A secret plan was passed around the Roosevelt Administration in 1940 and 1941 that called for dozens of American bombers with American crews masked by Chinese markings to fly bombing missions against Japanese cities, crippling crucial war production facilities and, hopefully, keeping Japan too busy with China to attack British and American interests in the Pacific.
For President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the late 1930s and early 1940s were a minefield of grave threats to the American people. The war in Europe posed a significant threat to American allies while growing tensions in the Pacific were looking disastrous to both allied and American interests and territory. All the while, the American economy was still trying to scramble its way out of the Great Depression.
There is debate today about whether Roosevelt was trying to pull a reluctant America into war with Japan in 1940 and 1941, but it is certain that he saw American and British interests as being threatened by the island nation — and he wanted to make sure that the Japanese were either deterred from attacking Western interests or so hamstrung by the war with China that they couldn’t attack.
One of the plans that emerged from his administration would later become known as “JB 355.” It called for the formation of a new Chinese front company using money from the Lend-Lease Act. This company, headed by former Army pilot and then-director of the Chinese Air Force flight school, Claire Chennault, would be a Second American Volunteer Group. Like the First American Volunteer Group, it would be disguised as a Chinese mercenary group but manned by American pilots and supplied with American planes.
The 1st AVG was already formed and undergoing training in the summer of 1941 when JB 355 was approved. With 100 American fighter aircraft and 99 American pilots, it was preparing to attack Japanese air forces and disrupt their shipping operations.
Some of the pilots in the First American Volunteer Group pose with their P-40.
(U.S. Air Force archives)
The mission of the 2nd AVG, approved in July 1941, would be very different. Comprised of 50 American bombers and the appropriate crews, the 2nd AVG was to drop incendiary weapons on Japanese cities, like Tokyo, that were essential to Japan’s war production.
The attacks were tentatively scheduled for November.
So, why didn’t American bombs strike Tokyo the month before Japanese bombs hit Pearl Harbor?
The first planes ordered for the Second American Volunteer Group were Lockheed Hudsons, but they were never delivered because shortages delayed their production until after the Pearl Harbor attacks made the company unnecessary.
(National Museum of the Air Force)
Because American industry was not yet on a full, wartime footing. There simply weren’t enough supplies to fulfill all the approved requests.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall was struggling to get supplies everywhere they were needed throughout 1941. He detailed some of his efforts and setbacks in a February letter to Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short who had just taken command at Pearl Harbor. In the letter, he explained where all of his supplies were going but promised that his priority was to protect the Navy’s fleet:
You, of course, understand the pressures on the Department for the limited materiel we have, for Alaska, for Panama, and, most confidentially, for the possible occupation of the Azores, not to mention the new leased bases. However, as I have already said, we are keeping clearly in mind that our first concern is to protect the Fleet.
All around the world, countless men may suddenly believe they just got a free pass to bring back the Burt Reynolds stache or the Sugar Ray/Smash Mouth soul patch. Shaving-off our full beards and replacing those with smaller, more compact facial hair will help halt the spread of coronavirus, right? Wrong. A widely circulated infographic from the CDC is not about preventing coronavirus, and, has nothing to do with the effectiveness of conventional face masks. Here’s what’s really going on.
This week, the internet exploded when a 2017 CDC infographic started making the rounds. Naturally, because the infographic resurfaced around the same time that the CDC sent out very real warnings about how to prepare for the coronavirus, unsuspecting readers of the internet linked the two things. But, the truth is, this 2017 infographic is about using a respirator with facial hair, not a conventional face mask. (Which, by the way, if you aren’t sick, you don’t need anyway.) If you look closely at the graphic (after you look at all the different names for beards) you’ll notice in the fine print this was created in conjunction with OSHA, and is in fact, from 2017. (2017 is even in filename of the PDF when you go download it!)
In fact, in its FAQ about the coronavirus, the CDC statement is: “the CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators outside of workplace settings.”
So, get excited about this funny 2017 infographic all you want. Just maybe remember it was created by the CDC for workplaces in which employees routinely use actual respirators on a day-to-day basis. It literally has nothing to do with coronavirus or how you put a surgical mask on your face. A surgical mask, by definition, does not need the face seal that this infographic is talking about. Only respirators require that seal. If you shave and put on a respirator, and you’re not sick and don’t need a respirator at your job, you’re just doing some Breaking Bad cosplay. Which, fair enough!
So, if you feel so moved, widdle your full beard down to a Van Dyke or soul patch, go for it! Just don’t expect us to start singing “I Just Want To Fly” again. And, certainly don’t congratulate yourself for saving the world.
McCartney, who used to play an instrument or two and sing in a fairly popular band called the Beatles, authored the children’s picture book, Hey, Grandude, in 2019. It shot to #1 on the best seller list, with more than 300,000 copies snapped up around the globe. Now, the grandfather of eight has penned a sequel, Grandude’s Green Submarine, due out in September. Like its predecessor, Grandude’s Green Submarine will be published by Random House Books for Young Readers and feature illustrations by artist Kathryn Durst.
Grandude’s inventions are the stuff of legend, and his new green submarine doesn’t disappoint,” reads the synopsis on the Penguin Random House website. “In fact, it flies as well as submerges! Grandude whisks the grandkids off on another adventure, but he and the Chillers soon find themselves in a pickle. Suddenly, it’s Nandude to the rescue! Nandude is an explorer as courageous as Grandude, with an amazing accordion-ship to boot! Between Grandude’s magic compass and Nandude’s magical music, everyone arrives home safely. But not before enjoying a parade, dancing rainforest animals, and a narrow escape from a grabby octopus. This tale is perfect for little explorers and Paul McCartney fans alike!”
“I’m really happy with how ‘Hey Grandude!’ was received, as this was a very personal story for me, celebrating Grandudes everywhere and their relationships and adventures with their grandchildren,” McCartney said in a statement. “I love that it has become a book read to grandkids at bedtime all around the world. I always said if people liked the first book and there was an appetite for more, I would write some further adventures for Grandude—so he’s back and this time with his special invention, Grandude’s green submarine!”
Grandude’s Green Submarine will rise to the surface in the middle of a typically prolific time for the British icon.
He dropped his latest album, McCartney III, in December, and that will be followed on April 16 by McCartney III Imagined, with such artists as Phoebe Bridgers, Josh Homme, Blood Orange, St. Vincent, and Beck covering or remixing songs from the album. Then, on August 27, Disney will unveil the Peter Jackson-directed documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, which will present a wildly different look at the making of the Let It Be album than the eponymous 1970 film did. And, on November 2, Macca will release another book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, which recounts his life and art through the prism of 154 songs from all stages of his career.
Grandude’s Green Submarine is available now to pre-order.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t the only time the Japanese struck U.S. soil during World War II. In response to the Doolittle Raid — the successful penetration of Japanese airspace and the bombing of strategic targets in Tokyo from the allies — the Japanese executed their revenge. The date of the launch was chosen for the birthday of former emperor Meiji, Nov. 3, 1944.
