The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has a message for commanders on their physical condition: Get on a fitness program or your job is at risk.

Addressing a standing room-only ballroom of officers and airmen at the Air Force Association’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 17, 2019, Goldfein said he will launch an initiative Sept. 21, 2019, requiring officers in command billets to be in shape.

“If you are a commander in the United States Air Force, you are fit. There is no other discussion,” he said.

According to recently published Defense Department data, the Air Force has the second-highest percentage of obese troops, following the Navy. Some 18% of all airmen are obese, according to the most recent Health of the DoD Force report.


Goldfein didn’t provide specifics on his plan, but the initiative is part of an ongoing overhaul of Air Force fitness, designed to ensure that service members are fit without the current emphasis on the physical fitness assessment.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Air Force Maj. Michael Bliss, 703d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

He will underline his expectations by running the Air Force Half-Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, a race for which Goldfein said he’s spent three months training and plans to complete. But “you can clock me … with a calendar,” he quipped.

“The point is … I don’t know when I am going to task [commanders] to deploy to Djibouti or Estonia or somewhere in the Pacific and expect you to perform the functions of an expeditionary commander in 120-degree heat or 30 below zero. I just know this: [That] is not the time to start your fitness program,” Goldfein said.

Squadron commanders, he added, will have an additional requirement: Unit fitness will be among the elements they will be graded on as part of a successful command tour.

“There are five elements of a command tour. It’s mission, culture, fitness, family and fun, and fitness is key. … We are going to do this from the top down,” Goldfein said.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

The Air Force is reviewing its physical fitness program with an aim to ensure that airmen sustain fitness throughout the year, instead of simply focusing their efforts on the semi-annual physical fitness assessment.

Among the ideas being considered are randomized testing, a longer time between tests for the superfit, and measures to reduce anxiety around test time.

Speaking alongside Goldfein, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said the goal is to promote a culture of fitness across the force — a standard he said will improve readiness across-the-board.

“I wish all of us as the Air Force would spend more time throughout the year talking about health, fitness, nutrition and sleep than the time we spend on the test,” he said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 reasons why being a Roman Legionnaire would suck

The Roman Empire stretched from modern-day Syria to modern-day Spain. To maintain that amount of real estate, you have to have an amazing military to protect it. The Roman Legion was one such force.

But every military that has made its mark on history was notorious for rigorous training and extremely harsh conditions that make today’s toughest Special Operations training look like Air Force boot camp. Here’s why, in reality, being a Roman Legionnaire would’ve sucked.


The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Suddenly, Sergeant Major doesn’t seem so far away.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Judith L. Harter)

Minimum enlistment requirement

It was 25 years. These days, when you sign the dotted line, you’re in for a minimum of four years and you have the option to stay longer to earn a pension and retirement benefits. The average Roman Legionnaire was expected to serve 25 years — no exceptions.

The retirement benefits, however, involved getting a nice piece of land within the empire to spend the rest of your days — If you don’t die first, that is.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

It doesn’t make this suck any less, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

Long, forced marches… Every day.

If you think the 20-kilometer hike you just did last Wednesday, the 25 kilometers you had to do the night before Christmas leave, or the 30-mile hike you did in Korea sucked, just think about what you’d have to do as a Roman Legionnaire. These guys had to carry their entire kit 90 miles, every day.

This kit included their armor, weapons, shield, and a backpack, which contained the equipment needed to help build camps. Additionally, they had to carry their rations and cooking gear.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Remember this? It would be more regular as a Roman Legionnaire.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Marching cadence

Remember those 90-mile forced marches we mentioned? Imagine your company commander calling cadence the whole time. Well, that’s what Centurions did for their Centuries. They would call, “right, left,” the whole time, starting with the right, of course, because the left was seen as wrong or evil.

That’s why issued rifles are made for right-handed war heroes.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

The amount of training probably saved a lot of lives…

(History Answers)

Weapons training

In the Roman Legion, you wake up in the morning and eat breakfast with your seven tent mates and then you do a little weapons training. By a little, we mean a lot. You’re training every morning with your gear and wooden weapons and shields that weigh twice as much as your regular gear, constantly going against your friends to become a much better warrior.

This is a good thing, but you know you complain about three-day field ops. Yes, you do.

The pay was salt

And you thought your steady income and clothing allowance was bad. Granted, the Roman Legion did pay their soldiers but, at the time, salt was worth quite a bit. So, a soldier would get paid in salt.

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Gunny Hartman would’ve had a great time, though.

The hazing was terrible

If you think your seniors duct-taping a mattress to you and having you take a leap of faith from the third story of your barracks was bad — it was so much worse the Roman Legion.

Remember those annoying Centurions from the marches? They carried a vine branch to whip the disobedient and it was totally okay for them to do so. Getting whipped for stepping out of line is pretty mild considering your friends could stone you to death for being a coward or trying to desert — and that’s only barely scratching the surface of Roman Legion punishments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A timeline of the political crisis in Venezuela

For the past two months, Venezuela has been locked in a dramatic political crisis, which has seen countries around the world disavow its president and back an upstart politician in his bid to depose him.

