Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19 - We Are The Mighty
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Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

Volunteers are returning to national cemeteries under certain circumstances, following strict COVID-19 guidance.

More than 40 volunteers displayed the new policies during an event Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia. A group from a local Latter-day Saints church cleaned headstones while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“The reason we wanted to do this is every year we look for service to do in our community,” said Tyler Herring, who organized the volunteers. “It’s an honor to be able to come out to do this every year.”


Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

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Justice Cruzan, a Culpeper County High School student, said she volunteered because she had family members who served. She added cleaning the headstones is a way of repaying the fallen.

“Keeping their headstones clean is honoring them,” Cruzan said.

The cemetery director said groups spending time volunteering during a pandemic is inspiring.

“Witnessing these volunteers dedicate their time and energy on this beautiful autumn day always renews my commitment to NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with a final resting place in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation,” said Matthew Priest, cemetery director. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, Americans are going to safely gather to help us honor our servicemembers who have come before us and stood for something greater than themselves.”

Herring said the event was different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions. He said that didn’t stop the group from coming out.

“We’re still able to social distance,” Herring said. “We’re still able to follow all the mandates we need to, but we’re still able to serve.”

National cemetery directors may allow volunteers to return to the cemetery on a limited basis. The decision to bring back volunteers will be a local cemetery decision based upon current cemetery conditions. Cemeteries use federal, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Any volunteers who are considered at risk due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wait until conditions improve prior to resuming any volunteer activities.

Volunteers are essential

Priest said volunteers are an essential part of national cemeteries honoring Veterans and ensuring no Veteran ever dies.

“This is the second year that Tyler contacted me about how his team can help memorialize the men and women interred at Culpeper National Cemetery,” Priest said. “I am always amazed when I see so many patriots volunteer their time to help remember those who stood their final formation for us. Service and commitment are two words that are etched in the core of all Americans. That is evident today.”

More information

To find local cemeteries to see if they offer volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp.

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

Articles

Why using nukes on ISIS would be a bad idea

With the latest dustup over comments allegedly made by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump questioning America’s nuclear weapons use rationale, WATM thought it would be worth looking into how popping off a couple nukes on, say, ISIS might actually look.


While a nuclear exchange using even small arsenals like India’s and Pakistan’s would likely result in a nuclear winter, an extinction-level event, a small nuclear attack would not produce a nuclear winter on its own.

So what would happen if America or another nuclear power were to use a single, small, nuclear bomb to end a conflict?

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
It would be nice to see ISIS at the bottom of one of these clouds. (Photo: US Department of Energy)

To destroy a city with a small nuclear weapon such as the B61 bomb—capable of explosions from .3 kilotons to 340 kilotons—while minimizing fallout and other repercussions, it would be best to detonate the weapon on the surface at its minimum .3 kiloton yield. This is roughly 2.5 percent the strength of the blast at Hiroshima.

Based on the math, .3-kiloton explosion in the ISIS capital of Raqqa, for example, could be aimed to destroy major infrastructure such as roads without directly hitting the National Hospital or major mosques.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
If a .3-kiloton nuclear explosion was properly aimed in Raqqa, Syria, it could avoid most protected sites while still inflicting massive damage on the ISIS capital. (Image: Google Maps and Nuclear Map)

When the bomb went off, a flash of light would fill the sky, blinding anyone looking at it.

A searing heat would accompany the flash, superheating the surfaces of buildings, streets and anything else in the area. Paint, plastics, glues, papers, living tissue and so forth would immediately burn and begin to rise as black carbon. This effect would kill everything in an approximately 160-yard radius from the blast area.

In the following instant, the massive overpressure wave from the blast would rock the surrounding landscape. The wind generated by this blast would pick up all the black carbon, loose objects, sand and rubble, and blast it out from ground zero and up into the atmosphere.

This shockwave would be especially strong — compared to the size of the explosion — in a dialed-down bomb like the B61 at a .3-kiloton setting. Between the searing heat and the shockwave, everyone within approximately 340 yards of the blast would be killed nearly instantly.

