This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II - We Are The Mighty
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This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II

(This story was provided courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division)


Mother’s Day 1943 was not a day of celebration in the Sullivan house in Waterloo, Iowa.  Just four months earlier, Alleta Sullivan along with her husband Tom, her daughter Genevieve, and her grandson James received official word that all five of her sons had been lost after the ship on which they all served, USS Juneau, was sunk Nov. 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

News spread across the country of the enormous sacrifice made by the Sullivans and honors were heaped onto Alleta and her family including posters honoring the brothers’ sacrifice, extensive media coverage and even a 1944 motion picture based on their story.

Alleta became an important figure in the war effort. She volunteered at the United Serviceman’s Organization (USO) to help make life easier for troops stateside and abroad. With her husband and daughter, Alleta visited more than 200 manufacturing plants and shipyards offering encouragement to employees in the hopes their efforts would bring the war to an end sooner. By January 1944, Alleta and her family had spoken to more than a million workers in 65 cities and reached millions of others over the radio.

On Sept. 30, 1943, Alleta was present as the ship’s sponsor when the Navy commissioned USS The Sullivans (DD 537). The ship served the Navy until final decommissioning on Jan. 7, 1965. In 1977, the destroyer was donated to the city of Buffalo, N.Y., as a memorial in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Servicemen’s Park.

The second ship to be called The Sullivans (DDG 68) was commissioned April 19, 1997, and was sponsored by Kelly Sullivan Loughren, Alleta’s great granddaughter.  The ship’s motto is “We Stick Together.”  Today the ship, which returned home from a six month deployment just in time for the holidays on Dec. 22, 2013, is based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Alleta Sullivan works alongside actress Marlene Dietrich as they serve servicemen in the USO Hollywood Canteen, Calif., Feb. 9, 1944. (Photo: Navy Historical Center)

Kelly obviously admires her great-grandmother’s courage and continued service to the nation in the face of the most devastating loss a mother can suffer. But the story that sticks with her the most is that long after the war, after the movie, the media and the ceremonies had faded, Alleta would receive house calls from Sailors that either knew her sons or who just wanted to stop by and extend their condolences. Kelly said her great-grandmother would often cook them a hot meal and offer them a place to stay for the evening or the weekend.

On this Mother’s Day, America’s Navy salutes the quintessential Navy Mom – Alleta Sullivan, as well as all the mothers who have served, or who have stood on the shore as their sons and daughters went down to the sea in ships.

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The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

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This C-130 landing on an aircraft carrier will make you rethink physics

An F/A-18 Hornet next to a C-130 Hercules is like comparing a Ferrari to a big yellow school bus — there’s a huge difference.


This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II

With that in mind, a big yellow school bus has no business in a compact parking space, but that’s precisely what Lt. James H. Flatley III did when he landed the 85,000-pound behemoth on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59). He parked a bus in a compact space. And he made it look easy.

At first, he thought the assignment was a joke. “Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody’s got to be kidding,” he said, according to Joseph Earl Dabney in his book “Hero of the Skies.”

But no, in fact, the orders came from the top. The Chief of Naval Operations — the most senior naval officer in the Department of the Navy — himself ordered a feasibility study to find out whether they could employ the Hercules as a “Super COD” — or Carrier Onboard Delivery — aircraft. At the time, the task belonged to the Grumman C-1 Trader, which, in the spirit of continuing the car analogy, was like driving your mom’s minivan.

The small twin-engine aircraft had a 300-mile range, which was a problem for delivering emergency items to a carrier operating in the middle of the ocean. On the other hand, the Hercules was stable, reliable, and capable of delivering large payloads over a much longer distance.

On October 8, 1963, the Navy received a KC-130F refueler on loan from the Marine Corps. Lockheed’s only modifications included the plane’s nose landing gear, anti-skid braking system, and the removal of the underwing refueling pods.

By October 30, 1963, Flatley and crew successfully proceeded to perform 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds.

The result went beyond anyone’s expectations.

The test revealed that the C-130 could lift 25,000 pounds (12.5 tons) of cargo and transport it 2,500 miles and land safely on the carrier, according to the video below. Still, the Navy considered it too risky and defaulted to the smaller COD. Flatley received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM5AI3YSV3M

1720cox, YouTube

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These 5 bad things will happen if all soldiers are allowed to roll up their sleeves

Credible sources have confirmed that it’s all over. The Apocalypse is nigh. The End Times are upon us.


The trouble started Jun. 16 when Army Chief of Staff Mark A. Milley announced that soldiers at Fort Hood were going to be allowed to roll their sleeves for a 10-day trial period. If that 10-day period goes well, the change will be implemented service-wide.

