Troops supporting pandemic response should get hazard pay, Senator says - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Troops supporting pandemic response should get hazard pay, Senator says

Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired member of the Iowa National Guard and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proposed that service members deployed for COVID-19 response get hazardous duty pay.

Ernst plans to introduce legislation this week that would provide a tax-free stipend for all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members fighting the pandemic. If enacted, it would provide a monthly bonus as well as back pay to the initial date of deployment for thousands of service members.


The senator, who served in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said those on the front lines potentially exposing themselves to illness deserve the support.

“Whether it’s delivering personal protective equipment, food, or medical supplies, our National Guardsmen and women have answered the call to help during COVID-19,” Ernst said in a statement released Tuesday. “As a former Iowa Army National Guardsmen, I could not be more proud of their tireless and selfless efforts.”

According to the Pentagon, more than 62,800 service members, including 46,800 National Guard members, are supporting COVID-19 response. The troops are treating patients, conducting coronavirus testing, distributing food and personal protective equipment and helping at hotels housing homeless persons who have tested positive for the virus.

As of Tuesday, 889 members of the National Guard Bureau had tested positive for COVID-19. A Guardsman, Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, was the first service member to die of the virus, although he had not been mobilized for COVID-19 response.

Nearly 5,000 additional U.S. service members have contracted COVID-19, 100 have been hospitalized and two have died: Hickok and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and died April 13.

Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 reached nearly 2 million on Tuesday, with 70,646 American deaths.

For most members of the U.S. military, hazardous duty incentive pay totals 0 a month.

Military advocates, including the National Guard Association of the United States and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States threw their support behind Ernst’s legislation Tuesday.

“By definition, hazardous duty incentive pay is a monetary incentive for volunteers who perform hazardous duty based upon the inherent dangers of that duty and the risks of physical injury. EANGUS agrees with Sen. Joni Ernst that the duty our National Guard members are performing embodies that risk, and should receive hazardous duty incentive pay for COVID-19 response duty,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Frank Yoakum, EANGUS executive director.

Ernst’s proposed legislation follows a similar request last month from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is seeking hazardous duty pay for Department of Veterans Affairs workers caring for patients at VA facilities.

“I … implore Congress to pass legislation to provide hazardous duty pay to all front-line federal employees not already covered by existing laws like our nurses in federal prisons, and health care workers at the VA who provide direct patient care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commandant says he won’t force out Marines as the service shrinks

Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.

Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.


That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”

“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”

The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.

“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”

The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.

Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.

“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.

Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.

“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.

The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.

The Marine Corps carried out a series of war games that showed areas where it can cut some existing capabilities, a 15-page memo on the force design states.

When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.

“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Stuck inside? Get free e-books at Project Gutenberg

Veterans stuck inside can turn to reading a catalog of more than 61,000 classic, free e-books and audio books at Project Gutenberg.

People can read books online or download them for reading offline, including popular e-readers.

In addition to reading, there’s a selection of audio books available on the site. The site also offers books in dozens of languages, including hundreds in Spanish.


The books are mainly older literary works whose copyright expired. Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Jack London and Jane Austen are some of the celebrated authors. People can read about characters such as Moby Dick, Frankenstein, Peter Pan, Tiny Tim and Alice in Wonderland.

Searching for books

Users can search for books a variety of ways. Project Gutenberg offers a list of the most popular books, latest books, a search feature, or a random book selection. Users can also browse the digital bookshelves by categories, genre, age group or topic.

The bookshelves are broken into categories. These range from animals to history to science.

One of these categories is a section called the “Wars Bookshelf.” This section has books about the Revolutionary War, Boer War, English Civil War, Spanish-American War, U.S. Civil War, and both world wars. Selections from this bookshelf range from Marine landings in the Pacific during World War II to stories of Bull Run to audio versions of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. The U.S. Civil War and World War I are the biggest sections, with hundreds of titles.

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There’s also a “Children’s Bookshelf” that offers fairy tales, fiction books, school stories and more.

Project Gutenberg also needs help digitizing, proofreading and formatting, recording audio books, and reporting errors. People interested in helping can find more information on the website. They can help produce e-books by proof-reading just one page a day.

The website receives hundreds of thousands of downloads each day and several million each month.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans everywhere agree: You can mourn Kobe Bryant

Only a few hours after the tragic news broke of famed basketball player Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crashing, killing all nine passengers (including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna), the social media debates started: Why are we so sad about a celebrity dying but when our service members are killed in the line of duty seemingly no one notices?