All of this would happen in the first second after the bomb detonated.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
These four photos were taken as a nuclear blast ripped through the Nevada desert during a 1953 test. The pressure wave at the house was measured at 5 PSI. That same over-pressurization would be present at 340 yards from a .3-kiloton blast. (Photo: US Department of Defense)

In the area surrounding ground zero, going from about 340-750 yards, many people would survive the initial explosion with severe burns, internal injuries from the pressure blast, and blindness.

This would produce an estimated 4,400 casualties and 8,900 injuries, according to nuclearsecrecy.org‘s Nuke Map.

In the minutes that followed the blast, fires would quickly spread everywhere there is material to burn. Emergency crews would have to juggle between fighting the fires and treating the wounded.

With the sudden increase in debris and damage to infrastructure, first responders would be unable to move the wounded to hospitals. Surviving doctors — which Raqqa already has a shortage of — would be pressed into service treating the wounded.

Given the Islamic State’s known disdain for civilians, it’s likely these doctors would be ordered to treat militant fighters first.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
These worthless sacks do not have a good track record taking care of civilians. (Photo: Youtube.com)

The irradiated debris from the blast and the fires, including burnt plastics and other toxins, would settle on the ground starting in the first few hours after the detonation. As this material settled, much of it would end up in the Euphrates River which runs to the south of the city center. This would poison the water supplies downriver, including much of Syria and the bulk of Southern Iraq.

Any attempt to render humanitarian aid in the area would be hampered by the severe health risks of operating in an irradiated environment. While all branches of the military have personnel and units trained to operate in a nuke zone, only a small number are true specialists.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
The only guys trained in responding to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear attacks are too valuable at home to deploy without good cause. (Photo: US Army National Guard Spc. Eddie Siguenza)

And most of these specialized forces are assigned to domestic counterterrorism missions — meaning that pre-staging them forward or deploying them to assist after a nuclear attack would weaken America’s ability to respond to an attack at home.

Meanwhile, there is little evidence that a nuclear attack on the ISIS capital would actually stop them.

Nuclear attacks are designed to work two ways. First, the attack damages infrastructure and the physical warfighting capability of the enemy. But ISIS has relatively few infrastructure needs. It doesn’t manufacture tanks or planes, and it can build suicide vehicles and bomb vests nearly anywhere.

The second way a nuclear attack stops an enemy is by delivering such a psychological blow that they stop fighting. But ISIS fighters are already happy with being cannon fodder and suicide bombers. Martyrdom is martyrdom, nuclear or otherwise.

A nuclear attack on a Muslim city, even the ISIS capital, could also prove to be a prime recruiting tool. It might be used as an example that America doesn’t care about Muslim lives, and “Remember Raqqa!” would be a rallying cry for recruiters and fighters for the rest of the war.

Using the weapons against any other enemy would be even worse. While ISIS would survive and be able to recruit after suffering a nuclear attack, China or Russia could respond with an actual nuclear attack. The resulting exchange would guarantee a nuclear winter.

So maybe it’s best to keep using nuclear weapons as a last-resort deterrent instead of just another weapon in the armory.

Articles

USS Gabrielle Giffords completes maiden voyage and arrives at its home port in San Diego

Following construction and acceptance trials earlier this year at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Giffords sailed to Galveston, Texas, where she was commissioned June 10.


“Our Sailors are honored to represent the ship namesake, its homeport in San Diego, and the U.S. Navy,” said Cmdr. Keith Woodley, Giffords’ commanding officer. “Every Sailor will continue, through USS Gabrielle Gifford’s service to her nation, to fulfill the ship’s motto, ‘I Am Ready.'”

During her sail around transit from Mobile, Giffords Sailors conducted Combat Ship Systems Qualification Trials events, various crew certification training events, and regularly scheduled equipment and systems checks and transited through the Panama Canal.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Photo courtesy of US Navy.

Giffords is the ninth littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the fifth Independence-variant LCS. She joins other LCS, including USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), and USS Montgomery (LCS 8), who are also homeported in San Diego.

Giffords Sailors are excited for the future of their ship but also for their own return to San Diego.

