Tricare is warning customers that scammers are preying on coronavirus fears to steal personal information by offering Covid-19 test kits.
As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States continues to climb, some Americans have growing concerns about the availability of testing. Nefarious actors, it seems, are taking advantage of that uncertainty by contacting people over the phone claiming to be Tricare representatives and offering Covid-19 test kits.
“The scam involves direct calls to beneficiaries with an offer to ship or sell COVID-19 testing kits. The calls include requests for personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank or credit card information,” the release states. “Beneficiaries should avoid any solicitation regarding a COVID-19 test kit by anyone other than their attending physician.”
Tricare will only provide Covid-19 test kits upon order from a physician, and currently physician orders require that a patient meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for a test.
Testing is authorized based on the clinical judgment of a provider, exposure, travel history and symptoms,” Tricare’s webpage reads.
“You must have an in-person or virtual telephone/video visit with a provider who will arrange testing in a military treatment facility (if MTF-enrolled) or in the private sector (if enrolled to the network provider with TRICARE Prime or if you’re using TRICARE Select or TRICARE For Life). If network, the cost of the test is covered in the cost of the visit itself.”
As a result of these scammers, Tricare is asking that any unusual or suspicious calls from people claiming to be Tricare representatives should be reported on their Fraud and Abuse page here.
There have been more than a half million confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection around the world thus far, with more than 23,000 deaths attributed to the disease. America recently crossed over the 75,000 confirmed cases mark, with more than 1,000 deaths.
Tricare beneficiaries can be tested for Covid-19 at no cost provided they meet Tricare’s aforementioned testing criteria.
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.
The Russian navy is apparently outfitting its warships with a new naval weapon designed to blind and confuse enemies and, sometimes, make them want to hurl, Russian media said early February 2019.
Filin 5P-42, a non-lethal visual-optical inference device, has been deployed aboard Russian navy frigates Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Kasatonov, state-run RIA Novosti reported, citing a press statement from Ruselectronics, the company that built the device.
Each frigate, both part of Russia’s Northern Sea Fleet, has been outfitted with two Filin stations. Two additional frigates currently under construction are expected to also carry the blinding weapon.
The new device is a dazzler-type weapon that works like a strobe light, emitting an oscillating beam of high-intensity light that negatively affects an enemy’s ability to aim at night.
A Russian Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
Russia claims that the new naval weapon is capable of “effectively suppressing” sensors and night-vision technology, as well as range finders for anti-tank missiles, Russian media said.
The dazzling weapon was tested against volunteers firing assault weapons, sniper rifles, and machine guns at targets protected by Filin from two kilometers away. All of the participants experienced difficulties aiming, and 45% had complaints of dizziness, nausea, and disorientation. Twenty percent of volunteers experienced what Russian media has characterized as hallucinations. Participants described seeing floating balls of light.
The concept behind “dazzling” weapons has been around for decades in one form or another.
Blinding weapons, particularly lasers, that cause permanent blindness are prohibited by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. As Russia’s weapon reportedly only causes temporary blindness, there would be no legislative restrictions on its use, not that legal issues may be of any real concern.
US-Russian relations sank to a new low Feb. 1, 2019, when the Trump administration announced US withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a Cold War-era nuclear arms pact, citing Russian violations of the agreement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter was accompanying a 50-man joint Special Forces team as they moved forward in Taliban-ridden Kunduz Province on Nov. 2, 2016.
As they snaked through an alleyway during the night mission in search of a high-value target in Boz Qandahari village, the U.S.-Afghan team came upon a barrier, “a large metal fence, that blocked the way, and it wasn’t supposed to be there,” according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
That’s when the first enemy grenade was launched, and bullets started to spray during the ambush, said Wilson, who presented the Air Force Cross — second only to the Medal of Honor for valor in combat — to Hunter, a combat controller, on October 17 for his steadfast decisions and courage during the U.S. Army-led mission in Afghanistan.