In less than two months, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó went from being a little-known lawmaker to the opposition leader posing one of the greatest threats to President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist rule in recent years.

But the tensions between the socialist government and the opposition party dates back more than a decade, spanning over accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.

Here are the events that culminated in the current crisis.


• Socialist leader Hugo Chavez died in 2013, when his vice president Nicolas Maduro stepped in to take over. Chavez had been in charge for 14 years.

• Soon after, shortages and crime ravaged the country. Anti-Maduro mass protests broke out, and 43 people died.

• Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader, was charged for fomenting unrest in the 2014 protests. He spent three years in prison and is now under house arrest.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Leopoldo Lopez speaking to a crowd.

• In December 2015, the opposition party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since Chavez took power in 1999.

• As oil prices continued plummeting, the oil-dependent economy tanked, and the government could not afford to import many foods. Maduro declared a state of “economic emergency” in January 2016.

• Maduro’s government faced significant protests in 2017 as it created the Constituent Assembly, which took over most important legislative functions. The Supreme Court also tried taking over the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, but failed.

• On Jan. 5, 2019, the little-known lawmaker Juan Guaidó was appointed the head of the National Assembly, shorn of most of its power.

• Just five days later, Maduro started a second presidential term. His election win was dogged by accusations of vote-rigging. Domestic opposition parties, the US, and 13 other countries in the Americas do not recognize the result.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

​Juan Guaidó speaking at a demonstration.

• Tens of thousands of people around the country staged protests saying that Maduro’s presidency was unconstitutional and fraudulent, and told him to resign. They were met with pro-government rallies.

• On Jan. 23, 2019, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, on the basis that there is no legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for free elections.

• With opposition leader Lopez still under house arrest, Guaidó emerged as the new face of the anti-Maduro movement.

• The US, Canada, and most Latin American nations immediately recognized Guaidó as interim president. Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the US in response.

• Guaidó began to urge soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, to join the opposition. The military is the backbone of Maduro’s power, with generals holding important government positions. The national guard is frequently deployed against protesters.

• In an op-ed for The New York Times, Guaidó offered amnesty to everyone opposing Maduro’s government, and members of the armed forces who haven’t committed crimes against humanity. Many members of Venezuela’s military — a solid power base for Maduro — are implicated in human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press.

• Venezuela’s Supreme Court imposed a travel ban for Guaidó and froze his assets on Jan. 30, 2019, saying he is being investigated for “usurping” power.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

(Maikel Moreno Twitter via TSJ Noticias)

• Some of Europe’s most important nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, and Spain, backed Guaidó on Feb. 4, 2019.

• On Feb. 22, 2019, Guaidó defied his travel ban. He left Venezuela to attend the “Venezuela Live Aid” concert in Colombia, organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.

• The following weekend, opposition supporters tried to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid over the Colombian and Brazilian borders, which the government closed. The armed forces barred their entry, killing two and injuring more than 300. The Venezuelan government shut the country’s bridge to Brazil on Feb. 21, 2019, and to Colombia on Feb. 23, 2019.

• International leaders rejected the possibility of sending their militaries into Venezuela to take over control. Guaidó had tweeted that “all options are open” after Maduro barred US-backed aid to enter.

• Guaidó traveled around South America to meet world leaders who back him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Guaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Colombia.

(Official White House Photo by D. Myles)

• Guaidó announced March 4, 2019, as his definitive return date to Venezuela, risking arrest and imprisonment for going against the travel ban.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Guaidó announces his return on a livestream.

(Juan Guaido’s Periscope)

• Guaidó arrived in Venezuela and passed through immigration on March 4, 2019, he said on Twitter. He was met by European diplomats.

• Thousands of supporters welcomed him at a rally where he called for a new round of protests on March 9, 2019.

• On March 5, 2019, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted. He is planning to organize a public sector strike, but the details have yet to be confirmed. On the same day, Maduro announced an “anti-imperialist” march to rival Guaidó’s

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s only carrier would fight an American carrier

It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.


Now, both carriers have had their problems. If you’re a loyal WATM reader, you have followed the Kuznetsov Follies. We are talking a first deployment that featured two splash landings, needing to operate planes from land bases, not to mention the fact that the new fighter is a possible dud and the carrier is a floating hell for the crew.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.

Related video:

But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.

Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

MIGHTY SPORTS

Blind Army vet inspires as Summer Sports ambassador

“It was a long walk into darkness … “

That’s how Chuck Miller describes his maddening descent into blindness — something he refused to accept as his world slipped away, little by little.

The Army veteran, who gets care at the Gainesville VA Medical Center, is the first blind veteran sailor certified by the American Sailing Association. He’s also an ambassador at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, where he connects with others to help them adjust to different disabilities.

The clinic brings blind, amputee and paralyzed veterans, and those living with post-traumatic stress, to San Diego, Calif., Sept. 15 to 20, for adaptive surfing, sailing, cycling and kayaking.


“One of the most difficult things about being disabled is acceptance. That to me is one of the biggest struggles veterans have…”

Miller stops and cries for a moment.