An article from 2005 began circulating again, reminding us all of another helicopter tragedy: the horrible Al-Anbar CH-53E crash that killed all 31 troops when it went down outside Ar-Rutbah in Iraq this same weekend, 15 years ago.

Veterans everywhere concur: you can, and should, be sad about both.


We’re all allowed to feel empathy at a wife losing her husband and daughter and three girls losing their dad and sister, not to mention the other families on board. You’re allowed to grieve someone who inspired thousands and thousands of kids and adults alike to pursue their dreams. At the same exact time, as Americans, we all should know the names of our service members dying for us every day.

And: That’s not why anyone signs up to serve.

Veterans took to the internet to express their sympathy as well as their own experiences with Kobe and his support for our military community.


Rest in Peace, Kobe.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s new soldiers will have Drill Sergeants at AIT

In January 2008, the Army began the process of removing drill sergeants from Advanced Individual Training, and replacing them with platoon sergeants. One decade later, the reverse transition has begun with the first wave of noncommissioned officers graduating March 8, 2018, from a 10-day conversion course qualifying them to wear the drill sergeant identification badge.

In the past, noncommissioned officers who trained to be AIT platoon sergeants attended the first six weeks of the nine-week long drill sergeant school before splitting off to learn other things, such as attending the master resilience course.


According to officials, although AIT platoon sergeants proved effective and provided “ready Soldiers for the nation,” the return of drill sergeants is expected to “improve the standards and discipline” of new Soldiers.

Making the transition is mandatory for those who have graduated from the AIT platoon sergeant course on or after Jan. 21, 2017. Platoon sergeants who have between 13 to 18 months of time can volunteer to extend for an additional year to become eligible.

Master Sgt. Christopher Foley, 1st Engineer Brigade operations sergeant major, said the brigade has 27 platoon sergeants at installations across the country, 15 of which are here at Fort Leonard Wood. “(As a whole,) 15 must attend training; six are in the option window, and six do not have enough time remaining,” Foley said. “Two within that option window have already volunteered and will incur a third year of duty.”

Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Collier, Victor Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion, marches QM School troops to the dining facility at lunchtime March 15. He is among the first wave of installation advanced individual training platoon sergeants who attended a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy course.
(U.S. Army photo by Terrance Bell)

Foley added that the brigade has already had three of their Fort Leonard Wood platoon sergeants attend the course, making the transition to drill sergeant. The brigade plans to have all eligible platoon sergeants converted by July 2018.

Staff Sgt. Ericka Kong-Martinez with Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, is one of those recent graduates. She has spent one year as a platoon sergeant and, after volunteering to extend for a year, will spend the next two as a drill sergeant.

“It’s a good opportunity to see the difference between both roles,” Kong-Martinez said. “Now I see the difference in trainees’ reactions from a platoon sergeant to an actual drill sergeant. They react a lot faster when a drill sergeant addresses them.”

She added, “the discipline level is higher. It shouldn’t be, but it is.”

Here, the 3rd Chemical and 14th Military Police brigades, together, have approximately 38 platoon sergeants that will also transition or be replaced.

In the end, approximately 600 current platoon sergeants across the Army will make the conversion to drill sergeant. All are expected to be in place by the end of the fiscal year.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Soldier recalls serving with Medal of Honor recipient Travis Atkins

“He was a selfless leader, a brother and a friend.”

That is how Stuart Hollingsworth remembers Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the former 10th Mountain Division (LI) soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 27, 2019.

Hollingsworth, a former staff sergeant assigned to 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, had first met Atkins a month before their deployment to Iraq in August 2006. He said that Atkins was originally with another company, but he was needed to serve as a team leader in D Company.


“He was training his previous team for combat, and was such a master of his craft, that he was able to step into another team leader role and earn the trust of everyone he met,” Hollingsworth said.

“My first impression of him was that this man was very much an authoritative leader. He led from the front and led by example — never asking anyone to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”

Soldiers kneel to pay their respects during a memorial ceremony June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker for Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed June 1, 2007 by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.

(Photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT PAO)

Hollingsworth said that theirs was a tight-knit team, and they developed a bond that would carry them forward into combat.

“Staff Sgt. Atkins was a huge proponent of team camaraderie and unity,” Hollingsworth said. “We would do everything as a team — we moved as a team, trained as a team, ate, slept — everything.”

With that, it was easy to learn everything there was to know about his teammates, and Hollingsworth said that Atkins spoke constantly about his son Trevor.