“We have put in a lot of hard work over the past nine months,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Lee Tran. “It is going to be nice to have a little down time with friends and family before continuing to work the ship toward its next milestone.”

Family and friends were similarly eager for some quality time with their returning Sailors. Many said they were also grateful for the support and friendships they forged with other families while their Sailors were away.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Sailors arrive in San Diego, CA aboard the USS Gabrielle Giffords. Navy photo by Lt. Miranda Williams.

“Knowing I was not in this alone and that there were more families out there going through it too made me at peace knowing our Sailors had each other,” said Morgan Witherspoon, friend of a Giffords Sailor.

LCS 10 is named after former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus selected the LCS 10 namesake and said it is appropriate that the ship is named for Giffords, whose name is “synonymous with courage when she inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”

LCS is a high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatant designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. Paired with advanced sonar and mine hunting capabilities, LCS provides a major contribution, as well as a more diverse set of options to commanders, across the spectrum of operations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just discovered what Uranus smells like

Even after decades of observations and a visit by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, Uranus held on to one critical secret — the composition of its clouds. Now, one of the key components of the planet’s clouds has finally been verified.

A global research team that includes Glenn Orton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has spectroscopically dissected the infrared light from Uranus captured by the 26.25-foot (8-meter) Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. They found hydrogen sulfide, the odiferous gas that most people avoid, in Uranus’ cloud tops. The long-sought evidence was published in the April 23, 2018, issue of the journal Nature Astronomy.


The detection of hydrogen sulfide high in Uranus’ cloud deck (and presumably Neptune’s) is a striking difference from the gas giant planets located closer to the Sun — Jupiter and Saturn — where ammonia is observed above the clouds, but no hydrogen sulfide. These differences in atmospheric composition shed light on questions about the planets’ formation and history.

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
Jupiter,u00a0Saturn,u00a0Uranus, andu00a0Neptune.

“We’ve strongly suspected that hydrogen sulfide gas was influencing the millimeter and radio spectrum of Uranus for some time, but we were unable to attribute the absorption needed to identify it positively. Now, that part of the puzzle is falling into place as well,” Orton said.

The Gemini data, obtained with the Near-Infrared Integral Field Spectrometer (NIFS), sampled reflected sunlight from a region immediately above the main visible cloud layer in Uranus’ atmosphere.

“While the lines we were trying to detect were just barely there, we were able to detect them unambiguously thanks to the sensitivity of NIFS on Gemini, combined with the exquisite conditions on Mauna Kea,” said lead author Patrick Irwin of the University of Oxford, U.K.

No worries, though, that the odor of hydrogen sulfide would overtake human senses. According to Irwin, “Suffocation and exposure in the negative 200 degrees Celsius [392 degrees Fahrenheit] atmosphere made of mostly hydrogen, helium, and methane would take its toll long before the smell.”

Read more on the news of Uranus’ atmosphere from Gemini Observatory here.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the hero Soldier that stopped an active shooter with his truck: MSG David Royer

On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with his vehicle. By the time police officers had arrived on the scene, multiple vehicles had been hit by small arms fire, and one other Soldier had been wounded, but the suspect was safely pinned beneath a vehicle.

Now, the heroic soldier whose quick action likely saved a number of lives has been identified as Master Sgt. David Royer, a corrections noncommissioned officer with the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).


Royer was traveling eastbound when he arrived at the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, where he found stopped traffic. MSG Royer was talking to his fiancée on speakerphone when he noticed an armed man exiting another vehicle. Without hesitation, Royer instructed his wife to call 911 as the suspect opened fire at nearby vehicles.

“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer said. “I accelerated my truck as quickly as possible and struck the active shooter and pinned him underneath my truck.”

Law enforcement arrived only minutes later, where they found Royer had already assessed that the shooter was no longer a threat, and he’d already begun providing first aid to another Soldier who had been driving in a different car, and had been wounded in the initial volley of small arms fire. According to police, the suspect was armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle.

Royer, who has served in the Army for the past 15 years, received training on how to handle these sorts of situations throughout his career, including Military Police Special Reaction Team Training (Military SWAT Team), Air Assault School, and a Military Police Investigator Course. While many see Royer’s action as heroic, he’s quick to credit the training he’s received in service for his handling of the situation.

