The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.


During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.

Managing the Future Talent: Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

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Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.

Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.

Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.

I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.

Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.

As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.

So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.

We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.

Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.

Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.

All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.

I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.

On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.

We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.

We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.

Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.

One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.

Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.

Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.

The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.

I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.

I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.

We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?

There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.

I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.

Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.

We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.

As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.

Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.

When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.

We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.

You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.

Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.

I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.

It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.

Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.

That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.

There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.

Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.

If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.

Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out video of flames shooting from the engine of a Boeing 777

A Philippine Airlines Boeing 777 plane had to make an emergency landing after it caught fire shortly after takeoff on Nov. 21, 2019.

Video footage of the incident posted to Twitter showed the plane’s right engine spewing black smoke before appearing to catch fire and shooting out flames.


Flight 113 took off from Los Angeles International Airport at 11:45 a.m. local time but had to make an emergency landing because of a “technical problem” in one of its engines shortly after takeoff, according to a statement from Philippine Airlines.

The airline said all 342 passengers and 18 crew members were safe and were able to disembark using regular airstairs.

“We greatly appreciate the calmness and patience of our PR113 passengers, who cooperated well with our cabin crew during the flight and the emergency landing,” Philippine Airlines said in the statement.

Andrew Ames watched the incident and told Reuters: “It almost looked like backfire flames from a motorcycle or car.”

It is not immediately clear what the exact cause of the technical problem in the engine was.

GE Aviation, the company that makes the engine for the Boeing 777, said it was aware of the incident and was “working with the airline to determine the cause of the event and to promptly return the aircraft to service,” according to Reuters.

Boeing is under scrutiny following the deadly crashes involving its 737 Max aircraft, which killed a combined 346 people, led to questions over the plane’s design, and left the aircraft grounded across the world.

Training standards, regulatory oversight, and pilot experience have also been called into question following the scandal.

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

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we all need to understand the Medal of Honor

There’s an extraordinary brotherhood that exists among us but few will ever actually meet these honored members. Like our sacred flag, woven together by humility, valor and extreme courage, this is a community of men who never sought recognition — rather earned it — through their own strength, service and sacrifice. These incredible heroes are the recipients of the Medal of Honor.

In the military community, these men are treated with an indescribable reverence; a gratitude that runs deep because of the understanding of the gravity of the citation. Most of these men shouldn’t be alive and many who have earned the Medal never lived to see it. But in the civilian community, the awards often blend together, confusing hearts with crosses, silver with purple.


Now, a major motion picture is closing that information gap, educating the public on the Medal of Honor while pulling at your heartstrings. The Last Full Measure, in theaters nationwide on January 24, has an all star cast that tells the incredible, true story of William H. Pitsenbarger. Pitsenbarger was a U.S. Air Force Pararescueman credited with saving over 60 men after an ambush on the Army’s 1st Infantry Division during a battle in Vietnam. The story couples his heroic actions with the relentless efforts, spanning three decades, made by the men he saved to ensure he was posthumously honored.

Following the Washington, D.C. premiere screening of The Last Full Measure, We Are The Mighty had the opportunity to sit with Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Brian M. Thacker and Medal of Honor Foundation Vice President of External Affairs Dan Smith, to get their take on the movie.

WATM: Tell me your thoughts on the movie.

Thacker: This fills in so many blanks. I knew the Pitsenbarger story and then all of a sudden it kind of happened. In the story, it becomes very clear. The question you have is what was the Air Force guy doing with a leg unit in the first place? And then you think about it and yeah, it’s exactly how it works: the guys closest respond to the call. They were doing joint operations back then and they didn’t even know it. The movie is no frills, a straight story of not just Pitsenbarger, but the whole unit that kept the dream of the award moving forward. It’s a story that needs to be told. There’s a story like that behind every Medal of Honor ever presented.

If you were over there, you know there are many other stories that deserve to be recognized. For a long time, Pitsenbarger was one of them.

WATM: I understand why this story is so important for the Medal of Honor brotherhood and to the veteran population. Why do you think it’s critical for civilians to see as well?

Thacker: First of all, they need to learn what the Medal means. It’s not a me award. Pitsenbarger is the medic with the award, but it really goes to all of the men in that company that were put in an untenable situation. The stories that came out of what happens as a result are equally as important. It’s not over when the shooting stops. The camaraderie and the close bond of serving together is what gets us through.

WATM: There’s a great line in the movie about how the medal means so much more than a battle; it’s the story behind it that connects us all. What story does your medal tell?

Thacker: The other half of the story behind mine is that of a Recon Sergeant that got an assignment he didn’t want but came out with a DSC. My guess is that his citation, like mine, was written at the highest level. But our unit was a Joe six pack, a bunch of people from all over the country that didn’t realize how untenable our situation was really going to be until the first shot was fired. Then it was, ‘Oh Lord, just let us hang on. We just need to get through this day.’ It all comes down to everyone just trying to help each other get through the day. Certainly you don’t do it by yourself.