Also read: What you need to know about the solider receiving the Medal of Honor

“He was very much a family man, always talking about them,” Hollingsworth said. “I would also say that he probably loved his men almost as much, if not the same.”

That camaraderie and the love he had for his team is demonstrative of his actions on June 1, 2007, when Atkins sacrificed his life to shield his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber. Atkins had engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the insurgent who had resisted a search, and then threw himself on top of the suicide bomber to bear the blast of the detonation.

A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, stands in front of the monument honoring 2-14 infantry soldiers who died in service to their nation.

(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

Hollingsworth said that every soldier learns the words to the Soldier’s Creed, but some of those words impact him more now because of Atkins.

“There’s that one phrase — ‘I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life’ — that has more meaning to me today than ever before,” he said.

In November 2007, Atkins’ name was among those added to the 2-14 infantry monument at Fort Drum. Atkins’ heroism received national attention when he was honored with the Distinguished Service Cross during a Veterans Day ceremony at Fort Drum in 2008.

Also read: This is the infantryman posthumously receiving the MoH

Hollingsworth had attended both ceremonies, but he said that words failed him upon meeting Trevor, who was 12 at the time.

“I was not able to adequately describe to Trevor how much I appreciated his father, what he meant to me and how truly great a man he was,” Hollingsworth said. “So being here at the Medal of Honor ceremony, I am incredibly grateful to be in the presence of the Atkins family. To have this opportunity to spend this time with them is a great honor.”

To learn more about Atkins and to watch the live webcast of today’s Medal of Honor ceremony, visit www.army.mil/medalofhonor/atkins.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways for celebrating Cinco de Solo

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating (fill in the blank). No, seriously this is a quiz. We’re guessing you were likely too drunk to remember what one of your most loved holidays is actually about… aside from celebrating tequila and tacos with your favorite group of friends. This year, with Corona (not the beer) in the way, it’s looking more like “Cinco de solo”. But fear not, we’re here to ensure your celebration is just as awesome with these handy at home hacks.


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Determine your taco style

Not all tacos are created equal. They come soft, hard, and even puffy (we’re being totally appropriate here). It’s time to step up your taco game and step out of your comfort zone. Considering the fact that there’s literally nothing else to spend your money on, go big and get multiple styles to create a taco spread that’ll make your homies seriously jealous.

Do the salsa 

We’re not talking about the dance… although, why not? Another crucial component of your feast is getting the delicious dip just right. And you’ve got options. Tomatillo, poblano, ancho are all words you need to get familiar with if you’re going to go all in. Feeling fruity? (again, completely appropriate) Try going for a pineapple-mango combination. Whatever you do, don’t you dare cheap out on a jar of pre-made tomato sauce masquerading as salsa.

Should you cut the cheese?

Good question. Research has shown us that this is a highly debated topic that is actually dependent upon what you’re stuffing your taco with. Queso fresco, cotija, queso de Oaxaca, or your standard-issue cheddar all have variations of saltiness, creaminess, and melt factor. One could even go as bold to say “no cheese” and bank heavy on your flavor profile.

Friends don’t let friends…

Friends don’t let friends drink solo on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, this applies even to social distancing parties. In case you live under a rock, there are plenty of apps for you to connect virtually and make it work. Do us a solid and let us know how you got creative with distance drinking games.

Step up your game bro

The stocks may be down, but alcohol sales sure are solid. By now you’ve likely demolished that “emergency stash” and shifted way into the realm of stay-at-home-mom level drink making. Now is your time to shine cupcake. With your designated set of friends, take the time to get creative and conjure up some amazing cocktail recipes for everyone to tray and vote on this holiday. Try setting some ground rules and a pre-set shopping list for everyone to grab beforehand. Take turns making each other’s cocktails and vote on the best.

Make it weird

If it were normal again, this day would be full of crazy taco creations to try at restaurants all across the land. Doing something “weird” is even better when it’s in the privacy of your own home. Cue the next few suggestions: radishes, nopales, fruit, kimchi, and the dessert taco. What we’re saying is- make it a competition between friends and make your best “take”, then deliver one to each of your friends and facetime everyone at dinner time to vote on who did the best.

Whatever you do, do it with as much humor and delicious new methods as humanly possible. It’s a heavy world out there and at least for 24 glorious hours, we can all have a little fun celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire. Cheers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hundreds of troops on border shifted to California

Hundreds of troops previously stationed in Texas and Arizona have been moved to California to support border patrol agents securing the border against the thousands of Central American migrants camped nearby.

