Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

We have all been there as boots. You just graduated boot camp. You are motivated, fit, look good in that uniform and are king/queen of the world. Everyone back home is looking at you like you are the bee’s knees, and you are ready for the next phase of your military career.


Next thing you know, you are being handed a broom and sweeping the rain off a parade deck or trying to finally locate those damn Humvee keys. You want to get more information on what your journey is like, but there is no recruiter to ask, the Lance Corporal Underground is giving you all types of scuttlebutt, and your NCO is more about giving you a hard time instead of telling you what is next.

Your spouse, parents and family are going through a similar journey. They just watched you complete training. You are now an elite warrior in their eyes (even if you will be doing admin work the next four years). They spoil you on your leave and stuff your face with all the food you can eat.

As they watch you leave for school and then your permanent duty station, they do what spouses and parents do. They worry, fret and turn to any news to learn about what your journey will be like. Yeah, you tell them that you are filing papers or doing maintenance on a 7-ton, but they turn on the news or log into Facebook and are convinced you are being sent to Iran or North Korea soon or are in dire danger at all times because that’s all they see in the media.

Well, thanks to Sandboxx, that will soon change. The company that gave us the app that changed the way you get letters at boot camp is working on building a new resource for everyone from salt dogs who are nearing their 20 to boots that blouse their jeans and military families.

But first, what is Sandboxx? If you went to boot camp recently, you probably remember them.

The Sandboxx app is one that a lot of people have used and part of one of the coolest morale boosters in the history of boot camp.

Sandboxx got its start when Marine veterans Sam Meek and Gen. Ray Smith teamed up with follow co-founder Padmanabhan Ramaswamy to offer a better way to keep in touch with your family when you were at recruit training.

The idea was simple. When you showed up at bootcamp, you filled out a card with your loved one’s information. A group of military spouses would then enter that information in a database, and your mom, dad, spouse, grandparents or girl back home would get your address so they can write to you.

They could then login to the Sandboxx app or on the website and then start sending letters right away. The letters are printed out, put into envelopes and sorted by platoon. Most letters are delivered the next day.

So now, instead of languishing on Parris Island wondering if your girl ran off with Jody for three weeks before you got a huge stack of letters at once, you can get letters daily and keep up to date with family and loved ones. Loved ones can also upload pictures (no, they can’t send alcohol or smokes).

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You might pull the whole, ‘boot camp is getting soft now’ routine, but the military doesn’t care. Sandboxx letters were shown to dramatically improve morale and cut down on recruits quitting or dropping out of training. This was especially true among female recruits.

Sandboxx also helps family travel to graduations with an amazing travel vertical on their page. As soon as you know Johnny or Suzy will be walking across that parade deck, you can use their user-friendly travel page and get yourself to South Carolina to see them!

There is also a second app called iCorps. This is an easy to use, one-stop shop, resource for all things Marines. You can use PFT calculators, learn how your ribbons should be set up and get your Marine Corps history all in one spot without having to surf through Google and a myriad of MARADMINS.

What is next for Sandboxx?

We Are the Mighty talked to Alex Hollings, who will be heading up this effort by Sandboxx to educate and alleviate fears of military members and their families. Alex himself is a former Marine who served from 2006 to 2012. After getting out and going to school, Alex and his wife endured a big loss in their family. That spurred him to live for the moment and follow his dreams as a writer. After moving to Georgia and working for SOFREP and Popular Mechanics, Alex caught the eye of Sandboxx. He is now their editor and dedicated to providing educating and entertaining news to young service members and their families. When asked about Sandboxx News, he said, “We want to be the website for junior service members that are looking to advance in their career or just understand how what they’re doing plays a role in America’s broader defense apparatus. We want to be the place you can learn, and where you can send your mom or your boyfriend to help them understand what you’re doing and why it’s so important.”

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

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Look, we all know nowadays the news we read is all doom and gloom and meant to scare us. We need to be frightened of viruses, cruise ships, Iranians, viruses on cruise ships, and Iranians sneaking viruses on cruise ships. Sandboxx is moving around that.

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(Nicole Utt, Shane McCarthy, and Alex Hollings of Sandboxx News)

In this time of fake news, doom and gloom, and scare tactics, it is great that a company is taking the time to alleviate the fears a spouse and parents might have and guide young service members on their new adventure/career.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia unsheathes a mysterious new laser weapon

A new Russian laser weapon designed to instantly obliterate targets entered military service December 2018, the Russian defense ministry revealed.

Russia’s Peresvet laser system, named after the medieval warrior monk Alexander Peresvet, entered experimental combat duty on Dec. 1, 2018, the Russian defense ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper reported Dec. 5, 2018.

The military began taking possession of the first shipments in 2017 as part of Russia’s ongoing military modernization program, according to The Moscow Times, and there is speculation the lasers could shoot down incoming missiles and airplanes.


Watch Russia unveil Peresvet laser system:

Заступление на опытно-боевое дежурство новейших лазерных комплексов «Пересвет»

www.youtube.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin first announced the existence of this new laser weapon in March 2018 during his State of the Nation address, during which he briefly introduced the “Combat Laser Complex.”

“We have achieved significant progress in laser weapons,” he boasted, “It is not just a concept or a plan any more. It is not even in the early production stages. Since last year, our troops have been armed with laser weapons.”

“We are one step ahead our rivals,” Putin added without providing any evidence.

Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov offered a bit more information in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS, explaining that the device could destroy targets “within fractions of a second.”

“We can talk a lot about laser weapons and movies were made about them a long time ago and fantastic books have been written, and everyone knows about this,” he introduced. “But, the fact that these systems have started entering service is indeed a today’s reality.”

The Russian defense ministry posted a video of the weapon in July 2018, before it had officially entered service.

Боевой лазерный комплекс «Пересвет»

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Not much is publicly known about the Peresvet combat laser system, as Sputnik, a Russian media outlet controlled by the government, noted. What exactly it does has been the subject of much speculation.