WATM to Smith: What does having a MOH recipient in the audience tonight mean to you?

Smith: It’s beyond special. Young airman Pitsenbarger’s story is inspiring and remarkable. What we try to do and what our mission is, is to raise resources to let recipients tell their stories and to bring that and the legacy of the Medal to the communities. The most senior leaders in our military and our government talk about the less than one percent who serve and this growing civilian and military divide.

For these gentlemen to be able to tell their stories, not just to the military but to the community will close this gap. I’m hopeful that everyday people will see this movie, hear these heroic stories and change the ambivalence that often comes without knowing the impact of the award. So many men came home from Vietnam and weren’t able to tell their stories. I’m hopeful this will reach not just veterans of that generation but the younger generations as well.

WATM: What do you think this film teaches the next generation?

Thacker: We did everything we could to bury Vietnam. The young people that were born after the war grew up in the dark, unless you were living with a Vietnam veteran and you were living it right with your dad. It’s very symbolic. We see the same thing with young people who volunteered after 9/11; this mentality that I need to be a part of this. It’s 50 years later but it’s the same ethic that bubbles up.

You can take that notion of service far beyond the military. It’s in the fire departments, police departments and even the teaching community; this sense of service above self. You see bits and pieces of that in this movie and I hope it’s one the kids will watch because it’s living history.

WATM: Was there any particular scene in this movie that really resonated with you?

Thacker: When Pitsenbarger realized he had to go down to help them to teach them how to use the litter. Being in that position does something to your pucker factor. People who have been there, you can ask them: ‘Do you remember what it felt like?’ They’ll tell you they were very afraid. Knowing you are in over your head and wondering who you turn to for help, that happens all the time. There will be a lot of people who understand that feeling of all of a sudden being in charge.

WATM: As a MOH recipient, I imagine you’re invited to events like this all of the time. Is there a particular event you have been a part of that has had a profound impact on your life?

Thacker: Being able to attend an Inauguration and to witness the peaceful transfer of power was an incredible experience. I don’t think people understand how truly special and uniquely American that is.

WATM: Is there anything else you want people to know about either you or the Medal of Honor Foundation?

Thacker: We still have something to say. I remember when the Baby Boom generation wasn’t going to amount to much. Now we’re saying the same thing about Millenials, and I promise you, we’ll be as wrong about them as our parents were about us. That willingness to stand up and take the risk is fairly common.

Smith: These men have incredible stories to tell. My hope is that through films like The Last Full Measure we’ll be able to connect communities with this heroism.

The Last Full Measure will be in theaters January 24. These stories deserve to be told and the valor of The Medal of Honor should live on through all of us. Perpetuating the legacy should be our collective Last Full Measure.

You can buy tickets to see the film and support this story and legacy on The Last Full Measure’s website.

Military Life

This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

“I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Article One of the Code of Conduct for members of the armed forces of the United States

Service members are prepared to die in the line of duty and unfortunately, especially during times of war, too many do make that ultimate sacrifice. It is a reality that the armed forces take very seriously — both on a personal level, as those left behind mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in arms, and on a professional level, as the Department of Defense strives to provide comfort to the bereaved families.

One of the most important military duties is to provide a death notification to the deceased’s next of kin.


It is a duty that is carried out with the utmost respect, and, like anything else in the military, it is overseen with official guidance. Each branch has its own manual with specific procedures (the Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Program manual, for example, is 182 pages long — no stone is left unturned), but they are all serve the same purpose: to provide guidance about casualty reporting, notification, mortuary affairs, and military funeral honors, benefits, and entitlements assistance and all administrative requirements.

This video (a work of fiction, from Army Wives) does a decent job depicting a respectful death notification (though, unless the information was classified, the notification officer would have provided the next of kin — in this case, the deceased soldier’s mother— some details about the cause of death).

Related: These are the real brothers that inspired ‘Saving Private Ryan’

There are specific instructions for notifying the next of kin about injuries or even desertion, but this article will cover the procedure for death notifications. Each branch is different, but this is what they have in common:

1. Who

Notification of death, duty status whereabouts unknown, or missing will be carried out in person to the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin. They will wear a formal uniform as stipulated by their branch guidelines (for the Marine Corps, it is the Service Alpha uniform; for the Air Force, it is the Service Dress; etc.).

The notification team is composed of a field grade officer of equal or higher grade than the member about whom they are making notification (for this article, we’ll use the term ‘notification officer’ but the duty title varies among branches), and at least one other person; if possible, the additional people should be a chaplain and medical personnel capable of delivering assistance to the next of kin. Notification should not be delayed in order to find the latter two, however.

A person with a close relationship to the deceased may be invited, as well as a public affairs representative if there are indications of a high level of media interest and the presence of media is likely.

2. When

Death notification should be accomplished within 8 hours of learning of the casualty incident, and between the hours of 0500-0000.

3. Where

Respecting the next of kin’s dignity and privacy are very important. If they are not home or cannot be found, the notification team may discreetly attempt to locate them or await their return. If the team is still unable to locate the next of kin, the notification officer will contact their branch personnel department for instruction.