Wilson said Hunter, assigned to 23rd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, kept his position, never faltering as he called in “danger-close” airstrikes from AC-130 Spooky gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters within 20 meters of their position.
Danger-close refers to strikes coming within 100 meters of friendly personnel. The firefight lasted for eight hours.
“What was truly extraordinary as I reviewed this story was the amazing precision and professionalism of the team,” she said, speaking before the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron; Air Force Special Operations Command commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb; and the AFSOC community at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Hunter managed to position himself between the insurgents and his team, “shielding the wounded with his body, while providing suppressive fire with his rifle,” according to the citation.
After clearing the compound, and taking cover with a few team members, Hunter exposed himself to gunfire again as he heard calls for help in the distance, “dragging a wounded teammate 30 meters to safety,” the citation states.
For the next four hours, the airstrikes kept coming from the AC-130 “Spooky 43” gunship crew and the helicopters, including multiple 105mm rounds within as little as 13 meters from his location.
“Doesn’t an insurgent fear, more than the sound of a jet fighter, the sound of an AC-130 gunship?” Wilson said.
In all, 1,787 munitions rained down on the enemy’s position, which included 31 “danger-close” engagements, the citation said. More than 50 lives were saved, and 27 Taliban fighters were killed.
“Every [Joint Terminal Attack Controller], aircraft commander and ground force commander knows the risk of a danger-close mission,” Wilson said.
“But 31 without a single fratricide [by friendly fire] on the ground is just astounding,” she said.
“Thanks to [Staff] Sgt. Hunter, and his efforts to always be closest to the enemy, to put himself in the rear when everyone else got out of the way. To make sure his team was safe. He risked his own life and put himself in position to maintain tally on the target,” Wilson said.
The secretary honored two Army Green Beretskilled in action that day: Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer and Maj. Andrew Byers. Byers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in February.
“Special operations is a force that we call when we really need the absolute best,” Wilson said.
She added, “There’s no better friend — and no worse enemy — than the United States special operations forces.”
Airmen at Travis Air Force Base are implementing innovative strategies to reduce man hours and increase mission effectiveness.
Over the past several months, the base has implemented a variety of innovations including 3D printing and 3D scanning.
Cultivating a culture of innovation is essential to mission success, said Col. Matthew Leard, 60th Air Mobility Wing vice commander.
“At Travis (AFB), airmen are empowered to identify and solve problems at their level, rapidly,” he said. “We want airmen to think big and try the ideas others say will never work. It does not always have to be proven technology or have a business case. Let’s just try it, who knows it may just work.”
The innovations under way at Travis AFB were made possible when the Air Force distributed million in Squadron Innovation Funds in an effort to increase readiness, reduce cost, save time and enhance lethality of the force.
In October 2018, Travis AFB procured a 3D hand scanner capable of producing three-dimensional representations of aircraft parts. The device has also been used to inspect aircraft damage.
“The scanner displays the deepest part of a dent to the nearest thousandth of an inch,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling, 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance. “The scanner can identify the shape of a dent, as well as if it’s sharp, smooth or round, which allows us to give our engineers a better damage analysis than we could before.”
Joshua Orr, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, uses a CreaForm HandyScan 700 to capture digital information to render a three-dimensional image of an aircraft part into specialized computer software, Nov. 16, 2018, at Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
Smithling said the scanner was first used in November 2018 to inspect the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster III after a bird strike, and over the past month, has greatly reduced the time required to complete damage inspections.
“One of our C-5 aircraft went through a hail storm in 2013 and we found many dents on all the panels,” he said. “We’ve performed an inspection of this aircraft every 180 days and we’ve had to measure every dent that’s still on the wing’s surface. The first few times we did that, it took us 48 hours. We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”
The 60th MXS is also in the process of procuring two 3D printers, one polymer printer and one metal printer, so they can reproduce aircraft parts.
