The Barrett M82, known by members of the U.S. military as the M107 .50-caliber semi-automatic rifle, is one of the military’s most beloved weapons in use today. Its service history is as storied – and as American – as the history of its inventor, Ronnie Barrett.
Before his name became synonymous with American military supremacy, Barrett was a professional photographer in his home state of Tennessee. He never studied science or engineering in college – in fact, he didn’t go to college at all. He went to Murfreesboro High School before going out and starting a photography studio.
That all changed during the course of his usual work.
And many, many U.S. and allied troops are better off for it.
In 1982, Barrett was snapping a photo of a river patrol gunboat during a military exercise on the Stones River near Nashville, Tenn. Mounted on that boat were two M2 Browning .50-caliber machine guns. The size of the ammunition cartridge got Ronnie Barrett thinking. He was “wowed” by the Ma Deuce, but he wanted to know if the .50-caliber cartridge could be fired from a shoulder-mounted sniper rifle.
He was out on the water that day to snap promotional photos for the Browning Firearms Company, but he ended up starting a rival firm, one that would become as closely-linked with the U.S. military as Browning.
The photo also won a first-place award from the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association. No joke.
(Photo by Ronnie Barrett)
Barrett went home and began work on a 3D sketch of what would soon become the Model 82A1 – M107. Within just seven years, Barrett was able to sell his powerful sniper rifle to the Swedish military and eventually the United States Marine Corps, then the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force.
Not bad at all for someone with no college education, but a whole lotta vision. Welcome to Ronnie Barrett’s America, folks.
The B-1B Lancer bomber, a plane designed with the ability to fly fast and low to the Earth in order to avoid enemy radars, might find itself operating at higher altitudes for the rest of its days in service, as officials weigh options to extend its lifespan.
The move is one of several being considered to keep the aircraft flying for years to come because low-altitude missions increase the wear and tear on the aircraft’s structure, Military.com has learned.
“We’re closely working with aircrews, maintenance, industry engineers and combatant commands to identify and determine what, if any, changes may be made as we balance operational necessity today with the longevity of the B-1 airframe for the future,” said Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Faggard.
Specifically, officials are weighing whether to tell pilots to stop using the B-1’s low-altitude terrain-following capability, known as TERFLW mode, during training. The mode is operated by a basic switch on the plane’s avionics.
A B-1B Lancer bomber.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
“The B-1 and our airmen have consistently and professionally provided close-air support in the counterterror fight for decades, a mission the aircraft was never designed to fly,” Faggard said. The B-1 was designed for a range of activities, most notably its TERFLW capability, but instead has been used for years in Middle East conflicts — a role for which it was not designed.
“We’re building a viable transition plan to get us from the bomber force we have now to the bomber force of the future. We can change tactics — altering, bringing back or avoiding any tactics or procedures as necessary on any bomber at any time in the future,” Faggard said Friday.
TERFLW, which allows the plane to operate at low altitudes like a jet ski skimming water, was created to allow the B-1 “to sneak in low below enemy radars into Russia during the Cold War, employ nuclear weapons, and get out,” said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, then-chief of training for the 9th Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in a 2017 interview.
Kilchrist, also a pilot, showed off the maneuver when Military.com visited the base that year.
Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)
Fatigue testing on the bomber has shown that low-altitude training may put additional stress on the airframe, according to two Air Force sources familiar with the discussions. Thus, the argument to limit TERFLW flights in future.
It’s not uncommon for bombers to switch up how they fly.
For example, B-52 Stratofortress pilots already tend to avoid low-altitude flights because of the additional stress on the venerable bomber’s airframe, according to Alan Williams, the B-52 deputy program element monitor at Global Strike Command. Williams has been involved in the B-52 community since 1975.
“When I first started flying in the B-52, we went down to 300 to 500 feet above the ground,” he said in an interview in August. “Two o’clock in the morning, we’d fly over western Wyoming and we’d pop out four hours later over eastern Wyoming. That was hard on the aircraft.”
He continued, “Low-level is hard on aircraft. There’s a lot of forces — atmosphere, turbulence, all those things. [But] over the last 30 years, the B-52 has returned to what it was designed to be: a high-altitude bomber.”