However, instead of using airplanes, the Japanese used fusen bakudan, or balloon bombs, that each carried four incendiaries and a 33-pound, highly explosive anti-personnel fragmentation device. The Fu-Go balloon bombs traveled 7,500 miles along the Pacific Ocean jet stream at altitudes between 20,000 and 40,000 feet. Witnesses described these large, white balloons as “giant jellyfish” floating in the sky. Their main objective was to start forest fires, create security doubts among the civilian populace, and cause upheaval.
The all-black Triple Nickles battalion was ultimately responsible for combating the slow-moving, round balloon bombs, which had no escort or protection and had been spotted by the U.S. Navy patrol off the coast of California only two days after their initial launch. The patrol alerted the FBI, and investigations were conducted to find the origin of these mysterious flammable balloons traveling over the Pacific Northwest and into Canada.
A Japanese Fu-Go balloon with its payload of charges suspended below. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions suffered heavy casualties in the European Theater (ETO) during the Battle of the Bulge and the courageous siege of Bastogne; they were in a desperate need for replacements. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, or the “Triple Nickles” as they became known, trained to fulfill this capacity. However, as with other all-black units of the time, African-American soldiers weren’t treated equally. “We were relegated to serving in menial units such as truck drivers, port companies (loading ships), mess halls (waiting on tables) and guard duty,” wrote Walter Morris, a Triple Nickle veteran.
Although no Triple Nickles completed a combat jump or deployed to Europe, these trendsetters provided another example of how an elite all-black unit could be employed in a combat or peacetime environment. The Triple Nickles participated in a top-secret project fighting forest fires as the U.S. military’s first smoke jumping paratroopers over the Pacific Northwest.
The Triple Nickles, a name derived from the parachute regiment’s designation, was created in the winter of 1943 and consisted of 17 of the original 20-man platoon from the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division. These men were hand-selected to create the first “colored test platoon.” A few months into 1944 saw newly minted paratroopers who completed training jumps at Fort Benning, Georgia. The first all-black parachute infantry battalion in history had formed but were still brand-new and lacked manpower. The paratroopers honed their skills and became experts in small-unit tactics.
Several went to the best schools the U.S. Army had to offer. Some became riggers and jump masters while others learned the metrics in communications, the skills to navigate difficult terrain as pathfinders, and the intricacies in demolitions.
They were the cream of the crop — college graduates, professional athletes, men of high character and extraordinary intellect. One Triple Nickle veteran, “Tiger” Ted Lowry, entered the ring to face world champion boxing legend Joe Louis, who came to Lowry’s base in 1943. He was accompanied by Sugar Ray Robinson — who Muhammad Ali coined as “the king, the master, my idol” — when the duo toured military camps to entertain soldiers. “Stay in the middle of the ring,” Robinson advised Lowry, “don’t let him get you on the ropes.” Lowry already had 70 fights to his name and somehow survived the three-round exhibition with one of the greatest boxers in history.
“You can’t imagine what that did for my ego,” Lowry reflected. “I had just been in the ring with the champion of the world, the greatest fighter in the world, and he was unable to knock me down. My confidence was inflated.” His fighting days halted when he joined the Triple Nickles but resumed when he faced Rocky Marciano, the Brockton, Massachusetts, undefeated heavyweight champion. Not only did he stun Marciano, but he shocked crowds of hometown Italian-Americans by going the distance twice with the Brockton Blockbuster, the only fighter ever to do so.
The men of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment march in the New York City Victory Parade on January 12, 1946. Maj. Gen. Jim Gavin ensured the “Triple Nickles” not only marched in the parade, but wore the insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
When World War II was nearing a close and as the Germans were losing ground, the Triple Nickles’ focus shifted from Europe to the homefront. The Triple Nickles were the size of a “reinforced company” but expected to reach battalion size by 1945. The threat from the Japanese balloon bombs was imminent, and they were diverted to Pendleton, Oregon, and Chico, California, under secret orders to the 9th Services Command.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) received help from the U.S. Army when 400 paratroopers from the Triple Nickles were tasked with the difficult job. They turned in their rifles, hand grenades, and rucksacks. In that equipment’s place they donned football helmets with wire face masks, equipped 50 feet of nylon rope for lowering themselves from trees, and packed firefighting tools such as axes and handsaws on their person for parachute jumps.
The smoke jumping program was in its sixth firefighting season, but the war dwindled their resources, and the Triple Nickles provided a welcome skillset. Pilots flying C-47s needed no additional training and had prior results in properly managing smokejumper assets in remote regions where fires were often inaccessible by roads. The response and defensive strategy against the Japanese balloon bombs was a little-known secret called Operation Firefly.
Later reports suggested that the Japanese launched over 9,000 helium balloons. Damage from these balloons was rare but noteworthy. One balloon exploded after it hit high-tension power lines that were connected to a plutonium plant in Hanford, Washington. It caused a temporary blackout to the community, and the plutonium plant was ironically responsible for developing the fuel for the atomic bomb dropped over Nagasaki, Japan.
Triple Nickle member Jesse Mayes prepares to jump from a C-47. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Vincent “Bud” Whitehead, a U.S. Army counterintelligence officer, used to track and chase the balloons in the air from his plane. In March 1945, a balloon had landed on the ground but didn’t ignite. “They sent a bus up with all of this specially trained personnel, gloves, full contamination suits, masks,” Whitehead said in an interview with the Voices of the Manhattan Project. “I had been walking around on that stuff and they had not told me! They were afraid of bacterial warfare.” Biological and bacterial warfare fears were not exaggerated because it was later revealed that the Japanese had scrapped an operation at the end of the war for weaponizing the bubonic plague.
Another notable tragedy that involved these balloon bombs was the devastation of almost an entire family while they picnicked near the Gearhart Mountain in Bly, Oregon. On May 5, 1945, Reverend Archie Mitchell, his pregnant wife, Elsie, and five children from their Sunday School class were victims of the balloon’s lethality. The children went to investigate the strange object that had floated to the ground, but they got too close and were killed when the balloon did what it was designed to do. Archie Mitchell was the only survivor.
The Triple Nickles went to work to prevent additional American civilian casualties. First Lieutenant Edwin Willis, a brilliant planner and training specialist, put his paratroopers through a three-week crash course to learn proper firefighting knowledge and techniques. Willis received assistance and guidance from USFS smokejumpers and forest rangers as well.
Frank Derry, Parachute Instructor-Rigger, instructing prospective smoke jumper in the use of the “drop rig.” Simulates landing from chute caught in a snag or other obstacles by use of landing rope. Lolo National Forest, Montana. Photo by W.J. Mead, courtesy fo the National Archives and Records Administration.