Upon arrival at the home of the next of kin, the notification officer will ask for permission to enter. It is recommended that the next of kin be seated prior to delivering the news.

4. What

Before the notification officer delivers the notification, they will verbally confirm the identity of the next of kin by asking for their full name. The notification officer will introduce himself and the team. The notification officer will then articulate — as naturally as possible — something close to the following:

“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has entrusted me to express his deep regret that your (relationship), John (died/was killed in action) in (place of incident (city/state or country) on (date). (State the circumstances.) The Commandant extends his deepest sympathy to you and your family in your loss.”

The Air Force delivers a notification letter with details (included with discretion), and the Marine Corps reminds its notification officers that the next of kin may need information repeated.

The notification team also verifies information about death gratuity, movement of the deceased, and other active duty service members in the family (who must be properly notified as well). The notification officer will arrange a second visit, usually 24 hours later, to discuss mortuary affairs and funeral honors.

Also read: This vet can tell you the names of 2,300 fallen heroes — by memory

The team watches for signs of medical distress, and usually stays with the next of kin until another adult can accompany them.

5. Why

In military speak, the purpose of this program is to provide “prompt and accurate reporting, dignified and humane notification, and efficient, thorough, and compassionate assistance to the next of kin and/or those designated to receive benefits/entitlements.”

Adhering to guidelines can also help prevent confusion or, in a worst case scenario, legal issues. Formal procedures also help protect family from scams that take advantage of deployed service members (yes — that’s a thing, and it’s particularly atrocious).

But it’s a much more sacred and human duty than that. In many ways, caring for those left behind is the truest way to honor the memory of a fallen hero.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s new ‘light tank’ prototype

The US Army is now evaluating plans to build prototypes of a new highly-deployable lightweight Mobile Protected Firepower armored vehicle expected to change land war by bringing a new mission options to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack — and outmatching Russian equivalents.

Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.


“Mobile Protected Firepower helps you because you can get off road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

The Army is now evaluating industry proposals in anticipation of awarding developmental deals by 2019 — with prototypes to follow shortly thereafter. The service’s request to industry described the Mobile Protected Firepower program as seeking to “provide IBCTs with direct-fire, long-range and cyber resilient capability for forcible early-entry operations.”

Smith did not elaborate on any precise weight, but did stress that the effort intends to find the optimal blend of lethality, mobility and, survivability. Senior Army leaders, however, do say that the new MPF will be more survivable and superior than its Russian equivalent.

The Russian 2S25 Sprut-SD air transportable light tank, according to Russian news reports, weighs roughly 20 tons and fires a 125mm smoothbore gun. It is designed to attack tanks and support amphibious, air or ground operations. The vehicle has been in service since 2005.

Senior Army leaders have been clear that the emerging Army vehicle will be designed as a light vehicle, yet one with much greater levels of protection than the Russian equivalent.

In light of these kinds of near-peer adversaries with longer-range sensors, more accurate precision fires and air support for mechanized ground assault, the Army is acutely aware that its maneuvering infantry stands in need of armored, mobile firepower.

Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.

Accordingly, Smith explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support. This fast-changing calculus, based on knowledge of emerging threats and enemy weapons, informs an Army need to close the threat gap by engineering the MPF vehicle.

“The MPF vehicle will not be like an Abrams tank in terms of protections and survivability… but mobility helps you because you can get off roads and lethality helps you with protection also,” Smith said.

While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly. The MPF represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability. Therefore, it is no surprise that two MPFs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.

Rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.

Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy.

All of these factors are indicative of how concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver are evolving to account for how different land war is expected to be moving forward. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.

Designs, specs and requirements for the emerging vehicle are now being evaluated by Army weapons developers currently analyzing industry submissions in response to a recent Request for Proposal.

The service expects to award two Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) deals by 2019 as part of an initial step to building prototypes from multiple vendors, service officials said. Army statement said initial prototypes are expected within 14 months of a contract award.

While requirements and particular material solutions are expected to adjust as the programs move forward, there are some initial sketches of the capabilities the Army seeks for the vehicle.

According to a report from Globalsecurity.org, “the main gun has to be stabilized for on-the-move firing, while the optics and fire control system should support operations at all weather conditions including night operations.”

BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems and SAIC (partnered with ST Kinetics and CMI) are among the industry competitors seeks to build the new MPF. Several months ago, BAE Systems announced it is proposing a vehicle it calls its M8 Armored Gun System.

For the Army, the effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently available or fast emerging technology while engineered the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.

An estimation of technologies likely to figure prominently in the MPF developmental process leads towards the use of lightweight armor composites, active protection systems and a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors. Smith explained how this initiative is already gaining considerable traction.

This includes the rapid incorporation of greater computer automation and AI, designed to enable one sensor to perform the functions of many sensors in real-time. For instance, it’s by no means beyond the imagination to envision high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, electromagnetic weapons and EO-IR cameras operating through a single sensor.