“It is expected to be an air-defense system that can track and shoot down hostile aircraft and missiles,” Sputnik explained, adding, “Some suggest it will be tasked with ‘blinding’ sophisticated enemy systems, making them inoperable.”

Other countries, like the US and China, are also developing directed energy platforms.

China unveiled the LW-30, a vehicle-based laser weapon built to quickly eliminate a variety of aerial targets, at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai in November 2018.

Experts speculated that the weapon designed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) could be deployed to the South China Sea.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of a Navy warship’s dangerous encounter with Russian fighters

When the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook sailed into the Baltic Sea in April 2016, it had been more than two years since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.

Tensions between Russia and its NATO and European neighbors were still high, and the intervening period had seen a number of uncomfortable and even unsafe encounters between their forces, for which NATO often criticized Russia.

Adm. James Foggo, then a vice admiral in charge of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, had those in mind as the Cook sailed into the Baltic.


“I had warned them going up there that as they passed through the Danish Straits and into the Baltic that they should be prepared for something like that and that the only way that the world would recognize that it happened is if they had a recording or a photograph,” Foggo, now commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa, said on the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings podcast.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“So the commanding officer [of the Cook], Chuck Hampton, told me afterward, ‘Well, I had six combat cameramen on each bridge wing.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot,'” Foggo said.

“He goes, ‘Well, you told me if something happened I had to be prepared,'” Foggo added. “So that was part of their ‘man battle stations’ type drill for close-aboard contacts.”

Guided-missile destroyers like the Cook are the Navy’s premier air-defense platforms and are often tasked with guarding other ships, aircraft carriers in particular.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Here comes this Russian hot dog’

The encounter with two Su-24 fighter jets, which took place about 80 nautical miles from the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, was one of two the US destroyer had on April 11 and 12, 2016.

On April 12, a Russian helicopter flew around the Cook seven times at low altitude in what the ship’s commander deemed “unsafe and unprofessional” passes.

A short time later, two Su-24s made 11 more close-range, low-altitude passes in what the Navy said was “a simulated attack profile.” The jets didn’t respond to safety advisories from the Cook, whose commander deemed several of their maneuvers “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The April 11 incident was especially dangerous because of what the Cook was doing and because of how the Russian pilot behaved.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“What a lot of people don’t know is that at the time they were doing what we call a ‘hot-pump’ of a Polish aircraft that was doing deck landing [qualifications],” Foggo said.

“So the Polish helicopter had landed and was being refueled while the rotors were turning, and here comes this Russian hot dog in his jet, doing several hundred knots, and the distance between wingtip and the deck of Donald Cook was about 30 feet,” Foggo added.

That was the closest of the 20 passes the Russian jets made that day, according to US officials, who said the Russians flew so close they created wakes in the water and that it was among the “most aggressive” Russian acts in some time.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

The fly-by that took place during the refueling was deemed unsafe by the Cook’s commanding officer, and the ship suspended flight operations until the Su-24s left the area.

“I asked Gen. [Philip] Breedlove and Gen. [Frank] Goranc … ‘would you ever fly your F-16 that close to a moving platform like Donald Cook?'” Foggo said.

“And they said, ‘No way, if the guy sneezed he might have buried his wing into the Donald Cook,'” Foggo added. “Now what would’ve happened then? We’d be explaining that this was a pilot error and not a shoot-down of that aircraft.”

Breedlove and Goranc are retired Air Force generals and fighter pilots who both led US Air Forces in Europe and Africa; Breedlove was also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft make multiple low-level passes over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Wings clean’ vs. ‘wings dirty’

Encounters between NATO ships and aircraft and their Russian counterparts increased after the seizure of Crimea. US forces involved frequently deemed those encounters “unsafe.”

In years prior, “the Russians would typically fly with what we call a ‘wings clean’ configuration, which is no weapons on the wings,” Foggo said on the podcast. “Now in the interactions and the intercepts I see today, they’re coming out ‘wings dirty,’ or they have weapons on board.”

“That’s another bit of the calculus that goes in the commanding officer’s mind on … what is the intent of that pilot, and at what point is [the commanding officer] obliged to defend his ship under defensive rules of engagement,” Foggo said.

Foggo didn’t elaborate on those rules of engagement, but a European Command spokesman told Navy Times at the time that the Cook’s commanding officer didn’t feel threatened, and a retired Navy commanding officer said that, under the circumstances, the Russian aircraft didn’t present a credible threat.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

Encounters at sea still happen but are less frequent, Foggo said.

“I don’t have as many negative interactions … between Russian Federation navy and US or NATO assets,” he said. “They tend to act very professionally. It’s mostly in the air with intercepts, and those could possibly be due to different pilots … is it an air force guy in the cockpit or a navy guy? It depends, and every situation is different.”

US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command, said this summer that encounters had decreased and that “unsafe” intercepts had “diminished tremendously.”

“What I can assure this audience is that well over 99% of the intercepts that occur in the air are actually safe,” Wolters said at an event in Brussels in June. “In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should.”

“For every one intercept that a Russian aviator commits against a NATO aircraft, we actually have three NATO intercepts” of Russian aircraft, Wolters added, according to Military Times. “That gives you a little bit of a feel for the readiness disposition of your NATO force.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Leaked Star Wars Episode IX poster makes a huge change

The first promotional poster for the long-awaited Star Wars: Episode IX has hit the internet and it’s pretty shocking. What’s shocking about the poster isn’t what it depicts, but rather, what — and who — is missing. In fact, this is the first promotional image for a new Star Wars movie since 2005 that hasn’t contained a big-deal character from the original classic trilogy. (The Force Awakens had Han and Leia, and The Last Jedi had Luke and Leia. Even the Rogue One poster had Darth Vader!) So, sure, with this one, you’ve got Chewbacca and a hardcore version of C-3PO repping for the ’70s and ’80s, but Leia and Luke (who are both confirmed for the film!) are missing from this poster. What could that mean?