“With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it, and within four to eight hours, we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” Smithling said.
That capability, he said, will decrease the time Travis AFB aircraft are out of service.
“Right now, we could have one of our aircraft down for about 48 hours while we try to get the part it needs,” he said. “Once we have this additive manufacturing capability in place, we will likely be able to print and replace parts in a few hours and return our aircraft to flying status much quicker.”
Innovation is also leading to improved patient care at David Grant USAF Medical Center, the largest medical center in the Air Force. The Dental Clinic at DGMC received a Form2 printer in August 2018, which has enabled the clinic to produce a variety of items used for dental surgery.
A Formlabs Form2 printer, operated by 60th Dental Squadron airmen, prints a dental guard at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“We currently fabricate surgical guides, hard night guards and dental models or casts with different variations,” said Capt. Geoffrey Johnston, 60th Dental Squadron prosthodontist. “We are also investigating printing temporary crown and bridge restorations, complete and partial dentures and orthodontic clear aligners.”
“Prior to additive manufacturing techniques, there were shapes and designs for instruments and restorations in dentistry that were either impossible or so expensive and cumbersome to fabricate, they were not feasible to create,” Johnston added. “The Form2 overcomes those pitfalls and does so with resins that have been determined biocompatible for intraoral use.”
This technology leads to improved patient care, said Johnston.
“By merging 3D radiographs of jaws with 3D models of actual teeth, we are able to plan exact placement of implants and with 3D printing technology added to that, we are able to carry out those plans with extreme precision,” he said. “This precision of placement gives us the ability to more predictably avoid nerves, vessels and adjacent teeth with our implant placement. Also, this technology enables us to have temporary crowns made before dental implant surgery to attach to the implants at the time of surgery.”
Currently, Travis AFB airmen are working on a dozen 2018 SIF-funded projects and preparing to submit innovative ideas for the 2019 SIF campaign. Airmen can submit ideas through the U.S. Air Force Ideation Platform at https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/.
As a child, birthdays are a big event. Every year is celebrated like it’s the biggest day of the year. Then there are milestone birthdays: They’ll hit the sweet 16 and get their license, turn 18 and join the military, turn 21 and they legally drink…and then that’s about it. Unless they’re looking for a sarcastic “congratu-f***ing-lations,” it’s just another day in the military.
Even though some members of the chain of command have good intentions, it’s best not to test the waters by letting everyone know it’s your birthday. Here’s why:
Don’t think you can just take in the singing. You’ll be in the front leaning rest position through it all.
(photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Your gift is embarrassment
Think of the moment when you go to a chain sit-down restaurant and one of your buddies mentions it’s your birthday to the staff and they come out to sing “happy birthday” with almost no excitement in their voice.
Imagine that except it’s the rest of your company singing, they all know you, and they’re slightly agitated because they have to take ten seconds out of their day to sing to you.
The intention is to make you awkward. And it works almost every single time.
And yet for some reason, they always add the “And one more for the Corps. One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!” Like the “one per year” thing didn’t apply. How old do they think you are?
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery)
Push-ups for every year
If troops let it slip that they’ve successfully made another orbit around the sun, it’s not like there will be a surprise party secretly waiting in the training room. The poor unfortunate souls are often given the most re-gifted present in the military: push-ups.
There’s no spite in this. And despite how civilians feel about push-ups, they really aren’t that bad. But the troop owes Uncle Sam one push-up for every year they’ve been on this Earth. It’s in good fun though and they’re almost always done with a grin.
Happy birthday, ya poor b******.
(Meme via Terminal Lance)
There (usually) won’t be cake
Cakes are actually a lot harder to find on military installations than you’d think. If the kindhearted soul who does want to do right for the party, they’ll need to go off-post.
For everyone else (and those troops in the field or deployed) they’ll often just get a doughnut or the pound cake that comes in the MRE. Candles are optional but they’re occasionally cigarettes.