“In coordination with CBP, it was determined that forces including military police, engineering and logistics units could be shifted from Texas and Arizona to support the CBP requirements in California,” US Northern Command told Business Insider, confirming an earlier report from The Washington Post.

“Approximately 300 service members have been repositioned to California over the past few days.”


In November 2018, there were 2,800 troops in Texas, 1,500 in Arizona, and another 1,500 in California. Over a period of several weeks, the active-duty military personnel deployed to these states ran over 60,000 feet of concertina (razor) wire.

Now, after the recent shift, there are 2,400 troops in Texas, 1,400 in Arizona, and 1,800 in California. The total number of active-duty troops at the border has decreased by about 200, dropping from 5,800 to 5,600, NORTHCOM explained to Business Insider, noting that changes are the result of mission assessments carried out in coordination with CBP.

U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

While the number of troops deployed to the southern border has decreased, the number of troops serving in California is on the rise. Thousands of migrants have been pouring into Tijuana, which is where more than 5,000 migrants, possibly many more, are camped.

Border patrol agents clashed with hundreds of migrants Nov. 25, 2018, at San Ysidro, one of the largest and busiest ports of entry on the US-Mexico border, after what began as a peaceful protest meant to call attention to the plight of asylum seekers turned into a mad and chaotic dash.

Some migrants attempted to enter the US illegally by forcing their way through and over barricades while others threw rocks at US border agents after they overwhelmed Mexican authorities. The crowd of migrants was driven back by rubber pullets and tear gas.

More than one hundred migrants have been arrested by authorities in the US and Mexico. Many of those who have been detained face deportation, meaning that their weeks-long journey to the US will end where it began.

The role of US troops at the border has been in debate over the past few weeks, with critics of the president calling the deployment a waste of time, resources, and manpower.

While active-duty troops deployed to the border were initially limited to laying razor wire, the White House recently authorized US troops to use force, including lethal force if necessary, to defend CBP agents against violence.

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

Articles

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.


In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”

He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.

“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.

After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.

While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.

He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.

“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.

ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.

“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”

Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.

“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.

Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.

Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus. Once that threat “has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.

Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.

McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

Articles

Navy’s new USS Ford carrier likely to deploy to Middle East or Pacific in 2020s

U.S. Navy photo


The Navy’s new next-generation aircraft carrier will likely deploy to the Middle East or Pacific theater, bringing a new generation of carrier technologies to strategically vital parts of the world, service officials told Scout Warrior.

“If you look at where the priorities and activities are now – that is where it will likely go,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

The Navy’s top acquisition official, Sean Stackley, recently told Congress that the new carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will deliver to the Navy in September of this year; following deployment preparations called “post shakedown availability” in 2017 and “shock trials” in 2019, the carrier is slated to deploy in 2021, service officials said. “Shock trials” involve testing the large ship in a series of different maritime conditions such as rough seas and high winds.

The Navy official stressed that no formal decisions have, as of yet, been made regarding deployment and that the USS Ford’s deployment will naturally depend upon what the geopolitical and combat requirements wind up being in the early 2020s.

At the same time, given the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance, it is not difficult or surprising to forsee the new carrier venturing to the Pacific. The power-projection capabilities of the new carrier could likely be designed as a deterrent to stop China from more aggressive activities in places such as the highly-contested South China Sea. The Navy’s plan for the Pacific does call for the service to operate as much as 60-percent of its fleet in the Asia Pacific region.

Also, the continued volatility in the Middle East, and the Navy’s ongoing involvement in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS could very well create conditions wherein the USS Ford would be needed in the Arabian Gulf.

Ford-Class Technologies

The service specifically engineered Ford-class carriers with a host of next-generation technologies designed to address future threat environments. These include a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship, among other things.

The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.

The ship’s larger deck space is, by design, intended to accommodate a potential increase in use of carrier-launched technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems in the future.

The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.

The USS Ford also needs sufficient electrical power to support its new electro-magnetic catapult, dual-band radar and Advanced Arresting Gear, among other electrical systems.

U.S. Navy photo

As technology evolves, laser weapons may eventually replace some of the missile systems on board aircraft carriers, Navy leaders have said. Laser weapons need about 300 kilowatts in order to generate power and fire from a ship.

Should they be employed, laser weapons could offer carriers a high-tech, lower cost offensive and defensive weapon aboard the ship able to potential incinerate incoming enemy missiles in the sky.

The Ford-class ships are engineered with a redesigned island, slightly larger deck space and new weapons elevators in order to achieve an increase in sortie-generation rate. The new platforms are built to launch more aircraft and more seamlessly support a high-op tempo.