On March 27, 2019, the Star Wars fan-run site Making Star Wars posted leaked art for what they are calling a “retail” poster for Star Wars: Episode IX. This image does not contain the long-awaited title for that movie but also notably omits any depiction of the Skywalker twins — Leia Oranga and Luke Skywalker. (Note: StarWars.com has not posted this yet. This is a leak discovered by a fan site.) Is this legit? Seems like it.

Still, though this leak looks legit, this isn’t necessarily the “official” movie poster. It could be a promotional collage created for anything from a toy package to a cereal box. The point is, we’re not sure what this image is intended for. But there are several things about it that are interesting. In order, here’s the big stuff.

  • Kylo Ren is wearing his helmet, which, we saw him break into a million little pieces during a hissy fit in The Last Jedi. (So is it really Kylo Ren? Or someone rocking his style?)
  • Kylo Ren is holding his lightsaber at a weird angle, which really makes you wonder if it’s actually him. Like is this his new fighting style?
  • Rey’s lightsaber seems to be in one piece. (It was destroyed in The Last Jedi. What’s up with that?)
  • On the upper right, we can see Naomi Ackie as “Jannah.” (She’s rumored to be Lando’s daughter.)
  • The masked character behind Poe Dameron on the right is thought to be “Zorri.” This is probably who Kerri Russell is playing in the movie!
  • The Knights of Ren are back, and seemingly, not in a flashback. (Are they gonna take their masks off or what?)
  • C-3PO is holding a weapon, that looks almost exactly like Chewbacca’s famous bowcaster. Most Star Wars pundits don’t think this a cropping mistake. It seems like this is totally real. (Does this mean C-3PO is gonna be a badass now?)
  • New all-red Stormtroopers are revealed. The rumor here is they only report to Kylo Ren.
  • The title is not revealed.
  • And finally…Rose, Luke, Leia, and R2-D2 are all missing from the poster.

Jason Ward, who runs Making Star Wars has theorized, that this leaked art isn’t final. His theory — which makes sense — is this is an early concept piece which might not reflect what is actually happening in the movie.

Right now, the first trailer and title-reveal for Star Wars: Episode IX are both expected in a few weeks at Star Wars Celebration, a convention that takes place from April 11- April 15, 2019, in Chicago. Back in 2017, the title for The Last Jedi dropped before the first trailer, but the trailer itself did debut at Star Wars Celebration.

Star Wars: Episode IX is out everywhere on Dec. 20, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Humor

7 of the top ways the military ages you

Much like dogs, it is said that servicemen and women age at seven times the rate of civilians while on active duty.


Long hours, high standards, and a constantly combat-ready mindset are key factors in this unpublished (read: not real) scientific study that has been conducted by the subjects themselves for over 243 years.

Not convinced? Well, as they say, “the proof is in the pudding,” and what follows is evidence that cannot be denied.

1. Growing gray hair.

There really isn’t too much needed to qualify this statement. Serving in the military will give you gray hair due to the crazy stress service members face during their time in uniform.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx
A 24-year-old Sgt. after two deployments (Photo by Sgt. Jacob H. Harrer)

2. Making awful noises when standing up.

All branches are included, but we’re highlighting Army and Marine Corps infantry specifically on this one.

Humping heavy packs, digging fighting positions, sleeping outdoors, and sprinting in full battle rattle has left these once-youthful specimens grunting like f*cking elephants any time they try to stand from a seated position.

3. Complaining about kids today.

Deploying overseas can sometimes make it seem like time stands still. You get no new music and you have limited contact with the outside world as pop culture grows and transforms.

This, combined with the mass re-prioritization of values that happens during basic, cultivates some condescending views towards civilians of the same generation.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx
Accurate. (Image via Terminal Lance)

4. Talking about the good ol’ days.

It’s been said that you must earn your happy memories through hard times. The greater the shared hardship with friends, the happier the memories when reminiscing about it later.

There is no shortage of shared hardship while in good company in the military, so a group of veteran 20-somethings getting together and sharing war stories from the “good ol’ days” is not uncommon.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx
Just a couple of buddies (Photo by Airman 1st class Alexis C. Schultz)

5. Enjoying black coffee and quiet mornings.

It’s just nice to wake up an hour or so before you need to and enjoy some peace and quiet with a cup of joe.

Most people don’t fully understand this majesty until they are well into their fifties, but sleeping in the field is generally uncomfortable, so appreciating the joys waking up early and having hot coffee is instilled in troops at a much younger age.

6. Talking about driving directions and the weather.

This bleeds over from route selection and weather statuses with regard to mission accomplishment.

It becomes a habit to ensure that when you’re going and how you’re getting there is planned appropriately and military members love discussing these tactics — even if it’s at a BBQ with some beers and buddies.

7. Reading books about war.

People like to read about things that apply to them — subjects they relate to. So, it comes as no surprise that books about war are of interest to the GWOT generation.

That and the exploits of our fathers and grandfathers always seems more badass because of the lack of technologies we are blessed with today.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Netflix series will tell the stories of Medal of Honor recipients

The Medal of Honor is unlike any other accolade in the United States Armed Forces. It’s not something that you “win.” It’s something bestowed only to those who have shown the highest level of valor and sacrifice in the face of the enemy to save their brothers- and sisters-in-arms.

The story written onto each Medal of Honor’s citation tells of the moment a service member risked everything without hesitation. Not all recipients come away from those moments with their life and, oftentimes, it’s their brothers that carry the story onward for the world to hear.

Now, Robert Zemeckis, Academy Award winning director of Forrest Gump, and James Moll, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Last Days, are showcasing these valorous tales on Netflix with the upcoming docuseries, Medal of Honor.


Medal of Honor will be an eight-part anthology series told through a mixture of interviews, reenactments, and real, live-action footage. In order to authentically capture what transpired in those fateful moments, the series will make use of archival footage and commentary from historians, veterans who were present, and family members who know these heroes best.

