Eskimo-like people on Russia’s northwest coast) is asked what he would do if the Soviet borders were opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he replies. Asked why, he responds: “So I wouldn’t get trampled in the stampede out!” Then he is asked what he would do if the U.S. border is opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he says, “so I can see the first person crazy enough to come here.”
A joke heard in Arkhangelsk has it that someone happened to call the KGB headquarters just after a major fire. “We cannot do anything. The KGB has just burned down!” he was told. Five minutes later, he called back and was told again the KGB had burned. When he called a third time, the telephone operator recognized his voice and asked “why do you keep calling back? I just told you the KGB has burned down.” “I know,” the man said. “I just like to hear it.”
A train bearing Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev stops suddenly when the tracks run out. Each leader applies his own, unique solution. Lenin gathers workers and peasants from miles around and exhorts them to build more track. Stalin shoots the train crew when the train still doesn’t move. Khrushchev rehabilitates the dead crew and orders the tracks behind the train ripped up and relaid in front. Brezhnev pulls down the curtains and rocks back and forth, pretending the train is moving. And Gorbachev calls a rally in front of the locomotive, where he leads a chant: “No tracks! No tracks! No tracks!”
Ivanov: Give me an example of perestroika*.
Sidorov: (Thinks) How about menopause?
* The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring” – usually referring to economic liberalization by Gorbachev.
An old lady goes to the Gorispolkom* with a question, but by the time she gets to the official’s office she has forgotten the purpose of her visit. “Was it about your pension?” the official asks. “No, I get 20 Rubles a month, that’s fine,” she replies. “About your apartment?” “No, I live with three people in one room of a communal apartment, I’m fine,” she replies. She suddenly remembers: “Who invented Communism? –– the Communists or scientists?” The official responds proudly, “Why the Communists of course!” “That’s what I thought,” the babushka** says. “If the scientists had invented it, they would have tested it first on dogs!”
* Gorispolkom is the local political authority of a Soviet city.
** A babushka is another term for older woman or grandmother.
An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell “To hell with Ronald Reagan.” The Russian replies: “That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘to hell with Ronald Reagan’ too.”
A man goes into a shop and asks “You don’t have any meat?” “No,” replies the sales lady. “We don’t have any fish. It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have any meat.”
A man is driving with his wife and small child. A militiaman pulls them over and makes the man take a breathalyzer test. “See,” the militiaman says, “you’re drunk.” The man protests that the breathalyzer must be broken and invites the cop to test his wife. She also registers as drunk. Exasperated, the man invites the cop to test his child. When the child registers drunk as well, the cop shrugs and says “Yes, perhaps it is broken,” and sends them on their way. Out of earshot the man tells his wife, “See, I told you is wouldn’t hurt to give the kid five grams of vodka.”
The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.
The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.
The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.
“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”
Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.
“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”
But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”
“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”
Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.
Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.
Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.
Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.
“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”
The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.
“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”
“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” star Channing Tatum is among over 4,000 people who may have had personal information exposed on an unsecured backup drive owned by an unidentified lieutenant colonel.
According to a report by the International Business Times, the information exposed on the unsecured drive, which was able to be accessed via an internet connection, included passport numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers, security clearance levels, and completed SF86 applications for security clearances.
The drive was secured with a password when the leak was discovered by a researcher.
The information contained is considered the “holy grail” by some experts in the field of national security, the website noted. Former government officials told ZDNet that the information could be used for blackmail purposes.
SF86 forms contain information that is used to determine what sort of classified material an individual can have access to. That information includes convictions, financial information, personal or business relationships with foreign nationals, mental health history and similar information. The data breach puts the individuals at risk for identity theft and financial fraud.
Romanian hacker “Guccifer”, who is known for many cyber intrusions against the United States. (NBC News screenshot.)
The materials on the drive included the spreadsheet that had information on Tatum gathered prior to a six-day tour the actor took in Afghanistan. Other unidentified celebrities also had their contact information compromised.