Officials haven’t totally forbidden B-52 crews to fly low, especially if they’re testing new weapons, according to a bomber weapons system officer, who asked not to be identified due to not being authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
A B-52H Stratofortress.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)
While the B-52 is sticking around into the 2050s, keeping the B-1 viable until its 2036 sunset date has been a priority for Air Force Global Strike Command.
Gen. Tim Ray, head of the command, announced in September that the Air Force had proved it can modify the Lancer to hold more ordnance — a step that may pave the way to future hypersonic weapons payloads as the bomber seeks new missions.
In tests with the 419th Flight Test Squadron, teams at Edwards Air Force Base, California, demonstrated how crews could fasten new racks onto the external hardpoints of the B-1, and reconfigure its internal bomb bays to hold heavier weapons.
“The conversation we’re having now is how we take that bomb bay [and] put four, potentially eight, large hypersonic weapons on there,” Ray said during the annual Air Force Association Air Space and Cyber conference.
“Certainly, the ability to put more JASSM-ER [Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range] or LRASM [Long Range Anti-Ship Missile] externally on the hardpoints as we open those up,” he said, as reported by Defense News. “There’s a lot more we can do.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The F-35B is a short takeoff, vertical landing fighter intended to replace the AV-8B Harrier, but it uses a very different system to achieve its V/STOL capability than the Harrier.
The Harrier uses vectored thrust, having four nozzles tilt to get the jet to take off vertically. It works well, and the Harrier did win the Falklands War for the British in 1982. But why does the F-35B use a different system? It’s an interesting tale – and to tell it, we must look to the Soviet Union.
Now, this tale kind of goes back to when the F-35 was merely the X-35, one of two competitors for the Joint Strike Fighter title. There was a rival from Boeing, which had acquired McDonnell-Douglas who had teamed up with British Aerospace to make the AV-8B.
Boeing’s plane was the X-32, but it quickly got the nickname “Monica.” And no, not the one played by Courtney Cox on “Friends.”
Like the AV-8B, the X-32B used vectored thrust to achieve its V/STOL capability. The approach was proven and worked well.
Lockheed’s X-35B, though, went with a very different approach. The F-35B uses a lift-fan that gets power diverted from the main engine, while the rear nozzle also can vector downward.
This was not the first time someone decided not to use vectored thrust to gain V/STOL capability. The Yak-38 Forger, the Soviet Union’s only operational V/STOL multi-role plane, used a pair of additional lift jets for its V/STOL capability.
Now, the Forger was a notch or two below the Brewster Buffalo in terms of being a decent combat plane. It had a top speed of 795 miles per hour, a range of roughly 800 miles, and could carry two tons of bombs. No internal gun was present, and the only air-to-air missiles it could use were the old AA-2 “Atoll” or the wimpy AA-8 “Aphid.” Neither, it should be noted, were all-aspect missiles.
Modern avionics? Well, the Yak-38M that saw service never had them. The Yak-38MP was to get the same suite used on the MiG-29 Fulcrum, but the end of the Cold War meant that bird never flew.
But it was an effort to replace the Yak-38 that arguably lead to the F-35B being the way it is. Yakovlev began to design the Yak-141 Freestyle as the limitations of the Yak-38 became obvious. The end of the Cold War meant that the program never left the prototype stage.
But the data was acquired by Lockheed in 1994.
So, why did Lockheed buy that data when Yakovlev’s only operational V/STOL fighter was a piece of junk? The answer is that vectored thrust compromised the combat flight performance of the AV-8B.
Lockheed’s way of powering the lift fan worked out well. They didn’t need two extra jets on the Forger, and they ditched the thrust-vectoring. The X-35 won the competition, beating out the X-32.
So, in one sense, the Yak-38’s legacy now includes the F-35B Lightning II.
Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.
The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.
Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.
The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.
The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.
Growing shortfalls and falling retention
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”
Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)
“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.
Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”
But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.
Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.
Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.
The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.
These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.
“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.
A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.
Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)
The services have also struggled to retain pilots.
The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.
Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”
The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.
But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention
A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”
Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.