Creating a series about an award as prestigious as the Medal of Honor comes with a certain gravity, that producer James Moll recognizes. He said,

“There’s a huge responsibility that comes with telling stories of the Medal of Honor. We’re depicting actions that exemplify the greatest, most selfless qualities that any person can embody. We never took that fact lightly. We constantly questioned ourselves, demanding that these stories be handled with tremendous integrity at every step.”

“We were fortunate to have quite a few veterans working with us on the production, and we had quite a few crew members whose close family members had served or were currently serving.”

Mike Dowling, a Marine Corps veteran, co-founder of the Veterans in Film Television, and a former member of the We Are The Mighty team is on staff as the series’ military advisor/associate producer.

The series is set to premiere on Netflix on November 9th, 2018 — the Friday of Veteran’s Day weekend.

Catch the trailer below:

Each featured Medal of Honor recipient will have an episode devoted to their story. The recipients to be featured in the first season of the series include:

  1. Sergeant Sylvester Antolak (United States Army) — World War II
  2. Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha (United States Army) — Global War on Terrorism
  3. Staff Sergeant Ty Carter (United States Army) — Global War on Terrorism
  4. Staff Sergeant Edward Carter (United States Army) — World War II
  5. Corporal Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura (United States Army) — Korean War
  6. Master Sergeant Vito Bertoldo (United States Army) — World War II
  7. Corporal Joseph Vittori (United States Marine Corps) — Korean War
  8. Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. “Dick” Etcherberger (United States Air Force) — Vietnam War
MIGHTY HISTORY

This American rose to lead an entire army in a foreign war

It’s not everyday you hear about an American rising through the ranks of a foreign army, at least not in the last century. But it was surprisingly recently that one American did in an army in just that way. A U.S. citizen rolled over to Armenia during its Nagorno-Karabakh War with neighboring Azerbaijan. He entered the Armenian army having never fought with an actual army and rose through the ranks to command a force of 4,000 men.


California-born Monte Melkonian’s training regimen looks like the resume of a radical terrorist or Communist. But while he held some leftist views, his experience came fighting only for the lives of Armenians – and when the time came, Armenia itself. If you ask Armenians, who today live in a parliamentary republic, he’s a hero.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

In 1988, the breakaway Azerbaijani oblast (province) of Karabakh voted to join the vote to leave not just the crumbling Soviet Union, but also the new country of Azerbaijan. It declared the creation of a new state apart from the USSR while the autonomous oblast of Karabakh declared itself free of Azerbaijan, joining Armenia instead. After all, it did have a majority Armenian ethnic makeup. In 1992, things really hit the fan, and Armenia made decisive territorial gains. At the center of some of those gains was Monte Melkonian, an Armenian-American who had traveled to Armenia at the end of the USSR’s lifetime.

Armenians, after facing a genocide and forced exile from their homelands, are a proud and patriotic people, and Melkonian was no different. He believed that if Azerbaijan were allowed to force Nagorno-Karabakh back into Azerbaijan, then other parts of Armenia would be taken by the Azeri military forces. This was unacceptable to Melkonian, who joined the fighting in 1991. By early 1992, he was a regional commander and quickly began to turn the tides of the war in favor of Armenia.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

The California native might have had little experience running an army, but he knew how to fight. As a youth, he helped overthrow the Shah of Iran while a student in Tehran. After witnessing Iranian troops firing on student protesters, he moved north where he learned to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga, still one of the most effective fighting forces in the Middle East to this day. He then traveled to Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War to protect the Armenian Quarter of the Middle Eastern city from right-wing militants.

While in Beirut, he decided to work toward the independence of Armenia and after years of imprisonments and living underground in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, he found himself in Armenia’s disputed territory, leading thousands of men. His training at the hands of the Peshmerga and Palestinians was paying off as he not only pushed the Azerbaijani forces out of Karabakh in less than a year, he captured the region between Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia, unifying the two on the map.

Just two months later, he was dead.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

Monte Melkonyan’s tomb.

The Armenian hero was killed in a firefight after Azerbaijani troops got lost in the dark and stumbled into his camp. He was given full military honors at his funeral and is interred outside the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where he is still revered as a legend and brilliant military strategist. His ability against the enemy combined with his political views and personal charisma means Armenians and historians remember him as a sort of Armenian Che Guevara.

He is still revered in his adopted homeland, and the Armenian Military Academy, as well as a number of villages, streets, and schools were renamed in his honor. Armenia still controls the areas captured by his forces, even if the borders are still disputed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia hasn’t shown its laser weapon fire a single time

As Russian propaganda blows up the internet with the unveiling of a new laser weapon, this is just a friendly reminder of a couple things. First, Russia lies about new tech all the time. Second, it hasn’t shown the weapon fire. And, most importantly, this weapon was originally announced in a press conference filled with other over-hyped weapons.


Russia originally released footage of its Peresvet Combat Leaser System a few months ago, and it actually showed the weapon in more detail than what came out in December. Neither video actually shows the weapon in action.

(YouTube/Russian Ministry of Defence)

That’s not to say that the Russians can’t build a functioning laser weapon or that America shouldn’t be prepared for its enemies to deploy lasers, but it is to say that we should take our time while pricing mirrored caps for our bomb shelters (save money by cutting old disco balls in half!).

The laser in question, if you haven’t seen it, is the Peresvet Combat Laser System. It was first announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a March annual address to the Russia’s Federal Assembly where he also discussed new nuclear missiles, including a nuclear-powered missile that he claimed was ready put in the field. It later came out that the missile has never had a successful test and crashed at sea, forcing Russia to try and find it.

Russia actually also claimed another laser weapon at the same time, a plane-mounted, anti-satellite laser. The Peresvet is, almost certainly, not the same weapon. This thing would not fit on a high-flying fighter jet.

The Peresvet Combat Laser System Is Now In Service

www.youtube.com

Peresvet has been teased one time since the annual address but is now receiving a lot of publicity as Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet, has released a new video of the laser “in service.”