“Cool. You’re older. Now get back to work.”
(U.S. Army Photo)
It’s still a regular work day
In between the awkwardness, the pranks, and mediocre reception, the Army goes rolling along. It’s still just a regular old day.
Some chains of command may give single troops a day off (usually as a consolation prize because they give married troops their anniversary off.) Some don’t. The work still needs to get done and it’ll feel like it’s just any of the other 364 days in a year.
You know your squad has your back if they carry your home from the bar.
(U.S. Army Photo)
But the squad (usually) does care
The squad is your new family. Just like your siblings went out of their way to make sure your birthday was special, so do your squad-mates.
Just like the push-ups, the squad will usually get together and buy shot for every year you’ve been on this Earth and share them with you.
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) is underway to conduct Underway Recovery Test (URT) 7 in conjunction with NASA off the coast of Southern California.
URT is part of a U.S. government interagency effort to safely practice and evaluate recovery processes, procedures, hardware, and personnel in an open ocean environment that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft upon its return to Earth.
This will be the first time John P. Murtha will conduct a URT mission with NASA. Throughout the history of the program, a variety of San Antonio-class LPD ships have been utilized to train and prepare NASA and the Navy, utilizing a Boiler Plate Test Article (BTA). The BTA is a mock capsule, designed to roughly the same size, shape, and center of gravity as the Crew Module which will be used for Orion.
NASA and Navy teams have taken lessons learned from previous recovery tests to improve operations and ensure the ability to safely and successfully recover the Orion capsule when it returns to Earth following Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in December 2019.
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha arrives to its new homeport Naval Base San Diego.
(U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Lucas T. Hans)
EM-1 will be an uncrewed flight, whose successful completion hopes to pave the way for future crewed missions and enable future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
During URT-7, John P. Murtha will conduct restricted maneuvering operations. Small boats carrying Navy and NASA divers will deploy alongside the BTA to rig tending lines, guiding the capsule to Anchorage as the ship safely operates on station.
Conducting both daytime and nighttime recovery operations, NASA crew members will work alongside the Navy to manage how the capsule is brought in, set down and safely stored.
NASA plans to conduct two more URT missions before EM-1 takes place.
John P. Murtha is homeported in San Diego and is part of Naval Surface Forces and U.S. 3rd Fleet.
Commander, U.S. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. They coordinate with Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability.
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.
Hollywood spies often have a myriad of amazing devices at their disposal for getting rid of bad guys in a clandestine way. It turns out, occasionally so do real spies.
Exhibit A: the CIA’s “undetectable” poison dart gun that near silently shot frozen darts comprised of an unspecified, undetectable poison. The individual hit reportedly would at most just feel something like a mosquito bite as the dart penetrated their skin. It would then quickly melt and the poison would do its work, leaving the victim dead of an apparent heart attack, with no detectable evidence of the poison remaining.
The weapon was revealed as part of a broader Senate investigation into intelligence and covert action abuses by the Agency. The disclosure of the full gamut of activities and devices caused Senator Frank Church (D-ID) to conclude that the CIA had become a “rogue elephant rampaging out of control.”
Air rifle with tranquilizer dart — not CIA-issue (that we know of…). (Image via the website of the President of the Russian Federation)
Spurred by the publication of Seymour Hersh’s game-changing article in The New York Times on Dec. 22, 1974, which relayed assassination attempts and covert activities to subvert both foreign governments as well as American antiwar and other dissidents, the Senate formed the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities in 1975.
Chaired by Senator Church, during its two years of hearings, the Church Committee, as it came to be known, published 14 reports on a variety of abuses by the CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA), as well as others.
These included routinely opening (and resealing) US citizens’ mail since 1952, misusing tax information to target domestic dissidents, and conducting domestic, electronic surveillance of peace and black power activists.