“You know, something significant changes in their lives and they try to ignore it. That’s what I did. I was a proud soldier. Being a soldier was everything to me.”

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Chuck Miller, a totally blind Army Veteran, has been an ambassador at the Summer Sports Clinic the last three years.

Going blind

Miller, a single dad with full custody of his son, was first diagnosed with spots on his retina in 1984.

“They just said, ‘You have something wrong with your eyes. They weren’t sure,” he said.

In 1990, his doctor diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, genetic disorder that breaks down cells and creates scar tissue on the retinas.

“The retinas become so damaged, they’re basically dead,” Miller said. “The only problem I was having was night vision problems and some depth perception. It was difficult to accept. It went on for another 15 years and wasn’t at the point I couldn’t function. I was still driving, still doing normal work. It didn’t register at the time. I just thought, ‘Well, I got an eye problem.'”

By 2005, a doctor leveled with him. “You need to quit driving. You’re going to kill somebody if you don’t.”

“I still didn’t listen until I T-boned somebody in my car,” Miller said.

By 2009, he was blind, only seeing light but nothing else.

“I remember when I realized I was going blind, how terrified I was,” he said. “Just like every veteran, I went through a dark period. I drank, I did drugs, I wanted to kill myself. Thought I’m not worthy as a father, which is one of the most important things in my life. I literally pushed every single person away from me. I lost every friend I had as a sighted person.”

Fighting rehabilitation

Miller’s turning point came when he went to the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

“Don’t leave,” he told his friend who drove him there. “I’m not staying. I’m going back home. It’s not for me.”

His friend left anyway.

“That’s where you have to learn to be that disability,” he said. “You have to face it. That’s when you have to say, ‘Damn, I’m blind,’ or, “Damn, I’m this,’ or whatever,” Miller said.

He fought against instructors and struggled to learn skills needed to live in his sightless world. Instructors paired him with a roommate who was blinded at 18 in Vietnam, in hopes he could learn to accept it.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Chuck Miller chats with James Byrne, the deputy secretary of VA, while sailing with him at the Summer Sports Clinic.

“I was pretty angry,” Miller said. “The first couple of days, he’d lay in his bed, and he’d pray out loud to God, thanking him for his day, thanking God for being blind, and I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? How could you be so thankful for being disabled?'”

“Man, this is a gift, you just don’t know it yet,” his roommate said. “I get to see things different. I get to see how people are on the inside.”

Miller remembers one day in class, trying in frustration to put together a leather belt kit. The next day, his instructor gave him glasses that blocked out light.

“And I put that thing together in less than an hour,” he said. “I started to see through my fingers.”

Miller gave in, and his world without sight came into focus.

“They start taking me places. Up and down stairs, escalators, crossing four-lane roads. Before that, I wouldn’t go out without holding onto anybody. I learned braille. Found out I’m a natural. I’m sick, I actually took algebra in braille.”

Summer Sports Clinic

He put on a brave face at his first Summer Sports Clinic in 2015.

“I was talking all kinds of junk, but inside I was afraid,” he said. “It’s easy to picture doing this stuff in your mind, but doing it is scary. My first day was surfing, and I was pretty scared to go out there. I don’t know where the beach is at, I can’t see the water. At the end of the day, I was the last one out. I start thinking, ‘This is pretty freaking cool!’

“I had never sailed before in my life. You’re overwhelmed in that first year because there’s so much to take in, but from there I did a five-day sailing clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida, and they put me on a boat with a paraplegic in a wheelchair and a coach. And I’m thinking, ‘We’re screwed.’ But it’s all about exposure.”

Miller fell in love with sailing so much he got his American Sailing Certification with a score of 95 out of 100. He sails with a sighted coach, but does the work himself — untying ropes, hoisting the mast, trimming the sail to catch the wind, and steering.

“When I’m on the water,” he said, “I feel the wind blowing, the birds, the sounds of the ocean, the sun on my face. I enjoy it in a way that a sighted person can’t experience.”

Cory Kapes, who runs Warrior Sail at the clinic, said Miller sets the example. Kapes even let him steer the boat as he came into shore one day, where other boats were only 20 feet away.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Chuck Miller talks to a class of new sailing participants at this year’s Summer Sports Clinic.

“If these people knew I was blind, they’d have a heart attack,” Miller said.

“Just keep smiling and waving,” Kapes said with a laugh.

“It just shows you the impact this clinic can have,” Kapes said. “He never sailed a boat before he came here. He brought it home. That’s what we want other vets to do — bring it home, go kayaking, be committed, make it part of your active lifestyle.”

Ambassador

For the last three years as an ambassador, Miller traveled from Florida to San Diego by himself. When needed, he has a special pair of glasses with a built-in camera that connects him to a live agent to help him navigate. But more often than not, he uses his blind guiding cane.

Most veterans find Miller by his bright pink, volunteer T-shirt, cutting up and telling jokes.

“Hey nice to see you! Well, not really, but you get the idea … ” he tells one veteran.