Except, as everyone buzzes about the laser, we all seem to forget that the video is only showing the foreskin of a tent being pulled back to reveal a shiny laser head as a Russian with no face takes a firm grasp of the stick. That is literally as sexily as I can possibly describe this actually very boring video.

Is this a new laser weapon? Probably, but it could just as easily be the trailer for a professional gamer who only uses Apple keyboards and discount joysticks while playing his flight sims on the road.

Assuming it is a weapon, could it tip the balance in a ground war with the U.S. as it shoots down incoming missiles, drones, jets, and helicopters by the thousands? Again, sure. Anything is possible. But lasers are actually super hard to make work as weapons, and they require a ton of energy per each shot.

Fake news and doom and gloom? Not at Sandboxx

A U.S. Air Force C-130 flies with an experimental laser in 2009. The laser was later canceled because it couldn’t engage enemy missiles at a significant range.

(U.S. Air Force)

They require somuch energythat America’s first few laser prototypes barely used electricity because the battery and power-generation requirements were technically infeasible. Instead, we filled a C-130 with vats of chemicals that could, yes, create a laser of sufficient strength to down a missile, but not at ranges sufficient to work in a real-world scenario.

With advances in electronics, it is now possible to create lasers powered by electricity that have sufficient strength to bring down objects in the sky or destroy targets on the ground. How can I be so sure? Well, the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army prototypes have all been publicly demonstrated and fired.

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A target at sea is destroyed by the prototype laser mounted on the Navy’s USS Ponce during a 2015 test. Note that the fireball comes from explosives in the target, not the energy from the laser.

(U.S. Navy video screenshot)

They’ve even been demonstrated working on actual combat platforms like the Army Stryker and the Navy’s amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce. The Air Force demonstrated the aforementioned chemical laser on a C-130 years ago and currently has a contract with Lockheed for high-energy lasers for fighter jets, a weapon it wants combat ready by 2021.

So yeah, there’s no reason to think that Russia can’t develop a similar weapon. And warfighters, especially drone operators, should begin training to operate in environments where Russian lasers can shoot them down (but only when using massive trailers). But America still, obviously, has the edge in laser technology. And we don’t need to panic because Russian propaganda has made an impressive claim.

Remember, Russian leaders also claimed that the Su-57 and T-14 Armata were game-changing weapons that they could build relatively cheaply and would tip the worldwide balance of power. Spoiler: Both weapons are too expensive for Russia to afford and neither appears to work as well as advertised.

Articles

39 horrible technical errors in ‘GI Jane’

Ridley Scott’s “G.I. Jane” gave audiences an inside look into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, with Demi Moore starring as a female trainee.


Except it’s not called BUD/S — the movie calls it CRT for some reason — and the technical errors don’t stop there. We sat through two hours of sometimes horrific technical errors so you don’t have to. Here’s the 39 that we found.

1:53 Senator DeHaven references an F-14 crash at Coronado. Although it is possible that an F-14 could crash in the area, it’s worth pointing out that Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, has no F-14s assigned to it.

3:00 The senator says that nearly 1/4 of all jobs in the U.S. military are off-limits to women. It’s actually much closer to 1/5th.

4:31 The admiral makes the first mention of “C.R.T — Combined Reconnaissance Team,” which he refers to as SEALs. There’s no such thing as CRT. The training program that Navy SEALs go through is called BUD/S, or Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL.

4:37 The admiral says SEAL training has a 60 percent drop-out rate. According to the Navy’s own figures, the drop-out rate is closer to 75-80 percent.

11:50 O’Neill says she has survived Jump School and Dive School. As an intel officer, it’s highly unlikely that she would ever attend these schools.

13:13 Royce mentions to Lt. O’Neill that BUD/S training is three months. It’s actually six.

14:01 Now we’re introduced to Catalano Naval Base in Florida. It doesn’t exist. BUD/S actually takes place at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, Calif.

14:21 Lt. O’Neill pulls up to the base in a Humvee. If she were going to a training school, she would’ve just driven a civilian vehicle or taken a taxi from the airport like everyone else. She wouldn’t be picked up by a driver in a tactical military vehicle (although that possibility could have happened but it would’ve been a government van).

14:23 The gate guard says “Carry on.” He’s enlisted, and she’s an officer. If anyone is going to say that, it’s going to be the officer, not the enlisted guy.

14:46 Yes, Lt. O’Neill is wearing a beret right now. And no, people in the Navy don’t ever wear one.

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20:00 Capt. Salem welcomes the new class and says they are all “proven operators in the Spec-Ops community.” He mentions that some of the trainees for CRT are SEALs. Why would SEALs be going through initial SEAL training? (This is just another screw-up coming from calling BUD/S the fictional “CRT.”)

20:07 Salem mentions that some of the trainees are from Marine Corps Force Recon. You can’t become a Navy SEAL unless you’re in the Navy.

26:20 A Huey helicopter is about 10 feet away from the trainees who are exercising in the water, but Command Master Chief Urgayle can give a rousing speech about pain that everyone can hear just fine.

26:50 After his speech about pain, Urgayle hops on the Huey and heads out. I wish I could have a Huey as a personal taxi to take me around.

36:27 Using an M-60 machine gun to fire over trainees’ heads is believable. The Master Chief using a sniper rifle to fire live rounds at trainees during training? That is not.

36:31 Are you frigging serious with this reticle pattern right now?

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36:52 This course looks less like training and more like Beirut in the 80s. What the hell is with all the flames everywhere?

37:19 Now there is a jet engine shooting afterburner exhaust in trainees’ faces. Wtf?

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39:00 Apparently the Master Chief has moved his sniper position from away in a bunker to the perspective of Lt. O’Neill, looking up at Cortez on top of the wall.

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48:56 The instructors throw two live smoke grenades and fire rounds from an MP-5 submachine gun to wake up the trainees. The sound doesn’t really match, unless they are shooting live rounds at people. In which case, it’s probably not a good idea to shoot live bullets at a cement floor.

