Now's your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.

Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.


Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.

March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.

In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.

The response was encouraging.

During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.

There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”

Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.

“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.

Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.

“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”

In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.

“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.

Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.

Individuals can find a list of living recipients here, and pick those they’d like to write.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

A classroom of students showing their cards for the MOH recipients.

On or before March 15, send letters to:

Medal of Honor Mail Call
ATTN: (Your Recipient’s Name)
2400 Boston Street, Ste 102
Baltimore, MD 21224

Stange reminds letter writers to include their mailing address as the recipients may write back.

Janine can be found on her website, at @TheAnthemGirl on Twitter, and at NationalAnthemGirl on Facebook.

Articles

The truth behind basic training “Stress Cards”

Basic trainees in the Air Force are being issued “Stress Cards.” If basic training gets too hard or they need a time out they can just pull these out and the instructor has to stop yelling at them.


No joke. I heard it from my cousin. Or my friend John. My buddy swears he saw them being handed out to the new trainees. Kids today just don’t have the chutzpah my generation does. One time when I was platoon leader in Somalia, this kid handed me one and asked for a time out, I kid you not.

Also read: 5 crazy ways recruit training has changed

None of that is true, of course. The stress cards myth is usually attributed to the Air Force, due to the perceived ease of Air Force basic training, and the Chair Force reputation. Sometimes, Bill Clinton introduced them to the Army (because the 90s were that awesome). In the legend, they’re yellow, because if you need to use one, you’re yellow too! Even some Airmen are guilty of perpetuating it. Whenever someone hears about the stress card myth, they are usually doomed to repeat it.

There is truth to the myth, but it wasn’t the Army or even the Air Force. In the 1990s, the cards were issued to new recruits as a means of telling them of what their options were if they got depressed. It contained basic information such as chaplain services and what to tell your Recruit Division Commander, etc. instead of deserting or washing out. And they were blue, because if you need these services, you were probably blue too.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

The Blues Card was not a Get Out of Jail Free Card, though some RDCs reported troops holding it up while being disciplined, trying desperately (and probably in vain) to use it in that way. If you waved this in your RDC’s face, he probably made you eat it.

The Army did issue “Stress Control Cards” which were the equivalent of a wallet-based mood ring. the recruit or soldier could put their finger on a special square, which would turn colors to indicate a range of stress levels, from “relaxed” to “most stressed.”

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

For those of you who used to be in the Army or Navy, imagine your Drill Instructor or RDC’s response to your waving this card around while they’re trying to discipline you. How would that have gone? Tell us in the comments below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The legend of Ed Loder: Boston Fire Department’s most decorated firefighter

The call rang out in the firehouse of Rescue Company 1 reporting a jumper at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Ed Loder, a 41-year-old firefighter with 20 years on the job, threw on his gear and pulled himself into the driver’s seat of their fire engine. The sirens wailed as they sped down the narrow city streets of Back Bay, an affluent neighborhood in Boston. Loder steered the rig in front of the hotel, jumped out, and was handed a set of binoculars from the hazmat truck.

Against the dark sky he located a distressed woman on the 16th floor, sitting with her feet dangling over the ledge of a windowsill. A negotiation team of the Boston Police Department pleaded with the woman from inside the hotel room, but she wasn’t complying. Loder soon joined the other firefighters on the roof.


“We could look over the edge of the roof and see her, but she couldn’t see us because she wasn’t looking up,” Loder told Coffee or Die Magazine in a recent interview. “She was looking in the room and talking to the cops.”

The woman had a razor in her hand. This rescue wasn’t going to be easy.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Boston firefighter Ed Loder talking to other firefighters on the ground while a building is ablaze. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

While other firefighters searched for a viable anchor point, Loder tugged ropes through the carabiner on his bumblebee suit. The nearby ductwork was unusable, but a window through an electrical structure on the roof was perfect. Loder tied in his line.

Their plan was to have the police distract the woman long enough for Loder to complete the rescue.

“They got her attention and the minute she looked inside of the room, I went off the roof,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “When I went off the parapet I naturally swung and kicked her in the side and she went into the room.”

The police officers immediately jumped on top of her and placed handcuffs around her wrists to prevent her from harming herself or anyone else. Loder, however, was left swinging outside and hollered for one of the officers to pull him in too.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

A newspaper clipping about the incident at the Ritz-Carlton, showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder after he made a daring rescue of a suicidal woman. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

The Boston Globe would describe the heroic nighttime rescue that occurred on May 30, 1990, as “Mission Impossible.” Bill Brett, a Globe photographer, was a witness alongside 300 other spectators on the ground. “I never expected someone to come down and knock her in the window,” Brett said. “He drops down, and boom, she’s inside! Down where I was, everybody cheered; the crowd clapped and yelled; it was unbelievable, like a movie.”

For this action, the Board of Merit awarded Loder the Walter Scott Medal for Valor, the second highest in the fire service. But as he puts it, it was just another day on the job at Rescue Company 1.

The War Years

Ed Loder grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had long admired the World War II veterans who took jobs with the fire department down the street from his home. In fact, he wanted to be them.

The Boston Fire Department is rich with tradition and history that date all the way back to 1631. America’s first publicly funded fire department saw numerous innovations over the next handful of centuries. The first leather fire hoses were imported from England in 1799; all fire engines were equipped with aerial ladders by 1876; and radios were installed in all fireboats, cars, and rescue companies by 1925.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

A train collision that occurred in the Back Bay of Boston in 1990. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

In 1970, when 21-year-old Fire Fighter Edward Loder was appointed to Ladder Company 2 in East Boston, the Boston Fire Department was in the midst of the “War Years.” Between 1963 and 1983, there was at least one major fire every 13.6 hours. On average, a fire company reacted to as many as five to 10 fires in one tour of duty. Loder joined the fire service to be in on the action, and like the majority of other sparkies rising through the ranks, that’s exactly what he got.