“I’m Blind Chuck! Would it help if I take off my glasses?” he tells another. “Look, I take off my glasses, I don’t look blind. I put the glasses on, blind! I can look at you, but you know I can’t see you, right?”

He took the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs on the water, making jokes and cutting up about everyone’s military branch while sailing.

Fellow veteran Michelle Marie Smith, who gets her care at the Sacramento VA, said listening to Miller at the sailing class was a highlight.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “It definitely puts everything in perspective. If I had any doubt, I don’t after listening to him.”

Miller said that’s what it’s all about.

“What I’ve learned from this clinic here – and this is important for veterans to understand – not only can you do things as a disabled person, get to know these volunteers, therapists and team leaders. The only thing they care about is teaching you how to do these sports. They want you to succeed and you just have to trust them.”

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Strengthen your arms with this 20-minute shoulder workout

There’s a lot of reason to focus on strengthening your shoulder muscles. For one thing, stronger shoulders mean wider shoulders, and wider shoulders make your waist look smaller. For another, your shoulder muscles are essentially the capstones to your biceps and triceps: They take the whole buff arm thing and add length and definition, raising it to another level entirely.

The good news about shoulder workouts is that these smaller muscles respond quickly to stimulus, meaning you’ll see results in a matter of days or weeks, not months. The muscles you’ll be building are your anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids, occupying positions, as the names imply, at the front, side, and back of the shoulder. Other muscles, like the teres major, rotator cuff, and trapezius, are involved in many shoulder exercises as well.

The series of moves here take about 20-minutes, and should be performed twice a week for best results.


Upright barbell row

Stand with your back straight, holding a barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. (Use enough weight to do 10 reps.) Straighten your arms so that the barbell rests against your quads. Bend elbows out to the side and engage shoulders to hike the barbell up toward your chin. Hold for a second, then release. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

Lateral raise

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, back straight, arms by your sides. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward. (Use enough weight to do 10 reps.) Keeping elbows soft, raise arms directly out to the sides. Hold for a second, then release. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.

Military press

Using a squat rack, weight a barbell for 10 reps. Standing with feet hip-width apart, place the bar behind your neck and place hands in a wide overhand grip. Exhale, lifting bar off rack and directly overhead. This is your starting position. Inhale, and as you do, bend elbows out to the sides and lower bar in front of you to about collarbone level. Exhale and straighten your arms overhead again. This is one rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Dumbbell front raise

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, back straight. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing your thighs. (Use enough weight to do 10 reps.) Raise your right arm directly out in front of you until the dumbbell is parallel with your shoulders, palm facing the floor. Hold a second, then release. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides. Do 3 sets. (Alternately, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand and alternate reps between right and left side, one for one.)

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Bent-over raise

This move activates your posterior deltoids, one of the harder shoulder muscles to engage. Sit at the end of a bench, a dumbbell in each hand. Bend forward at the waist so that your chest is against your thighs. Lower arms to the floor, palms facing inward. Exhale and raise arms directly out to the sides, allowing your elbows to bend slightly and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower back to floor. 10 reps, 2 sets.

Shoulder shrugs

This move engages the trap muscles along with your deltoids, making it a great overall shoulder exercise. It’s simple and effective. Start standing with a dumbbell in each hand, feet hip-width apart. Exhale and lift your shoulders as high as you can, as if you are trying to touch your shoulders to your ears. (Keep your arms straight.) Release. 10 reps, 3 sets.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

Arnold press

Named after the OG himself, you’ll learn to love the move Schwarzenegger invented because it works your deltoids from multiple angles, giving you mega bang for your workout buck. Start sitting on a bench, dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward, arms straight by your sides. Bend elbows and raise hands so that the dumbbells are tucked beneath your chin, palms facing chest. This is your start position. Swing elbows out the sides and straight your arms as you lift the dumbbells overhead, rotating your shoulders so that your finish the move with your palms facing forward, arms straight above you. Release, rotating your shoulders again back to the start. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

USS John S. McCain’s return to warfighting readiness

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) completed her necessary repairs and is underway to conduct comprehensive at sea testing.


During the at-sea testing, the ship and her crew will perform a series of demonstrations to evaluate that the ship’s onboard systems meet or exceed Navy performance specifications. Among the systems that will be tested are navigation, damage control, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, communications, and propulsion application.

John S. McCain, assigned to Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN (DESRON 15) and forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, completed her in-port phase of training, and will continue Basic Phase at-sea training in the upcoming months to certify in every mission area the ship is required to perform and prepare for return to operational tasking.

“The USS John S. McCain embodies the absolute fighting spirit of her namesakes, and shows the resiliency of our Sailors. She has completed her maintenance period with the most up-to-date multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, preparing her to successfully execute a multitude of high-end operations,” said Capt. Steven DeMoss, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15. “As a guided-missile destroyer assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, the John S. McCain is poised and ready to contribute to the lethal and combat ready forward-deployed naval force in the free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

John S. McCain completed repairs and extensive, accelerated upgrades over the last two years, following a collision in August 2017.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

“This whole crew is eager to get back to sea, and that’s evident in the efforts they’ve made over the last two years to bring the ship back to fighting shape, and the energy they’ve put into preparing themselves for the rigors of at-sea operations,” said Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, John S. McCain’s commanding officer. “I’m extremely proud of them as we return the ship to sea, and return to the operational fleet more ready than ever to support security and stability throughout the region.”