Information on various probes of American officials was also compromised in the hack. Some of those probes involved allegations of abuse of power. Bank information was also on the compromised disk, as well as years of e-mails.
Both ZDNet and the International Business Times noted that the device was accessible to anyone and searchable, so it may be impossible to determine who has accessed the drive.
In “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” a newly-released documentary that deals with the current PTSD epidemic, writer and director Ric Roman Waugh (“Felon,” “Snitch”) does exactly what he needed to do to respect the importance and delicacy of the subject matter: He gets out of the way of the story by letting the principals tell it themselves.
“My job was to let them tell their story with unflinching candor,” Waugh said at a recent screening in Los Angeles.
TWILDM follows the post-war lives of two veteran special operators. Jayson Floyd served in Afghanistan as a Sergeant in the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and Tyler Grey was a member of Delta Force and served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Floyd and Grey met at a Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan in 2002, but their friendship blossomed after their complicated paths of post-active duty life joined around the methods they’d unlocked for dealing with their PTSD – mainly understanding the benefits of a supportive community of those wrestling with their own forms of post-traumatic stress.
Waugh sets the tempo of the documentary with soliloquies featuring a number of people, but mostly Floyd and Grey. Their personalities are at once different and complimentary. Floyd is Hollywood-leading-man handsome, moody and brooding, and speaks with a rapid-fire meter that forces you to listen closely to cull out the wisdom therein. Grey is more upbeat, a conversationalist who uses comedy to mute his emotional scars. He is quick with folksy metaphors that show how many times he’s told some of these stories, and he matter-of-factly relates how he sustained massive wounds to his right arm as breezily as a friend talking about a football injury.
The two warriors’ physical appearance changes throughout the documentary, which has the net effect of showing the passage of time and the range of their moods. Sometimes they’re clean-shaven; sometimes they’re bearded. Their hair length varies. The differences color the underlying chaos around the search for identity of those dealing with PTSD.
Others are featured, as well. Grey’s ex-girlfriend singularly comes to represent the toll of PTSD borne by those around the afflicted. She’s beautiful and articulate, and as she speaks from a couch with Grey seated next to her, a pathos emerges that is intense and heartbreaking. You can tell she loves him, but they’ll never be together again. Too much has been said during the darkest days. For his part, his expression evinces resignation for the beast inside of him that he is still taming, as he’ll have to for the rest of his life. The sadness in his eyes is that of a werewolf warning those who would attempt to get close to stay away lest they be torn to shreds in the dark of night.
Floyd’s brother tells of the letter Floyd wrote explaining why he couldn’t be physically present to be the best man at his wedding. As the brother reads the letter he begins to weep, which causes Floyd to weep as well. The image of the tough special operator breaking down is very powerful.
But perhaps the most powerful scene is the one featuring Grey participating in a special operations challenge in Las Vegas. He’s back in his element, wearing the gear he wore so many missions ago, a member of a team of elite warriors bonded by a clear-cut mission.
The team cleanly makes its way through a series of obstacles, but at the last one – where they must each climb a 15-foot rope to ring a bell – Grey falters. His wounded hand won’t hold him. He tries again and again, each attempt increasingly pathetic. It’s hard to watch. He finally gives up.
His teammates pat him on the back and put on the good face, but Grey is obviously crushed by his failure – something that goes against every molecule of his special operations DNA.
Grey convinces his teammates (and the camera crew, as Waugh revealed at the LA screening) to get up early the following day and try again before the event organizers tear down the obstacle course. This time Grey rings the bell. The scene captures the triumph of that day and, in a broader sense, the will to triumph over PTSD.
“Dealing with PTSD is a constant process,” Floyd said. “To do this right we had to rip the scab off and show the wound.”
“We know we’re not the worst case,” Grey added. “This is our story – just about us – and we’re putting ourselves out there not to compare but hopefully to coax people into sharing.”
Find out more about “That Which I Love Destroys Me,” including dates and places for the nationwide tour, here.