This course included “demolitions training, tree climbing and techniques for descent if we landed in a tree, handling firefighting equipment, jumping into pocket-sized drop zones studded with rocks and tree stumps, survival in wooded areas, and extensive first-aid training for injuries — particularly broken bones,” said Morris.
Frank Derry, a master civilian parachutist, issued the Triple Nickles his “Derry-chute,” which was known for its maneuverability and steering capabilities. “Snag trees, those were the worst. I didn’t like those dudes at all,” Derry said, referring to the nuisances found in their path. “But landing in the trees was just as soft as landing, better than landing on the ground. The thick trees […] you just come into them like sitting down on a pillow, nothing to it.”
The Triple Nickles were also assisted by demolition experts from the 9th Services Command and USFS rangers. “Learning the touchy business of handling unexploded bombs, as well as how to isolate areas in which a bomb, or suspected bomb, was located,” Morris wrote. The incedinaries and chemicals were an additional pucker factor to their already challenging task.
Then-1st. Sgt. Walter Morris, right, prepares for his first jump with the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak/3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
The Triple Nickles also learned to live off the land and avoid costly mistakes that could derail their mission. “They could walk up the hills like a cat on a snake walk,” Morris wrote, discussing the expertise of USFS rangers. “They taught us how to climb, use an axe, and what vegetation to eat. At the same time, we underwent an orientation program with Forest Service maps. And, above all, our morale and spirit of adventure never sagged in the face of this unusual mission.”
The Triple Nickles became fully operational smokejumpers, but the numbers on how many fires and fire jumps they completed have been skewed over the years. Chuck Sheley, the editor of Smokejumper Magazine, states they completed 460 to 470 jumps on an estimated 15 of 28 forest fires, while they drove or hiked into the other fires. The National 555th Parachute Infantry Association consensus estimates the Triple Nickles answered 36 fire calls with 1,200 individual jumps across seven Western states.
Private First Class Malvin Brown was the only casualty of the Triple Nickles. Brown was a critical component of the team because of his medical expertise. Any injuries, accidents, or potential concerns went through the fire medics. When 15 Triple Nickles paratroopers boarded their C-47 on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, Brown wasn’t supposed to be there. However, he volunteered to replace another medic who was sick. Hours later he jumped into a fire in Umpqua National Forest in southern Oregon’s Cascade Range and landed in a tree. Moments later he slipped and fell more than 150 feet to the ground below. He died instantly.
Brown’s fellow smokejumpers changed their mission from fighting the fire to bringing home their teammate’s body. After an arduous search in rocky terrain, they located him and carried him more than 3 miles through the backcountry. Their first sign of civilization was a trail, but it took another 12 miles for them to find a road to get help.
The soldiers of the Triple Nickles weren’t respected while they were in service, but their contributions in a long lineage of elite all-black units are remembered as if they were legends. The Triple Nickles disbanded after World War II, but many of the soldiers continued to serve, including Lieutenant Colonel John Cannon, who was a combat medic during the Korean War. John E. Mann served as an Army Special Forces advisor in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, three Legions of Merit, and a Distinguished Flying Cross. Mann served in the military for 33 years and later authored four detective novels.
The $207.2 billion total spending in the Air Force’s 2021 budget request holds even with what the service was allotted in 2020.
The lack of change in dollars contrasts with Air Force officials’ comments about a need for dramatic change to prepare for potential high-end conflict with a power like Russia or China.
“If you have platforms that are not going to play in that 2030 fight, is there a near-term risk, which is real risk, that we need to take as a department to buy our future, to be able to have the connectivity we need to fight at the speeds the future’s going to demand?” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in January.
The 2021 request, released Monday, stopped short of big shakeups, such as ditching entire aircraft inventories or scrapping major procurement programs, according to Defense News.
But the proposed 2021 budget would part with a number of noteworthy aircraft, freeing up .1 billion in the next five-year spending plan and reflecting a belief that “winning in the future will require investing in the right new capabilities now,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.
Below, you can which aircraft the Air Force wants to retire.
17 B-1B Lancer bombers.
The B-1B bomber fleet would drop from 61 aircraft in 2020 to 44 in 2021, all of which are in the active-duty Air Force, according to budget documents.
The Lancer, which is no longer capable of carrying nuclear weapons, doesn’t have the highest ceiling of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is considered the bomber fleet’s “backbone,” as it can fly the fastest, topping 900 mph, and carries the largest payload, up to 75,000 pounds of guided and unguided weapons.
The service plans to get rid of the oldest of the B-1Bs, which have required more attention from maintainers given the high operational tempo the bomber has faced in recent years.
The Air Force has flirted with retiring some A-10s for years, and its 2021 proposal would finally cull that fleet, with the Air National Guard losing 39 and the Air Force Reserve losing seven. (The active Air Force would gain two, for a total of 44 A-10s removed from service.)
The Air Force currently has 281 A-10s and recently finished putting new wings on 173 of them. Boeing got a billion-dollar contract in 2019 to finish re-winging the A-10s that needed them.
Once those 44 aircraft are removed from service, the Air Force will proceed with re-winging those that remain, an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com.
The Air Force’s 2021 budget proposes dropping 16 KC-10 tankers from the active fleet and eight and five KC-135s from the active fleet and the Reserve, respectively.
KC-10s date to the 1980s and KC-135s to the 1950s. The Air Force says the ones that would be removed would be the oldest and least capable in the force, according to Air Force Magazine, but the cuts would come as the tanker meant to replace them, the KC-46, is still at least three years away from being able to deploy.
The 2021 budget includes nearly billion for 15 more KC-46 tankers, as well as an additional 0 million for modifications and research, and development, testing, and evaluation.
Air Force officials have said they want to hold on to legacy tankers until the KC-46 is working properly. The head of US Transportation Command, which oversees aerial refueling operations, said in January that KC-46 delays risked causing “a real dip” in the military’s tanker availability.
Starting in 2021, the Air Force wants to divest its Block 20 and Block 30 RQ-4 surveillance drones, a total of 24, leaving only its 10 Block 40 RQ-4s.
Four of the Block 20s had been converted to Battlefield Airborne Communications Nodes, which allow different battlefield communications systems to talk to each other.
To replace the RQ-4s with the BACN (which makes them EQ-4s), the service will get five E-11A manned aircraft with the BACN system, buying one a year starting next year, an Air Force spokesperson told Defense News.
The RQ-4 often works in conjuction with other space-based and airborne information-gathering aircraft, like the U-2 spy plane, whose future was also put in doubt by the latest budget documents.
The Air Force also wants to retire 24 C-130H mobility aircraft from the Air National Guard.
The C-130H airlifter, as well as the MC-130H used for special operations operations, are among the oldest in the Air Force and “are experiencing airworthiness, maintainability and operational limitations,” according to budget documents.
In the 2021 proposal, the active force would lose three MC-130Hs and gain four MC-130J, the next model, while the Air National Guard would acquire 19 C-130Js.