The new weapons elevators allow for a much more efficient path to move and re-arm weapons systems for aircraft. The elevators can take weapons directly from their magazines to just below the flight deck, therefore greatly improving the sortie-generation rate by making it easier and faster to re-arm planes, service officials explained.

The next-generation technologies and increased automation on board the Ford-Class carriers are also designed to decrease the man-power needs or crew-size of the ship and, ultimately, save more than $4 billion over the life of the ships.

Future Carriers

The Navy plans to build Ford-class carriers for at least 50-years as a way to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-for-one basis. This schedule will bring the Ford carriers service-life well into the next century and serve all the way until at least 2110, Navy leaders have said.

Regarding the potential evaluation of alternatives to carriers, some analysts have raised the question of whether emerging technologies and weapons systems able to attack carriers at increasingly longer distances make the platforms more vulnerable and therefore less significant in a potential future combat environment.

Some have even raised the question about whether carrier might become obsolete in the future, a view not shared by most analysts and Navy leaders. The power-projection ability of a carrier and its air-wing provides a decisive advantage for U.S. forces around the world.

For example, a recently release think tank study from the Center for New American Security says the future threat environment will most likely substantially challenge the primacy or superiority of U.S. Navy carriers.

“While the U.S. Navy has long enjoyed freedom of action throughout the world’s oceans, the days of its unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close. In recent years, a number of countries, including China, Russia, and Iran, have accelerated investments in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as advanced air defense systems, anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These capabilities are likely to proliferate in the coming years, placing greater constraints on U.S. carrier operations than ever before,” the study writes.

In addition, the study maintains that the “United States will be faced with a choice: operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges – likely beyond the unrefueled combat radii of their tactical aircraft – or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure,” the CNAS study explains.

U.S. Navy photo

Navy officials told Scout Warrior that many of the issues and concerns highlighted in this report are things already being carefully considered by the Navy.

With this in mind, some of the weapons and emerging threats cited in the report are also things already receiving significant attention from Navy and Pentagon analysts.

 Emerging Threats

The Chinese military is developing a precision-guided long-range anti-ship cruise missile, the DF-21D, a weapon said by analysts to have ranges up to 900 nautical miles. While there is some speculation as to whether it could succeed in striking moving targets such as aircraft carriers, analysts have said the weapon is in part designed to keep carriers from operating closer to the coastline.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Congressional panel of experts, published a detailed report in 2014 on the state of Chinese military modernization. The report cites the DF-21D along with numerous other Chinese technologies and weapons. The DF-21D is a weapon referred to as a “carrier killer.”

The commission points out various Chinese tests of hypersonic missiles as well. Hypersonic missiles, if developed and fielded, would have the ability to travel at five times the speed of sound – and change the threat equation regarding how to defend carriers from shore-based, air or sea attacks.

While China presents a particular threat in the Asia Pacific theater, they are by no means the only potential threat in today’s fast-changing global environment. A wide array of potential future adversaries are increasingly likey to acquire next-generation weapons, sensors and technologies.

“Some countries, China particularly, but also Russia and others, are clearly developing sophisticated weapons designed to defeat our power-projection forces,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief said in a written statement to Congress in January of last year. “Even if war with the U.S. is unlikely or unintended, it is quite obvious to me that the foreign investments I see in military modernization have the objective of enabling the countries concerned to deter and defeat a regional intervention by the U.S. military.”

Enemy sensors, aircraft, drones and submarines are all advancing their respective technologies at an alarming rate – creating a scenario wherein carriers as they are currently configured could have more trouble operating closer to enemy coastlines.

At the same time – despite these concerns about current and future threat environments, carriers and power projects – few are questioning the value, utility and importance of Navy aircraft carriers.

Future Carrier Air Wing

The Navy is working on number of next-generation ship defenses such as Naval Integrated Fire Control –Counter Air, a system which uses Aegis radar along with an SM-6 interceptor missile and airborne relay sensor to detect and destroy approaching enemy missiles from distances beyond the horizon. The integrated technology deployed last year.

Stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said. Last year, the Navy announced that the Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Baord Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.

Citing the strategic deterrence value and forward power-projection capabilities of the Navy’s aircraft carrier platforms, the Commander of Naval Air Forces spelled out the services’ future plans for the carrier air wing at a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C think tank.

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, argued last year in favor of the continued need for Navy aircraft carriers to project power around the globe. His comments come at a time when some are raising questions about the future of carriers in an increasingly high-tech threat environment.