Over the next decade, Loder responded to a variety of emergency situations as a part of Ladder Company 2, and later Ladder Company 15 in the Back Bay. He was there for a big oil farm fire in Orient Heights and a ship fire from Bethlehem Steel, but the most memorable for him was the 1800 Club, partly owned by former Red Sox player Ken Harrelson. The entertainment complex along the waterfront burned to the ground, with an estimated loss of id=”listicle-2648495230″ million.

Even some calls he didn’t participate in had an impact. After ending his shift on the morning of June 17, 1972, Loder and his wife went out in the afternoon, only to be stopped by a familiar face.

“We ran into this cop that I knew and he said to me, ‘What are you doing here?'” Loder remembered. “He had this look on his face that I’d never seen before.”

The seven-story Hotel Vendome had caught fire and collapsed on top of Ladder Company 15’s truck. Nine firefighters were inside the hotel, and tragically, all nine lost their lives.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Boston firefighter Ed Loder, kneeling second to left from Pickles, the “Dandy Drillers” Dalmatian. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

The following year he responded to the worst plane crash in Boston’s history. Delta Airlines Flight 723 hit a seawall while trying to land at Logan International Airport. All 89 passengers and crew were killed.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘Geez, is this what the fire service is all about?’ It didn’t bother me in a way, but it was like a shock and awe after a little bit, and you adapted to it,” Loder said. “I said, ‘I don’t think there is anything else on this job that I could come across that’s probably going to bother me.'”

The days and nights spent on the job weren’t all tragic or intense. Every October throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Boston Fire Department raised awareness through Fire Prevention Week with a squad dubbed the “Dandy Drillers” performing high-wire aerial exercises around the city.

“We took two 100-foot aerial ladders, we put them together at the tips, we tied them together up at the top, and hung a 150-foot piece of rope down the middle of it,” Loder told Coffee or Die. “I used to do the upside-down no-hands exercise. We had platforms attached to these aerial ladders probably 20 feet in the air, and we’d jump off of that into the life nets. We would also have 10 guys on each ladder that would hook into the ladder and lean out with no hands. I understand it was the only type of thing in the country.”

Boston City Hospital Rescue

After 12 or 13 years with various companies, Loder transferred to Rescue Company 1, where his reputation grew to legendary status. At one rescue, a deranged man was on the roof of Boston City Hospital. The man had hurled several brick-sized boulders at pedestrians standing on the sidewalk and at cars driving by on Massachusetts Avenue.

“If you come out, I’m gonna jump,” the man told the cops as they tried to talk him off the ledge.

Ladder Company 15, Loder’s old team, had arrived just as Rescue Company 1 pulled up to the scene. “Throw your aerial up on the side of the building,” Loder told them. “That way there if they chase him over here, he will see the aerial and he’ll go back.”

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Boston firefighter Ed Loder, right, was awarded the Walter Scott Medal for Valor and four Roll of Merit awards, including one for a water rescue in the Charles River. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

Loder took charge and ordered Ladder Company 17 to be posted on the other side to sandwich the man in between.

In the meantime, Loder went up the aerial ladder to get a better view of the rooftop and the distraught man.

“I’m gonna jump,” the man said once more.

“I looked at him and said, ‘What are you gonna do that for, you’re going to make a mess down there if you jump,'” Loder said.

The man ran to the edge only a few feet from where Loder was positioned. “We’ve been here for an hour playing with you — it’s lunch time, I’m hungry and want to go get a sandwich. How about you go inside the hospital and get something to eat?”

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

A screenshot from the Boston Globe newspaper showing Boston firefighter Ed Loder holding a man by his shirt with his fingertips while suspended 100 feet in the air.

“Fuck you,” the man hollered, as he climbed over the side and proceeded down a conduit pipe attached to the hospital building.

Arm by arm, the man took off his coat, threw it to the ground, and said for the final time, “I’m jumping!”

From the side of the aerial ladder, Loder reached out with both his arms and grabbed the man by his shirt. Dangling 100 feet in the air, Loder screamed at the aerial operator to lower the ladder.

“Instead of lowering the aerial, he hits the rotation on the turntable and slams me and the guy in the side of the building,” Loder said, explaining that the operator likely panicked during the split-second action. “He dropped the aerial down to maybe 10 to 15 feet off another roof that was there, and I let him go. I couldn’t hang on to him anymore.”

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Paul Christian, left, Boston fire commissioner between 2001 and 2006, and Ed Loder wearing Liar’s Club golf shirts. Photo by Matt Fratus/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Liar’s Club

A row of cars with the doors ripped off and the metal frames crumpled are remnants of a previous fire academy training class. There in the parking lot sits a small and unassuming office trailer known as The Liar’s Club. Since 1968, retired Boston firefighters have been meeting here every Wednesday morning to share stories, reminisce, and — sometimes — tell a few lies.

Driving up to the Liar’s Club in Loder’s pickup, we didn’t get very far before the first young fire captain approached the driver’s-side window, wanting to shake Loder’s hand. With some 43 years on the job, Loder is the most decorated firefighter in Boston Fire’s nearly 400-year history. Not that he boasts about the glory.