The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.
It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)
“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.
Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.
The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.
“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.
The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”
The beat of the Native American drums reverberated through the halls of the clinic as Crow Nation drummers proudly sang a war song. The ceremony began with a Crow Nation prayer and the presentation of colors.
Hundreds were on hand to witness the long-awaited renaming ceremony of the Billings clinics for World War II Veterans Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last member of the Crow Tribe to become a war chief, and Benjamin Steele.
The Community Based Outpatient Clinic was renamed in honor of Medicine Crow and the Community Based Specialty Clinic was renamed in honor of Steele at the ceremony in February.
Shirley Steele beamed with pride while talking about her late husband. He was born and raised in Roundup, Mont., and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. He was a Bataan Death March survivor and prisoner of war for more than three years. He died in September 2016 at the age of 98.
Tiara Medicine Crow, granddaughter of Joseph Medicine Crow, a Bronze Star holder, talked about her love of her grandfather and all that he meant to the Crow Nation.
A.J. Not Afraid, grandson-in-law of Joseph Medicine Crow and chairman of the Crow Nation, spoke to his history and accomplishments.
A.J. Not Afraid and a child performer attended the ceremony in traditional Crow Nation dress.
Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1939. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attain that level of education. Medicine Crow joined the U.S. Army in 1943. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. He died in April of 2016 at the age of 102.
The photo at the top of this story is of Not Afraid and Shirley Steele.
In the Air Force, squadrons are the basic level of operations, its “beating heart” as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein calls them.
To better understand how significant the squadron is to the Air Force, it’s also important to know what a squadron is.
Within the Air Force, the squadron is the lowest level of command with a headquarters element. Squadrons are typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel, though smaller squadrons may be commanded by majors, captains and sometimes even lieutenants. Squadrons can also vary in size and are usually identified numerically and by function. An example would be the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron or the 355th Communications Squadron.
Two or more squadrons form a group. In the Air Force, groups are usually based upon the assignment of squadrons with similar functions. For example, the supply squadron, transportation, and aircraft maintenance squadron would be assigned to the Logistics Group, the flying squadrons would be assigned to the Operations Group and the Dental Squadron and the Medical Squadron would be assigned to the Medical Group. Groups, in turn, are then assigned to a wing with the same number. For instance, the 49th Logistics Group is assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
However, the squadron actually predates the Air Force. In March 1913, the first squadron was created when the Army ordered the creation of the Army Air Services’ 1st Provisional Aero Squadron – known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. military’s oldest flying unit.
The creation of higher echelons came later as the role of air power grew during World War I. Groups and wings were formed in order to remedy the difficulty of coordinating aerial activities between dispersed aero squadrons. Though WWI saw the first great military mobilization, it also saw the first huge drawdown. What was more than 660 aero units diminished to a little over 70 squadrons by 1919, with an air component that was 19,000 soldiers strong reduced to around 5 percent of what it used to be. No one would have predicted that after two decades, the air component found itself expanding once again.
108th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean War activation formation in 1951.
(US Air Force photo)
With the advent of World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower. He believed, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, “that airpower would win the war.” What was then renamed to the Army Air Corps was well funded and grew rapidly, seeing more planes and squadrons than it ever will in its history – from a workforce comprised of 26,500 soldiers in 1939 to a staggering 2,253,000-strong by 1945.
The aerial component saw a considerable drawdown after the war ended, and, despite becoming its own department through the National Security Act of 1947, the number of airmen and squadrons continued to fluctuate and shrink over the years.
In the current Air Force, led by Wilson, Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the push for revitalizing squadrons, empowering airmen and supporting innovation is stronger than ever, but unbeknownst to many, these concepts have been implemented by many successful military leaders of the past. A prime example is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most iconic figures: a man known for his prowess in the aerial battlefield and his famously distinctive lip foliage, Big. Gen. Robin Olds.
“Wolfpack” aviators of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry their Commanding Officer, Colonel Robin Olds, following his return from his last combat mission over North Vietnam, on 23 September 1967. This mission was his hundredth “official” combat mission, but his actual combat mission total for his tour was 152. Olds led the 8th TFW Wolfpack from September 1966 through September 1967, as it amassed 24 MiG victories, the greatest aerial combat record of an F-4 Wing in the Vietnam war.