53:01 I know Capt. Salem really likes his cigars, but smoking one during PT?

54:19 Lt. O’Neill gets waterboarded as Urgayle explains how effective the technique is at interrogation. This is not something taught at BUD/S.

57:07 The base gate says Naval Special Warfare Group Two. The base in the movie is located in Jacksonville, Fla., but the actual Group Two is based in Little Creek, Va.

1:05:44 Now the trainees head to SERE school, which the movie says is in Captiva Island, Fla. The Navy (or any other branch) does not hold SERE training at this location. Also, BUD/S trainees don’t attend SERE school. They would attend SERE after they earned the Navy SEAL Trident.

1:06:00 Instructor Pyro is giving a speech about SERE in the back of a noisy helicopter. The trainees wouldn’t be able to hear him.

1:09:36 Lt. O’Neill says over the radio: “Cortez, target ahead. Belay my last. New rally point my location.” She didn’t give Cortez an order, so saying “belay my last” — aka disregard that order — doesn’t make sense.

1:10:00 Slavonic wants to get a helmet at SERE school for a souvenir? Sure he’s a total idiot, but no one is that dumb.

1:12:32 Now that everyone is captured at SERE training, it’s worth pointing out that SERE is actually a three-week course, one week of which is dedicated to survival. Apparently GI Jane skipped straight to resistance.

1:30:00 Why the hell is there a baseball bat just sitting there next to ring-out bell? Oh, the director wanted to make Lt. O’Neill look like a badass. Ok.

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1:40:15 Lt. O’Neill is back in training, and now the trainees are on an Operational Readiness Exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, on a submarine. The Navy isn’t going to put trainees on a sub stationed overseas before they are SEALs while they are still undergoing BUD/S training.

1:42:28 The captain asks the Master Chief if the trainees are ready to conduct a real-world mission into Libya. He says yes, and the military viewing audience is — if they haven’t already — throwing things at their TVs.

1:49:19 There’s a firefight happening and bad guys coming towards them but these almost SEALs are literally smoking and joking.

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1:54:29 An M-16 firing doesn’t sound like a .50 caliber machine gun. But it does in this movie.

1:54:53 O’Neill fires her M203. The sound it makes is basically a “thoonk” sound. The movie sound effect is like a bottle rocket.

1:55:26 Ok, so basically every sound effect in this firefight sequence makes me want to shoot the TV.

1:56:36 This Cobra attack helicopter can easily shoot the bad guys from a distance. But let’s just go to 10 feet off the ground so the enemy has a chance to shoot the pilot in the face.

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1:57:03 The helicopter crew chief just shot a bad guy with his 9mm from 100 yards or so. That’s a pistol, not a sniper rifle.

1:59:00 Master Chief hands O’Neill her SEAL Trident and says “welcome aboard.” Except it’s not a trident. It’s some weird, made-up badge that says SEAL CRT. This is purely fictional, and made all the more ridiculous by the instructors themselves not wearing that badge but wearing the SEAL Trident instead.

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1:59:23 In the very next scene after the class graduates, O’Neill is seen wearing the SEAL Trident. Except she was just handed that fake SEAL CRT Badge.

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NOW CHECK OUT: 9 military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

MIGHTY CULTURE

LED therapy ‘worth every second’ for Gulf War vet

Eric Viitala, 49, is an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War who lives in Maine. He experienced low levels of energy and concentration for years after his service. He had headaches, couldn’t finish projects, and was losing interest in things.

“My wife would tell me I left the cupboard doors open and she would walk into them. Or I’d put the recycling in the trash.”

Shortly after the Gulf War, Viitala hit his head in an accident in Saudi Arabia. When he visited the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in East Orange, NJ, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. At the WRIISC, a doctor referred him to the VA Boston Healthcare System’s light-emitting diode (LED) therapy program.


VA’s Center for Compassionate Care Innovation has been working with VHA staff in Boston to explore the use of in-home LED treatment since 2018.

Last year, Viitala completed a 12-week course of in-home LED treatment while in communication with his VHA health care provider. He still uses the treatment at least twice a week.

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Improvements in memory and energy way up

“There were huge improvements in my memory and concentration. My energy was way up. I’d pop up in the middle of the night and go clean the garage,” said Viitala. “It’s amazing because I have been dragging for years, but now I have the energy to go do things.”

During LED treatment, patients wear a lightweight headset affixed with light-emitting diodes. The arrangement of LEDs is customized for each person. The diodes do not generate heat and the treatment is painless and noninvasive. Each session lasts only 25 minutes. There is evidence to suggest that LED therapy promotes a healing response at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow.

When Viitala uses the LED equipment, he simply sits and relaxes with the LED headset on. The equipment was provided by VHA at no cost to the veteran and belongs to him permanently. He went to Boston for one round of treatment at the medical center and to pick up the equipment. But he communicated with his health care provider by phone during treatment.

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“It’s worth every second.”

“That was really helpful and beneficial for her to call and keep encouraging me. She would ask how it’s going. It helped remind me to do it.”

Viitala credits the staff members at the New Jersey WRIISC for validating what he was feeling and referring him to the LED clinic in Boston. He encourages fellow veterans with similar symptoms to ask their providers about LED therapy.

“Don’t be afraid to speak out. There’s nothing to lose with LED. Nothing hurts. They don’t have to go inside your body. There’s no drugs, no side effects. It’s worth every second.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Navy pilot who saved a fellow aviator from the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ recounts the week that made him a legend

Chuck Sweeney left the Navy as a commander in 1980, after a 22-year pilot career that included 200 combat missions, 4,334 flight hours, and 757 carrier landings.

In one week of that career, Sweeney earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses, awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight,” for his actions over Vietnam.


Sweeney, president of the national Distinguished Flying Cross Society, spoke with Insider about the unusual way he got his start as a carrier pilot, his time fighting in Vietnam, and the week he was awarded three DFCs in September 1972.