Multiple upgrades to the ship’s computer network, antenna systems, radar array, combat weapons systems and berthing have ensured John S. McCain will return to operational missions with improved capability and lethality.

John S. McCain, is assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 just made its combat debut in Syria

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has made its combat debut in the Middle East.

Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35 aircraft, known as Adir, “are already operational and flying in operational missions.”


“We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity,” Norkin said via the official Israel Defense Forces’ Twitter account on May 22, 2018.

In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, Norkin said F-35s had been used in two recent strikes, but it was unclear if the aircraft supported the missions by providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or conducted the strikes.

Early May 2018, Iranian forces “fired 32 rockets, we intercepted 4 of them & the rest fell outside Israeli territory,” Norkin tweeted, referring to a counterattack in the Golan Heights.

Israel responded by attacking multiple Iranian weapons and logistics sites in Syria. “In our response attack, more than 100 ground-to-air missiles were fired at our planes,” he said.

Israel declared initial operating capability of its Lockheed Martin-made F-35I in December 2017. Middle Eastern outlets have said the fifth-generation stealth aircraft has likely made flights before for reconnaissance missions over or near Syrian territory, but those reports are unconfirmed.

In February 2018, Israel launched a counterattack on Iranian targets in Syria in response to an Iranian drone’s intrusion into its airspace. During the mission, an Israeli F-16 was targeted and crash landed back in Israeli territory.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements
F-16 Fighting Falcon

Critics at the time wondered why the F-35 wasn’t used, since the aircraft would have been better able to evade enemy radar. But pilots and former members of the Israeli Air Force said use of the F-35 would have been risky so early in its operational lifespan.

“If they thought that the targets were so strategically important, I’m sure they’d consider using them. But they weren’t. So why risk use of the F-35s at such an early point in their operational maturity?” retired Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Abraham Assael told Defense News at the time.

Israel in August 2017, signed a new contract with Lockheed for its next batch of 17 aircraft, following two previous contracts for 33 aircraft.

IAF officials have expressed interest in buying up to 30 additional aircraft.

Israel’s declaration comes a few short months after the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing fighter embarked on its first deployment aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp for patrols in the Pacific.

The U.S. Air Force similarly deployed its F-35A variant to Asia in November 2017.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a US Marine eloped with a Princess from Bahrain

There are roughly 8,500 U.S. personnel stationed at the Navy’s base in Bahrain. In 1999, one of those, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson, faced a court-martial and legal battle to wed his beloved girlfriend, a Bahraini local named Meriam. The Marine met Meriam at a local mall and, over the objections of her family, the two continued their love affair.

The biggest problem is that Meriam’s full name is Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa, and she was a member of the royal family’s house of Khalifa. So, when Lance Cpl.Johnson smuggled her out of Bahrain and into the United States, it was kind of a big deal.


The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

It wasn’t just that she was a member of the royal family, her family’s Islamic faith was incompatible with Johnson’s Mormon beliefs. She was forbidden to marry a non-Muslim, by both her religion and her family. There was also an age difference, as Johnson was 23 years old and Meriam al-Khalifa was just 19.

There were a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t have gotten married, but with the help of a friend, they still managed to exchange letters. Their affection for one another only grew.

Until it was time for Johnson to return to the United States.

Undeterred by things like “passports” and “legal documents,” he snuck the girl into the United States with forged documents and a New York Yankees baseball hat. By the time they landed in Chicago, U.S. immigration officials were waiting for Meriam, and took her into custody.

Meriam was held for three days by customs and immigration officials. Eventually, she was granted asylum as she worried about the possibility of honor-related violence if she returned to her family.

“She does not believe that she can go back and be safe at this time,” her lawyer, Jan Bejar said at an official hearing. “All the woman did is try to leave a country that does not allow her to live with the person she wants to live with.”
The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

The couple also made the talk show circuit.

(The Oprah Winfrey Show)

They were married just a few weeks after arriving in the United States. Weeks later, her family sent a letter, forgiving her for eloping, but not mentioning her new husband. For a while, the two lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton, but when the Marines found out what had happened, they were understandably upset with Johnson. He was court-martialed, demoted, and eventually left the Corps.

The two settled down to live their lives together in the Las Vegas area where Johnson got a job as a valet, parking cars for wealthy nightclub patrons — patrons like Meriam’s family. The al-Khalifa family hadn’t forgotten about Meriam or Johnson. The FBI alleged that the family paid an assassin half a million dollars to find Meriam and kill her.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

But their married life wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. Johnson told the Associated Press that al-Khalifa was more interested in partying in Las Vegas than she was in enjoying life with her husband, spending the money they made from selling their story to a made-for-TV movie called, The Princess and the Marine. By 2003, the whirlwind romance came to a dead stop, buried in the Las Vegas desert.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

The cast of ‘The Princess and the Marine.’