At the U.S. Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, students undergo some of the most grueling training the force offers.
“Sniper school is one of the hardest schools in the military, not physically, but mentally,” Staff Sgt. Brian Moran, one of the 11 instructors who oversees the training, told the Army News Service.
Army snipers face demanding missions and often operate with little or no support, and the training at Fort Benning tests their ability to work in isolation and under pressure.
Below, you can see some of the rigorous and, for many, overwhelming training that Army sniper candidates endure:
12. Over 300 candidates start the seven-week Sniper School course at Fort Benning each year. In early August, 46 soldiers were on hand for the first day. Each had already met demanding criteria, including navigation and marksmanship evaluations, physical-fitness tests, and psychological examinations.
11. “Snipers are often deployed in small two-man teams, which requires a great deal of mental fortitude to remain focused on the task at hand,” said Moran, the Sniper School instructor. “If individuals have difficulty being isolated, there is a potential for mission failure.”
10. After a battery of physical-fitness tests on the first day, candidates are taught to make a ghillie suit — a camouflage suit that uses foliage to break up the outline of the soldier’s body.
9. The first test of their new concealment comes hours later, crawling hundreds of feet through tall grass and a ditch filled with water, mud, rocks, and vegetation.
8. Part of the exercise requires students to carry and drag one another — testing their ability to help their comrades if one is wounded or incapacitated in the field. “The object of this training is to teach students that being a sniper can be a difficult and dirty job,” Moran said. “These are the conditions that snipers will often find themselves in.”
7. The second week of training sends them into the field to stalk a target, putting students’ patience and camouflage to the test. The Georgia heat and a variety of critters combine with instructors using high-powered optics to suss out prospective snipers. Stalking requires close attention to detail and “a high tolerance for discomfort,” Moran said. “Most of the students who are dropped from the sniper course have failed because of their lack of discipline.”
6. Also during the second week, sniper candidates are taught to do reconnaissance, which is part of their secondary mission to collect and report battlefield information. Snipers who can operate with little support and carry out those missions, Moran said, can aid commanders at every level. “Snipers are force multipliers,” he told Army News Service.
5. The third week mixes classroom work with firing on a range. Students are taught how to communicate with spotters, and they fire 80 to 120 rounds a day at targets ranging from 300 meters to 800 meters away. Starting in week three, students are paired up and alternate turns as sniper and as spotter. The duos are trained to work in tandem to track targets and defend themselves.
4. After the soldier’s third week, the trials turn from physical to mental. The fourth week adds night-fire and limited-visibility firing scenarios. Record-fire tests see snipers paired with spotters and given five targets and a seven-minute time limit. The pressure becomes too much for some, and three students were sent home.
3. Week five challenges sniper candidates to hit targets at unknown distances, as well as moving targets. “Students must learn how to properly lead their target so the round will impact a given position when the target will be there,” Moran said. Two more students were sent home.
2. The demands do not slack in week six. They are taught to use new weapons, like the M9 pistol or the M107 .50-caliber sniper rifle, and to fire from unstable platforms or other positions. The seventh week, known as the “employment phase,” challenges students to plan and carry out a mission after receiving an operational order.
1. The course culminates in week seven with time-limited road march to a range for a “final shot.” Given two bullets and one target, students must calculate range and engage, with their scores determining honor graduate and “top gun” status for graduation. At graduation on September 22, just four of the 46 students remained. “The training in sniper school is hands down the best I’ve received in the Army,” said Sgt. Stephen Ray, a member of the 1st Armored Brigade who graduated No. 1 in the class — Top Gun.
A U.S. Army artillery unit is pounding Islamic State fighters inside Syria from a remote desert camp just inside Iraq.
Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment artillery unit have been operating alongside Iraqi artillery units at a temporary fire support base in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border for the past several weeks, according to a recent Defense Department news release.
U.S. soldiers, Marines and sailors helped Iraqi forces build the camp by as part of Operation Inherent Resolve’s support of Operation Roundup, a major offensive by Syrian Democratic Forces aimed at clearing the middle Euphrates River Valley of entrenched, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters.