(US Air Force)
Along with inspiring the Air Force tradition, Mustache March, Olds was known as a triple ace for shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during his career. Along with the accolades he received as a skilled fighter pilot, Olds was known for his innovative leadership. In Vietnam, he led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet aircraft kills – an unsurpassed total for that conflict.
One of the most significant moments in his career was on Jan. 2, 1967, during Operation Bolo, where he, as a colonel, entrusted the planning of an experimental and high-stakes mission to a quartet of veteran junior officers and pilots in his unit. Operation Bolo was conceived in response to the North Vietnamese use of MiG-21s to successfully shoot down F-105 Thunderchief aircraft. Olds noticed that F-4 Phantoms and F-105 Thunderchiefs routes became predictable. Enemy intelligence analysts would listen in on radio transmissions and were able to recognize F-105 and F-4 call signs and flight patterns and used the information to target the more vulnerable F-105s. Olds charged his men to come up with a plan to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking the F-4s were the F-105s. The F-4s were then fitted with the jamming pods usually carried by F-105s so that their electronic signature would be the same and also used the same call signs and flew the same routes and pod formations as the F-105s. Needless to say, the operation was a success and lead to the most MiGs shot down during a single mission.
Francis S. Gabreski (left) congratulates another World War II and Korean War ace, Maj. William T. Whisner (center). On the right is Lt. Col. George Jones, a MiG ace with 6.5 kills.
(US Air Force)
In a commentary commemorating Olds in March of 2018 written by Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, he said that Operation Bolo “showed innovation could work when the leader trusted and empowered his people to think of and implement new and better ways to do business.”
He also referred to Olds as “an innovative leader” at a time when the Air Force was in dire need of innovation to face difficult missions where a lot of people’s lives were at stake.
Just like Olds, Goldfein and Wilson ask airmen to help come up with ideas to reinvigorate squadrons for the force to be ready for the 21st-century fight.
They have gone as far as reviewing all Air Force instructions and empowering commanders to maneuver and make decisions as well as encourage wing commanders to let squadron commanders make important decisions.
Capt. Lacey Koelling, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, and 34th Bomb Squadron members Capt. Lillian Pryor, a B-1 pilot; Capt. Danielle Zidack, a weapon systems officer; Capt. Lauren Olme, a B-1 pilot; and 1st Lt. Kimberly Auton, a weapon systems officer, conduct a preflight briefing prior to an all-female flight out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 21, 2018. The flight was in honor of WomenÕs History Month and consisted of routine training in the local area.
(Air Force photo by Sgt. Jette Carr)
During an Air Force update in September 2017, where Goldfein talked about creating healthy squadrons who excel in multi-domain warfare and ready to lead the joint force, he concluded by saying, “It’s the secretary and my job to release the brilliance found throughout the airmen in our Air Force,” a sentiment that echoes the voices of great Air Force leaders of the past, the present and the future.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
In the final six months of World War II, the 104th Division — “The Frontier Division” — launched a series of night attacks against German troops while equipped with only empty rifles, bayonets, and grenades, slicing and exploding their way through enemy lines on the drive to Berlin.
The 104th Division was stood up in Oregon on Sep. 15, 1942, around the same time that its future commander, Maj. Gen. Terry “Terrible Terry” Allen, was loading the 1st Inf. Division into ships for the invasion of North Africa.
One of Allen’s big takeaways from commanding the 1st in Tunisia was that night attacks were generally less costly than daytime assaults, especially against fortifications and massed guns. So, when he handed the 1st over to Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner and was sent to take over the 104th, he insisted that the Frontier Division learn to fight at night.
According to a 1946 news article about the Division, Allen required the men to train 30-35 hours a week at night, well above the Army standard of eight to 12 hours.
After training in the U.S. and England, the 104th finally landed in France in September 1944 and was sent to Antwerp a month later to help capture the port there. In two weeks of bloody fighting that included multiple night assaults, the Timberwolves worked with the Canadians and British to eliminate Nazi defenses.