In addition, for the CIA, this also included developing weapons such as “a pistol [that] can fire a poison dart 328 feet, kill a man before he knows he has been hit, and leave no clue as to what killed him.”
Part of a program named MK Naomi, established for conducting and managing bacteriological warfare, the poison dart gun was just one of many experiments by the agency, which also included pesticides to ravage crops and on one occasion, using the NYC subway to test out a “trial model” of a biological warfare attack.
On Sep. 16, 1975, then CIA Director William Colby testified before the committee, which also included Senators Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), John Tower (R-TX), Walter Mondale (D-MN), Gary Hart (D-CO), Howard Baker (R-TN), Philip Hart (D-MI), Charles Mathias (R-MD), Walter Huddleston (D-KY), Richard Schweiker (R-PN) and Robert Morgan (D-NC).
The director gave remarkable testimony regarding the development of “toxic agents” at a laboratory at Fort Detrick, MD. Notably, Director Colby testified that only “limited records” remained of these activities, even though the program spanned from 1952-1970.
Among the director’s many extraordinary statements were these from his prepared remarks:
— The specific subject today concerns CIA’s involvement in the development of bacteriological warfare materials . . . retention of an amount of shellfish toxin, and CIA’s use and investigation of various chemicals and drugs
— The need for such capabilities was tied to . . . the development of two different types of suicide pills to be used in the event of capture [during WWII] and a successful operation using biological warfare materials to incapacitate a Nazi leader temporarily
— A . . . memo of 1967 identified . . . [the range of] project activity: maintenance of a stockpile of temporarily incapacitating and lethal agents . . . assessment and maintenance of biological and chemical dissemination systems . . . [and] adaptation and testing of a dart device for clandestine and imperceptible inoculation with biological warfare or chemical warfare agents
— The only application of this [shellfish] toxin was in the U-2 flight over the U.S.S.R in May 1960 [Gary Powers flight]
— Various dissemination devices, such as a fountain pen dart launcher and an engine head bolt designed to release a substance when heated [were developed]
— A large amount of Agency attention was given to the problem of incapacitating guard dogs
— Work was also done on temporary human incapacitation techniques . . . to incapacitate captives before they could render themselves incapable of talking, or . . . take retaliatory action
— Success was never achieved [for the temporarily incapacitating dart system] since a larger amount of an incapacitating agent is required to safely inactivate a human than of a lethal agent . . . to kill him
— Though specific accounting for each agent . . . is not on hand, DOD records indicate that the materials were, in fact, destroyed in 1970 by SOD personnel, except for the 11 grams [of shellfish toxin]. . . plus the 8 milligrams [of cobra venom, both found in a vault]
— A complete inventory . . . was taken . . . consisted of . . . materials and delivery systems . . . lethal materials, incapacitants, narcotics, hallucinogenic drugs, irritants and riot control agents, herbicides, animal control materials and many common chemicals
Former CIA employee Mary Embree discusses a similar weapon — the infamous heart attack gun, which was first made public during the Church Committee hearings in 1975.
Donald Trump broke major news on his Twitter account on Dec. 22, tweeting, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
The tweet came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced plans to strengthen the Russian nuclear arsenal. So, how can we revitalize the nuclear arsenal?
1. Modernize the Tech
As 60 Minutes reported in 2014, our land-based ICBMs still use 8-inch floppy disks for the computers that receive the president’s launch orders. In an era where a MicroSD card that can hold 128 gigabytes is available on Amazon.com for about $40, it seems like the computers could have been upgraded and made much more reliable a long time ago.
Some systems have fared better than others. The B61 gravity bomb is slated for some modernization. So have the planes that deliver that bomb, like the B-2 Spirit. The B-1 and B-52 have received upgrades as well.
That said, those upgrades are mostly for delivering conventional weapons.
2. Develop New Delivery Systems
According to Designation-Systems.net, the LGM-30 Minuteman entered service in 1962. The AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile entered service in 1981. The BGM-109 Tomahawk was operational in 1983. The B-52H entered service in 1961, while the B-1B Lancer entered service in 1986.