Inside, beyond the coffee and donuts, an old retiree says, “You know he’s one of the most decorated in the fire service?” while Loder rolls his eyes in the background.

In the back room, nicknamed “Division 2” in homage to the two districts between which the city is split, I listen as Paul Christian, the former Boston fire commissioner, shares a story about the old days.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

An infamous photograph snapped by a Boston newspaper photographer of Ed Loder wearing Sperrys on the job. Photo courtesy of Ed Loder.

“Today they have to put bunker gear on, put the boots on, put the hood on, put this on, put that on, get up on the truck, put their seatbelts on,” Christian said, in reference to the new OSHA regulations. “When I came on the fire department, you had to run to the piece [fire truck] while you jumped on with your coat while you’re going down the street. You’re putting on your belt, and the best you could do was kick your shoes off and put your boots on.”

Sometimes they forgot — and a Boston news photographer was there to snap the picture to prove it. “I get a call from headquarters and they wanted to know who the guy was with the Sperrys on,” Loder said and laughed. “Of course everybody said that nobody knew nothing, but it was me.”

Loder just celebrated his 72nd birthday and continues to give back to the fire service, teaching classes to the next generation. All the medals and the accolades later, Loder maintains that he was just doing his job.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

American pilots are being targeted by lasers in the Pacific

Pilots of US military aircraft operating in the Pacific Ocean have reportedly been targeted by lasers more than 20 times in recent months, US officials told The Wall Street Journal.

All of the incidents occurred near the East China Sea, the officials said, where Chinese military and civilians often operate in part to buttress their nation’s extensive claims.

This report comes not long after the Pentagon accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US pilots in Djibouti. The pilots suffered minor eye injuries as a result, but China denied any involvement.


It’s unclear who is behind these activities in the Pacific and the officials said the lasers used were commercial-grade, such as laser pointers often used for briefings and even playing with cats, as opposed to the military-grade lasers used against the US pilots in East Africa.

The lasers were reportedly pointed at the US aircraft from fishing boats, some of which were Chinese-flagged vessels.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, practice air-to-sea maneuvers over the Pacific Ocean Jan. 25, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards)

The US officials said they do not currently believe the Chinese military is behind these incidents, but also couldn’t totally rule it out given the recent issues in Djibouti.

They added it’s possible Chinese fisherman or people from “other countries in the region” could simply be doing this to harass American pilots.

It’s also not clear what type of aircraft were targeted.

After the incidents in Djibouti, the Pentagon in May 2018 issued a formal complaint to China and called on its government to investigate.

In response, China’s Defense Ministry said, “We have already refuted the untrue criticisms via official channels. The Chinese side consistently strictly abides by international law and laws of the local country, and is committed to protecting regional security and stability.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added that the government had performed “serious checks,” adding: “You can remind the relevant U.S. person to keep in mind the truthfulness of what they say, and to not swiftly speculate or make accusations.”

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

Articles

This Civil War vet walked around with a bullet in his face for 31 years

Jacob Miller was shot in the head at the Battle of Chickamagua on 19 September 1863. Never heard of it? The most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, the battle resulted in the second-highest number of casualties after the Battle of Gettysburg. Everyone in Miller’s unit assumed he was one of them.


The Union soldier ended up living for another 54 years. His survival was nothing short of miraculous. Why’s that? Because he had a giant bullet hole in his forehead. Left for dead on the battle field, Miller regained consciousness hours later. His firsthand account of the battle was published by The Joliet Daily News in 1911. It’s a riveting read.

When I came to my senses some time after I found I was in the rear of the confederate line. So not to become a prisoner I made up my mind to make an effort to get around their line and back on my own side. I got up with the help of my gun as a staff, then went back some distance, then started parallel with the line of battle. I suppose I was so covered with blood that those that I met, did not notice that I was a Yank, (at least our Major, my former captain did not recognize me when I met him after passing to our own side).

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients
The wound never really healed, but it’s pretty safe to assume it saved his life. What happened next?

I suffered for nine months then I got a furlough home to Logansport and got Drs. Fitch and Colman to operate on my wound. They took out the musket ball. After the operation a few days, I returned to the hospital at Madison and stayed there till the expiration of my enlistment, Sept. 17, 1864. Seventeen years after I was wounded a buck shot dropped out of my wound and thirty one years after two pieces of lead came out.

Let that sink in for a moment. Miller walked around with a bullet in his forehead for 31 years. Was he bitter? Hardly.

Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battle field after so many years. My answer is I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving. I haven’t written this to complain of any one being in fault for my misfortune and suffering all these years, the government is good to me and gives me $40.00 per month pension.

Notice how he’s wearing a Medal of Honor? It has nothing to do with the hole in his head. Miller was awarded the medal in recognition of his gallantry in the charge of a “volunteer storming party” on 22 May 1863. Pretty inspiring stuff.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Teen honors her fallen father with senior photos

Julia Yllescas was just seven years old when her father, Army Capt. Robert Yllescas, succumbed to injuries sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2008, according to the Omaha World Herald. Now a high school senior, Julia honored her father’s memory by taking “angel photos” for her senior portrait, as reported by the KOLN TV station in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Susanne Beckman, owner of Snapshots by Suz, created the photos as a special gift for the family, she said on Facebook.


“I have been taking pictures of Julia since she was about 9 and I thought it would be a great idea to do these angel pictures for her as a special gift for her big milestone and to her family,” Beckman wrote. “I am an active-duty National Guard wife, which is what inspired the idea and the vision. I take a lot of pictures of military families and their special memories.