But this would be a grave mistake. While the Army publically stated in 2005 that it was getting rid of rolled sleeves to prevent sunburn and insect bites, it’s widely known that the real reason was to keep the world from going all topsy-turvy.

Here are 5 things to look forward to if this dreadful uniform change is allowed to stand:

1. Privates will lead sergeants

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II

The first consequence will be a complete breakdown in the natural order of military bases, and privates will begin leading sergeants instead of vice versa. This will be truly disastrous since modern privates typically can’t read paper maps and will likely rule by committee. The E-4 Mafia has signaled that it would be willing to work with privates if they usurped the NCOs.

2. Civilians will become colonels

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
(Photo: US Army)

Since the NCO corps will be busy fighting against these challenges from bare-forearmed privates, there will be no one to prevent officers from promoting their golf buddies into the Army. Expect a surge of “lateral entry” officers into ranks as high as colonel or general.

3. Russia will transform back into the Soviet Union

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Like this, but with a mustache and real guns instead of gun fingers. (Photo: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office)

With the U.S. Army wrestling to re-establish some semblance of order in the “Rolled Sleeves” world, Russian President Vladimir Putin will no longer have to fear reprisals from the West if he goes too far. He will quickly send forces into the rest of Ukraine as well as NATO states bordering Russia.

Once he has reclaimed enough territory, he will declare the rebirth of the Soviet Union and grow a new, Stalin-esque mustache.

4. Blood will no longer make the green grass grow

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
(Photo: US Army Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Perhaps the most damaging result of the Army abandoning its extended sleeves policy will be the fact that it will change basic organic chemistry and stop the growth of grass watered with blood. Water will have to be piped or trucked in to keep plant life going.

This will be an especially big problem for desert bases like Fort Hood that have limited access to water.

5. Actually, it’s going to be fine

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey and Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley pose with Spc. Cortne K. Mitchell after Mitchell becomes the first soldier in over ten years to legally roll his sleeves in the combat uniform. (Photo: US Army)

Look, besides the annoying fact that the modern uniform has little sleeves for pens and big velcro patches that make the uniform hard to roll, this isn’t a big deal. Soldiers will wear more sunscreen and bug spray again, and everyone can go back to work. Congrats, Fort Hood. And thank you, Dailey and Milley, for trusting soldiers to remain professionals even with rolled sleeves.

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Report: Flynn to recommend Trump make a big move against Russia

On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro’s entrance into NATO — a move sure to infuriate Russia.


Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he received payment to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that US counterintelligence agents investigated Flynn’s ties to Russia. Recently, a group of top Democratic lawmakers urged the Department of Defense to do the same.

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has repeatedly questioned the NATO alliance and the US’s adversarial relationship with Russia.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn previously led the Defense Intelligence Agency. | Photo from Defense Department

Despite that, the US backs Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed its bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied back to Moscow.

A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country’s October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.

“The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force,” Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
NATO

Flynn’s backing of Montenegro’s entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump’s proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.

Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”

However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also signaled a hawkish approach, saying that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Russia officially denies a military presence in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.

Before Montenegro can join NATO, it’s accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.

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A WWII Veteran Has A Nazi Doctor To Thank For Saving His Life — Twice

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Bob Levine’s dog tags with the letter ‘H’ indicating his Hebrew faith – a death sentence in Nazi Germany. (Photo: NYDN)


A few weeks after D-Day, U.S Army Private Bob Levine was hit by the shrapnel from a grenade that landed next to him during a fierce battle to take a German-held hill overlooking the beach at Normandy.  The next thing he knew he had an enemy paratrooper standing over him.

“He looked about 10 feet tall, and pointed his submachine gun at me,” Levine told the New York Daily News. “The kid next to me got up and took off, and he just wheeled around and shot him.”

Levine was suddenly a prisoner of war.  And his situation went from bad to worse as his already wounded leg was hit again, this time by fragments from an American artillery shell.

The next thing Levine knew he was lying on a table in a French farmhouse with a Nazi doctor standing over him studying his dog tags.

“He says, ‘Was ist H?’ — and that was all I had to hear,” Levine recalled to the New York Daily News. “I said to myself — and I can still hear myself saying it — ‘There goes my 20th birthday.’

“I really did not think I would make it.”