“The science is how do I fuse them together? How do I take multiple optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors and use them all at once in real-time ” Smith said.

“If you are out in the desert in an operational setting, infrared alone may be constrained heat so you need all types of sensors together and machines can help us sift through information,” added Smith.

In fact, the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors — with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Comat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

One of the key technical challenges when it comes to engineering a mobile, yet lethal, weapon is to build a cannon both powerful and lightweight enough to meet speed, lethality and deployability requirements.

U.S. Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites the need to bring large caliber cannon technology to lightweight vehicles. Among other things, the strategy cites a lightweight 120mm gun called the XM360 – built for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems Mounted Combat System. While the weapon is now being thought of as something for NGCV or a future tank variant, its technology bears great relevance to the MPF effort – which seeks to maximize lightweight, mobile firepower.

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”

An article in nextBIGFuture cites progress with a technology referred to as rarefaction wave gun technology, or RAVEN, explaining it can involve “combining composite and ceramic technologies with castings of any alloy — for dramatic weight reduction.”

The idea is, in part, to develop and demonstrate hybrid component concepts that combine aluminum castings with both polymer matrix composites and ceramics, the report says.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

First Marines to get new women’s uniform graduate boot camp

For nearly four years, Marine Corps Systems Command has been working on a new dress blues coat for women that more closely resembled the coat worn by male Marines. The Corps wanted a more unified look between the two uniforms. On Nov. 16, 2018, the first class of female Marines graduated from boot camp on Parris Island wearing the new coat.


“I was honored to be a part of history and stand out on the renowned parade deck to witness the newest Marines who will enter into the operating forces,” said Marine Corps Systems Command Sgt. Maj. Robin Fortner said. Fortner served as the parade reviewing official. “All the Marines looked sharp. The uniform represents the United States Marine Corps and its proud, rich legacy, which was exemplified by the Marines.”

The most obvious difference for the new women’s uniform is that the standing collar now matches the men’s dress blues coat, instead of using the old standard lapel.

The old women’s dress blues coat next to the classic men’s dress blues.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Photo by Sgt. Mallory Vanderschans)

Other improvements include a white belt and a seam in the upper-torso area to allow for Marines to more easily alter the coat to better fit their body types. It is also longer, an addition that gives it balance with the uniform trouser but also allows the wearer greater mobility and range of motion.

The reason the changes took so long to design and then enact is the attention to detail paid to making the improvements. The approved changes in the jacket worn by Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion (the class who graduated on Nov. 16) is actually the third and final attempt at improving women’s dress blues.

Drill Instructors and Marines with November Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion march towards the Peatross Parade Deck before their graduation ceremony Nov. 16, 2018 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)

Researchers interviewed female Marines from I and II Marine Expeditionary Forces along with surveys conducted with Marines in the National Capital Region, Parris Island, Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, Yuma, and the entire west coast. An additional 3,000 women filled in the information online as well.

The coat is now available for sale at the Marine Corps Exchange.

In the Marine Corps, traditions don’t change fast, if at all. But female Marines who modeled the coat during its trial phase tell current Marines to give the coat a try before forming an opinion about it – they might be pleasantly surprised when they look in the mirror.

Before I joined the service, my first impression was the iconic male uniform coat I saw on commercials,” said Sgt. Lucy Schroder who traveled with the designer to model the uniforms and answer questions from fellow Marines. “When I got to boot camp and they gave me my coat, I was confused because it looked different than what I expected. The more we progress in time, the more female Marines are having a voice and opinions on how they want to look, which will hopefully draw the attention of future recruits.
Articles

ALS is attacking military veterans in increasing numbers

There’s increased incidence of ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — among veterans of all wars, from the Vietnam War to the Gulf War to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

This week, Marine Corps veteran Roger Brannon reached the two-year anniversary of a life-altering amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis, a milestone that many in his position will not live to see. ALS is an incurable, neurodegenerative disease that progresses rapidly.


Roger Brannon deployed as part ofu00a0Operation Enduring Freedom. He now suffers from ALS.
(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

Over 80 percent of those diagnosed die within two to five years. Military veterans are two times more likely to develop ALS than those who’ve never served. It was once thought that increased incidence of ALS was limited to veterans of Vietnam and the first Gulf War, but it’s now striking Enduring Freedom vets who served in Afghanistan at the same rates. Despite this, there’s a surprisingly low amount of awareness of the disease among the veteran community.

Roger Brannon and his wife Pam are on a mission to change this. Up to to 95 percent of veterans who develop the disease are diagnosed with sporadic ALS — which means there is no family history of the disease and doctors unable to precisely pinpoint a cause.

(Courtest of the Brannon Family)

“They can’t tell us why we have it, what we did to get it, and that’s very unnerving because you can’t tell any other veteran or friend what to do to not get ALS,” Roger says.