“I was very emotional when I edited the photos because my husband is active-duty National Guard and has been put in the same exact situations as Rob was, but I was lucky enough for him to come home. A lot of military spouses and kids such as Julia are not, and I am so thankful I was able to do something to honor her and her dad!” she continued.

In response to the photos, Yllescas told KOLN, “It almost felt when I saw those pictures that he truly was there. And to have a piece of him with me throughout my senior year. Because sometimes it feels like, ‘Where are you, why did you have to go?’ Just to have that on my wall and be like, ‘No, he is with me, even though I can’t physically see him.'”

Before he died, Robert Yllescas was presented with a Purple Heart by President George W. Bush. He was assigned to the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas.

His memory lives on through his family, and especially in these photos.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the Coast Guard’s new class of cutters

One thing is glaringly obvious about the Coast Guard’s medium endurance cutters: they are old. Real old. According to the Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 15 of the Coast Guard’s 28 medium endurance cutters are over 45 years old, and only three of them were commissioned after music superstar Taylor Swift was born. You could say they are due to be replaced.


Fortunately, the Coast Guard has been working on a replacement. They call it the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, and according to a handout WATM obtained at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo in National Harbor, Maryland, it will be replacing all 28 of the medium-endurance cutters currently in service.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

A Reliance-class medium endurance cutter. Most of these ships are over 50 years old.

(USCG photo)

These cutters, the first of which will be named USCGC Argus, will pack a 57mm gun (like the National Security Cutter and Littoral Combat Ship), as well as be able to operate a helicopter. Globalsecurity.org notes that the cutters will displace 3,200 tons and will have a top speed of at least 22 knots.

The Coast Guard currently operates 14 Reliance-class cutters, from a class of 17 built in the 1960s. Three of the vessels were decommissioned and transferred to allied navies. These vessels displace about 879 tons and have a top speed of 18 knots. Their primary armament is a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, like that used on the M2 Bradley.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

A Famous-class medium endurance cutter. These vessels can be equipped with Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Phalanx close-in weapon system.

(USCG photo)

The other major medium endurance cutter is the Famous-class cutter. This cutter comes in at 1,200 tons, and has a 76mm OTO Melara gun as its primary armament. It has a top speed of just under 20 knots, and is also capable of carrying two quad Mk 141 launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS).

Finally, there is the Alex Haley, an Edenton-class salvage tug acquired by the Coast Guard after the United States Navy retired the three-ship class. Two sisters were transferred to South Korea. It does remain to be seen how 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters can replace 28 older hulls, though.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The future of the Army will be swarms of robots

In future combat, Army units may deploy a large unmanned aerial system that can serve as a mothership capable of unleashing swarms of autonomous aircraft for various missions.

With near-peer competitors advancing their anti-access and area-denial capabilities, the Army requires innovative ways, such as this one, to penetrate through enemy defenses, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville.

“Quite frankly, if you’re going to some type of integrated air defense environment, I would prefer to have unmanned aircraft leading the way,” he said.


McConville, an aviator who has piloted several Army helicopters, spoke April 16, 2019, at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A.

“We want industry to be listening,” he said about the conference, “because we are telling them where we think we’re going and what we want them to develop.”

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

Senior leaders expect the future battlefield to have dispersed units operating in densely-populated areas, where they will be contested in multiple domains, such as the air.

To be successful, they say, soldiers need to be able to present several dilemmas to the enemy, which is why the Army developed its new concept of multi-domain operations.

“We must penetrate enemy anti-access and area-denial systems in order to allow follow-on forces to disintegrate,” McConville said, “and find freedom of operational and tactical maneuver to exploit enemy forces.”

FARA/FLRAA

The Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team has started to rapidly develop two aircraft — the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and Future Long Range Attack Aircraft, which aim to replace some AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, respectively.

For the FARA program, the team expects to award two vendors next year to create competitive prototypes that will perform a government-sponsored fly-off in 2023, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, the team’s director, said in March 2019.

Earlier this month, a request for information, or RFI, for the joint FLRAA program was released in an effort to further refine requirements for the Army, Special Operations Command and Marine Corps.

Both programs are set to achieve initial fielding by 2028-2030, McConville said, adding no decisions have yet been made on how many will be procured.

The general, though, did say that air cavalry squadrons may receive FARA, while there would still be room for Apache helicopters.

“So for the old cavalry folks, you can dust off your Stetsons and shine up your spurs,” he said. “We see the Apache helicopter remaining in the attack battalions and being incrementally improved for some time into the future.”

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

FLRAA, he added, will likely be fielded first to units with forced- or early-entry missions like the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 82nd Airborne Division, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), and some National Guard units.

“We will acquire these aircraft with competitive prototyping processes to ensure the capability is there before we buy,” he said. “We want to fly, we want to try, before we actually buy and we’re looking for innovation from industry as we go forward.”

Under development is also a new aviation engine through the Improved Turbine Engine Program as well as a 20 mm gun, he said.

Future aircraft will also require a Modular Open System Architecture. The general envisioned it to have something similar to how smartphones can easily receive and complete updates every few weeks.

“We think this is absolutely critical because we want to be able to field new capabilities very quickly into our aircraft of the future,” he said.

As a former OH-58 Kiowa pilot, McConville said it took too long to make updates on the reconnaissance helicopter.

“You would have to rewrite the entire code and flight test it,” he said. “It was a big deal just to change a screen thing, which we should be able to do in seconds.”