But he did make it.  He woke up missing two things:  the bottom half of his left leg, which had been surgically amputated, and his dog tags.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Bob Levine, seated center, in the hospital during World War II. (Photo: Levine family collection)

The Nazi doctor had saved his life twice.  Once by amputating his leg and preventing the onset of deadly gangrene and once by removing his dog tags, thereby hiding any evidence that Levine was Jewish — a death sentence of its own in the days of the Third Reich.

Levine did some research in the years following the war and discovered that the man who had saved him was Dr. Edgar Woll.  Woll died in 1954 before the two had a chance to meet in person again, but Levine returned to Normandy in 1981 and met with the doctor’s family.  The two families grew close, close enough that one of the doctor’s granddaughters stayed with the Levines while attending Fairleigh Dickenson University.

As terrible as war is there are times when it reveals the potential beauty of humanity.  And what stands out most of all in Levine’s memories of that first meeting with the doctor’s family is a toast one of the German guests offered at a party the Wolls hosted:  “Without you we’d all be saying ‘heil Hitler.'”

Read the entire New York Daily News article here.

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Engine falls off Air Force B-52 bomber while in flight

One of the eight engines powering a Boeing B-52 bomber flying over Minot Air Force Base on Wednesday quite literally fell right off the aircraft.


The unarmed aircraft, which was on a training flight at the North Dakota base, landed safely and none of the crew were injured, an Air Force spokesman told Defense News.

The service has already initiated an investigation into what went wrong. All crew members of a B-52 that crashed in May 2016 escaped without injury, though a 2008 crash killed all six crew members on board.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong

The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber jet aircraft powered by eight Pratt Whitney engines. It was first introduced in 1955, though it has continually been upgraded and maintained.

The Air Force has just over 75 B-52s still in service today, which are slated to last into 2040, according to Defense News.

The B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber is expected to replace the aging B-52 fleet once it’s introduced some time in the mid-2020s.

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‘The Wall’ takes the classic sniper duel to a whole new level

It’s the classic battle between masters of the martial arts.


Snipers embody the best of stealth, reconnaissance and camouflage and are at the top of their game when it come to dispatching targets with precision from a great distance.

“One shot, one kill” is no joke.

And when it comes to the best way to combat an enemy sniper, there’s no better weapon than a good guy sniper.

But what happens when the bad guy turns the tables and the good guy becomes the hunted? That’s exactly what happens in the new film from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions titled “The Wall.”

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and WWE superstar John Cena, “The Wall” depicts a sneak attack on a U.S. sniper team in Iraq by a diabolical enemy sharpshooter called “Juba,” played by Laith Nakli. The movie explores the psychological jiujitsu from each side as they try to outmaneuver one another in a battle where moving an inch in the wrong direction could mean certain death.

The enemy sniper from “The Wall” is loosely based on the infamous insurgent sharpshooter with the Juba nom de guerre in Iraq. The real Juba was reportedly killed by ISIS in 2013.

“The Wall” will be released in theaters May 12.

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5 Fake Enemies US Troops Have Been Battling For Decades

The real bad guys these days are known as the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, and others. But for decades, U.S. troops have been fighting wars against fictional enemies that only exist in training exercises. They usually have ridiculous-sounding names and strange back stories.


While we received plenty of help on social media and this post at Mental Floss on these opposition forces (OPFOR), to include name and which training exercise or location they operate in, some details remain murky.

If you find yourself fighting these forces in the future, here’s the basic intel you need to know.

The Krasnovians (National Training Center)

These are your hard-core fighters from a Soviet bloc country called Krasnovia. Unpredictable and a very non-traditional enemy force, the Krasnovians are known to switch up their tactics and quickly adapt, like stopping the use of radios and moving to cell phones to throw off U.S. soldiers they are fighting.

We’ve heard the key to beating them is by offering them vodka as a peace offering, or just send in this guy:

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II

The United Provinces of Atlantica (Special Forces “Q” Course)

A northern neighbor to Pineland, the UPA is a former Cold War ally of the Soviets. The Atlanticans aren’t fans of the U.S. or their neighbors. That’s especially true, since they invade and take over peaceful Pineland around eight times a year.

Fortunately, Army Special Forces candidates come in and save the day on a regular basis.

The Mojavians (Combined Arms Exercise at 29 Palms, Calif.)

Not much is known about the Mojavians, except that they like to exclusively fight against U.S. Marines during a 22-day period of combined arms training at their desert base in Twentynine Palms, California. These bad guys operate in similar fashion as insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will rarely engage in a real fight. Instead, they rely on hit-and-run tactics.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II

The Centralian Revolutionary Force  (The U.S. Marine Corps Basic School)

In the depths of a three-year civil war, the people of Centralia hope to have a democratic state and live in peace. But their neighbors in Montanya, and an oppressive rebel force known as the Centralian Revolutionary Force, continue to harass the local populace.