What Roger and Pam are doing is sharing what they know: resources, coping strategies, and VA benefits. Veterans actually have far greater available to them than the average ALS patient in America. For example, Radicava, the first drug treatment specifically for ALS approved since 1995, was made available to VA hospitals before more widespread distribution – and the Department of Veterans Affairs has automatically assumed, since 2008, that a veteran’s ALS is service-connected.

(Courtesy of the Brannon Family)

ALS is a terminal disease but early diagnosis can slow its progression and knowing about it increases the likelihood of identifying it quickly. All veterans and their families can do is arm themselves with the best information on how to deal with what lies ahead. With a pre-teen and teen at home, the hardest thing for Pam Brannon is not knowing if they will ever live out the family’s dreams.

“Will there be a next birthday? A next anniversary? Will Roger live to see a graduation?” Pam asks. “At the end of the day, there’s no book for when you’re diagnosed with a terminal disease.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman completed Special Forces training; these operators have some thoughts

On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.


Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.

Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.

Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.

Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.

“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.

“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.

“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.

“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”

Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.

Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.

“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.

“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”

Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.

“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.

“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.

“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.

“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.

“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”

Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.

Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.

“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.

“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.

“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.

“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”

Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron. 

“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.

“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.

“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.

“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.

“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.

“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”

Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 Korean War heroes who fought amazing last stands

In the annals of military history, the Korean War is unique in the sheer numbers of human wave attacks that defenders were forced to confront. Like the Japanese in WWII, the Chinese and North Korean forces were keen on assaulting defensive positions with overwhelming numbers. Unlike the Japanese, however, this was a preferred tactic rather than an act of desperation.


American and United Nations forces would pay dearly to hold their positions against these attacks. Many men gave their last full measure of devotion to secure the safety of their comrades. For some men, that last full measure involved fighting to the death in hand-to-hand combat.

These are four heroes who gave everything they could.

4. Jack G. Hanson

In the early morning hours of June 7, 1951, the communists launched an all-out assault at a strategic hilltop held by F Company, 31st Infantry Regiment.

Hanson before shipping off to Korea.

Manning a machine gun covering the main approach was Pfc. Jack Hanson. As the attackers rushed forward, he poured devastating fire into the ranks. The maelstrom of bullets going both ways wounded the four riflemen holding the position alongside Hanson.

As they were evacuated, Hanson was told to relocate to a more tenable position. Meanwhile, the charging enemy forces were threatening to overrun.

Disregarding the order, Hanson held his position to continue engaging the enemy. As others fell back, they reported that Hanson was single-handedly putting up a dogged defense. He never arrived at the fallback position.

Near dawn, his company counterattacked. When they regained their previous positions, they found Pfc. Hanson lying in front of his gun emplacement. His machine gun ammunition was depleted and in his right hand was an empty .45 caliber pistol. In his left hand was a blood-soaked machete. All around him were the bodies of 22 slain enemies.

For his valiant last stand, Hanson was awarded the Medal of Honor.

3. Anthony Kaho’ohanohano

On Sept. 1, 1951, the communists launched an offensive on a position held by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. Assisting in the defense of the sector was Pfc. Anthony Kaho’ohanohano and his machine gun squad.

Anthony Thomas Kaho’ohanohano (U.S. Army photo)

As the enemy surged into the position, Kaho’ohanohano realized it was untenable and ordered the withdrawal of the rest of the squad. He then rushed to retrieve ammunition and grenades, shrugging off his shoulder wound, and returned to his original position to cover the retreat of friendly forces.

His accurate fire drew the attention of the charging enemy, who focused their efforts on taking out the lone defender. He blasted away with his machine gun until his ammunition was depleted. He threw all of the grenades he had, but the enemy was still coming.

Undaunted, Kaho’ohanohano grabbed his entrenching tool and stood to meet his foes. He fought valiantly until the enemy’s numerical superiority overwhelmed him and they overran his position.

His staunch defense inspired his comrades and allowed them time to regroup to launch a coordinated counterattack. When friendly forces retook the position, they found thirteen dead communists around him. Kaho’ohanohano was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

2. Herbert K. Pilila’au

On Sept. 13, 1951, the Americans launched an effort to take a heavily fortified and well-defended ridge. The area eventually gained the infamous nickname, “Heartbreak Ridge,” due to the desperate fighting that went on there.

Just four days into the battle, a young draftee from Hawaii, Herbert Pilila’au, would exemplify the courage of those who fought on Heartbreak Ridge.

On that day, Pilila’au and the rest of C Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, charged up the slopes of the ridge, intent on taking Hill 931. However, his platoon’s attack bogged down and they set in a defensive perimeter while the remainder of the company set in elsewhere.

With the help of supporting fire, the platoon was able to hold back probing attacks. Before long though, the North Koreans attacked in force and Pilila’au’s platoon attempted to rejoin the rest of the company.

Herbert K. Pililaau, United States Army, Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.

Pilila’au, his squad leader, and the company artillery observer remained behind to cover the withdrawal. As the other two called for fire onto the encroaching enemy Pilila’au poured withering fire into the enemy with his BAR.