The only strategic systems younger than music superstar Taylor Swift (born on Dec. 13, 1989) are the UGM-133 Trident II, which entered service in March, 1990, and the B-2 Spirit, which entered service in 1997.
At the end of the Cold War, some new systems were also chopped, notably the AGM-131 Short-Range Attack Missile II and the Midgetman small ICBM, while the LGM-118 Peacekeeper was negotiated away.
Newer means of delivering nukes might be a good idea, including versions of the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
Taking a break from their pre-season training camp in O’ahu, Hawaii, the LA Clippers basketball team, coaches, and staff paid their respects during a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial on Sept. 27, 2017.
Service members from all branches of the military accompanied them at Merry Point Landing, located on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, to guide them through the hallowed grounds of the memorial.
It wasn’t a publicity stunt — the only official photographer was on site was Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Meranda Keller. No news site has reported on this at the time of this article’s writing.
These players are genuinely here to honor resting place of the 1,102, of the 1,117 sailors and Marines who lost their lives Dec. 7, 1941.
While at the memorial, players were each guided by service members who would tell them of the history of the site and what happened on that tragic day.
After the tour, the Clippers spent time with the troops. They joked and took photos with members of the Armed Forces.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Dec.3 that he believes it’s time to start moving the families of American military personnel out of South Korea as North Korea pushes the U.S. closer to a military conflict.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will also urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea.
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from the North.
Last week, North Korea shattered 2½ months of relative quiet by firing off an intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers say showed the reclusive country’s ability to strike the U.S. East Coast. It was North Korea’s most powerful weapons test yet.
The launch was a message of defiance to President Donald Trump’s administration, which, a week earlier, had restored North Korea to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also hurt nascent diplomatic efforts and raised fears of a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Threats traded by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have further stoked fears of war.
Graham expressed confidence in the Trump administration’s ability to manage the growing conflict with North Korea.
“He’s got the best national security team of anybody I have seen since I have been in Washington,” said Graham, who has served in Congress since 1995.
The Trump administration has vowed to deny North Korea the capability of striking the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile.
“Denial means pre-emptive war as a last resort. The pre-emption is becoming more likely as their technology matures,” Graham told CBS. “I think we’re really running out of time. The Chinese are trying, but ineffectively. If there’s an underground nuclear test, then you need to get ready for a very serious response by the United States.”
Trump has said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Pyongyang’s “provocative actions,” and he vowed that additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea. China is North Korea’s only significant ally, but it has grown increasingly frustrated over the North’s nuclear and missile tests that have brought a threat of war and chaos to China’s northeastern border.
The general overseeing fitness for the U.S. Army hopes to see the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test approved next spring and, in time, become the service’s standard physical fitness test of record that all soldiers must pass.
The service is in the middle of the Army Combat Readiness Test, or ACRT, pilot, exposing soldiers to the six-event fitness test designed to better prepare them for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
“As we look at physical fitness, we now know in order to be physically fit in support of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — what we know we need to do for combat readiness — we have to be physically fit across five fitness domains,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.
Only two of those domains — cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance — are supported by the current APFT, which consist of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, Frost said.
“There are three domains of physical fitness that are not addressed by that test but are nonetheless necessary … and those are muscular strength, explosive power, and speed and agility,” he said.
‘We Aren’t Where We Want to Be’
“We have world-class equipment … but do we have world-class soldiers that are world-class athletes at world-class level fitness? The answer is probably not one that we would want, meaning if you look at a lot of indicators from an individual physical readiness fitness standpoint, we aren’t where we want to be,” Frost said.
In 2016, the Army had 43,000 soldiers who were non-deployable, he said, adding that in fiscal terms, that equates to a loss of about $3 billion.