Both the CRF and the Montanyan Regular Forces continue to attack the Centralian Army and civilians in the region. Let’s all just hope those fresh Marine Corps officers are able to bring stability to Centralia, a country which has been oppressed for far too long.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Photo Credit: Facebook/Stop The War In Centralia

Arianan Special Purpose Forces (Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.)

A force from Ariana — an enemy nation seeking nuclear weapons and hostile to the U.S. and Israel which sounds kind of like Iran — the ASPF constantly invades its neighbor in Atropia, a key U.S. ally.

The ASPF is a threat to U.S. interests — including the consulate in Dara Lam — and it continues to support a local insurgency known as the South Atropian People’s Army. This enemy is unpredictable and employs similar tactics to enemy forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Possibly worst of all: U.S. soldiers only have 11 days to beat them and save Atropia. Good luck.

Have any more you would add to the list? Let us know the enemy force and where you heard it in the comments.

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The Marine Corps was just bailed out by ‘the Boneyard’

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II


The United States Marine Corps recently announced plans to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets from “the boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to address a shortage of usable airframes. Seven more will be transferred from the Navy’s inventory to help address the shortage.

How short were the Flying Leathernecks? On average, a typical Marine squadron of 12 Hornets had only four operational planes. The shortage has had some serious effects on Marine Corps aviation, notably in deeply cutting training hours for pilots. Such a cut is bad news. A rusty pilot can make mistakes – mistakes that could result in a mishap that leaves the plane totaled, and a pilot killed or injured.

While some media reports paint this as a response to a very bad situation (and let’s face facts, the state of Marine Corps aviation – and naval aviation overall, for that matter – could be a lot better than it is), the fact remains that this is a highly-public case of a major investment paying off. This is because the “boneyard” is not really a boneyard. In fact, it is, if you will, comparable to an NFL’ team’s practice squad.

Officially, the boneyard is called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG, formerly known as the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC). In essence, it is a place where the United States military puts its extra aircraft for safekeeping. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is very suited for this purpose. Located near Tucson, Arizona, the low humidity, and the fact that the soil doesn’t contain a lot of acid makes it a good place for the long-term storage of aircraft. There are a lot of planes there currently – over 3,800 as of June 15 of this year.

Here are a few highlights of the inventory that the 309th AMARG has on hand in addition to the 30 F/A-18C Hornets (of which 23 will be refurbished): 95 B-52G Stratofortresses, 12 B-52H Stratofortresses, 18 B-1B Lancers, 101 A-10 Thunderbolts, 47 A-6 Intruders, 50 Harrier GR.7 and GR.9 jump jets, 107 F-4 Phantoms, 166 F-15s, 484 F-16s, 64 F/A-18As, 31 E-2 Hawkeyes, 147 P-3 Orions, and 170 KC-135s. That is a lot of planes, to put it mildly.

To put it in terms of squadrons, this is a total of about seven bomber squadrons, eleven attack squadrons, 41 fighter squadrons, five airborne early warning squadrons, a dozen maritime patrol squadrons, and 14 squadrons of tankers. It’s almost a whole `nother Air Force! And this is what the investment in AMARG buys. In a major war, it would take time to ramp up production of fighters, bombers, attack planes, transports, and other planes. AMARG’s plane, while older than the ones on the front line, can still prove to be very valuable assets in buying time to get new planes built.

In the case of what the Marines are doing now, the 30 F/A-18Cs are doing just that. In essence, the Marines get two and a half more squadrons of their primary multi-role fighter to buy time for the F-35B to become operational. It is a stop-gap measure that, in essence, is being taken because the Marines made a pair of bad decisions in the past – to wit, putting all their eggs in the F-35B basket, and not buying into the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as the Navy did.

This wasn’t the first time that AMARG has helped the Marines. During the War on Terror, the Marines pulled heavy-lift helicopters from AMARG to meet needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, a classic example of the type of situation AMARG was intended to address. In the case of the F/A-18s being pulled out, this is more a case of mitigating the consequences for the Marine Corps decision to not buy into the Super Hornet and buying more time to get the F-35 operational. In essence, AMARG has bought time for the military to get new planes on-line. Again, it has fulfilled the measure of its creation.

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Congress wants to make it easier to fire bad VA employees

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.


The deal being announced May 11 could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.

The Hill deal followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general’s office of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After warning of serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.”