“Even in contested waters our carrier group can operate, given the maneuverability of the carrier strike group and the composition of the carrier air wing,” Shoemaker told the audience at an event in August of last year.

Shoemaker explained how the shape and technological characteristics of the carrier air wing mentioned will be changing substantially in coming years. The Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C stealth fighter will begin to arrive in the next decade and the service will both upgrade existing platforms and introduce new ones.

The Navy plans to have its F-35C operational by 2018 and have larger numbers of them serving on carriers by the mid-2020s.

The service plans to replace its legacy or “classic” F/A-18s with the F-35C and have the new aircraft fly alongside upgraded F/A-18 Super Hornet’s from the carrier deck.

While the F-35C will bring stealth fighter technology and an ability to carry more ordnance to the carrier air wing, its sensor technologies will greatly distinguish it from other platforms, Shoemaker said.

“The most important thing that the F-35C brings is the ability to fuse information, collect the signals and things that are out in the environment and fuse it all together and deliver that picture to the rest of the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker explained.

At the same time, more than three-quarters of the future air wing will be comprised of F/A-18 Super Hornets, he added.

The submarine hunting technologies of the upgraded MH-60R is a critical component of the future air wing, Navy officials have said.

“The R (MH-60R) comes with a very capable anti-submarine warfare package. It has an airborne low frequency sensor, an advanced periscope detection system combined with a data link, and forward looking infrared radar. With its very capable electronic warfare suite, it is the inner defense zone against the submarine for the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.

Electronic warfare also figures prominently in the Navy’s plans for air warfare; the service is now finalizing the retirement of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft in favor of the EA-18G aircraft, Shoemaker said.

“We’re totally transitioning now to the EA-18G Growler for electromagnetic spectrum dominance. This will give us the ability to protect our strike group and support our joint forces on the ground,” he said.

Also, the Growler will be receiving an electromagnetic weapon called the Next-Generation Jammer. This will greatly expand the electronic attack capability of the aircraft and, among other things, allow it to jam multiple frequencies at the same time.

The Navy is also moving from its E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to an upgraded E-2D variant with improved radar technology, Shoemaker explained.

“We’ve got two squadrons transitioned — one just about to complete in Norfolk and the first is deployed right now on the Teddy Roosevelt (aircraft carrier).  This (the E2-D) brings a new electronically scanned radar which can search and track targets and then command and control missions across the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker also pointed to the Navy’s decision to have the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft take over the carrier onboard delivery mission and transport equipment, personnel and logistical items to and from the carrier deck. The V-22 will be replacing the C-2 Greyhound aircraft, a twin-engine cargo aircraft which has been doing the mission for years.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US troops demolish ISIS leader’s compound to keep it from becoming a shrine

US special operations forces who are believed to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi issued an airstrike on his compound to prevent the location from becoming a shrine, according to Newsweek.

Soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, or Delta Force, conducted a raid against what they believed to be Baghdadi at the northern province of Idlib, Syria, on Oct. 26, 2019, unnamed US officials said in numerous news reports.

Baghdadi, who fetched a $25 million bounty in the US, is believed to have been killed in the raid. Military officials were still awaiting forensics verification, according to Newsweek, who first reported on the assault.


US troops faced incoming fire once they entered the site, a senior Defense Department official said to Newsweek, adding that the ISIS leader appeared to have killed himself by detonating a suicide vest. Two of Baghdadi’s wives were reportedly killed by their own suicide vests.

Who Is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

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Prior to the raid against al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, White House officials decided the US would bury him at sea in the event he was killed. Officials reportedly reasoned that it would prevent bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine. Then-CIA director John Brennan said the administration consulted with Islamic experts and that bin Laden was buried “in accordance with the Islamic requirements,” according to The New York Times.

Baghdadi’s last public sighting was from an April 29 propaganda video, the first visual sighting of him in five years. In September, an audio recording purportedly of Baghdadi issuing orders was released by the terrorist organization. Both of Baghdadi’s appearances followed ISIS’s loosening grip in Syria and Iraq amid the US-led coalition’s campaign to rid the region of the group.

Donald Trump FULL announcement ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi killed in military operation

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In 2018, ISIS militants and Iraqi intelligence indicated that Baghdadi’s son, Hudhayfah al-Badri, was killed in Syria. ISIS’s social media channels claimed Badri was conducting a suicide bombing operation against Russian forces, while Iraqi reports suggested he and 10 others were killed in a Russian missile attack, Voice of America reported.