Even when the “Nightfighters” had rifle ammunition and permission to use it, they seemed to prefer their bayonets and explosives, likely in a bid to reduce tell-tale muzzle flashes that would give away their position.
During the Battle of the Dykes near Antwerp, then-1st Lt. Cecil Bolton tried to use mortars to knock out enemy machine gun positions raining fire on his unit. After being knocked unconscious by German artillery, he awoke and led a two-man volunteer bazooka team against the German lines by sneaking through chest-deep, nearly frozen water in the canals to the enemy positions.
The night attacks were usually reserved for positions in relatively open terrain, but were sometimes conducted against cities. The city of Eschweiler was captured in November thanks to a pre-dawn insertion of troops into the city center. Those men raised hell inside German lines at sunrise while the rest of their unit attacked from the outside.
The second phase, involving the crossing of the Inde River and the advance to the Roer, was even more difficult, but with characteristic skill and dash, in a series of brilliant night attacks, the 104th Division forced a crossing of the Inde, and in a few days had cleared its entire sector to the Roer River. I regard the operation which involved the seizure of Lamersdorf-Inden-Luchererg as one of the finest single pieces of work accomplished by any unit of the 7th Corps since D Day.
On April 26, the 104th met up with Russian troops that had been pushing the Germans west from Moscow. The Allied forces continued to hunt German units until May 5 when they ran out of Nazis to fight. Thus ended 195 days and nights of continuous combat, some of it conducted at night against machinegun nests and artillery positions by attackers armed only with blades and grenades.
Marine One is an icon of the presidency and for the most part, one helicopter has carried that load for almost 60 years: The VH-3, which first carried President Eisenhower in 1961. The current D model of the VH-3 entered service in 1978 and was later backed up with the introduction of the VH-60N in 1987. But, the fact remains that both of these helicopters are getting older by the day.
The first effort to replace them was the VXX program. This program got started in the wake of the 9/11 attacks when some possible shortcomings in the current Marine One airframes were identified. The program was marred by frequent delays, cost overruns, constantly changing requirements, and unresponsiveness on the side of the U.S. government. In 2009, the program was called off.
The need for a new Marine One remained.
The VH-3D Sea King has been used as Marine One since 1978.
(White House photo by Paul Morse)
So, the Corps started work on a new Marine One program in 2010, culminating with a requests for proposals in 2012. Sikorsky, now a division of Lockheed, won the second round of the competition in 2013. This time around, the Marines are going about getting their new Marine One very differently. The Marine One replacement’s acquisition strategy is centered on two main principles: First, well-defined and achievable requirements, and second, a low-risk, technical approach.
The latter is epitomized by the use of the S-92 helicopter (in essence, a souped-up UH-60) that has seen service with a number of civilian, government, and military operators ranging from China Southern Airlines to the Canadian Navy (as the CH-148 Cyclone). Plans call for 23 VH-92s, as it is designated, to replace both the VH-3 and VH-60 by 2023. These choppers can be hauled anywhere in the world on a C-17 Globemaster III or C-5 Galaxy cargo plane.
The other Marine One, the VH-60N, has been used since 1987.
(White House photo by Eric Draper)
Now, you may wonder why so the US government wants so many of these helicopters? Well, the current composition of HMX-1’s Marine Ones is a total of 11 VH-3Ds and 8 VH-60Ns. That’s because, these days, Marine One never flies alone. Often, as many as five “Marine Ones” will be in the air, creating, in essence, a five-card monte game for a terrorist. While Marine One hasn’t been attacked in real life, it was shot down by a narco-terrorist in the 1990 novel Under Siege written by Navy veteran Stephen Coonts. Of course, the new Marine One is equipped with multiple countermeasure systems to protect against such an attack should the worst happen.
The VH-92 will be expected to handle the important duty of Presidential transport for a long time. It certainly will have big shoes to fill coming after the distinguished service provided by the VH-3 and VH-60.
We always see the same side of the moon from Earth
The moon is tidally locked with Earth, which means that we are always looking at the same side of it. The other side — the far side — isn’t visible to us, but it’s not in permanent darkness.