The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent Wednesday to the VA. The IG again urged the department to take immediate action to ensure patients “are not placed at unnecessary risk.”

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agreed to back the new bill after modifications that would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.

House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.

“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.

It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.

The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.

The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.

Conservative groups praised the bill.

“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.

The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.

Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.

“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”

Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.

Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.

Articles

Brits warn of potential ISIS attacks on Antarctica travelers

The UK Foreign Office has issued a bizarre terrorism warning for citizens wishing to travel to its territory in Antarctica – a security chief has criticized the move as “pointless back covering”.


The message on the department’s foreign travel advice section reads: “Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory, attacks can’t be ruled out.

“There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”

The British Antarctic Territory is a 660,000 square mile stretch of the icy continent that includes the South Pole. It is uninhabited, except for two scientific research stations – and several species of penguin.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who led the British Army into Afghanistan in 2003, told The Sun: “MI5’s then-director-general once said there was a terror threat almost everywhere except Antarctica. Now they’ve put Antarctica on the list.

“We expect guidance based on intelligence, not a pointless exercise in back-covering – unless I’ve missed the Islamic State Polar Brigade.”

The British Antarctic Territory is the largest of the 14 British Overseas Territories, which include the tiny Carribbean islands of Bermuda and The Bahamas.

Similar advice concerning terrorist attacks has also been issued for these paradise holiday destinations.

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The MOAB hails from Florida, and these folks are proud of it

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — known colloquially as the MOAB, or “Mother of All Bombs” — was born and raised at Eglin Air Force Base.


On April 6, the enormous weapon was used for the first time in combat, dropped in Afghanistan by an MC-130 from the Air Force Special Operations Command headquartered at Hurlburt Field. While the Air Force would not confirm if the aircraft was connected to Hurlburt, the bomb’s local roots run deep.

On March 11, 2003, the Air Research Laboratory at Eglin performed the first test detonation of a 21,000-pound MOAB over Range B-70 north of Wynnhaven Beach, Florida. Residents reported feeling shock waves and hearing loud noises miles away from the drop site.

“My dog shook for 15 minutes,” Santa Rosa County resident Stephanie McBride told the Daily News at the time. “The house, a little bit.”

With tensions with Iraq at a fever pitch (the United States would invade that country just nine days later) the military-friendly Emerald Coast embraced the concept — and the name — of the nation’s largest non-nuclear bomb.

This Navy mom served on the homefront after losing all 5 sons in World War II
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, moments before it detonates during a test on March 11, 2013. On April 13, 2017, it was used in combat for the first time. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The day of the blast, Nancy Benaquis and Greg Haymore at MannaTee’s Castle in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.,  designed a MOAB T-shirt complete with a mushroom cloud and the words, “We tested the big one!” At $9.98 each, the shirts sold briskly.

“We sold one to a man who told us he worked on the bomb,” Haymore told the Daily News in May 2003.

In 2005, local chef Chris Shrunk created a different kind of MOAB — the “Mother of All Burgers” — and in 2011 local gamers were excited to see the MOAB featured in that year’s version of the “Call of Duty” video game.

Eglin’s Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate developed the massive bomb in less than three months. The Prototype Munition Fabrication Facility produced the precision guided munitions, and the base’s 46th Test Wing tested them.

“What makes Eglin particularly valuable is that it can do research, development, and testing all in one place,” local economist David Goetsch said. “The base was able to turn around that bomb in a very short time frame because they had all three capabilities.”

On May 20, 2004, the 14th (and final) MOAB to be produced was put on display at the Air Force Armament Museum. On April 13, mere hours after the bomb detonated, visitors to the museum gathered around the exhibit to take photos and selfies in front of the famous weapon.

“Bombs, and the scientists and researchers who produce them, are an important part of our community’s economy,” Goetsch added. “Air Force leaders have a bias toward aircraft, but they’re just fancy airliners if they don’t have weapons.”

“At Eglin, we make weapons.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz weighed in on April 13 on the decision to use the MOAB.

“President Trump’s decision to drop the GBU-43 shows his deep commitment to eradicating ISIS worldwide,” said Gaetz, whose congressional district includes Eglin.

“This message was part of his campaign, and eliminating ISIS is critical to the long-term security of the United States. The president’s actions also send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate attacks on our troops — and that those who do so can expect a swift and strong response.”

“As Northwest Floridians, we are proud to train the most lethal warfighters and to test the most advanced weaponry in the world,” Gaetz added. “The president’s decision highlights our military’s need for expanded testing facilities — in particular, the Gulf Test Range south of Eglin Air Force Base.”