Despite friendly artillery landing all around him, enemy forces charging forward, and dwindling hopes of a successful retreat, Pilila’au remained in his position to ensure his comrades were secure.

When he expended the last of his BAR ammunition, he met the enemy advance with grenades. When those were gone, Pilila’au grabbed his trench knife and charged from his position to battle his foe hand-to-hand.

From their now secure vantage point, his fellow soldiers watched Pilila’au charge headlong into the communists, stabbing and punching as he went until he was overwhelmed and felled by an enemy bayonet.

When American forces retook the position the next day, they found the bodies of 40 dead enemies around Pilila’au.

For his courageous actions on Heartbreak Ridge, Pilila’au received the Medal of Honor.

1. Demensio Rivera

On May 23, 1951, a dense fog rolled into the positions held by the men of G Company, 7th Infantry Regiment. Hiding in the fog was an overwhelming enemy force, approaching for an attack.

Puerto Rican Medal of Honor recipient Demensio Rivaa.

One of the men holding the line against the Communist onslaught was Pvt. Demensio Rivera. With little to go on other than shadows in the fog, Rivera engaged the onrushing enemy with deadly accurate rifle fire. When his rifle jammed, he discarded it and fought on with his pistol and hand grenades.

When an enemy attempted to infiltrate the position through a nearby defilade, Rivera left the safety of his position and killed the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

As the enemy continued to press the attack Rivera expended his pistol ammunition and all of his grenades but one.

With a mind on nothing other than devotion to duty, Rivera pulled the pin and waited for the enemy to storm his position. When that attack came Rivera calmly dropped the grenade among himself and his attackers, knowing full-well it would be the end of him.

After the grenade’s detonation, friendly forces rushed to Rivera’s position. To their surprise, Rivera was still alive, though gravely wounded. He was surrounded by the bodies of four enemy soldiers.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ashley Randall, left, accepts the Medal of Honor on behalf of her late grandfather, Pvt. Demensio Rivera, from President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C., March 18, 2014. (DoD photo by E.J. Hersom)

Rivera’s selfless actions in the face of overwhelming odds earned him the Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This armored vehicle sports an anti-aircraft cannon

The M113 armored personnel carrier is one of the most versatile — and long-lasting — armored vehicles in the American inventory. The Army has just now, after 50 years of service, begun the process of replacing the M113 with the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Even then, the M113 will stick around in some capacity — over 80,000 have been produced.


One particularly notable variant of this APC is the M163. This is an M113 refitted with a turret-mounted M61 Vulcan 20mm Gatling gun. In one sense, this was a simple approach – the Army took the M61 Vulcan that has been a mainstay on fighters like the F-105 Thunderchief, F-104 Starfighter, and the F-4 Phantom and simply attached it to the M113. This gun proved to be quite a MiG-killer in air-to-air combat, and the assumption was it would be effective from the ground, too.

A close look at the heart of the M163: The M61 Gatling gun, which was a proven MiG-killer in air-to-air combat. (US Army photo)

The M163 saw some combat trials during the Vietnam War, but the radar systems weren’t quite ready to take on targets in the sky. Like the M45 “Meat Chopper,” however, the M163 proved that ground targets were no problem for this anti-aircraft vehicle, especially when it carried over 2,000 rounds of ammo for the gun. The M163 soon found itself exported to South Korea, Thailand, Israel, and a number of other countries.

The M163 eventually received upgrades, giving it a better radar and making things simpler for the gunner. It also got more powerful rounds for the M61 gun. Yet, in American service, the M163 would be more known for its use as a ground-support asset. However, the Israelis did score three kills with the vehicle, one of them a MiG-21, during the 1982 Lebanon War.

A M163 at Fort Bliss during the Cold War. Like the M45, it proved to be an awesome ground-support weapon. (US Army photo)

After Desert Storm, the Army retired the M163, replacing it and the M72 Chaparral with the 1-2 combination of the M1097 Avenger and the M6 Bradley Linebacker air-defense vehicle.

Learn more about this adapted M113 in the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENsVvYgMh6s
MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s new nuclear bomber isn’t actually about nukes

China’s much-hyped but never-before-seen H-20 nuclear bomber has reportedly made “great progress” in its development recently and may even fly publicly in a 2019 military parade.

But while China bills the mysterious jet as a modern answer to the US’ airborne leg of its nuclear triad, a close read of Beijing’s military and nuclear posture reveals another mission much more likely to actually draw blood.

Though the jet remains an absolute unknown with only concept-art depictions in existence, let’s start with what we know. China describes the H-20 as a “new long-distance strategic bomber,” which recent imagery suggests will take a stealthy delta-wing design.


An Asia Times profile of the H-20 cited Chinese media as saying “the ultimate goal for the H-20” is an “operational range to 12,000 kilometers with 20 tons of payload.”