On April 8, 2019, Marvel previewed the first clip from “Avengers: Endgame” on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
The video begins with Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), realizing that Thanos has used the stones again.
Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), jumps in to insist they team up and “get him” and use the stones “to bring everyone back.” She says it’ll be different this time because now, she’s involved.
James Rhodes, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), gets annoyed and asks Captain Marvel to explain where she’s been all this time.
“There are a lot of other planets in the universe,” she responds. “And unfortunately, they didn’t have you guys.”
Bruce Banner, aka Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), seems very apprehensive about the plan, but what else is new?
It was around lunchtime when the shots rang out across Camp Maiwand in eastern Afghanistan.
Two gunmen — one armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and the other operating a mounted PKM machine gun in the rear of a pickup truck — had just opened fire on a group of soldiers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade visiting the Afghan base.
“The plan was the fully automatic machine gun was going to open up on us, and the AK was going to pick us off one by one,” said Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen, assigned to the brigade’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.
Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen accepts his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet from Program Executive Office Soldier officials during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“It just so happened that the terrain we were operating in, there was a choke point that we were walking through — it was a perfect opportunity to attack us,” he added.
During the insider attack, McQueen was struck in the back of the helmet with a 7.62x54mm Russian round at a distance of about 20 feet, knocking him off his feet, he said. Understanding the gravity of the situation, McQueen quickly recovered and started checking on his soldiers as they worked to secure their position.
“It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in my life that I can relate it to,” McQueen said. “If I had to guess, [it would feel like] you stood there and let a horse kick you in the back of the head.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I was surprised that I was able to react as quickly as I did because I knew what had happened … I knew I was shot,” he added.
The attack lasted about 10 minutes before Afghan National Army forces moved in to apprehend the rogue policemen, McQueen said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard was fatally shot in the attack and was laid to rest at the West Virginia National Cemetery later that month. McQueen was sent to Germany and treated for a traumatic brain injury.
Program Executive Office Soldier officials presented Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“I had no surgeries. Basically, the eight days that it took me to get [from Germany] to Fort Benning [in Georgia], the brain bleed was healed,” he said. “Other than some physical therapy to correct some balance issues, that’s the only treatment I’ve had.”
On March 4, 2019, leaders at Program Executive Office Soldier presented McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, Program Executive Office Soldier officer in charge, presents Staff Sgt. Steven McQueen with his damaged Enhanced Combat Helmet during a personal protective equipment return ceremony on Fort Belvoir, Va., March 3, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
“My dad used to have this saying. He would say, ‘Son, Superman is not brave,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, head of PEO Soldier, said at the ceremony. “My dad was telling me [that] Superman was invincible. He couldn’t be hurt. The reality is our servicemen and women can be hurt.”
Affixed to a plaque, the section of McQueen’s damaged headgear shows clear signs of distress with a portion ripped open to expose layers of shredded padding underneath.
“I want our equipment to make our soldiers invincible,” Potts added. “We’re going to do our best to provide you the equipment that you need to go out there and fight and return.”
Soldier protection system
After the presentation, PEO Soldier officials met with the media to discuss the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS. The new system provides soldiers with a modular, scalable integrated system that can be tailored to meet their mission requirements.
The fact that McQueen is still alive today is “a testament to what we do as acquisition professionals, in terms of providing capabilities that will bring our soldiers home safely,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, soldier protection and individual equipment project manager.
The Enhanced Combat Helmet, he noted, resulted from collaboration between the services after it was procured by the Marine Corps.
“This allowed us to provide the highest level of capability to our warfighters going into harm’s way,” Thomas added.
The new Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, is displayed at Fort Belvoir, Va., March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
The new SPS features an Integrated Head Protection System, or IHPS, a modular scalable vest, a ballistic combat shirt, and the ballistic combat belt. Overall the new system is said to weigh less while maintaining the same level of ballistic protection and mobility than current systems, officials said.
The IHPS, for example, has shown a 100 percent improvement against a blunt force impact, when compared to the ECH, said Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, soldier protective equipment product manager.
In simple terms, blunt force protection refers to the way the energy is dissipated after a round strikes the helmet, Whitehead added.
Additionally, the IHPS will feature a boltless retention system, making it easier for soldiers to mount accessories to their helmet, or have the ability to integrate a visor or mandible protection device. When compared to current head protection technology, the boltless retention system eliminates the need for pre-drilled holes, which has the potential to weaken the ballistic material, she said.
Program Executive Office Soldier displays the new Soldier Protection System, or SPS, at Fort Belvoir, Va, March 4, 2019.
(Photo by Devon L. Suits)
Security force assistance brigades are currently using a version of the SPS, Thomas added. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, will be the first conventional force to receive the upgraded personal protective equipment.
Even if it is the new SPS or the current equipment, McQueen has a newfound appreciation for his military-issued gear.
“Before this incident, I thought the helmet was cumbersome, and it was overkill,” said McQueen, joking that he once preferred to wear a ball cap and a plate carrier. “I was sorely mistaken. This helmet works, and I’m a living testament to it.”
A lot of science and a lot of innovation go into producing the helmet and other protective equipment, he said.
“From now on, all my soldiers will wear [their helmet] — and if they are in a hostile environment, they won’t take it off,” he said.
Having served for seven years, McQueen is determined to meet the goals he set for his Army career. And while he is slightly delayed, he said. The sergeant is still committed to making the selection for Special Forces and completing Ranger training.
In the 1999 film Office Space, one of the most quotable scenes is when Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), is confronted by her boss Stan, portrayed by the film’s writer/director Mike Judge, about her lack of “flair” on her work uniform.
Pieces of flair are quirky buttons and other accessories with funny, light-hearted phrases or pictures on the uniforms of characters working in a fictional TGI Friday’s rip-off.
When it comes to “flair,” the U.S. military has some cool looking badges. Unlike the cheesy buttons from the movie, military badges are earned through intense training and personal dedication.
While we acknowledge tabs such as Special Forces and Ranger (among others) awards are pretty awesome, the focus of this list is with pin-on badges that aren’t only difficult to earn but require a certain level of expertise.
They are also aesthetically pleasing from all branches of the Armed Forces – that is to say, they just look cool.
7. Space Operations Badge
This badge looks straight out of the Star Trek movies with its slick and futuristic design. It’s certainly a badge that will make you look twice when you see military personnel wearing it.
Members of the U.S. Air Force and Army who complete specialized training and performed space and missile operations over a period of time are eligible to wear it.
6. Military Freefall Parachutist Badge
First awarded in 1994, service members must complete a four-week freefall course in order to earn the coveted badge — commonly known as HALO Wings (High-Altitude Low-Opening).
The badge design features a dagger, arched tab, parachute, and wings. The knife represents infiltration techniques, and the parachute is a seven-celled MT1-X, which is the first parachute adopted for military freefall operations. Members of the Army and Air Force are qualified for the badge.