Johnson filed for divorce in 2004, saying “it was what she wanted.”

Deep down inside, she knows that I loved her more than anything in the world,” Johnson told the AP. “I can say I enjoyed every minute I spent with her.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard took the first Nazi prisoners of World War II

Built in the early 1930s, the 165-foot “B”-Class cutters were often referred to as the Thetis-Class. The Thetis-class cutters proved good sea boats becoming the backbone of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol and convoy force during World War II.


Among these cutters was the Argo, which escorted Nazi Germany’s last surrendered U-boats into captivity and the Thetis, one of 11 Coast Guard cutters credited with sinking a U-boat. However, the most honored of these cutters was Icarus, which sank U-352 and captured its crew at the beginning of World War II.

Icarus and its sister cutters were designed for Prohibition enforcement, specifically tracking down rum running ships outside U.S. territorial waters. These cutters required excellent sea-keeping qualities, long-term accommodations for crew, and greater fuel capacity. Icarus was built by Bath Iron Works in Maine and commissioned on April 1, 1932.

The cutter reported for duty at Stapleton, New York, on Staten Island, and served as part of the New York Division’s Special Patrol Force, which conducted law enforcement patrols in support of Prohibition regulations. After passage of the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, Icarus continued sailing out of Stapleton on law enforcement and search and rescue patrols.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements
Official photograph of Lt. Cmdr. Maurice Jester and his family. (Coast Guard Collection)

After war erupted in Europe in 1939, the Coast Guard assigned Icarus to Neutrality Patrols protecting merchant vessels from attacks by European combatants. With the 1941 U.S. entry into World War II, Icarus joined its sister cutters in escorting coastal convoys and anti-submarine patrols in American waters.

On the morning of Friday, May 8, 1942, Icarus departed Staten Island for Key West, Florida. On Saturday at about 4:20 p.m., while off the coast of North Carolina, Icarus’s sonar operator picked up a “mushy” contact 2,000 yards off its port bow. The cutter’s crew went to general quarters and assumed battle stations.

Ten minutes after the first sonar contact, an explosion believed to be a torpedo rocked the cutter about 200 yards off the port side. Reversing course, Icarus sped toward the contact, which was heading toward the spot where the explosion had occurred. The underwater contact sharpened and, for the first time, propeller sounds were heard by the sonarman. The contact was lost at 180 yards but, after a calculated interval, Icarus dropped five depth charges in a diamond shape with one charge in the center.

The sonar operator next determined that the contact was slowly moving west, so the cutter altered course to intercept it. Two more charges were dropped in a “V” pattern at a point leading the contact’s underwater track and, as roiling water from the explosions subsided, large bubbles were observed on the surface. Icarus reversed course again and dropped a single charge on the spot where the air bubbles had surfaced. Six minutes later, the cutter dropped a second charge in the same location.

Now Read: This is how the Coast Guard got its stripes

At 10 minutes past 5:00 p.m., shortly after the last charge had been dropped, a U-boat broke the surface 1,000 yards from Icarus. The heavily armed sub emerged bow first and down by the stern. The cutter’s crew was ready, opening fire with all machine guns that could bear on the sub. Meanwhile, the U-boat’s crew began abandoning ship. Icarus’s commanding officer, Lt. Maurice Jester, altered course to ram and the cutter’s 3-inch main battery was brought to bear on the submarine. The first 3-inch round fell short ricocheting off the water and through the conning tower. The second round overshot the sub, but the next 12 rounds hit the U-boat or came close, with seven of them hitting home. Minutes later, the damaged U-boat began to subside into the sea.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements
Coast Guard Cutter Icarus disembarking U-352 crew members at the Charleston Navy Yard in Charleston, S.C. (Coast Guard Collection)

As the submarine sank, Icarus ceased firing, but the cutter circled the spot where the U-boat had disappeared. Icarus re-established sonar contact with the submerged sub and the cutter’s sonarman heard propeller noises again. Taking no chances, Jester ordered one last depth charge dropped over the U-boat, which brought a large air bubble to the surface. No further noises were heard from sub; the vessel had finally been vanquished. Meanwhile, 35 Germans were struggling on the surface to avoid the cutter’s path and its deadly depth charges. Expecting to be machine-gunned in the water, many yelled, “Don’t shoot us!”

At 5:50 p.m., the Icarus crew began rescue operations and retrieved Germans from the water. Except for the wounded survivors, the prisoners were placed under guard in the cutter’s forward crew compartment. The U-boat’s commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rathke, was among the survivors. At this point, it was learned that the submarine was U-352, carrying a complement of 48 men. Seven of the crew went down with the U-boat while others died in the water after abandoning ship. By 6:05, 33 survivors had been rescued and the cutter proceeded to Charleston Navy Yard as ordered.