While modernization efforts may affect other programs, the general said that change is necessary.

If senior leaders in the 1970s and 1980s failed to modernize the force, he said, soldiers would still be flying AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters instead of Apaches and UH-1 Huey utility helicopters instead of Black Hawks.

“We must modernize the Army,” he said. “We’re at that critical time right now and we feel that with the modernization priorities, the National Defense Strategy, where we see the world evolving, we must do that.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the first all-female aircrew of the Air Force’s ‘Combat King’

For some people, making history is not about what they’re doing but instead why they’re doing it.

On Sept. 6, 2019, six airmen from the 347th Rescue Group completed the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew.

While most would be excited just to make history, this crew’s “why” is less about the recognition but more about representation.

“We don’t want to be noticed for being women,” said Senior Airmen Rachel Bissonnette, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster. “Any person who meets the bar can be an aircrew member. What we want is for the girls who think they can’t do it, to know that they can.”


Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters prepare to load a container delivery system on to the ramp of an HC-130J Combat King II, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

Now’s your chance to honor Medal of Honor recipients

Capt. Sarah Edwards, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilot, prepares for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

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71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilots prepare for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

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Senior Airman Rachel Bissonnette, left, and Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, right, both 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters, look out the back of an HC-130J Combat King II as it flies over south Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

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Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, visually confirms the target for a loadmaster-directed rescue drop, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

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71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters preform a loadmaster-directed pararescue-bundle drop, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

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Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, visually confirms the target for a loadmaster directed rescue drop, Sept. 6, 2019.

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71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilots fly an HC-130J Combat King II, Sept. 6, 2019.

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Lomax, Edwards, Bissonnette, Weisz, McGahuey-Ramsey, and Barden after the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight with an all-female aircrew, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

The crew and leadership from the 347th Rescue Group expressed that their “why” has more to do with future than it does the past.

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

popular

Who would win a fight between an American and Russian missile cruiser?

With the retirement of the Dutch-built cruiser Almirante Grau by the Peruvian Navy, only two countries now operate cruisers: Russia and the United States. Russia has three Slava-class guided-missile cruisers in service while the United States has twenty-two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers. Naturally, we’ve got to ask… in a one-on-one fight, would a Russian missile cruiser win, or would an American? 


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An aerial starboard view of the bow section of a Soviet Slava-class guided missile cruiser showing 16 SS-N-12 missiles, a twin 130 mm dual purpose gun, and two 30 mm Gatling guns.

 

Both vessels have roughly the same capabilities. They both provide area air-defense while also being able to attack surface ships and submarines.

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser’s main battery consists of two 61-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch systems. These can hold a wide variety of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. These cruisers also have two five-inch guns, two triple Mk 32 launchers for 12.75-inch torpedoes, two Mk141 quad launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon, and two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems.

The Slava-class cruisers have 16 SS-N-12 “Sandbox” anti-ship missiles, 64 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, two SA-N-4 “Gecko” launchers (each with 20 missiles), a twin 130mm gun, two quintuple 21-inch torpedo tube mounts, and six AK-630 30mm Gatling guns. This is a fearsome arsenl, but it leaves the Slava somewhat short on land-attack capability.

Related: Here’s a closer look at Russia’s powerful missile cruiser

 

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The Slava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov. (U.S. Navy photo)

So, what happens when you pit these two powerhouses against each other? Of course, it depends in large part on who sees the other first. The Slava can operate one Ka-27 Helix helicopter compared to two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks on a Ticonderoga. This gives the Ticonderoga an edge, since the two Seahawks could, through triangulation of the Slava’s radar, give a good enough fix for the Ticonderoga to fire its Harpoons.

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A Tomahawk missile launches from the stern vertical launch system of USS Shiloh (CG 63) (U.S. Navy photo)

 

 

The key part of this hypothetical battle is the exchange of anti-ship missiles. The Slava has twice as many missiles as the Ticonderoga — each with a range of 344 miles — and a conventional warhead of roughly one ton that could tear a Ticonderoga apart, but these missiles fly at high altitude and, despite going more than twice the speed of sound, are easy pickings for the Aegis system onboard the Ticonderoga. Here, the Ticonderoga’s Harpoons may be more likely to get a hit or two in, despite the Slava’s missile armament. The SA-N-6 may have a long range, but the Harpoons come in at very low altitude. At least one or two Harpoons will likely hit the Slava. The Ticonderoga’s MH-60R Seahawks, if equipped with AGM-119 Penguin anti-ship missiles, could provide a second volley. At least one of the Penguins would likely hit as well.

 

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The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) fires its MK 45 5-inch lightweight gun during a weapons training exercise. San Jacinto is currently underway preparing for a future deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

 

After this exchange, the Slava will likely need to deal with fires, flooding, and disabled combat systems. From here, the Ticonderoga is left with two options: fire five-inch guns equipped with the Vulcano round or take the risk of closing to finish the job. Getting too close, however, would put the Ticonderoga within range of the Slava’s torpedo tubes, which could seriously damage — if not sink — the American cruiser.

So in a fight between a Russian missile cruiser and an American missile cruiser, who would win? At the end of the day, we’d put our money, as we always do, on the American Ticonderoga-class cruiser.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

‘Missile barges’ could be America’s secret weapon in the Pacific

In recent years, the United States has begun to shift its military focus away from counter-terror operations and back toward the possibility of a large-scale conflict with near-peer opponents like China. Unfortunately, nearly two straight decades of the Global War on Terror has left the American defense apparatus on the wrong footing for such a war. In some important respects, America now finds itself playing catch up; working to close capability gaps that have presented themselves in Europe and the Pacific.