Baghdadi was previously rumored to have been killed or wounded by airstrikes on numerous occasions in recent years. He became ISIS’s leader in 2010 after two of his predecessors killed themselves before being captured by US and Iraqi forces.

President Donald Trump on Oct. 26, 2019, tweeted vaguely that a “very big” event had taken place, and a White House official said he would make an announcement on Oct. 27, 2019.

The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Rockets from Syria were found at a popular Israeli tourist beach

Two rockets from Syria landed in Israel’s Sea of Galilee on July 25, 2018, in what the army believes was spillover from conflict in the neighboring country.

Local authorities said two projectiles landed inside Israel’s Sea of Galilee, which is about 30 kilometers, or 18 1/2 miles, from Syria’s border.


The rockets were discovered on the evening of July 25, 2018, after local residents reported seeing an object fall into the water near the popular Gofra Beach, located on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, according to The Jerusalem Post .

Israel’s Iron Dome defense system failed to intercept the BM-21 rockets. No injuries were reported.

The Israel Defense Forces said the projectiles appeared to have been errant fire from the neighboring conflict in Syria.

A BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher operated by Syrian rebel forces launches rockets at Syrian Army positions in the Syrian Desert.

Several hours later, the IDF said it retaliated by launching airstrikes at the rocket launcher where the projectiles had emanated from. The IDF also targeted the surrounding area with artillery fire.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, initial investigations suggest that the Islamic State terrorist group was behind the rocket fire, though it was most likely intended for Syrian forces rather than Israel.

The Sea of Galilee is a popular camping destination for Israeli vacationers, particularly around the summer months, when tourism in the country peaks.

The incident comes just 24 hours after Israel shot down a Syrian fighter jet that the IDF says strayed more than a mile into Israeli airspace. The plane crashed in Syria near the country’s border with Israel.

And on July 23, 2018, Israel’s David’s Sling missile-defense system was fired for the first time in battle at two Syrian surface-to-surface missiles that were headed toward Israel’s north.

According to Haaretz , each David’s Sling interceptor missile costs about id=”listicle-2590090900″ million.

Over the past few weeks, sirens have sounded across Israel, and rockets fired from Syria and elsewhere outside Israel have activated its missile defenses.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Vietnam vet worked to bring home missing troops for 40 years

Johnie Webb’s corner office is full of memories from a grim but fulfilling mission.

As the Army veteran leans over his desk — strewn with gifts given to him over the course of a 40-year career — he grabs a wooden box and pulls out a modest bracelet. Engraved on stainless steel reads the name of a staff sergeant killed in the Vietnam War.


When he begins to share the story of how he received it, his light blue eyes well up with tears.

“I keep it on my desk, because this is what we’re all about,” said Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Since 1975, Webb has traveled dozens of times to former combat zones as a Soldier and later as a civilian for the joint agency or one of its predecessors. The agency is responsible for locating the remains of the more than 82,000 Americans who are still missing from past conflicts.

upper right, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, sits with team members during a recovery mission in Papua New Guinea in 1978.

While much of his time had been in search of those fallen service members, Webb, 72, is now an advocate for their families who continue to wait for updates.

“I’m not going to say closure, because I’m not sure if there ever is closure when you lose a loved one. But at least [we can] provide them answers and give that loved one back,” he said. “That’s extremely important and I’m honored to play a small part.”

Vietnam veteran

Early in his Army career, Webb, a retired lieutenant colonel, led convoys as a logistics officer all over Vietnam to ensure bases had fuel for operations during the war.

Under the constant threat of roadside bombs and ambushes, he briefed his Soldiers to move their vehicle out of the road if it were ever hit so other vehicles could escape.

“If you block the road, then we’re all done,” he recalled saying.

During one of those missions, a Soldier did just that after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cab of his 5-ton vehicle and left him with severe burns.

His sacrifice was something Webb never forgot.

“Unfortunately, he didn’t survive,” he said. “But he probably saved the rest of us by doing what we were trained to do and that was to get his truck off the road.”

A few years after his tour, the Army assigned Webb to the Central Identification Laboratory-Thailand, which was later moved to Hawaii and consolidated into DPAA.

Johnie Webb holds a stainless steel bracelet given to him by the father of a Soldier whose remains were found by the agency.

The role of the new unit was to find the remains of Americans from the Vietnam War.

At first, he was confused, he said, since he knew nothing about the organization or its mission. In the Army’s eyes, though, he was qualified for the job because as a young lieutenant he once took a course on graves registration.

It would eventually come full circle for Webb in 1985, when he was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam only a decade after the end of the war.