Also Read: How Hitler terrorized the seas with U-boats during World War II

The German prisoners exhibited good discipline and were surprised by the fine treatment they received on board Icarus. Several of the U-boat’s crew spoke English and talked freely on personal matters, but disclosed no military information. Three of Icarus’s crew also spoke German and conversed with the prisoners. The prisoners wished to know how much money the Coast Guard crew would receive for sinking a submarine and if crewmembers received promotions for doing so. The Germans related that they received medals and bonuses for sinking ships, the amount depending on the size and tonnage of their victims. Four of the prisoners also mentioned they had relatives living in the U.S.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements
Hellmut Rathke (bearded, standing left) and a junior officer after disembarking in Charleston, S.C. (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

On Sunday morning, Icarus arrived at the Navy Yard. There, the cutter delivered 32 prisoners and one prisoner who died of his wounds en route to Charleston. To keep the enemy in doubt about the U-boat’s fate, naval authorities did not disclose the sinking of U-352 until almost a year later, on May 1, 1943. For the remainder of the war, Icarus continued its convoy escort work, search and rescue duties and anti-submarine patrols. In the fall of 1946, the ship was placed in reserve status and stored at Staten Island. The Coast Guard decommissioned Icarus in 1948 and sold it to the Southeastern Terminal and Steamship Company.

Icarus was the second American warship to sink a U-boat and the first to capture German combatants. For his command of Icarus in the attack and sinking of U-352, Jester received one of only six Navy Cross Medals awarded to Coast Guardsmen during the war. Icarus was one of numerous combat cutters that served the heroic Coast Guardsmen of the long blue line during World War II.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A B-52 bomber part landed in a woman’s yard during training

A part from a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber fell off and landed in a British woman’s front garden during a training exercise last week, the BBC reports.

The B-52 bomber is part of the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, which is deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire.

The aircraft was participating in a training exercise when its wing-tip gear door fell into the yard of a Warwichkshire woman, according to the BBC.


“Yesterday around 5:30 PM in Brailes a resident reported hearing a thud in her front garden,” the nearby Shipston on Stour police department said on its Facebook page on Oct. 24, 2019. “Thankfully no harm to persons/animals/property.”

The woman, who requested anonymity, told local media outlet Gloucestershire Live that it was a “miracle” no one was hurt.

“You won’t find any evidence in the front garden where it landed, we managed to get it back to normal pretty quickly,” the woman said. “I’ve been contacted by the police and even the MOD [Ministry of Defense]. We are on a flight path here but you never expect something like this to happen.”

“The part landed in a local national’s garden and was retrieved by 2nd Bomb Wing personnel, in partnership with the UK Ministry of Defence Police,” the US Air Force told the BBC. “A safety investigation is being conducted, as is the standard with these types of events.”

Insider reached out to the US Air Force and the 2nd Bomb Wing for more information about the aircraft’s status, as well as what led to the incident, but did not receive a response by press time.

Four B-52s and about 350 airmen deployed to the UK earlier in October 2019 to train with the RAF and other NATO partners as part of US Air Force’s Bomber Task Force. The B-52 has been in service since 1955 and can carry both nuclear and conventional weapons.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Terry Hunt, a blind veteran who receives health care at the Kernersville VA Health Care Center (HCC), mentioned several years ago that he wished he could participate in water sports.

Around the same time, Terri Everett, a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist at the HCC, became a chapter coordinator for the national kayaking organization Team River Runner.

Team River Runner helps veterans and their families find health, healing, community purpose, and new challenges through adventure and adaptive paddle sports. It is funded through VA grants.


All Hunt needed to say was, “Let’s get on the water!” and Everett was ready to go. Shortly after they connected, Hunt began regular kayaking with the Triad Chapter of Team River Runner. He has been doing so for the past five years. Everett or other volunteers guide him on the water.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

(Photo by Nil Castellví)

Guides use voice commands and music

Guides use several methods to help blind people kayak, including voice commands, music and tethering, if necessary.

Hunt purchased his own kayak last year. He also participated in the 2018 High Rock Lake Dragon Boat Race, where he placed first in one of the races. He will compete in the Dragon Boat Race again this year as one of the lead rowers.

Everett has worked in blind rehabilitation for 38 years. She has participated in adaptive sports for disabled veterans for most of that time. She is a certified, level 2 American Canoe Association kayak instructor with adaptive endorsement.

Hunt has been kayaking for five years and loves every minute of it.

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

(Photo by Murat Bahar)

New remote guiding system with sensors in vests

This past summer, Team River Runner and Hunt took kayaking to a new level for visually impaired and blind kayakers. They used a new, remote guiding system, developed and engineered by Team River Runner Chapter Coordinator Jim Riley.

The veteran wears a vest with sensors and Everett uses a paddle with a switch, guiding him based on where he feels the sensors. The vibrating sensation of sensors on his sides, chest and back let him know where he needs to concentrate effort.

It was an incredible success. On that day, they paddled four miles, in and out of coves, under bridges, in and around piers and then back to the dock. The guiding system will be featured at the VA Summer sports clinic in San Diego in September.

Reflecting on his experience, Hunt jubilantly declared, “This life vest, having pulsating areas at the right, left, front and back, to let the visual impaired person know which way you want them to go, was awesome!”