Little has been made public in recent months about the U.S. military’s use of temporary fire bases to continue the ISIS fight. But NPR published a brief report July 2, 2018, about a “remote outpost” on the border of Iraq and Syria that seems to be the one described in the recent Defense Department release.
Some 150 Marines and soldiers are stationed there, NPR reported, in addition to Iraqi forces.
In the release, troops stationed at the fire base described the satisfaction of working side-by-side with Iraqi units.
“The most satisfying moment in the mission, so far, was when all three artillery units, two Iraqi and one U.S., executed simultaneous fires on a single target location,” said Maj. Kurt Cheeseman, Task Force Steel operations officer and ground force commander at the fire support base, in the release.
Language barriers forced U.S. and Iraqi artillery units to develop a common technical language to coordinate fire missions that involved both American and Iraqi artillery pieces.
“This mission required the use of multiple communications systems and the translation of fire commands, at the firing point, directing the Iraqi Army guns to prepare for the mission, load and report, and ultimately fire,” 1st Lt. Andrea Ortiz Chevres, Task Force Steel fire direction officer, said in the release.
The Iraqi howitzer unit used different procedures to calculate the firing data needed to determine the correct flight path to put rounds on target.
“In order to execute coalition fire missions, we had to develop a calculation process to translate their firing data into our mission data to validate fires prior to execution,” Cheeseman said in the release.
Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Hawthorne, Task Force Steel master gunner, added that Iraqi forces are “eager to work with the American M777 howitzer and fire direction crews and share artillery knowledge and procedures,” according to the release.
It’s not clear from the release when the base was created or how long it has been active. With little infrastructure and no permanent buildings, troops face temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert.
“They are enduring harsh weather conditions and a lack of luxuries but, unlike previous deployments for many, each element is performing their core function in a combat environment,” Cheeseman said in the release. “The fire support base is a perfect example of joint and coalition execution that capitalizes on the strengths of each organization to deliver lethal fires, protect our force and sustain operations across an extended operational reach.”
Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force units provided planners, personnel and equipment to create the austere base, built on a bare patch of desert and raised by hand. Coalition partners from several different nations participated in the planning and coordination of the complex movement of supplies.
“Supplies were delivered from both air and ground by the Army, Air Force and Marines, and include delivery platforms such as medium tactical vehicles, UH-60 Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks, CV-22 Ospreys, C-130 Hercules and a C-17 Globemaster,” 1st Lt. Ashton Woodard, a troop executive officer in Task Force Longknife, said in the release. “We receive resupply air drops that include food, water, fuel, and general supplies.”
One of the most vital missions involved setting up a security perimeter to provide stand-off and protection for the U.S. and Iraqi artillery units.
“Following 10 days of around-the-clock labor in intense environmental conditions, the most satisfying moment was seeing the completion of the physical security perimeter,” said one Marine working security at the fire base, according to the release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
In 2017, the Navy and Marine Corps hit the wall, with a string of deadly accidents on the sea and in the air. In 2018, we’ll see whether the overstressed sea services start saying “no” to missions.
That means battles both in the Pentagon and on the Hill. The newly named Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, seems to be charting a collision course with joint commanders, who he says have run the services ragged with too many missions, and with the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, which gave joint headquarters preeminence over the four armed services in many areas. In recent years Congress and the Pentagon have restored some of the service chiefs’ authority over weapons acquisitions, but they haven’t questioned the basic balance of power set in law some 31 years ago. Now the Strategic Readiness Review which Spencer commissioned has put changing Goldwater-Nichols on the table.
How to make the case for change? “We’ll start every conversation with 17 dead sailors,” Spencer pledged in September. But 17 deaths is just the beginning. While Spencer was talking specifically about two deadly surface ship collisions this summer, transport aircraft crashes killed 19 Marines in July and August. In response, the Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, ordered rolling safety stand-downs at all Marine aviation units.