5. Guard, Tomb of the Unknowns Identification Badge
One of the highest honors in the U.S. military is to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The badge features a wreath representing mourning and three figures representing Peace, Valor, and Victory on the east face of the Tomb.
In order to be selected as a Tomb Guard and wear this badge, U.S. Army Soldiers must volunteer and be accepted into training. The position is so hihgly regarded that less than 700 badges have been awarded since it was established in 1958.
4. Master Diver insignia (U.S. Maritime Services)
The Master diver badge is a shared by the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. A master diver is an individual who typically has the most experience in all aspects of diving and underwater salvage.
The unique feature of this badge are the seahorses. The symbolism of the seashores goes back to the Greek god Poseidon who used them to pull his chariot. The double tridents represent the diver’s ability to master the ocean.
3. Expert Rifle Marksmanship Badge
A big perk of getting a high score during the Marine Corps Weapons Qualification test is that you get to wear the Expert Rifle Marksmanship badge. Having this “flair” on your uniform just makes the Marine dress blue uniform that much better.
2. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge
The Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge is a universal badge awarded across all five branches of the U.S. military. Like many badges, there are three levels: Basic, Senior and Master.
The meaning of the badge is also very descriptive. The wreath represents the achievements of EOD personnel. It also serves as a symbol to those EOD members who gave their lives while conducting EOD duties. The unexploded bomb serves as the main weapon of an EOD attack. The lightning bolts signify the power of a bomb and the bravery of EOD personnel. Lastly, the shield embodies the EOD mission: to prevent detonation and protect personnel and property.
1. SEAL Trident
The U.S. Navy SEAL Trident is probably one of the most recognized badges in the U.S. military, worn by the elite U.S. Navy SEALs. When you see this piece of flair, it deserves the ultimate respect.
What piece of flair did you earn that lets you “express yourself” or represents your military service?
The nuclear-powered submarine. Ultra-advanced stealth bombers and fighters. These all represent the most lethal weapons in the U.S. military’s mighty arsenal — and they might soon all be close to obsolete
Well, at least if certain technological trends bear fruit, according to a number of think-tank reports, research studies, and in-depth essays that have been published over the last year.
America’s Carriers vs. China’s Missiles: Who Wins?
And while it might not all come to pass, or at least not right away and certainly not all at once, the trend lines are clear: America’s military, if it wants to retain its unrivaled dominance on the battlefields of the future, will need to do a great deal of soul searching and investment to <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/pay-attention-america-russia-upgrading-its-military-15094" title=" maintain its edge over nations like Russia” target=”_blank”>maintain its edge over nations like Russia, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/pentagon-lays-out-challenge-posed-by-chinas-growing-military-might-1402005458" title=" China” target=”_blank”>China, and many others in the years to come.
The aircraft carrier, a symbol of American naval and overall power projection capabilities, <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2016/02/stop-the-navy-aircraft-carrier-plan-000036-000036" title=" seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past” target=”_blank”>seems under the most threat of being rendered a relic of the past. Almost every week, a new report casts a dark shadow on the future of this important U.S. military asset.
The newly developed DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
Take, for example, the recent report released by the Center for New American Security (CNAS) smartly titled, “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” <a href="http://www.cnas.org/SaylerKelley" title=" Author Kelley Sayler” target=”_blank”>Author Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at CNAS, argues that “the short, medium, and long-range threats to the carrier–including SAMs and other anti-access/area denial capabilities (A2/AD), in which China is investing heavily” will create a situation where American carriers “will not be able to act with impunity in the event of future conflict.” As Sayler explains in great detail in her report, carriers”will face a dense and growing threat across their full range of operations as A2/AD systems continue to proliferate. Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multibillion-dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict. Indeed, under such circumstances, an adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch <a href="http://thediplomat.com/2013/02/missile-defenses-real-enemy-math/" title=" a saturation attack” target=”_blank”>a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult — if not impossible — to defend against.”
And as Slater points out, <a href="http://www.cnas.org/files/documents/publications/CNAS%20Carrier_Hendrix_FINAL.pdf" title=" China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range” target=”_blank”>China is increasingly able to target U.S. carriers at range (and well past the ability of their carrier strike aircraft to safely attack from out of range):
“China appears intent upon increasing its ASBM [anti-ship ballistic missile] capabilities further and, at a recent military parade commemorating the end of World War II, revealed that it may have an ASBM variant of a substantially longer-range missile — <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/chinas-2500-mile-range-carrier-killer-missile-nuclear-threat-14669" title="the DF-26” target=”_blank”>the DF-26. As with the DF-21D, estimates of the capabilities of the DF-26 vary widely; however, it is thought to have a range of 1,620 to 2,160 nm and to have both conventional and nuclear warheads. If accurate and operational, this system would give China the ability to strike targets within the second island chain – including those in and around the U.S. territory of Guam – as well as those throughout the entirety of the Bay of Bengal. In the event of a wider conflict, these systems could also reach targets throughout much, if not all, of the Arabian Sea.”
As for America’s nuclear-powered submarine force, the threats to its continued dominance in undersea warfare seem a little more further off, but nonetheless, something that must be planned for.
Once again, the Washington-based think-tank universe provides us some important clues concerning the challenges ahead. <a href="http://csbaonline.org/publications/2015/01/undersea-warfare/" title=" In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments” target=”_blank”>In a report by the always smart Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), as well as in a follow on piece in this publication partly excerpted below, CSBA Senior Fellow Bryan Clark <a href="http://nationalinterest.org/feature/are-submarines-about-become-obsolete-12253" title=" lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force” target=”_blank”>lays out the challenge to America’s submarine force:
“Since the Cold War, submarines, particularly quiet American ones, have been considered largely immune to adversary A2/AD capabilities. But the ability of submarines to hide through quieting alone will decrease as each successive decibel of noise reduction becomes more expensive and as new detection methods mature that rely on phenomena other than sounds emanating from a submarine. These techniques include lower frequency active sonar and non-acoustic methods that detect submarine wakes or (at short ranges) bounce laser or light-emitting diode (LED) light off a submarine hull. The physics behind most of these alternative techniques has been known for decades, but was not exploited because computer processors were too slow to run the detailed models needed to see small changes in the environment caused by a quiet submarine. Today, ‘big data’ processing enables advanced navies to run sophisticated oceanographic models in real time to exploit these detection techniques. As they become more prevalent, they could make some coastal areas too hazardous for manned submarines.”
From there the problem gets worse. Clark’s CSBA report sees even more problems ahead:
“New sensors and related improvements to torpedo seekers could enable completely new approaches to finding and attacking submarines. Most significantly, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces could shift away from today’s skill and labor-intensive tactics that result from the short detection range of sensors that are precise enough to support ASW engagements. This limitation requires ASW ships and aircraft to methodically search a wide area for a submarine, then track it until they can get within weapons range for an attack. New sensor and seeker capabilities could instead enable a “fire and forget” approach in which ASW forces detect a submarine at long range and apply computer processing to obtain enough precision for an attack using long-range missiles with torpedo warheads. This kind of attack may not sink the submarine, but would likely compel it to at least evade, breaking its initiative and making it more detectable.”