While America retains the largest military on the planet, it also has further reaching obligations than any other force on the planet as well. In every corner of the globe, America’s military serves in a variety of capacities, from providing a stabilizing presence, to training foreign militaries to defend themselves, to enforcing international norms on the high seas. As we’ve discussed in some depth before, America’s Navy may be huge for this era of relative global stability, but it would find itself significantly outnumbered in a Sino-American war in the Pacific. That issue becomes even more clear when you consider that the U.S. Navy couldn’t deploy the entirety of its fleet to any one waterway without leaving a number of other important interests un-guarded.


When you combine China’s rapidly growing Navy with its well-armed Coast Guard and its maritime militia, you get a positively massive 770-ship Chinese presence in the Pacific. For context, the massive U.S. Navy currently boasts only around 293 ships–and while President Trump has pushed for growth to reach a 355-ship Navy, no real plans to get there have yet to materialize. That means the U.S. Navy would be left to face China’s massive sea fairing presence while outnumbered at least two to one.

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(U.S. Navy)

When the most powerful military in the world isn’t enough

Having a massive fleet alone isn’t enough to win a 21st century conflict on the high seas–It’s equally important that you have the right kinds of ships to leverage for specific roles.

Over the years, advancing technology has enabled the United States to move away from the massive fleets of ships and aircraft it maintained during the Second World War, and toward a lower number of assets that are capable of filling multiple roles. Ships like the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, just like multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are properly outfitted to serve in a number of capacities. This mindset has allowed the United States to expand its capabilities while reducing its personnel requirements and the overhead costs of maintaining far more assets with far more specialized roles.

But there are downsides to America’s love affair with “multi-role” platforms: They dramatically increase the cost of research and acquisition, and that increased cost forces purchases in fewer numbers. It also forces military assets into positions that don’t fully leverage their broad capabilities.

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Three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Shoup (DDG 86) steam in formation during a photo exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Todd P. Cichonowicz)

For some useful context into how more advanced technology has enabled the U.S. to increase capability while decreasing volume, consider that America’s military apparatus wielded a whopping 6,768 ships and an astonishing 300,000 combat airplanes at its peak during World War II. As America poured money into better military technology throughout the Cold War, it transitioned to an era of valuing technology and capability over volume, and today the U.S. Navy boasts just 293 ships, and America maintains a comparatively paltry 13,000 military aircraft.

With so many fewer platforms to utilize, these multi-role ships and airplanes are left doing a wide variety of work that has to be prioritized. Despite being capable of filling multiple roles, these platforms can often only fill one role at a time — making them more effective for strategic posturing, but less effective in a combat situation. Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers are incredibly powerful ships, equipped with a variety of guns, missiles, and torpedoes, but are often relegated to simplistic missile defense operations because of their role within the Aegis missile defense apparatus. These destroyers serve as a shining example of how a ship with a number of uses may get stuck in a single defensive role during large scale conflict.

As former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson put it, BMD (ballistic missile defense) ships are restricted to very confined operating areas that he refers to as “little boxes.”

A cargo ship packed with missiles? Really?

If the United States were to find itself on a collision course with China, one of the nation’s first priorities would be finding ways to rapidly expand both America’s military presence and strategic capabilities in the Pacific. China owns a positively massive ballistic missile stockpile (including hypersonic anti-ship missiles), which would mean missile defense would be considered a significant priority for America’s Aegis destroyers. Unfortunately, that would limit the ability for America’s destroyers to operate in a more offensive capacity, as they steamed in circles around their area of responsibility, waiting to intercept any missiles lobbed their way.

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Left to right, the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), and the guided missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Carney (DDG 64) and USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) launch a coordinated volley of missiles during a Vandel Exercise (VANDALEX). (US Navy photo)

This would be a significant waste of destroyers, which would in turn limit the capability of other battle groups that couldn’t rely on the offensive power of these warships. In a real way, America would simply need more vertical launch missile tubes (commonly referred to as VLS cells, or Vertical Launch System cells) in the Pacific to bolster both offensive and defensive operations — and it would be essential to get them as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

That’s where the idea for missile barges, or missile ships, comes into play. In a 2019 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, five experts, including a retired Navy captain and a retired Marine Corps colonel, offered their suggestion for rapidly procuring and equipping commercial cargo ships for combat operations.

“The Navy should acquire and arm merchant ships, outfitting them with modular weapons and systems to take advantage of improving technology and shipping market conditions while providing capability more rapidly and less expensively than traditional acquisition efforts.”
-Captain R. Robinson Harris, U.S. Navy (Ret.); Andrew Kerr; Kenneth Adams; Christopher Abt; Michael Venn; and Colonel T. X. Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
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(Pixnio)

The premise behind missile barges has been around for some time; after all, at its most simplistic levels, this idea boils down to “just stick a bunch of missiles on a ship you have laying around,” but what differentiates this modern missile barge concept from past iterations is the technology of our day. America has long possessed “containerized” missile platforms that would sit comfortably on the deck of large cargo ships. Further, with data-fusing supercomputers like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, America has also already demonstrated the capability of engaging targets with surface-based weapons via targeting data relayed by nearby aircraft.

Put simply, we already have modular weapon systems that would work when operated off the decks of cargo ships, and we’ve already proven that weapons of that sort can be leveraged to engage targets identified by aircraft… That means this concept would require very little in the way of infrastructure building or development–which equates to both cost and time savings.