This summer was just a particularly lethal spike in a long-running trend. Crashes of a C-2 transport and a T-45 trainer killed five more Navy personnel just since fiscal year 2018 began on October 1st. Three naval aircraft have been lost in accidents since Oct. 1, another three damaged.
In fiscal 2017, Navy aircraft suffered 10 Class A Mishaps involving permanent disability, loss of life, or more than $2 million in damage. The Marines, with a much smaller air fleet, suffered another 10. Long-term, both services have seen rising accident rates ever since 2013, when the Budget Control Act abruptly cut funds for training and maintenance. The Marines in particular have seen their accident rate — which has long been higher than the Navy’s — more than double over the last two years.
As costly as these accidents are, and as devastating as these deaths have been, the biggest potential catastrophe is a force unready for combat. Early in 2017, the sea services admitted that 53 percent of all naval aircraft were grounded for maintenance, rising to 62 percent for strike fighters and 74 percent of Marine Corps F-18 Hornets. As for surface ships, both a former deputy secretary of defense and a panel of retired captains have publicly argued that the recent series of accidents — not just the two fatal ones — shows a force struggling with basic seamanship, let alone the complex skills required to fight an enemy fleet. Meanwhile the third pillar of the Navy, the submarine branch, has avoided deadly accidents but still has an unprecedented proportion of its boats idled awaiting maintenance: Ready submarines are consumed by day-to-day missions for the joint commanders, leaving few boats in reserve to “surge” in a major war.
So what do the Navy and Marine Corps need? The most precious commodity is time: time to catch up on training, time to clear up the maintenance backlog. But time is finite, and every day spent getting ready is one less day out doing missions. The services’ concern for readiness — particularly for major wars — conflicts directly with the theater commanders‘ need for naval presence. The current Pentagon process effectively gives the joint commanders a blank check for how heavily forces are committed around the world, with little provision for the services to throw a yellow flag and say “too much.” That’s the system Sec. Spencer seems ready to challenge.
Money would help too, of course. More money for maintenance and training would help readiness, but, less obviously, so would more money for modernization. Buying new ships and aircraft could let the Navy and Marines retire aging, unreliable equipment, which drags down readiness because it’s down for maintenance too often.
Or you could use the new ships and planes to increase the size of the force. Growth improves readiness by spreading the workload over more units, giving each more time for training and maintenance. (Of course, that assumes that the workload doesn’t go up too, and that training and maintenance funds go up proportionately instead of being spread thinner over the larger force). The Chief of Naval Operations himself, Adm. John Richardson, said that building more ships would help prevent future accidents, because with more ships at work, none of them would be worked as hard.
For now, then, the Navy and Marine Corps have to improve readiness without a larger force or even additional training and maintenance money. That means their only option is to take on fewer missions — which is why Sec. Spencer has to challenge Goldwater-Nichols.
The elite Russian force known as the Spetsnaz has a long history going back to the Red Bolshevik Guard, but little is known about them because of the unit’s secretive nature. They do, however, know their weapons.
Numbering around 15,000-17,000, most Spetsnaz are comparable to US Army Rangers, according to the book “Spetsnaz: Russia’s Special Forces” by Mark Galeotti. About 1,000 of them, however, are on par with the US Army’s Delta Force or Navy SEALs.
The Spetsnaz are also organized differently than US special operations forces in that they have units in multiple military branches, all with their own specialized training.
The Spetsnaz are also afforded the opportunity, according to Galeotti, to usually “get the first pick of new types [of weapons], and also enjoy much greater freedom to customize and “mix and match” their weapons.
Below are 11 of the most commonly used Spetsnaz weapons, according to Galeotti.
Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider
The standard Spetsnaz weapon, according to Galeotti, is some version of the 5.45mm AK-74 rifle. Seen here is the AK-74M, which is also the standard issue for much of the Russian Army. It weighs about 8 pounds and has a 30 round magazine capacity.