“Another staggering figure,” Frost said, is that about 78,000 soldiers were above a body-mass index of 30 percent.
“Musculoskeletal injuries about 500,000 a year; 10 million limited-duty days per year — that’s nearly $1 billion,” Frost said.
“To put it in fiscal terms is fine, but more importantly it is the lack of readiness due to some sort of physical fitness or readiness aspect — whether it’s injury, whether it’s being overweight or whether it is being non-deployable for a medical reason,” he said.
The ACRT is made up of six events:
This muscular strength test mimics movements required to safely and effectively lift heavy loads from the ground, then jump, bound and tolerate landing. The exercise is a strong predictor of a soldier’s ability to lift and carry a casualty on a litter and to lift and move personnel and equipment.
Standing Power Throw:
Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional push-up but, when at the down position, they move their arms outward and then back in to do another push-up. It is a test of soldier’s ability to push an opponent away during man-to-man contact, push a vehicle when it is stuck, and push up from cover or off the ground during evade and maneuver.
As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettle bell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.
This is the same running event as on the current APFT. In the ACRT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all the other strenuous activity.
Part of the ACRT pilot, which is expected to continue into 2018, is working out how leaders will administer the six-event tests.
“Part of the challenge is if we are going to do six events, there is a scope and scale challenge to this — you can’t take a week to test a battalion,” Frost said. “You have got to be able to move a company through at the same pace you move a company through to do the APFT.”
There is also the challenge of figuring out the correct sequence to the events, he said.
“We have been able to test 50 soldiers in 75 minutes using 10 lanes, so this is doable; it’s executable with the right equipment,” Frost said.
The plan, he said, is to present the data collected so far in the pilot to Milley “in the next couple of months” and hopefully get a decision to move forward.
If approved, program officials will finalize the test protocol and other details before going back to Milley sometime next spring for final approval to start rolling the ACRT out in 2019 so soldiers can start training for it, Frost said.
“There has got to be a transition period,” Frost said. “You have to give them time to ramp up to it.”
Soldier Performance Training Centers
As a simultaneous effort, he said, the Army will launch a pilot program next year to develop “soldier performance training centers,” which feature the right equipment and resources to help soldiers prepare for the ACRT.
The plan is to put these centers in gyms at three installations and staff them with experts such as trainers, physical therapists and nutrition counselors. Eventually, centers would be established all over the Army, Frost said.
The centers will also need equipment for soldiers to train for the ACRT — pull-up bars, sleds for dragging weight, deadlift bars, weights and medicine balls.
A battalion set of this equipment to create 10 test lanes retails for about $12,000, but the Army will likely be able to get equipment for less, Frost said.
“If we buy this at scale, it will be much, much, much less, and a lot of this equipment is already out there so we have to kind of inventory what we have and then figure out what the need is,” he said.
“And that doesn’t mean every battalion is going to get it,” Frost said. “You may have a brigade set and every battalion is not going to take the ACRT on the same day, so there are a lot of things we can look at.”
But there has to be a transition period before the ACRT can replace the APFT as the test of record, Frost said.
“Whether it is one year or two years, you train on one test — the other test is a test of record; maybe there is a transition period where both of them can be a test of record,” he said. “And eventually, you fade the APFT out — kind of like you did the gray PT uniform — and then the ACRT is the enduring test of record.”
There also has to be time for the Army to figure out the policy, legal and administrative factors involved with instituting a new test of record since there will be punitive and administrative measures that occur for soldiers who are not able to pass it.
“We are going to need feedback from the field, but my gut tells me before it becomes the test of record, it’s probably two years — so one year to train for it. Another year, maybe it could be a test of record maybe as an option with the APFT,” Frost said. “Then at the end of two years, the APFT is faded away, and the ACRT is the only test of record.”
Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.
Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.
In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.
These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.
In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.
The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.
To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.
But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.
The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.
One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.
Despite some reports to the contrary, the Army is still looking for a new rifle that uses a 7.62mm cartridge.