Two F-22As in close trail formation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Ben Bloker)
Finally, we come to America’s growing fleet of stealth fighters and long-range bombers. It seems advances in new types of radars could provide the targeting information needed to take down some of Washington’s most advanced aircraft — and most expensive.
As National Interest Defense Editor, <a href="https://twitter.com/davemajumdar" title=" Dave Majumdar” target=”_blank”>Dave Majumdar, points out, “China appears to be building a new high-frequency radar on an artificial feature in the Spratly Islands that could allow Beijing to track even the stealthiest American warplanes, including the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.” He explains, in greater detail, that:
“While the system is called a <a href="http://ece.wpi.edu/radarcourse/Radar%202010%20PDFs/Radar%202009%20A_7%20Radar%20Cross%20Section%201.pdf" title=" high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X” target=”_blank”>high-frequency (HF) radar—that’s bit of a misnomer. HF radars actually operate on low frequencies relative to the VHF, UHF, L, S, C, X and Ku bands, which are more typically used by military radars. These low frequencies have <a href="http://www.radartutorial.eu/01.basics/Rayleigh-%20versus%20Mie-Scattering.en.html" title=" waves that are several meters long” target=”_blank”>waves that are several meters long and, consequently, most stealth aircraft show up on HF radar. In order to defeat low frequency radar, a stealth aircraft has to eliminate features like fins, which is why the flying-wing shape is the best way available to avoid detection. That is because there is an <a href="http://news.usni.org/2014/04/21/stealth-vs-electronic-attack" title=" omnidirectional resonance” target=”_blank”>omnidirectional resonance effect that occurs when a feature on an aircraft — such as a tail-fin — is less than <a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title=" eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar” target=”_blank”>eight times the size of a particular frequency wavelength. As a result, there is a step change in radar cross section once that threshold is exceeded. Since every stealth aircraft currently in America’s fleet exceeds that threshold — even the B-2 is not large enough to avoid most HF radars — every U.S. aircraft would show up on the Chinese radar. Indeed — all stealth aircraft will show up at some frequency.”
How Should America Respond?
So what is Washington doing about the threats listed above?
First off, when it comes to America’s carriers, it should be noted that no one really knows how deadly China’s anti-ship missiles, especially at long-ranges, would be in a real firefight. For example, can Beijing find a U.S. carrier in the massive Pacific Ocean? Can they defeat American missile defenses? And as for the case of the dangers poised to advanced submarines, at least as of now, such threats are more on the drawing board than a clear and present danger. As for the challenges posed to stealth, that seems a more realistic and present-day challenge U.S. officials will have to deal with. (<a href="http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/revealed-can-chinas-radars-track-americas-stealth-f-22-15261" title="They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak” target=”_blank”>They seem to be working on negating the challenge as we speak.)
However, there is a clear recognition in the Pentagon that America’s chief competitors, <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/24/chinese-russian-subs-increasingly-worrying-the-pentagon/" title=" namely great power challengers like China and Russia” target=”_blank”>namely great power challengers like China and Russia, are catching up to many of the U.S. military’s chief abilities to project power <a href="http://breakingdefense.com/2015/09/russians-in-syria-building-a2ad-bubble-over-region-breedlove/" title=" or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities” target=”_blank”>or are quickly finding ways to negate such capabilities. While the Obama Administration’s recent budget request does smartly increase funding for research and development, I can’t help but wonder if such investments might be too little, too late. There is also the very real possibility that a new administration will have its own priorities, slowing down or possibly canceling any modernization efforts that could make a real difference. In fact, members on Capitol Hill seem to take such a possibility seriously. As <a href="https://joewilson.house.gov/" title=" Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)” target=”_blank”>Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, recently explained,
“This budget request is a good step in tackling the modernization challenges of the Department. Activities like the Third Offset Strategy and the Long Range Research and Development Plan are important to charting a course that takes a strategic view of the security environment; however, I remain concerned that it is too little too late. As I see it, starting major initiatives at the end of an administration makes it difficult to ensure that these things will survive the new budgetary and policy priorities that will naturally arise with a new President. I hope I am wrong, since I support many of the things being proposed in this budget request, but only time will tell.”
Indeed, only time will tell.
(This article first appeared in February 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest)
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Army Spc. Charles Choi, 32, originally from South Korea, has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in statistics from Cornell University. He has education and skills that make him a highly valued prospect for the military, but he hasn’t made it to Basic Combat Training after signing up with the Army Reserve.
He has been waiting for two years.
Yes, I’m in limbo,” Choi said in an interview with Military.com. “I’m still waiting for the security clearance to be completed.”
Choi is one of several non-citizen enlistees who joined the military through the Military Accessions Vital To National Interest program, and spoke with Military.com about how they’ve been stuck waiting months or years for clearances and security screenings to process.
The program, created to attract those with highly sought skills for military service, has been essentially suspended amid political battles over immigration policy. Of the estimated 10,400 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, more than 1,000 now face uncertain futures. Some can’t risk the wait.
For Choi, that’s especially true.
“Delays are so long and we have a finite length to our visas and that’s where the real problem comes in,” he said.
His visa will expire in less than a year.
“So if they just keep us in limbo and if we run out of visa status, then we cannot work or drive,” he said. “It’s a very screwed-up situation.”
The complex history of MAVNI
In 2012, well before MAVNI fell victim to the nation’s ever-shifting immigration policies, then-Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno invited Sgt. Saral Shrestha to his Pentagon office for a photo op and a congratulatory grip-and-greet. Shrestha, who was born in Nepal, had just won the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition.
Shrestha, who earned citizenship through MAVNI, was honored later that year at the annual Association of the U.S. Army’s convention as the “Soldier of the Year.”
(U.S. Army photo by Teddy Wade)
Shrestha’s motto is “Mission first, soldiers always.” He said that “MAVNI was a blessing” in his progress from student visa to the Army and then to taking the oath as a citizen.
In March 2018, Army Sgt. Santosh Kachhepati, a combat medic with the 62nd Medical Brigade with two tours in Afghanistan, was selected for the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2. He will begin his studies to become a doctor at George Mason University in Virginia in the fall.
“I consider this opportunity to be an Army physician an honor and a privilege to serve the medical needs of our soldiers who risk their lives protecting this nation,” Kachhepati said, according to a release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
JBLM said that Kachhepati, also from Nepal, “came to the United States to attend college at the University of Texas at Arlington. He graduated U.T.’s Nursing Program with Honors in 2013.”