Despite his awards, “I’m no different than most other people,” Sweeney said in the 2017 documentary “Distinguished Wings over Vietnam.”

“I just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time.”

“I have a lot of friends who said they were interested in flying early on, and they always wanted to be a pilot,” Sweeney told Insider. “I really didn’t. I wasn’t against it. I just never thought about it.”

But after he was drafted in 1958, he decided to join the Navy “and see the world.”

His first assignment took him to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland as an aeronautical engineer — not exactly one of the exotic destinations Sweeney had in mind.

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Jim Lovell’s formal portrait for the Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

NASA

While at Patuxent River, Sweeney got to know some of the test pilots, who took him up on flights.

One test pilot in particular convinced Sweeney that not only did he want to fly; he wanted to be the best of the best — an aircraft carrier pilot, or “tailhook.”

That test pilot was Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, portrayed by Tom Hanks in “Apollo 13.”

“I bought it — hook, line, and sinker,” Sweeney said.

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US Navy aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19) in the Gulf of Tonkin, May 25, 1972.

PH3 Adrian/US Navy

Sweeney first flew the S-2E anti-submarine aircraft, then volunteered to be an attack pilot, flying the A-4 Skyhawk, while he was earning a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

“They were losing a lot of pilots,” in Vietnam, Sweeney told Insider. “They were being killed or captured.”

After combat missions in Vietnam and Laos, Sweeney trained pilots in Lemoore, California. But his shore duty didn’t last long.

In July 1972, he was sent to the USS Hancock to replace Cmdr. Frank Green, the executive officer of Attack Squadron 212, who was missing in action after his aircraft was shot down.

“The next morning, I was flying my first strike against North Vietnam,” Sweeney told Insider. “Back in those days, things were happening fast.”

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One of Sweeney’s Distinguished Flying Crosses, which now hangs in the I-Bar on Naval Station North Island in San Diego, Calif.

Kevin Dixon, Acting Naval Base Coronado Public Affairs Officer

Sweeney’s first DFC came after a high-stakes rescue in the waters just off North Vietnam.

Lt. William Pear’s aircraft was hit and landed in the treacherous territory, and Sweeney coordinated his rescue from the cockpit of his A-4, even as he himself was under anti-aircraft fire.

“Most of the time, if you landed over North Vietnam, 99 times out of 100, you’d be captured,” Sweeney said. “But we got him back and kept him out of the Hanoi Hilton.”

Pear was the last A-4 pilot to be rescued during the Vietnam War, Sweeney said in an interview for the Distinguished Flying Cross Society Oral History Collection in 2005.

Days later, Sweeney led aircraft from the Hancock in a strike and was awarded his second Distinguished Flying Cross.

“We had 35 aircraft going after a target in North Vietnam, and I was leading the whole strike,” he said.

“I had planned numerous strikes and led them in training, but this was the real thing,” Sweeney said in a 2005 oral interview in the book “On Heroic Wings.”

They successfully completed the strike but met frightening resistance. North Vietnamese MiGs took off and headed toward Sweeney’s strike group, although they eventually stood down, and the group was under heavy anti-aircraft fire.

“For doing the job that I was trained to do I was awarded my second DFC,” Sweeney said in “On Heroic Wings.”

Sweeney’s third DFC came the next day, when he led three other aircraft in an alpha strike on the outskirts of Hanoi.

On a strike that close to the North Vietnamese capital, “You knew the defenses were going to be heavier,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney and other pilots dodged North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) as they headed to their target, a major railyard.

“The rule was, to avoid being hit, when [the SAM] looked like a flying telephone pole, you made this maneuver around it, kind of away from it,” Sweeney said.

“Lo and behold, this thing” — the SAM— “came up, and as it got closer, I thought ‘Oh, this has Chuck Sweeney’s name on it.'”

Sweeney managed to avoid the missile but got separated from the rest of his group and caught up just as they were preparing to attack their target.

Sweeney’s group hit a loaded train and avoided even more anti-aircraft fire as they headed back to the USS Hancock.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret Foundation announces historic accreditation by Veterans Affairs

The Green Beret Foundation is the premiere benevolent organization dedicated to the Special Forces soldiers and their families. The organization is now poised to do even more thanks to its newly announced Veterans Services Organization accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation by Veterans Affairs is an accomplishment that GBF is extremely proud of. At this time, it is the only special operations charity to hold the distinction. The organization recognizes the deep impact and importance the accreditation offers and leadership states that they look forward to being able to greatly expand their ability to serve. 

“The overall health and wellness of a Green Beret and their family is our priority, and this accreditation is a testament to our expertise and level of support as the premier benevolent organization in the Special Forces community,” Brent Cooper, Executive Director of GBF shared. 

While the GBF has been supporting its Special Forces soldiers with their needs from the VA for some time, its hands were tied with how much help they could give in many areas. With the new accreditation, the GBF can now walk alongside its soldiers throughout the entirety of the VA claims process, which is known to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate even with support.

John Armezzani is the Veterans Services Director for the claims process with the VA. In a statement posted to the GBF website, Armezzani shared that, “This process, which may range from initiating claims to carrying them through VA and Board of Veterans Appeals hearings when necessary, will greatly enhance the capability of the GBF and its Next Ridgeline program to provide unique assistance throughout the life of our Special Forces veterans.”

One deeply impactful way the Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation will help is by being able to more fully support its soldiers as they leave the military. “This [accreditation] allows the GBF to expand it’s Transition Assistance Program from providing general informational briefings on benefits to filing the benefits claims for those separating service members,” Armezzani explained. 

Not only will the organization be doing more to ensure its Special Forces soldiers receive the support they may need as they get out, but it will be able to be there throughout issues of hardship too. “GBF now has the ability to provide benefits assistance to Green Berets with life events such as change of career or in the event of a catastrophic health event. This includes dependents too,” Armezzani stated. 