The video shows our view from Earth as the moon passes through its month-by-month phases, from full moon to new moon. At the bottom right corner, the animation also tracks the boundary of sunlight falling across the moon as it rotates.
So, half of the moon is in darkness at any given time. It’s just that the darkness is always moving. There is no permanently dark side.
“You can still say dark side of the moon, it’s still a real thing,” O’Donoghue said on Twitter. “A better phrase and one we use in astronomy is the Night Side: It’s unambiguous and informative of the situation being discussed.”
Here’s what it looks like from Earth’s southern hemisphere:
In the last year, O’Donoghue has created a slew of scientific animations like this. His first were for a NASA news release about Saturn’s vanishing rings. After that, he moved on to animating other difficult-to-grasp space concepts, like the torturously slow speed of light.
“My animations were made to show as instantly as possible the whole context of what I’m trying to convey,” O’Donoghue previously told Business Insider, referring to those earlier videos. “When I revised for my exams, I used to draw complex concepts out by hand just to truly understand, so that’s what I’m doing here.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army’s helicopters have a number of names you recognize immediately: Apache, Black Hawk, Kiowa, Lakota, Comanche. They are also known as the names of Native American tribes. This is not a coincidence.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, this was originally due to Army Regulation 70-28, which has since been rescinded. Today, while the regulation is gone, the tradition remains, and there is a procedure to pick a new name. The Bureau of Indian Affairs keeps a list of names for the Army to use. When the Army gets a new helicopter (or fixed-wing aircraft), the commanding officer of the Army Material Command (the folks who buy the gear) comes up with a list of five names.
Now, they can’t just be any names. These names must promote confidence in the abilities of the helicopter or plane, they cannot sacrifice dignity, and they must promote an aggressive spirit. Those names then have to be run by the United States Patent Office, of all places. There’s a lot more bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to go through, but eventually a name is picked.
Then comes something unique – the helicopter or aircraft is then part of a ceremony attended by Native American leaders, who bestow tribal blessings. You might be surprised, given that the Army and the Native Americans were on opposite side of the Indian Wars – and those wars went on for 148 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Don’t be. The fact is, despite the 148 years of hostilities, Native Americans also served with the United States military. Eli Parker, the only Native American to reach general’s rank, was a personal aide to General Ulysses S. Grant. Most impressively, 25 Native Americans have received the Medal of Honor for heroism.
Gen. Abidin Ünal, Turkey’s Air Force Chief of Staff, waves during takeoff in a UH-1N Iroquois at Joint Base Andrews, Md., April 6, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan J. Sonnier)
In other words, the Army’s helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft bear names that reflect fierce and courageous warriors who also have fought well as part of the United States Army. That is a legacy worth remembering and honoring with some of the Army’s most prominent systems.
Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.
Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:
This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)
It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.
Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.
Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.
Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)
People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”
See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.
Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.
That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)
Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.
Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.
These are military police. That is not a radar gun.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)
Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.
They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.
Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)
Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.
There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.
An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)
Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.
Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.
Sunbaked skin presses against the butts of rifles, as sweat runs down foreheads, brimming along chin straps and soaking into shirt collars. Their eyes scan the urban terrain, searching for enemies from the surrounding grassy hills of Camp Guernsey, Wyoming.
Marines and airmen from around the globe trained together for the first time in the advanced tactical course from June 9-20, 2019.
“Move, I have you covered,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Roman, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor.
Shots ring out and echo through a desolate neighborhood of tan shipping containers stacked and strewn about. Feet pound and guns sway as a small-fire team run to their next sheltering place. A cadre calmly walks behind, eyes watching for mistakes.
“A small mistake in training could cost you your life in a real-world situation,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Koritar, 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron training instructor. “Correcting mistakes in a controlled environment will instill muscle memory and effective tactical decision making will become normal.”
A machine gun lets loose from a dark window aimed for a dilapidated shack near their shelter. The sound reverberates through their rib cages as they press forward to their objective.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ponce, 90th Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, holds down a tactical angle during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
“It’s important to break their fears,” Koritar said. “When it comes to ‘the moment’ we don’t want them to freeze and cause the potential death of others.”