“He enlisted in Army in 2014 through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows certain qualified non-citizens to enlist in the U.S. military and thereby gain eligibility for U.S. citizenship,” JBLM said.
MAVNI began in 2008 as a one-year pilot program with the goal with the goal of bringing in non-citizen recruits with language or medical skills for the nation’s counterinsurgency wars and giving them a fast track to citizenship in return.
Adm. Eric Olson, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said at the time that MAVNI recruits were “operationally critical” to the military’s needs. But the program from the onset was caught up in political immigration debates and the high command’s security concerns.
The program was suspended in 2009 over fears of insider threats in the ranks when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, a psychiatrist born in the U.S., shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5 of that year.
The restrictions were lifted again in 2012, shortly after Shrestha won the “Soldier of the Year” award. Since then, MAVNI recruits have performed higher on entrance tests and had lower attrition rates than native-born troops, according to military data. But the program reached a turning point in September 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Cain Claxton)
The beginning of the end for MAVNI came in the form of a September 2016 memo to the service secretaries from Peter Levine, then the acting under secretary for personnel and readiness.
Levine said that the MAVNI pilot program “is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016.”
As it turned out, that wasn’t quite so.
In the same memo, Levine said that “changes in the enclosed guidance will strengthen and improve the execution of the MAVNI program.”
He said that for MAVNI in the coming year, “the maximum number of accessions will be: Army — 1,200; Navy — 65; Marine Corps — 65; and Air Force — 70.”
Despite the language suggesting the program’s continuation, Pentagon spokespeople said the program was effectively allowed to end October 2017, when tighter screening procedures were put in place for MAVNI recruits who had already signed up.
Mattis looks to save MAVNI
In a memo in July 2017, to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Pentagon personnel and intelligence officials warned of the “espionage potential” from foreign-born recruits.
“While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” the memo said.
Foreign-born recruits would have to “complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination prior to entry in the active, reserve, or Guard service,” the memo said. “Those in the MAVNI program and other foreign-born recruits may have a higher risk of connections to Foreign Intelligence Services.”
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)
However, Mattis, in a session with defense reporters in October 2017, said he was looking for ways to keep MAVNI alive despite the 2016 Levine memo that had again suspended the program.
“We are taking the steps obviously to save the program, if it can be saved,” Mattis said. “And I believe it can.”
In January 2018, on board his plane en route to Vietnam, Mattis held out the possibility that MAVNI could be renewed once enhanced vetting procedures were ironed out.
Mattis said that an internal examination had found that procedures were lax in screening MAVNI recruits.
“We were not keeping pace with our usual standard,” he said.
“We’ve got to look people’s backgrounds, and if you have a lot of family members in certain countries, then you come under additional scrutiny,” he added. “Until we can get them screened, we can’t bring in more.
“You’ve got to be able to screen them as they come in, rather than get them in and then you send them off to a unit and they say, ‘By the way, they don’t have security clearance yet.’ And then they say, ‘Well, thanks very much, but I can’t use them.’
“So it’s simply a matter of aligning the process, the recruiting process with the usual screening process,” Mattis continued. “There’s nothing more to it.”
Don’t go climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
The changes in the rules since 2016 have left more than 1,000 recruits already accepted into the military in a state of bureaucratic limbo with time running out on their visas while they await security clearances.
Choi, the Korean Army specialist, described filling out a form that required him to list his travel to foreign countries over the last seven years. He didn’t list a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which had occurred more than seven years before he filled out the form.
Six months later, an Army investigator gave him a call. They had found out about the trip to Tanzania and needed some “points of clarification,” Choi said. “The way they do it is just really not organized at all. It’s kind of clear this was made up on the fly.”
Choi said his battalion commander has urged him to look at the possibility of attending Officer Candidate School.
Army Reserve Pfc. Alan Huanyu Liang, 24, is also caught up in the same screening logjam while waiting to report to BCT. He was born in China, has been living in the U.S. for six years and has a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles.
He signed his contract under the MAVNI program in May 2016.
“Since then, my life has been drastically changed by this program,” he told Military.com. “From the day I signed my contract, I have been eagerly waiting for my ship day [to BCT].”
(U.S. Navy photo by Scott Thornbloom)
Now, he said, it has been almost two years and no progress has been made since he signed his contract.
“I have been drilling every month since I was in-processed into my unit, and I witnessed people coming later to the unit than I did get shipped and came back with a uniform,” he said. “I really, really envy them. I wish one day I can be in that uniform and serve like a real soldier. I keep asking my recruiter and all I am told is to wait.”
Another MAVNI recruit, who didn’t want her name used, told Military.com that she has been at a training base for two years after completing BCT while awaiting additional screening that would let her go to AIT, or Advanced Individual Training.
In the meantime, she does paperwork.
“You need the favorable adjudication [Military Service Suitability Determination] to go to AIT,” she said. “I’m between a rock and a hard place. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I am still motivated by the idea of serving.”
Lawyer who built MAVNI pushes to save it
“There’s an epic bureaucratic fight going on,” said Margaret Stock, a lawyer and former Army lieutenant colonel who was instrumental in planning and initiating the MAVNI program while still in the service.
“It’s an appalling example of bureaucratic incompetence,” she said of the efforts to kill the MAVNI program and subject those who have already signed up to endless screening.
“They’re saying the MAVNIs are some kind of security threat,” Stock told Military.com, but “there is no specific threat” that justify strictures that would kill a program that has already proven its worth.
“They pose the same threat that U.S. citizens would,” said Stock, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship.
To meet a range of emerging threats, “we need these people,” she said. “What we don’t need is people sitting on a base for 18 months doing nothing because of background checks.”
The Navy’s got some planes that are capable of doing some amazing things. But, even with these amazing aircraft, are there some planes the Navy should bring back from retirement? For the following airframes, we think that answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Let’s take a look.
5. Lockheed S-3 Viking/ES-3 Shadow
The S-3 Viking was more than just a submarine hunter. This plane also could carry out aerial refueling missions, electronic intelligence, and carrier onboard delivery. The plane had a range of almost 3,200 miles and could carry anti-submarine torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, bombs, and rockets. With Russia and China deploying advanced attack submarines, this is a plane that would be very useful on carrier decks.
A S-3 Viking attached to Sea Control Squadron Two One (VS-21) conducts routine flight operations from aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). Kitty Hawk is operating in the Sea of Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Alex C. Witte)
4. Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior
The Skywarrior, often called the “Whale” due to its size, was a superb tanker and also served as a standoff jammer. This plane would still be very useful for the Navy and Marine Corps in either role. The baseline A-3 had a range of roughly 2,100 miles. As a tanker and jammer, it would help protect the carriers.
Yes, the EA-18G Growler has entered the fleet, but you can never have enough jammers. The return of the EA-6B would be useful, if only to further bolster those numbers. The Marines even equipped it with a targeting bod to designate for laser-guided missiles and bombs.