“The chief [U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley] wanted an interim combat rifle, or he was only going to fulfill a requirement to have a squad-designated marksman in each squad, called a squad-designated marksman rifle,” said the Army’s top gear guyer, Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings. “So, there are two efforts going on to get a 7.62 inside the squad.”
What are those two efforts? Cummings said that course of action No. 1 is to have one Soldier in a squad carrying the Squad-Designated Marksman Rifle, or SDMR. Course of action No. 2, he said, is to have multiple Soldiers in a squad with the Interim Combat Service Rifle, or ICSR. Both are 7.62mm weapons.
The SDMR is already a program of record for the Army, Cummings said, and there is a weapon already identified to fill that role: the M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS. That weapon is undergoing testing now, Cumming said.
But the ICSR and the SDMR do not represent the future for what weapons will be issued to most Soldiers.
“Right now, many are focused on the ICSR or SDMR,” Cummings said. “But that’s not the long-term way ahead. The long-term way ahead is a brand new rifle for all of the Department of Defense called the Next Generation Squad Weapon.”
The Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, is actually two weapons, he said. It’ll include one rifle to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and then a carbine that replaces the M4. Both the M249 and the M4 use the 5.56mm cartridge. The NGSW will likely use a different caliber cartridge than 5.56mm.
“For the next-generation, we wanted to make one end-all solution,” Cummings said. “With the M4, when you look at it, it’s got all these things hanging on top of it. We keep evolving by putting on things. The next-generation is going to be kind of like what we did with the pistol, with the modular handgun system. It’ll be one complete system, with weapon, magazine, ammo and fire control on it and we will cut down on the load and integration issues associated with it.”
The general said the U.S. Marine Corps is “on board” with development of the NGSW, and the British are interested as well.
Cummings said the Army can expect to start seeing the Next Generation Squad Weapon by 2022, in about five years. That’ll include the weapon, magazine and bullet. Later, by 2025, he said, Soldiers can expect to see a fully-developed fire-control system.
Until then, Cummings said, the Army is working on an interim solution to get a larger-caliber rifle into the hands of at least some Soldiers. It’ll either be the SDMR in the hands of one Soldier, or the ICSR in the hands of some Soldiers. But, he said, “the final decision has not been made.”
Fielding the M17 pistol
Come November, the XM17 handgun, also called the “Modular Handgun System,” or MHS, will drop the “X,” which designates it as “experimental” and will instead be called the M17.
At that time, the Army is expected to reach a conditional material release for the MHS, and will issue some 2,000 of the pistols to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The “Screaming Eagles” will be the first in a long line of units to receive the new 9mm pistol, which is meant as a replacement for the existing M9, which is quickly approaching the end of its useful service life.
Also among the first to receive the new pistol will be the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, as well as one of the Army’s new security force assistance brigades.
All three units will have the new M17 handgun issued to them by the end of the year, Cummings said, who serves as Program Executive Officer Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
While the XM17 pistol is manufactured by Sig Sauer and is based on Sig Sauer’s existing P320 pistol, Cummings brushed off comparisons between the two weapons.
“It’s a different weapons system,” Cummings said.
As the Program Executive Officer Soldier, Cummings is responsible for managing those Army programs that provide most of the things Soldiers carry or wear. That includes, among other things, individual and crew-served weapons, protective gear, weapons sights and sensors, and uniform items.
The general said that both the M17, which is a full-sized version of the pistol, and the M18, which is a compact version, include different safety features than the P320 pistol, as well as different requirements for accuracy and reliability.
Cummings also said that the new pistol may see more action than its predecessor, the M9, which was primarily issued as a personal protection weapon.
“We’re looking at more than the traditional basis of issue, where we are doing a one-for-one replacement,” he said. The M17 and M18, he said, have also proven good for close-quarters combat, and so might be issued to some units and Soldiers to fill that role as well.