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(PXHere)

Procuring the hulls

The first step to building a fleet of missile barges would be procuring the hulls of commercial cargo ships, which would likely be a fairly easy endeavor if a war in the Pacific were to occur. It’s estimated that as much as 1/3 of all global commerce sails across the South China Sea on an annual basis, and a conflict between the United States and China would curtail a majority of these trips–due to both the drop in trade between these two economic power houses and the perceived danger of sending commercial ships through what would effectively be the site of the greatest naval conflict in all of recorded history. As a result, purchasing these vessels would likely come at a significantly reduced cost.

Purchasing a new commercial double hulled cargo ship would normally run the United States between and million dollars, but cargo ships that are already in use can be procured on websites like NautiSNP for pennies on the dollar, with some vessels currently on the market for just over id=”listicle-2647023060″ million.

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Again, a significant drop in trade through the Pacific would likely result in even greater cost savings as firms liquidate their assets in the region to recoup some of their losses.

Modifying commercial ships into missile barges

Once the U.S. Navy had procured the ships themselves, it could begin the relatively significant task of refitting them for service as missile barges. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

The Navy could utilize containerized missile and drone assets stacked on the ship, which would make it more difficult to discern from traditional cargo vessels while dramatically reducing the actual work required to convert each ship. While the vessels would have to be marked as U.S. Navy ships and flagged as such, the similar profile to commercial ships would force the Chinese Navy to positively identify each vessel before engaging, as many weapons systems rely on inverse synthetic-aperture radar that assesses targets through little more than low-resolution profiling.

LORA Weapon System Operational Demonstration

www.youtube.com

That front-end investment could be further curbed by relying on external assets like nearby Aegis destroyers for command and control, relying on the warship’s radar, targeting, and command apparatus for what is effectively little more than an arsenal ship or “floating magazine.” In this regard, missile barges would effectively serve as a supplement to a destroyer’s existing weapons loadout.

Conversely, these vessels could be modified to carry traditional VLS tubes just like those employed by America’s guided missile destroyers today. A container ship could be modified to carry a slew of vertical launch tubes carrying Tomahawk missiles in as little as three to six months. The costs would be higher, but the trade off benefit would be utilizing the same basic systems found on other Navy ships, reducing the required training and logistical concerns associated with standing up a different weapon system.

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Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Charles Coleman inspects missile cell hatches on one of two Vertical Launching Systems (VLS) aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66). The VLS is capable of launching numerous missiles including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile and SM-2 Standard Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Charles E. Hill)

As the proposal in Proceedings suggests, it would be important for the Navy to carefully consider how many missile barges they intended to build, and how many missiles they intend to keep on each.

While it’s possible to place more than a hundred VLS tubes and associated missiles on one of these vessels, that would represent both a massive expense and a massive target for the Chinese military. Instead, the proposal suggests converting 10 to 15 cargo ships into missile barges, each carrying between 30 and 50 Tomahawk missiles. That would limit the potential losses if such a vessel were lost, while giving it enough firepower to benefit the Navy’s overarching strategy.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Jimmy C. Pan)

The hybrid-crew model

Of course, another shortfall we have yet to discuss in a Pacific conflict could very well be trained Sailors. As the U.S. Navy rapidly procured and modified ships into missile barges, it would also have to rapidly staff these vessels — which likely wouldn’t be feasible leveraging a traditional Navy recruiting pipeline. Instead, the hybrid crew model proposed by Navy Captain Chris Rawley seems most logical.

Each missile barge would have a crew comprised of both U.S. Navy officers and civilian sailors that have experience operating these commercial vessels. By recruiting from the private sector, the U.S. Navy could rapidly field these ships with crews that are already trained and proficient at the tasks they’d be assigned, while placing Naval officers in command of the vessel and in other essential combat roles.

By using a military command element, operating missile barges in war with a crew made up in part of civilians would still be legal under international law. Indeed, this model is already in use aboard some specific Naval vessels, like the recently decommissioned USS Ponce amphibious transport dock.

These missile barges could be crewed with as few as 30 people, split between U.S. Navy and civilian personnel. Because the missile payloads would not come close to these ship’s total capacity, they could also utilize buoyant cargo sealed in the hull to help make these ships more survivable in the event of an attack.

It’s possible that these ships could be crewed by even fewer people in the near future, as the Navy has already earmarked 0 million in the 2020 budget for the development of two large unmanned surface ships. The Navy’s Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vessel dubbed “Sea Hunter” has already successfully traversed the open ocean between San Diego and Hawaii all on its own, demonstrating the capability for unmanned Navy ships to come.

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Are missile barges actually realistic?

Although the U.S. Navy is in the early stages of what may come to be a transformative era, it seems unlikely that the United States would shift away from its current love affair with high-cost, multi-role platforms any time soon. The new USS Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers serve as a good example of how the U.S. military prefers new, shiny, and expensive hardware over old, rusty, and more cost efficient options. While some within the Defense Department are questioning the future of America’s supercarriers, the alternative posited is usually something akin to smaller, but still rather large and expensive Lightning Carriers built for short-take off, vertical landing F-35Bs.

However, it’s important to note that the Navy of today is a product of the past fifty years of foreign policy posturing, but that may not be the right Navy to see us through a return to large scale conflict. Today, war with China remains a distant threat, but as that threat looms closer, we may see a transition in the Navy’s mindset similar to that of the Air Force’s recent push for “attritable” aircraft to bolster our small volume of high-capability assets.