“A large flying wing design … is one of the only aerodynamic ways of achieving the broadband all-aspect stealth required for such a design,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

Only one nation on earth operates a large stealth bomber, and that’s the US. But the B-2 has never launched a nuclear bomb, instead it’s been used as a stealthy bomb truck that can devastate hardened enemy targets with massive payloads on a nearly invisible platform.

A possible prototype image of China’s mysterious H-20 bomber.

According to Lawrence Trevethan, a researcher at the China Aerospace Studies Institute, which works with the US Air Force, that’s what China’s H-20 will likely do as well.

“I see the H-20 as a nearly exact replacement for the H-6 (China’s current theoretically nuclear-capable bomber),” Trevethan told Business Insider.

Ignore the nuclear mission

Trevethan, an expert on China’s nuclear posture, pointed out that the H-6 never trains with nuclear bombs. China’s nuclear-missile capable submarines have never had a verified nuclear deterrence patrol. China’s nuclear weapons are not kept mated atop missiles, unlike Russia and the US.

And there’s a simple reason why, according to Trevethan: Nuclear weapons are expensive and mutual nuclear war has never happened.

Instead, conventional war happens — and happens all the time.

Trevethan called the H-20 a bomber “that might actually contribute to a military victory in a war fought as its [nuclear] doctrine imagines. “

Bronk agreed, saying the “biggest impact of a B-2 style capability for the PLAAF [China’s air force] would be much greater vulnerability of bases such as Guam and Kadana to conventional precision strikes.”

Currently, the US has Aegis and THAAD missile defenses in Guam and its Japanese bases, which pose a threat to China’s fleet of missiles. But the US has no established defense against a stealth bomber, which China will likely seek to exploit with the H-20.

Throughout the 1960s, US B-52 nuclear-capable bombers stayed airborne and ready to launch nearly around the clock.

(US Air Force photo)

Not built for cold wars

Instead of a simple air-based nuclear deterrent, like the US and Russia maintain, spend tons of money on, and hope to never use, China’s H-20 looks more like a bomber that actually plans to fight wars. (The US’ bomber fleet, both nuclear and non-nuclear, fights in wars, but never in a nuclear capacity.)

China’s defensive nuclear posture also allows it more leeway in a shooting war. If the US and Russia got into a battle, and either side saw ballistic missiles heading for the other, it would have to assume they were nuclear missiles and retaliate before it faced utter destruction.

But with no missiles ready to go and a much smaller stockpile, China can fire missiles at US bases and ships without giving the impression of a full-on nuclear doomsday.

By fitting the H-20’s concept into China’s nuclear posture, it comes across as more of a credible conventional strike platform meant to beat the US back in the Pacific rather than a flying nuclear threat.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines now depend on 3D printing for parts in winter warfare

The Marine Corps has, in recent months, started to shift its focus away from operations in the Middle East and begun to emphasize preparing to operate in extreme cold— like that found in northern Europe and northeast Asia.

US forces “haven’t been in the cold-weather business for a while,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in January 2018. “Some of the risks and threats there, there is a possibility we are going to be there.”


That reorientation has placed new demands on Marines operating at northern latitudes in Europe and North America — and put new strains on their equipment.

The Corps has issued requests for information on a new cap and gloves for intense cold, and it plans to spend nearly $13 million on 2,648 sets of NATO’s ski system for scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines, and some infantrymen.

But the transition to new climates hasn’t gone totally smoothly. Marines in northern Norway in 2016 and early 2017 reported a number of problems with their gear. Zippers stuck; seams ripped; backpack frames snapped; and boots repeatedly pulled loose from skis or tore on the metal bindings.

A Marine with Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, straps on his snow shoes during cold-weather training at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, January 27, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)

Now the service is increasingly drawing on new technology to keep Marines equipped in harsh environments.

Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, working with the Marine Corps System Command team focused on additive manufacturing, which is also known as 3D printing, have come up with a method for same-day printing of new snowshoe clips, which keep boots locked into show shoes.

“If a Marine is attacking a position in the snow while in combat, and the clip on their boot breaks, it makes it difficult for the Marine to run forward with a rifle uphill to complete the mission,” Capt. Matthew Friedell, AM project officer in MCSC’s Systems Engineering and Acquisition Logistics, said in a release. “If he or she has a 3D-printed clip in their pocket, they can quickly replace it and continue charging ahead.”

Th teams designed and printed the new clip, made of resin, within three business days of the request, and each clip costs just $0.05, the Marine Corps said in the release. The team has also 3D-printed an insulated cover for radio batteries that would otherwise quickly be depleted in cold weather.

“The capability that a 3D printer brings to us on scene saves the Marine Corps time and money by providing same-day replacements if needed,” said Capt. Jonathan Swafford, AM officer at MWTC. “It makes us faster than our peer adversaries because we can design whatever we need right when we need it, instead of ordering a replacement part and waiting for it to ship.”

US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brian Rubenacker adjusts his snow shoes during Exercise Forest Light at Camp Sendai in Sendai, Japan, February 17, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch Jr.)