“It became very personal for me,” he said, regarding the sacrifices made by fallen comrades. “We couldn’t let them be forgotten.”

Being back in Vietnam was initially “unnerving,” he said. After all, he had once fought an enemy there and it was uncertain how his team would be treated.

The mission was to search for human remains from a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi. But the team’s visit to Vietnam was also an opportunity to rebuild the diplomatic relationship between the former warring nations.

Johnie Webb points to a photo of him published in a book on U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations after the war inside his office at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 13, 2018.


The Vietnamese still distrusted Americans then, he said, and even photographed his team with cameras that were crudely hidden in briefcases.

Now, more than 30 years after that first mission, Vietnamese officials work closely with the DPAA teams that rotate in and out of the country each year. The agency is even permitted to permanently base one of its detachments in Hanoi to support teams as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.

“We were there before we had diplomatic relations. We were there before an embassy was ever established,” Webb said. “A lot of groundbreaking effort went into getting us to where we are today.”

North Korea

While the agency’s mission started with the work to account for those lost in Vietnam, it grew to include sites from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.

Webb was again behind another pioneering effort, but this time in North Korea. He and others took several trips to the country and helped negotiate with the North Koreans so teams could conduct missions at former battle sites from 1996 to 2005.

They even traveled from the capital, Pyongyang, to the Chosin Reservoir, where a decisive battle had taken place in the winter of 1950. As they were driven through the country, Webb recalled seeing how desperate the North Koreans had lived.

“It was very interesting times,” he said, “but it made sure you were really appreciative of being an American.”

As U.S. and North Korean governments currently aim to thaw relations between each other, Webb hopes it will lead the reclusive country to reopen its borders to the agency’s teams.

About 7,700 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.

“If we want to get answers to the families, and we definitely want to get them answers, we’re going to have to get access back into North Korea,” he said.

With the days of digging at excavation sites now behind him, Webb maintains a pivotal role in keeping families, distinguished visitors and veterans service organizations apprised of agency efforts.

Johnie Webb stands next to then-President Bill Clinton during his visit to an excavation site.


“I couldn’t say enough good things about Johnie Webb and the fact that he is literally one of the staunchest contributors to this mission,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.

McKeague, a former Air Force major general, credits Webb’s “Texas roots” for his compassion and calm demeanor. There is no better person, McKeague said, to speak with families struggling with loss.

“Johnie has a sense about him to be able to communicate with them, to be empathetic to them, and to literally not just be their friend but be their confidant,” he said. “They have so much confidence in him.”

Family advocate

Whether in a foreign country or back at the headquarters in Hawaii, Webb said the younger troops at the agency have always impressed him.

“Most of them weren’t even born when the guy who they are trying to recover was lost,” he said. “Still, they feel that kinship to that military buddy who wore the uniform for them.”

The “grunt work” these troops — many of whom are Soldiers — do at an excavation site can take months to years to find remains, if there are any. Once recovered, it can take even longer to identify them by lab staff.

While the long process sometimes leaves families irritated, the agency wants to ensure human remains are properly excavated and identified.

“Not only is it frustrating to the families, it gets frustrating for us as well because we want to provide those answers,” Webb said. “We want to return that loved one, but we want to do it right.”

When the answers do come, some family members do not want to believe them.

Johnie Webb consoles a grieving family member.


Inside a wooden box on his desk, the engraved bracelet reminds Webb of one such family member.

The father of the staff sergeant whose name is on the bracelet often spoke to Webb about his missing son before he was found. He had hoped his son was still alive and pleaded to Webb to bring him back.

A team then discovered remains from a site of a crashed helicopter, which the staff sergeant was on. Shortly after, Webb advised the father to prepare to receive his son’s remains so he could honor his life.

“It was clear that he was not wanting to hear that,” Webb remembered.

Webb asked other families who knew the grief-stricken father and had also lost loved ones to talk to him so he could come to terms with the news. He finally did.

When his son’s remains were returned to the family, there was a huge outpouring of public support. The funeral had full military honors and even dignitaries showed up to it.

“It was a day of celebration for this young man to come back home,” Webb said. “I was happy that he had honored his son the way he should have been honored.”

A few weeks later, a brown envelope addressed to Johnie Webb came in the mail. In it, there was a “thank you” note along with the bracelet, which the father always wore.

“I’m giving to you the POW bracelet that I have worn since my son was lost,” Webb said, recalling what the father wrote. “I finally took it off when he came back home. I want you to have it as a token of my appreciation.”

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