“I was shocked that it was happening, but the adrenaline took over and with the military training that I’ve received, I took appropriate action and took out the threat as fast as possible,” Royer said. “I didn’t imagine (an active shooter situation) would happen in traffic, but it was always in the back of my mind because of how crazy things are in the world today.

Despite Royer’s reluctance to take the credit for his actions, Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens made a point to address the bravery and skill Royer demonstrated on Wednesday.

“He won’t call himself a hero, but I will,” said Kitchens in a press conference. “He saved countless lives. … His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that. We’re grateful … on behalf of the entire Leavenworth community.”

Despite the accolades of local law enforcement and his command, Royer believes many people would respond in the same way if faced with the same circumstances. The career Soldier’s selflessness in the face of danger echoes similar sentiments offered by other heroic service members over the years, as he pointed out that while his life has value, he would be willing to sacrifice it for the safety and security of his fellow countrymen.

“My life is worth something, but there are also many other lives out there, too,” he said, “so if I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that is my motive.”

Col. Caroline Smith, 15th Military Police Brigade commander, also issued a statement honoring Royer’s quick action, bravery, and level headedness.

“I think many people will sit back and wonder what would they do at a time of adversity like that and would they have the confidence and the courage to act when necessary,” Smith said. “I think Master Sergeant Royer did exactly what needed to happen in order to neutralize the threat. He had a split second to decide and he made the decision and he made the right decision.
“He acted with courage and conviction. Because of that, I have no doubt that he saved many people’s lives,” she said. “We’ll never know how many lives he saved, but I can say I’m super proud of the actions he took and who he is as an NCO and a soldier in the Army.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

On March 22, 2019, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine at Base Miami Beach worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent 12 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC-626) was responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 2,926 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) was responsible for six cases, seizing an estimated 18,239 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous (WMEC-625) was responsible for four cases, seizing an estimated 7,218 pounds of cocaine.

    Tampa’s crew is extremely proud of the work they accomplished over the past three months. There are few things more frustrating to our sailors than idle deployments, and none more gratifying than accomplishing a very important mission with impacts that resound across our Nation. For many of the crew, this will be their last deployment on Tampa, and it’s one they will always remember.” said Cmdr. Nicholas Simmons, commanding officer of the Tampa.

    The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

    Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mason R. Cram wraps a palette of cocaine in preparation for a drug offload March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    The cutter Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia. The cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. The cutter Dependable is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia. LEDET 107 is permanently assigned to the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team in San Diego, California.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

    Coast Guard Vice Adm. Daniel Abel speaks to the press about the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) crew’s drug smuggling interdictions and offload, March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations. The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Russian weapons get between the US and India

    Lawyers and policy and technical experts from the US Defense Department are in New Delhi, meeting with Indian officials to discuss a military-communications agreement that would boost the interoperability of the two countries’ armed forces.

    The discussions — part of preparations for the 2+2 dialogue between the two countries’ foreign and defense secretaries, to take place in Washington in July 2018 — are a step forward, according to The Indian Express, as Delhi has been reluctant to sign the agreement, known as Comcasa, since it signed a military logistics agreement with the US in 2016, when the US named India a “major defense partner.”


    India’s reservations stem in part from a lingering issue in the growing US-India military relationship: Delhi’s use of Russia-made weapons platforms.

    Russia has long been India’s main weapons supplier. Delhi worked with Moscow to develop the BrahMos anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile, and India also fields Russia’s S-300 air-defense system.

    India’s operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a Russian Kiev-class carrier-cruiser overhauled by Moscow for the Indian navy that carries Russian-made aircraft. India also operates squadrons of Russia-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
    Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikramaditya

    India signed a $6 billion deal with Moscow in late 2016, agreeing to lease a Russian-made nuclear submarine, to buy four Russian frigates, to purchase the advanced S-400 air-defense missile system, and to set up a joint venture with a Russian firm to produce military helicopters.