The Marines aren’t the only ones working on 3D printing. The Navy is using it to make submersibles, and Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart said in mid-2017 that the Air Force was looking at 3D printing to produce replacement parts.

But the Marine Corps has expressed particular interest in the technology.

A September 2016 message gave Marine unit commands broad permission to use 3D printing to build parts for their equipment. The force now relies on it to make products that are too small for the conventional supply chain, like specialized tools, radio components, or items that would otherwise require larger, much more expensive repairs to replace.

In June 2017, Marine Lt. Col. Howard Marotto, the Corps’ lead for additive manufacturing and 3D printing, told Military.com that Marines were the first to deploy the machines to combat zones with conventional forces.

Marotto said several of the desktop-computer-size machines had been deployed with the Marine Corps crisis-response task force in the Middle East.

Sgt. Ethan Maeder, a machinist with the 2nd Maintenance Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, demonstrates how to use a 3D scanner in an X-FAB facility, August 1, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kaitlin Kelly)

The Corps is developing the X-FAB, a self-contained, transportable 3D-printing facility contained within a 20-foot-by-20-foot box, meant to support maintenance, supply, logistics, and engineer units in the field. The service also said it wants to 3D-print mini drones for use by infantry units.

Marine officials have attributed much of the Corps’ progress with 3D printing to its younger personnel, many of whom have taken initiative and found ways to incorporate the new technology.

“My eyes are watering with what our young people can do right now,” Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters said at a conference in March 2018, adding that 69 of the devices had been deployed across the force. “I have an engineering background, but I’m telling you, some of these 21- and 22-year-olds are well ahead of me.”

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

Articles

7 bunkers for riding out the nuclear apocalypse in style

The nuclear apocalypse doesn’t have to be scary. Any of these seven nuclear fallout shelters would make the end of the world relatively comfortable:


1. Cheyenne Mountain Complex

Famous from movies like Dr. Strangelove, WarGames, and Independence Day, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a richly appointed bunker and status symbol for the post-apocalypse elite. It feature an underground lake and small boats for re-enacting Lonely Island videos as well as great defenses and a gym.

On the downside, bunker residents would have to share space with the Air Force and NORAD whose 24-hour operations would dampen the boat party. Also, there’s no fighting in the War Room.

2. Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center

Equipped with radio and television studios so you can drop awesome mix tapes, the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center is for the aspiring rap artist who will capture the post-apocalypse angst. An on-site water treatment plant prevents sewage build-ups and the facility houses 200 people, meaning your whole entourage could come.

Unfortunately, there are very few private rooms and those are reserved for the senior members of the executive branch and the Supreme Court Justices, so bring poncho liners to hang up for privacy in the communal areas.

3. Raven Rock Mountain Complex: Site R

Raven Rock Mountain Complex has great security provided by a company of military police officers dedicated to the complex and defenses to defeat an electromagnetic attack. It reportedly features a stocked Starbucks and a direct underground tunnel to Camp David, the President’s own retreat.

Of course, all those amenities mean that senior military brass and even the president will head here, so expect the culture to get very stodgy very quickly.

4. National Audio-Visual Conservation Center at Mount Pony

Photos: Library of Congress

The Mount Pony facility is a 140,000-square-foot bunker filled with 90 miles of shelving that hold 1.1 million video items and 3.5 million audio recordings stored there by the Library of Congress. Combined with the 200-seat movie theater in the complex, the Mount Pony facility is the perfect home for the cinephile.

Like the Greenbrier Resort, the site has been decommissioned as a nuclear bunker so denizens must bring their own supplies and should probably invest in a cot. A waste incinerator would also come in handy.

5. For the book lover: The Notch

The bunker at The Notch was originally the command center for the 8th Air Force in case of an attack, but after it was retired it served as storage for the Federal Reserve and is now where Amherst College which keeps a portion of its archive.

Modern survivors in an apocalypse could peruse the materials and enjoy the artifacts while the air conditioning and high ceilings provide a comfortable living environment. And, since the facility is now owned by colleges, there is no military brass to bother you.

6. Underground Complex at North Bay, Canada

Complete with a gym, a cafeteria, and a barber shop, the Underground Complex at North Bay, Canada was the first major underground bunker for riding out the apocalypse. And, since the bunker is mainly manned by the Canadian military, it’s likely to have a very civil command climate.

Unfortunately, its generators draw from the same air as its personnel, limiting the amount of time the bunker can run before everyone suffocates. Originally, this window of time was measured in hours, though modern, efficient generators and computers might allow days of survivability.

7. The Bunker at Greenbrier

Photo: Wikipedia/Bobak Ha’Eri

The Bunker at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia is one of the most famous bunkers of the Cold War. Designed to house 1,100 of Washington’s elite, the facility has its own medical and dental facilities, great decor, and five large meeting rooms. The cafeteria has fake windows with paintings of the countryside for that classic “pre-wasteland” aesthetic.

Since the site has been decommissioned there is no worry of Congress showing up to ruin the party, but residents will have to bring their own food, water, staff, and diesel fuel.