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

(Photo by McKayla Crump)

“How awesome to feel independent!”

“This is incredible because it gave me a sense of greater independence,” Hunt said. He continued, “I feel this life vest is a breakthrough for help in enjoying the kayak trip for the visual impaired person.

“How awesome to feel independent on this day! I think this not only shows Team River Runners’ commitment to visual impaired persons, but also shows VA’s willingness to help our visual impaired community in ways not just connected to health care.

“It is a great feeling to do things you never thought you would ever do again.”

Hunt will continue his kayaking adventures with Team River Runner and beyond. He will attend the VA Summer Sports Clinic in September 2020. There, he will have the opportunity to kayak, sail, ride a tandem bike and participate in other activities. Kudos to Mr. Hunt for the positive example he is setting for other disabled veterans!

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un rides a majestic horse and sends Christmas threats, I guess

North Korea has again lobbed a vague year-end threat at the Trump administration, saying the US can expect a “Christmas gift” if talks between US and North Korean officials don’t lead to substantive concessions for North Korea.

As the year-end deadline that the hermit kingdom has given the US runs out, North Korea may renege on the only concession it has given President Donald Trump — the promise to abandon nuclear and long-range weapons testing.

In November, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s state-run news outlet, released a statement saying that time was quickly running out for the US to resume talks that had stalled after Trump’s much-touted visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in June. While US diplomats have said that tentative negotiations in Stockholm last month went well, North Korea’s latest missive indicates otherwise.


For comparison, the MFA statement of July 7, 2017, shortly after the first Hwasong-14 ICBM test, included: “the test-fire of the inter-continental ballistic rocket conducted by the DPRK this time is a ‘gift package’ addressed to none other than the U.S.”https://kcnawatch.org/newstream/1499418128-531979580/statement-of-dprk-foreign-ministry-spokesman/ …

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North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister of US Affairs Ri Thae Song told KCNA that, “The DPRK has done its utmost with maximum perseverance not to backtrack from the important steps it has taken on its own initiative,” referring to its promise not to test ICBMs or nuclear weapons, but that the US hasn’t held up its end of the bargain — which, to North Korea, means sanctions relief.

As researcher Joshua Pollack of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (CNS) wrote on Twitter, North Korea has historically tested missiles between February and September. But the language of a “Christmas gift” echoes a July 2017 statement from North Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs that referred to the launch of three ICBMs, all of which landed west of Japan.

“A ‘Christmas gift’ in the form of a test into the Pacific seems not out of the question,” Pollack wrote Tuesday.

“It’s not implausible that they could give the world a Christmas or New Year gift of an ICBM test,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT and a member of a member of MIT’s Security Studies Program, told Insider.

“It’s possible this is all aimed at generating pressure and leverage against Trump now, but by the same token, given the consistency and insistence on the deadline, and North Korea’s history of doing what it says it is going to do… let’s see what gift we get,” Narang said.

“North Korea is very careful with its words,” Shea Cotton, also a researcher at CNS, told Insider, indicating that it’s no coincidence North Korea is again using the language of a threatening “gift.”

Dashing through the snow… North Korean state media KCNA publish fresh pictures of leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse while visiting battle sites around Mount Paektu http://u.afp.com/JCTx pic.twitter.com/yW0RhrtPE7

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On Dec. 4, new photos surfaced of Kim Jong Un visiting battle sites at Mt. Paektu, a legendary site for North Korea where Kim’s grandfather, the founder of the country, fought Japanese forces as a guerilla. Along with the photos of Kim with family members and military leaders, North Korea also announced a meeting of the Plenary Session of the Central Committee in December, before Kim’s annual New Year’s speech, the equivalent of the State of the Union. It’s expected that this plenary meeting could herald a major announcement about the country’s policy toward the US.

Should North Korea continue this pattern, the US will have lost the only concession Trump managed to wrangle from the DPRK. But experts say that unless the US is willing to take denuclearization off the table, North Korea will likely be testing ICBMs or intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) in the near future — but this time, there may be a few new details, like an overflight of Japan instead of “lofting” its launches, solid-fueled missile launches, or a satellite launch, Cotton told Insider.

The Dec. 3 statement accused Trump of trying to stall ahead of the 2020 elections.

“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US,” Song said in the statement.

For the second time in two months, Kim Jong Un rides a white horse https://reut.rs/2sK7NKs pic.twitter.com/c2O6pI7tXC

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“It’s possible they also see Trump as someone they’re more likely to get a good deal with (compared to a more competent administration) and think he might not be around for much longer, given the looming impeachment and 2020 election,” Cotton told Insider.

Thus far, Trump has done little more than resurrect his “Rocket Man” nickname for Kim Jong Un and threaten a military response to North Korean provocations at a NATO summit Tuesday.

When asked the likelihood that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is bluffing, Cotton said, “Probably zero.”

“North Korea has a pretty sophisticated missile program,” he said. “They can probably test whenever they want more or less. If North Korea ends up not doing something like resuming testing it would only be because they found a reason not to, like the resumption of serious talks with the US.”

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