    India’s Defense Ministry is concerned that many of its Russian-made weapons, as well as its indigenous weapons systems, will not be compatible with Comcasa, according to The Indian Express, which also reports that defense officials are wary of US intrusions into their military communications systems.

    The US has been seeking deeper relations with India for years. Delhi has bought $15 billion worth of US arms since 2008, and the US recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command in recognition of India’s growing role in the region.

    India sees the S-400 as a way to increase its air defenses, especially amid its growing rivalry with China. But its purchase has been an issue for Washington.

    Delhi has said it will go ahead with the purchase of the missile system, despite the recent Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which aims to deter foreign individuals and entities from doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
    (Russian Ministry of Defense)

    “In all our engagements with the US, we have clearly explained how India and Russia’s defence cooperation has been going on for a long time and that it is a time-tested relationship,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said early June 2018. “We have mentioned that CAATSA cannot impact the India-Russia defence cooperation.”

    India reportedly wants an exception to CAATSA for its defense deals with Russia and plans to raise the issue during the 2+2 dialogue meeting.

    “The S-400 deal has been on for a very long time, and we have reached the final stage of negotiations,” Sitharaman added. “That explains it.”

    US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress that “national security exceptions” must be made to CAATSA, which went into effect in January 2018.

    Mattis said that while some countries with which the US is seeking stronger ties are looking “to turn away” from Russian-made weapons, those countries also need to keep doing business with Moscow for the time being.

    “We only need to look at India, Vietnam and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” by pursuing strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis told senators in April 2018.

    “Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation — trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems, but they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going,” Mattis added.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
    President Donald J. Trump departs from the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
    (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

    China was the first foreign country to receive the S-400, but Turkey has also acquired it, adding to tensions with its NATO partners, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar also reportedly considering purchasing it.

    Despite India’s commitment to the S-400 deal and Mattis’ emphasis on logistical considerations, the US is still cautioning India and other US allies about doing business with Russia.

    US officials have indicated to India that not signing the Comcasa agreement could preclude India from getting high-end military equipment, like Predator drones, the sale of which the US approved in May 2018.

    Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, told Indian broadcaster NDTV in late May 2018, that the US was disappointed with India’s deals with Moscow, particularly the S-400 purchase, which he said “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future.”

    While there would be some “flexibility” in the law for countries with traditional defense ties to Moscow and sanctions on Delhi were unlikely, Thornberry said, the “acquisition of this technology will limit, I am afraid, the degree with which the United States will feel comfortable in bringing additional technology into whatever country we are talking about.”

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

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

    The Air Force’s protracted pilot shortage has garnered considerable attention.


    Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.

    At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.

    Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

    But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers

    According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.

    “When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:

    We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
    U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

    ‘The tension on the force right now is significant’

    The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.

    The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.

    By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
    Blue Angels pilots greet Thunderbirds maintainers.

    The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.

    The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.

    “There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”

    As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.

    The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.

    Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19
    Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, a crew chief with the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, prepares to launch an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

    Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.

    “Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.

    According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.

    But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.

    Read Now: If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

    “We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”

    Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.

    “While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”

    “We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”

    Articles

    These are the crazy Air Force pilots who fly into hurricanes

    When the Wild Weasels were formed, one of the candidates was said to have remarked of the mission: “You’ve got to be shitting me!”


    Well, if you think pilots flying up against surface-to-air missile sights define crazy, you haven’t heard of the Hurricane Hunters – and these folks have been busy.

    With Hurricane Harvey set to hit the coast of Texas with at least two major military bases in the bullseye, tracking its movement has been important. One of the ways the data is gathered is by flying into the storm to help determine how strong the storm is, and where it may be headed.

    This is often done by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, attached to the 403rd Wing, based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi Mississippi.

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    According to a release by the 403rd Wing, WC-130J Super Hercules weather reconnaissance planes have already made 10 flights into Hurricane Harvey, presently a Category 2 storm slated to reach Category 3 when it makes landfall in Texas.

    Each plane has a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, a weather reconnaissance officer, a navigator, and a loadmaster.

    During the flights through Harvey, the Airmen made dozens of passes through the eye of the hurricane, braving the strong winds in the center of the storm. On each pass, a device known as a “dropsonde” is released, providing data on dew point, pressure, temperature, and of course, wind speed and direction.