1. Grumman F-14D Tomcat
No, this is not a case of Top Gun nostalgia. The F-14D was actually a superb strike fighter on par with the F-15E in the 1990s thanks to the addition of Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN. With Russia and China becoming threats, the Tomcat’s long range (1,840 miles), powerful weapons, and high performance (top speed of 1,544 miles per hour) would be very useful, even today.
What planes do you think the Navy should bring back?
Aligning with a superpower worked for some countries during the Cold War, and for many others, it didn’t. But Iran never aligned itself with the US or the Soviet Union, preferring to maintain its independence and sovereignty. But where the Non-Aligned movement was dedicated to the principles of pretty much minding one’s own business, the coalition Iran is building is more dedicated to pushing back against the US.
But just for one very specific reason: inflation.
Ever since the United States left the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the ‘Nuclear Deal’ – sanctions imposed by the U.S. have left Iran’s currency and economy in tatters. As today is the day Iranians celebrate the New Year, Iran’s Supreme Leader is celebrating the regime’s resistance to the economic hardship.
“In the face of severe, and according to them unprecedented, sanctions from America and Europe, the Iranian people showed a strong and powerful reaction both in the field of politics and economy,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a pre-recorded speech. President Hassan Rouhani echoed that sentiment and called for Iranian to stop fighting each other a band together against the United States.
With sanctions crippling the value of Iranian currency, the Iranian government is looking to its neighbors to strengthen the rial. Other countries like Germany and France, who are still party to the nuclear plan, have opened channels to Iran for trade without using the dollar. While this has eased the out of control inflation in the Islamic Republic, the rial is still trading at 190,000 to one. Iranians have seen their savings and their net worth plummet in the past few years, which is the first result of rampant inflation.
Banks, merchants, and institutions have also seen the values of their businesses and livelihoods decline as a result. Throughout Iran, the inflation and unhappiness with the sanctions, and the regime’s inability to do anything about it has caused widespread protests and demonstrations – some on the same scale of the ones that brought down the Shah and saw the Islamic Republic come to power.
Sgt. Hailey Falk is the Army’s first enlisted female soldier to graduate from the rigorous Sapper Leader Course since the program’s inception in 1985.
Falk, 23, received her Sapper Tab, Dec. 7, 2018, after completing the “demanding 28-day leadership development course for combat engineers that reinforces critical skills and teaches advanced techniques needed across the Army.” She is assigned to B Company, 39th Engineer Battalion “Bull Strike,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team “Strike,” 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
“Sgt. Falk’s success as the first enlisted [female] graduate represents a step forward in the process of recognizing success in the combat arms field by performance, not by gender,” said Capt. John D. Baer, B Company commander, 39th BEB. “The combat engineer MOS [12 Bravo] opened to females in 2015, and Sgt. Falk’s graduation from the Sapper Leader Course reinforces the wisdom in that decision by proving that both genders can achieve success in the enlisted combat arms career field.
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
According to the Army, the mission of the course is to “train and certify the next generation of Sapper leaders, to serve as members of Combined Arms team, through training in small unit tactics and combat engineer battle drills in a physically demanding, stressful and austere environment.”
Sapper Leader Course
Falk was promoted to sergeant in 2017. With a high Army Physical Fitness Test score and a dedication to physical fitness, Falk’s leadership saw her potential to succeed at the Sapper Leader Course.
“Sgt. Falk is an outstanding noncommissioned officer and embodies the be, know, do leadership model and esprit de corps. She accepts the most difficult task without hesitation. As an NCO she leads from the front and drives troops forward to accomplish all missions,” said Staff Sgt. William Frye, Falk’s squad leader.
Each platoon in B Company rallied to help Falk and her fellow soldiers succeed at Fort Leonard Wood.
Among the challenges Falk faced at the leader course was the Sapper physical fitness test. The test is graded by Army standards to the individual’s age and gender. The minimum passing criteria is 230 total score, with no less than 70 points in each event.
The Sapper Leader Course not only challenged Falk physically, but mentally. According to the Army, the Sapper Leader Course is designed “to build esprit de corps by training soldiers in troop leading procedures, demolitions (conventional and expedient) and mountaineering operations. The course culminates in an intense field training exercise that reinforces the use of the battle drills and specialized engineer techniques learned throughout the course.”
At the end of the course, Falk’s instructor delivered the news that she had passed.
A Sapper Leader Course 06-17 squad detonates a silhouette charge to create an entrance through a wall during urban breaching exercises as part of the course.
(Photo by Stephen Standifird)
“At that moment, that’s when it hit me that I did all this. Now, it didn’t seem hard anymore,” she said. “During it seemed like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Then, after, I [thought] I could do this again, honestly.”
Baer said Falk’s success should be a challenge to all combat engineers of any gender.
“There are physiological differences between genders, and female combat engineers often have to work harder to meet the strenuous physical demands of combat relative to their male peers. Additionally, the unit’s operational demands prevent an extended preparation time for the school,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has humbly taken on these challenges, succeeding purely through hard work and mental toughness.”
As the first female enlisted soldier to graduate from the Sapper Leader Course, Falk said she encourages other soldiers to try it and plans to encourage those under her command to enroll in the school.
“I would say ‘go for it.’ Don’t be scared of failure. As long as you work hard for it and you don’t give up, you can push through it,” she said. “It’s not just you, there are other people who are working to help you get it. All of your battle buddies are earning your tab for you. You can’t just earn it yourself. Everyone has to work together.”
Her Army future
A week after graduation, Falk said she is catching up on her sleep and preparing for her next adventure — attending Pathfinder School in January.
“[I’m] hoping to get as many [Army] schools as I can,” she said. “I’m ready to do anything at this point. I just got through that, I guess I can do anything.”
Her squad leader and company commander agree Falk has a bright future.
A U.S. Marine climbs a rope while maneuvering through an obstacle course during a Sapper Leaders Course on Camp Pendleton, Calif., October 20, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
“With Sgt. Falk graduating Sapper Leader Course, she now has no limits. She has faced and overcome the many challenges of one of the Army’s hardest schools,” Frye said. “Her unit now has one more lethal fighter among the ranks who is now an expert in mobility, counter mobility and survivability, ready to provide her task force with the tools to accomplish the most difficult missions.”
“Graduation from the course represents months of diligent preparation and an exceptional quantity of mental stamina,” Baer said. “Sgt. Falk has exhibited these qualities throughout her career in the 101st, and I suspect this is just the beginning of her success in the military.”
Falk remains humble about her accomplishment and credits her leadership and unit for her success.
“I still don’t think it’s a big deal, [but] I couldn’t have done it without everyone,” she said. “I’m just glad I have the support system back here. My first sergeant, my sergeant major came [to graduation]. A lot of people from the unit came to support. I owe it to all of them because without all the training — even though I didn’t want to do it at the time — the training that we do, that I dread, it ended up paying off.”