As the Special Forces soldiers from the Vietnam War era continue to age, their needs will most likely increase. The VSO accreditation will allow the GBF to step in and support these honored veterans by being their voices in the benefits claims process. “Inherent in this accreditation is the ability to provide benefits assistance to our legacy holders from the Vietnam era as they enter into the twilight of their lives,” Armezzani said.

Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the announcement is the ability for the GBF to now represent its Special Forces Soldiers in the appeal process. “We will be able to represent Green Berets in appellate actions before the Board of Veterans Appeals when they disagree with a VA decision,” Armezzani said. No longer will they have to fight appeals without support, the GBF will be right there with them and will fight to ensure they are heard.

The ultimate goal of this newly-expanded program is to be able to install a representative at each location where a Special Forces Group is located. This will all be made possible through the generosity of donors and future fundraising efforts. 

The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to ensuring that every single Special Forces soldier is not only honored for their service to this nation but also cared for the way they deserve. Although the VA VSO accreditation is an impressive and important feat to have achieved, GBF is ready to do even more. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pilots get a chance to test their drone wingmen

The Air Force and DARPA are now testing new hardware and software configured to enable 4th and 5th Generation aircraft to command drones from the cockpit in the air, bringing new levels of autonomy, more attack options, and a host of new reconnaissance advantages to air warfare.

Working with BAE Systems at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Air Force test pilots are combining ground-based simulators with airborne learjets to demonstrate how 4th generation cockpit avionics can direct drones from the air, BAE Systems developers said.


“The airplane was structurally configured to allow us to take our autonomy hardware and connect it directly to the flight control system of the airplane,” Skip Stolz, Director of Strategic Development for Autonomy Control, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Demonstrations with specially configured learjets are intended as an interim step on route to integrating this kind of system into an operational F-15, F-16 or even F-35, developers said.

Using standard data-link technology, the jets operate with a semi-autonomous software called Distributed Battle Management, which enables new levels of compressed airborne data transfer, weapons integration, and sensor operations, Stolz explained.

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A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

A recent Mitchell Institute paper, titled “Manned-Unmanned Aircraft Teaming: Taking Combat Airpower to the Next Level,” cites Distributed Battle Management software as a “system-of-systems future landscape for warfare, in which networks of manned and unmanned platforms, weapons, sensors, and electronic warfare systems interact.”

The paper adds that DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory successfully tested DBM in 2017.

At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators, Global Hawks and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations. However, due at least in part to rapid advances in autonomy, the concept of an autonomous or “semi-autonomous” wingman – is arriving even faster than expected.

DARPA, Air Force Research Laboratory and industry have been developing this concept for quite some time now. The current trajectory, or rapid evolution of processing speed and advanced algorithms is enabling rapid acceleration. A fighter-jet aircraft will be able to provide a drone with tasks and objectives, manage sensor payload and direct flight-path from the air.

For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-15, F-22 or F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.

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A pilot peers up from his F-22 Raptor while in-flight.

The Mitchell Institute essay also points to a less-frequently discussed, yet highly significant advantage offered by manned-unmanned teaming. Simply put, it could massively help mitigate the current Air Force bomber and fighter jet shortage. It is often mentioned that there simply are not enough Air Force assets available to meet current demand. As a result, having a massive fleet of fighter-jet operated drones could radically increase the operational scope of Air Force missions.

In particular, the Mitchell Institute paper mentions that ever since B-2 and F-22 production were cut well short of the initial intent years ago – the Air Force has since been forced to operate with insufficient air assets.

“A resource of 185 fighters (F-22s) and 20 bombers (B-2s) is fundamentally limited in world where their capabilities are in high demand. Airmen and their aircraft, no matter how well trained or technologically advanced, cannot be in two places at once,” the paper writes.

Fighter-jet controlled drones could also be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots. Furthermore, given the fast-evolving efficacy of modern air-defenses, drones could fly into high-threat or heavily contested areas to conduct ISR, scout enemy assets and even function as a weapons truck to attack enemy targets.

Advances in computer power, processing speed and AI are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Air Force scientists describe as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.

“Different people have different views. We believe in a control-based approach that leverages AI but does not relinquish control to AI. As a pilot develops trust, he knows what that aircraft can do and tells it to do something,” Stolz said.

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U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.

Currently, there is widespread consensus that, according to DoD doctrine, decisions regarding the use of lethal force should always be made by a “human-in-the-loop,” despite advances in autonomy which now enable unmanned systems to track, acquire and destroy targets without needing human intervention.

Nevertheless, the Mitchell Institute paper introduces a way to maintain this key doctrinal premise, yet also improve unmanned enemy attacks through what DARPA and the Air Force Research Lab call “adaptive kill webs.”

“DARPA and AFRL will form adaptive kill webs in which autonomous aircraft flying in collaboration with manned aircraft could receive inputs from a range of actors… such as a pilot of a manned aircraft,” the paper says.

By extension, the paper explains that – in the event that a pilot is shot down – drone command and control operations could shift to a larger manned “battle manager” aircraft such as an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System or E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System.

Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities, the former Air Force Chief Scientist told Warrior Maven in a previous interview.

At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Air Force scientists have explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.

Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.

Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable. Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”

The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet — successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan. Army program managers have told Warrior Maven that manned-unmanned teaming enables Apache pilots to find and identify enemy targets, before they even take off.

Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, the B-21 Raider, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.

Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.

Interestingly, the Mitchell Institute paper references a current Air Force-Boeing effort to engineer older F-16s so that they could function as drones.

“In 2017, Boeing, the prime contractor for the QF-16 charged with reactivating the legacy fighters from their desert storage and making necessary modifications, was awarded a .6 million contract to convert 18 F-16s into QF-16 target drones,” the paper writes.

At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed — given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.

“When it comes to certain kinds of decision making and things requiring an intuitive contextual understanding, machines are not yet able to do those things. Computers can process huge amounts of data,” Stolz said

There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.

Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.

While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to make more subjective determinations or respond quickly to a host of interwoven, fast-changing variables.

However, sensor technology is progressing quickly, the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.

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