    That data is sent out immediately to the National Hurricane Center.

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    Master Sgt. Erik Marcus, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron loadmaster, loads a dropsonde into a dropsonde cannon during a flight into Hurricane Harvey Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)

    “As the Hurricane Hunters, our data is time sensitive and critical for the [National Hurricane Center],” Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot explained. “This storm is rapidly intensifying.”

    You’d think these pilots would be full-time Air Force, but you’d be way off. These gutsy crews who brave the wrath of nature are with the Air Force Reserve – meaning that many of them are taking time off from their regular lives to serve their country. You can see them in action monitoring Hurricane Harvey in the video below.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    6 things your drill sergeant can do that are worse than getting punched

    There’s probably a part of us that is worried about our drill sergeant, drill instructor, training instructor, and RDCs are going to lose their cool and just pummel us into basic trainee mush. If you’ve ever seen their faces close enough to smell what they had for breakfast, they were probably really ripping into you, and that’s enough to make anyone wonder: Am I in danger?

    In reality, that’s probably the least of your worries.


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    Quick! Give him a nickname! I’m going with “The Drew Carey Show.”

    Give you a nickname for the rest of your life.

    There’s a good chance you’re going to tech school, AIT, or whatever your branch of service calls career training with some of the guys or gals from your basic training unit. While many of us can safely walk away from basic training saying to ourselves, “Well, at least no one saw that,” gaining a funny nickname from your training instructors is the kind of thing that could follow you your whole career – and it’s not cool unless it’s a call sign.

    Nothing would be worse than retiring after 20 years and everyone calling you Chief “Chunkin.'”

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    The opposite of water discipline.

    Make you chug your entire canteen.

    It’s not easy to chug that much water in one breath, especially without getting it all over yourself, but sometimes, when a grown man is yelling at you, demanding you do it that way, that’s what you have to do. This is the most military punishment since push-ups were created, except this one is dumb. Watching a recruit open their throat and try to take a whole canteen like it’s a beer shotgun is the like watching someone stand to be waterboarded. It did not look fun.

    Then, of course, 15 minutes later, you have to ask that same drill sergeant to use the latrine.

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    But with a mattress.

    Force you to use your mattress as a scrub brush.

    The first thing training instructors are is funny. Then, when the bizarre punishments happen to you, those same people become awful and absurd. There are few greater absurd punishments than watching a platoon scrub a floor with a wet mattress on a Sunday.

    God help you if that’s your mattress.

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    Smoke you all day.

    PT, literally all day. The only time you get to stop is to eat. Until those times, you will run in circles around your platoon or flight as it marches, you will do push-ups until you have to roll your body over and can only get up with assistance, and you will do so many mountain climbers, it creates a defensive fire position for every single person in your unit, so they don’t have to dig.

    And you’ll still do PT the next day.

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    Recycle you.

    If you read the previous four entries on this list, imagine having a few more weeks of opportunity to experience them all again. For the civilians of the world out there, recycling means moving a basic trainee into a previous week of training, forcing the recruit to go back and re-do the weeks of training he or she already did, and extending basic training by that long.

    No one wants to be in basic training for longer than necessary. It’s summer camp for the power bottom crowd.

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    A stare as old as time.

    Just stare.

    The icy, cold stare that informs you:

    1. 1. You messed up.
    2. 2. Bad.
    3. 3. But you don’t know how bad.
    4. 4. And you probably don’t know what it was.
    5. 5. You want to be anywhere else.
    MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

    6 unexpected parenting lessons from ‘Ghostbusters’

    Whether it’s Halloween or just a Tuesday night in July, there’s never a bad time to watch one of the greatest movies of all time: Ghostbusters. In 1984, this sci-fi-comedy changed not only the way we thought about films, but also the way we thought about making jokes about slime. Ghostbusters made us feel funky, taught us that bustin’ can make you feel good, and most of all, that nobody ever made them like this.