Attritable, a word seemingly designed to give copy editors stress wrinkles, is the term used by the U.S. Air Force to describe platforms that are cheap enough to be used aggressively, with some degree of losses considered acceptable. This has led the Air Force to investing in drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, which is a low-observable drone capable of carrying two small-diameter bombs for ground strikes while costing only a few million dollars a piece.

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Kratos Valkyrie (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins)

While it would cost more than a few million dollars to field each missile barge, the price may still be discounted enough to be considered attritable when compared to billion behemoths like the Ford. As unmanned ships become more common, and as a result, more affordable, it may become even more cost effective to leverage existing commercial hulls as a means of offsetting China’s huge numbers advantage in the Pacific.

Does it seem likely that the U.S. Navy would start strapping missiles to old container ships any time soon? The answer is a resounding no, but if America and China continue on this collision course, America’s defense apparatus may find itself being forced to make some hard decisions about just how much capability it can squeeze out of America’s already massive defense budget. If that day comes, missile barges may represent one of the most cost effective force multipliers America could leverage.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just retired one of its most storied space vessels

After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets — more planets even than stars — NASA’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.

“As NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”


Kepler has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy. The most recent analysis of Kepler’s discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. That means they’re located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water — a vital ingredient to life as we know it — might pool on the planet surface.

The most common size of planet Kepler found doesn’t exist in our solar system — a world between the size of Earth and Neptune — and we have much to learn about these planets. Kepler also found nature often produces jam-packed planetary systems, in some cases with so many planets orbiting close to their parent stars that our own inner solar system looks sparse by comparison.

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Artist’s impression of the Kepler telescope.

“When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago we didn’t know of a single planet outside our solar system,” said the Kepler mission’s founding principal investigator, William Borucki, now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that’s full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy.”

Launched on March 6, 2009, the Kepler space telescope combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time. Originally positioned to stare continuously at 150,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the first survey of planets in our galaxy and became the agency’s first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars.

“The Kepler mission was based on a very innovative design. It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science,” said Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development. “There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them.”

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. The mission team was able to devise a fix, switching the spacecraft’s field of view roughly every three months. This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler’s count of surveyed stars up to more than 500,000.

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Artist’s impression of the Kepler telescope.

The observation of so many stars has allowed scientists to better understand stellar behaviors and properties, which is critical information in studying the planets that orbit them. New research into stars with Kepler data also is furthering other areas of astronomy, such as the history of our Milky Way galaxy and the beginning stages of exploding stars called supernovae that are used to study how fast the universe is expanding. The data from the extended mission were also made available to the public and science community immediately, allowing discoveries to be made at an incredible pace and setting a high bar for other missions. Scientists are expected to spend a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided.

“We know the spacecraft’s retirement isn’t the end of Kepler’s discoveries,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “I’m excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler’s results.”

Before retiring the spacecraft, scientists pushed Kepler to its full potential, successfully completing multiple observation campaigns and downloading valuable science data even after initial warnings of low fuel. The latest data, from Campaign 19, will complement the data from NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April. TESS builds on Kepler’s foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions, such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

For the Kepler press kit, which includes multimedia, timelines and top science results, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/kepler/presskit

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/kepler

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force dental techs get rare chance to treat adorable canines

Members of the 386th Expeditionary Wing dental team were given a unique opportunity to join forces with the Army veterinary clinic to provide support to the K-9 unit at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 8, 2018.

In most instances in a deployed environment the medical group supports the vet by providing medications and food related support, but on this day it was to perform a teeth cleaning on Military Working Dog Vviking.

“I am very grateful to do this out here,” said Staff Sgt. Torri Olivieri, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group dental services noncommissioned officer in charge. “Working with a military working dog and supporting the mission in this aspect is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”


In a deployed location, the veterinary clinic leans heavily on the medical group in emergencies to support the K-9 unit if the veterinary clinic is unavailable.

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Army Capt. Carolyn Scholl, 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services veterinary core officer, prepares to insert a breathing tube in military working dog Vviking’s throat during a routine teeth cleaning at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Mosier)

“I called the dental tech and dentist down here today so they could get hands-on experience with the MWD, because if there is an emergent situation they would be the ones taking care of the dog,” said Army Spc. Caitlin Hinds, 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services vet technician.

While the veterinary clinic is a role three facility, which means they are able to support a majority of surgeries, they aren’t specifically trained to perform routine cleanings.

The vet clinic takes the opportunity to invite both medical clinic staff and dog handlers to many routine visits, such as blood draws and check-ups, to ensure they have the knowledge and are comfortable to do these things if they are unavailable, Hinds explained.

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Air Force military working dog Vviking receives a belly rub from his handler before his teeth cleaning at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Mosier)

Staff Sgt. Angelina Borges, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group military working dog handler, discussed an incident in 2018 when her partner, MWD Vviking, was having issues lying down and sitting and the vet was there to help her every step of the way to help improve his health.

“I am really thankful for the vet clinic here and how they have explained everything to me,” Borges said.

The trust and willingness to accommodate one another has really bolstered the partnership between the Army and Air Force and Hinds looks to keep improving that relationship.

“I can go to the kennel master and medical group and say, ‘I need this,’ and they are more than willing to help,” Hinds explained. “It makes me feel good, because I am building the bonds back.”

The cohesiveness between units at ‘The Rock’ stems from these bonds and has developed with trust and partnership with one goal in mind — to complete the mission.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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