Moscow has repeatedly said that they would replace the AK-74 with the AN-94 or the AK-12, which would provide better long-range accuracy, according to Galeotti. The Spetsnaz have used these weapons sparingly, but budget constraints have set this plan back.
2. AKS-74U Carbine
Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider
Another AK-74 model that the Spetsnaz use is the short-barreled AKS-74U carbine. Also known as the “Krink”, it was originally developed for the Spetsnaz in the mid-1970s and has a nifty side-folding stock, according to The Firearm Blog.
Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider
Some Spetsnaz operators sport a slightly different AKM fitted with a GP-25 grenade launcher. The AKM, which is a modernized version of the AK-47, fires 7.62 mm rounds up to 383 yards.
4. SVD Dragunov
Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider
Spetsnaz snipers play an important role in the elite force, and they carry a variety of weapons. Although it’s less commonly used today, some still prefer the SVD Dragunov, which fires 7.62 mm rounds and can hit targets up to 1312 yards out.
5. SVDS Dragunov
Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider
Another rifle used by Spetsnaz snipers is the SVDS Dragunov, which is an advanced, lighter version of the SVD with a folding-stock. It was originally designed for Russian paratroopers — the VDV.
Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider
Seen here is the bolt-action SV-98 sniper rifle, which the Spetsnaz have begun using more frequently. It usually has a scope with a range of about 1,110 yards, according to Galeotti.
7. VSS Vintorez
For stealth missions, Spetsnaz are more likely to carry the VSS Vintorez silenced sniper rifle, which the soldier on the front right is holding. It fires a heavy 9x39mm round, according to Galeotti, but is not as accurate at long-range shots. This weapon has become a “trademark” for the Spetsnaz, and has been used a lot in Crimea.
8. PKP Pecheneg
The PKP Pecheneg general purpose machine gun is Spetsnaz’ main squad weapon, according to Galeotti. It fires a 7.62x54mm round, according to thefirearmblog.com, and began to be used by the Russian military in 2001. The PKP is similar to the US’ M249 machine gun.
9. AS Val
Photo from Russian Defense Ministry via Business Insider
Another rifle the Spetsnaz carry is a 9mm AS Val. It fires subsonic rounds, which means the bullet travels below the speed of sound and conceals the snapping sound of supersonic bullets.
They also use the SR-3, which is a shortened version of the AS Val. It fires a 9x39mm subsonic round. It’s intended for concealed carry and can be fitted with a suppressor.
For a sidearm, Spetsnaz operators generally carry the 9mm GSh-18. It’s made for close combat, has an 18 round magazine and bullets that can pierce body armor.
Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.
“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.
That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.
“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”
Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)
An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.
“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.
For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.
“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.
Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.
“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.
Robinson echoed his sentiments.
“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.
Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.
A C-17 Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”
That capability means filling a variety of roles.
“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”
Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.
“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.
“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”
Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.
“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”
The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.
Those partnerships are important.
“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”
For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.
Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.
That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.
“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.
The result was a total redo of network systems.
“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”
It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.
“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.
“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.
The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.
“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”
Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.
“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.
“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”
Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.
The new crew members will dock to the Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking.
About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, station commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. The current three-person crew just welcomed the first American commercial crew vehicle as it docked to the station on March 3, 2019, amidst a busy schedule of scientific research and operations since arriving in December 2018.
NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain.
Coverage of the Expedition 59 crew’s launch and docking activities are as follows (all times EDT):
The crew members of Expeditions 59 and 60 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.
McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, 2019, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29, 2019 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8, 2019 spacewalk.
Hague and Ovchinin are completing a journey that was cut short Oct. 11, 2019, when a booster separation problem with their Soyuz rocket’s first stage triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. They landed safely a few minutes later, after reaching the fringes of space, and were reassigned to fly again after McClain, Kononenko and Saint-Jacques launched in early December 2018. This will be Ovchinin’s third flight into space, the second for Hague and the first for Koch. Hague, Koch, and McClain are from NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women — the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a class.