    But, unexpectedly, the original Ivan Reitman-directed 1984 film — starring Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Dan Ackroyd, and Annie Potts — also imparted some sneaky life-lessons, that, when looked at from a certain way, are actually parenting lessons in disguise. Yes, Ghostbusters 2 famously had a plotline involving a baby in it, but you actually don’t even need to leave the confines of the first movie to find the best-hidden parenting lessons in Ghostbusters.


    Here are six lessons from Ghostbusters that will help every parent have the tools and the talent to deal with all types of ghoulish personalities your children might take on. In Ghostbusters you choose the form of the destroyer, but parents know that we’ve already chosen the form of our destroyer: it’s our kids.

    Onto the list!

    6. “Slow down. Chew your food.”

    When Venkman mentions he wants to take some of the petty cash to take Dana to dinner, Ray tells him that the Chinese food they’re eating represents “the last of the petty cash.” Venkman responds by saying, “Slow down. Chew your food.” The parenting lesson here is obvious: Remind children to chew their food, but also, make sure you have enough money set aside for date night, otherwise, shit’s gonna get depressing.

    5. “I’ve worked in the private sector — they expect results.”

    In an early scene, just after the Ghostbusters lose their grant from Columbia University, Ray accuses Venkman of having no real-world experience relative to running a small business. “You’ve never been out of college,” he rants. “You don’t know what it’s like out there. I’ve worked in the private sector, they expect results.” Basically, what Ray is saying about going into business for yourself is exactly like parenting. You have no idea what it’s like until you’ve done it, and your children kind of just expect you to know what to do.

    4. “If there’s a steady paycheck, I’ll believe anything you say.”

    When Winston applies for a job with the Ghostbusters, Janine rattles-off several pseudo-science concepts to gauge whether or not Winston is ‘buster-material. Winston doesn’t care about any of this stuff, but he also needs the job. This is a super important lesson for parents trying to figure out their career after children turn everything upside down. Don’t be too proud to take a weird job, even if everyone you work with thinks UFO abductions are real and the theory of Atlantis is totally legit. Just make sure the conspiracy theories your co-workers enjoy are fun.

    3. “What about the Twinkie?”

    When thing parents realize when their kids start to speak is that their communication skills are not as good as they thought. Basically, as far as your kids are concerned, you’re speaking like Ray or Egon, using complex language they don’t understand. But, then there’s this excellent analogy from Egon: “Let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. According to this morning’s sample, it would be a Twinkie thirty-five feet long weighing approximately six hundred pounds.”

    This is great! Use food analogies to describe complex things! Everyone gets it!

    2. “Don’t cross the streams!”

    We all know this one. Egon tells Ray and Venkman to avoid crossing the proton streams because crossing the streams “would be bad.” The explanation doesn’t really make sense. We never really know why in the fake science of Ghostbusters that crossing the streams is bad. It doesn’t matter. Some things just need to be rules even if your children (or, in this case, Venkman) don’t understand them.

    1. “When somebody asks you if you are a god, you say YES!”

    You don’t always need to be literal when you’re a parent to young children. And if they are asking you questions about your own authority, it’s best to probably just default to making them think you’re all-powerful. In other words, discipline starts with the illusion that the buck stops somewhere. It’s probably a bad idea to tell your children that you are an actual god (unless you are, and in that case, hello Zul!) but, it probably doesn’t hurt to show confidence whenever possible. Ray’s mistake with Gozer wasn’t so much that he admitted he wasn’t a god, it was that he was kind of a putz about it.

    Tell the truth, but if your children ask you if you are the one in charge, you say YES!!

    Here’s where you can stream all versions of Ghostbusters.

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

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    China just mounted a futuristic railgun onto one of its ships

    Photos have been circulating on social media that show a Chinese ship with what could be a prototype railgun on its bow.


    The photos, taken at the Wuchang Shipyard in China’s Hubei Province, show a Type 072III-class landing ship identified as the Haiyang Shan with a much larger gun on its mount than its usual twin 37mm cannon.

    The size and shape of the weapon are roughly the same as the U.S. Navy’s own prototype railgun, and the shipping containers on the deck could be used as control rooms or to house the power supply. Moreover, the location of the photographs may hint as to the gun’s true nature — the Wuchang Shipyard has been the sight of previous tests for the Chinese Navy.

     

     

    It also comes at a time when the U.S. has been scaling back their efforts on developing railguns and other electromagnetic technologies. The Navy has spent more than $500 million on the project, which will likely never see combat.

    Officials at the Department of Defense “don’t want to fund the railgun because they’re simply not buying it,” a senior legislative official with direct knowledge of the U.S.’ railgun project recently told Task Purpose.

    “Promising technologies fall into the ‘valley of death’ all the time,” another legislative source told Task Purpose. “Testing is great, but unless you want to put money into transitioning that tech into an actual weapons system then what the hell are you doing? We’re afraid to take a risk and try to get things moving.”

    Also Read: China might have radar tech that can see the F-35

    Railguns are cannons that can shoot inert projectiles without gunpowder. They achieve this by using magnetic energy sent through rails on the projectiles as they make their way down the barrel, allowing the projectile to reach hypersonic speeds.

    The technology would allow for faster target acquisition, increased range, and could free up space for more projectiles because propelling charges would not be needed — something that may also make the railgun cheaper than its current counterparts.

    The photos suggest that the set up is still in a testing phase. A Type 072III-class landing ship would be a good candidate; the ship can hold 500 tons of cargo, and has enough open space to fit large components.

    China’s military has a well known history of being interested in electromagnetic technologies. The country has been researching how to build and deploy a Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for its aircraft carriers.

     

    EMALS would require less maintenance that current systems, which rely on compressed steam to launch aircraft, and could allow Chinese aircraft carriers to carry and launch larger aircraft, increasing the range and strike power of a Chinese carrier force.

    Railguns are something that China has been pursuing for decades. While the research has been going on since the 1980’s, China has recently claimed to have made massive progress on the program, with Rear Admiral Ma Weiming boasting of China’s breakthroughs in October 2017.

    Though there has been no official confirmation that the pictures show a railgun, China would be the first nation to successfully install a railgun prototype onto a sea-worthy vessel if the reports are true.

    Articles

    The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

    On July 17, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered all 18 of the Air Force’s C-5 cargo planes at Dover Air Force Base to halt operations and undergo inspections after two of the aircraft had landing-gear malfunctions in less than a 60 day period.


    Two days later, Everhart extended the stand-down to all 56 of the Air Force’s C-5s, ordering them all to undergo maintenance assessments.

    The ball-screw assembly on the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force, was causing problems with the landing gear’s extension and retraction, according to Air Force Times.

    The C-5’s nose landing gear uses two ball-screw drive assemblies working together to extend and retract, according to the Air Force. If one of the assemblies doesn’t work, the gear can’t operate. (The Dover stand-down came a little over a year after the C-5M Super Galaxies stationed there achieved the highest departure-reliability rate in their history.)

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    USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Baker

    Inspections revealed that the parts needed to fix the malfunctions are no longer made. But, Everhart told Air Force Times, maintenance personnel were able to get the needed parts from the aircraft “boneyard” belonging to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.

    As of September 1, 38 of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s were back in service. By Sept. 4, three of them had been sent to support hurricane relief efforts in Houston.

    “Returning the C-5 to service so quickly is a maintainer success story. I can’t say enough about our maintainers’ ingenuity, hard work, and pride,” Everhart told Air Force Times, adding that his command was looking at adaptive techniques, like 3D-printing, to supply parts and predictive maintenance to catch malfunctions before they happen.

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    The Air Force’s “boneyard” in Arizona (there is more than one “boneyard“) provides long-term storage for a wide array of mothballed or unused aircraft — more than 3,800 as of mid-2016. Though they languish under the desert sun, low humidity in the air and low acid levels in the soil make it a good place to keep aircraft.

    It’s not unusual for the Air Force to pull parts, or even entire planes, from the sprawling facility.

    In summer 2016, the Marine Corps announced that it planned to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets stored at the base in response to a shortage of usable aircraft. In October 2016, after a 19-month restoration process, the Air Force returned to service a B-52H Stratofortress bomber that had been mothballed at Davis-Monthan.

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