Getting the students into a normalcy of hearing gunfire and moving forward, despite inner fears, is paramount to molding a successful tactical response force and is one of the goals of ATC.
The team stacks up for their next move, communicating each other’s positions. All the while, covering down on different tactical angles, with their M4 carbine, watching for a shooter.
From a window overlooking an open courtyard, shots are fired. With the distraction from another fire team, they can move towards their objective. Passing by windows, one member scans for possible targets, while his partner watches their back.
“Clear. Move,” Roman said after each window.
Marine Corps Sgt. Spencer Hockaday, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor, rappels Aussie-style down the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
The modified shipping containers now tower overhead, blocking them from view of their counterparts in the courtyard windows.
They clear out a makeshift building, planning to move farther into the city. Lined up at the door, an airman sends out cover fire as the team makes a run for shelter.
Pop! A plume of white smoke escapes a training improvised explosive device set off by the first airman’s advance between two buildings.
“The first two,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Nason, 90th GCTS training instructor. “You’re dead.”
The mission must press on.
“We get them exposed in the urban environment or with the payload transporter van so they know what to look for,” Koritar said. “The trip wire and IED training is important, it’s a simple attack and the threat is real.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Mason II, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, and Senior Airman Kevin Freese, 341st Security Support Squadron TRF, navigate terrain during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
In the clouds a UH-1 Huey from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, banks to land in an open field for infiltration and exfiltration exercises down the road. Another team runs, heads tucked down, below swishing blades to load up.
Over the course of 11 days, the students learned a multitude of skills, including: urban operations, rappelling down a 56-foot rappel tower, helicopter operations, close quarters combat and PT van and vehicle assaults.
“I am learning a lot of new stuff I haven’t seen before and the stuff I already know, I am just practicing and getting better at it,” said Airman 1st Class Jose Villalvazo-Vazquez, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member. “At the end, no matter if you know it or not, practice is what helps you perfect it.”
Not only does every student need to polish their individual skills, they also learn to work as a cohesive team.
“At the beginning of this course one of the classes’ weaknesses was team cohesion,” Koritar said. “We have guys who come from different bases, who have never worked together. When they walk into our door we teach them to have accountability, to take care of their people and to meet and rise to a higher standard every day.”
Airman 1st Class Benjie Phillips and Senior Airman Alvaro Aguilera, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force members, clear a multi floored building during training at the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
The course mixes the members into groups and expects them to quickly learn how to communicate and work as a cohesive team. Communication is important during combat situations; however, there is a more prominent reason for a team like this to bond together.
“I tell these guys, you’re going to eat together, sleep together, you’re going to hang out on your off time together, to build that foundation to trust their buddy,” Koritar said. “You want all of your guys on the same page, that tight-knit community where they are ready to die for their buddy if need be.”
Creating a team that would walk through hell together isn’t a tranquil task. It leaves sweat stains, dirt-streaked faces and bruised and bloody limbs.
“We have been failing, we’ve been growing, we’ve been getting to know each other. That’s what it means to learn,” said Villalvazo-Vazquez.
To protect one of America’s greatest assets, it takes dedication, pride and a well-taught team. The perfect team is constantly looking for improvements, budding to be the best and is willing to train and work in the most grueling of conditions.
“The goal is to take a trained member from any base and have the tactics across the board to be the same throughout,” Koritar said.
The ATC had their first blend of students including Marines and airmen from around the globe; some traveling from as far as, Aviano Air Base, Italy and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
U.S. Air Force Airmen disembark a UH-1 Iroquois, during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)
“Integration of different people including Marines, allows us to see different aspects in training,” said Airman 1st Class Damion Rodriguez, 91st SSPTS TRF member. “The mixed course forces us to get to know other people, how they see things, and how they work and cope with responsibilities and tasks given.”
The learning and improvement observed throughout the training wouldn’t be a possibility without a central location and experienced cadre shaping members to TRF standards.
“These exercises are beneficial to the students because they don’t always have the training areas or the equipment and resources to actually make these complex scenarios happen,” Koritar said. “At Camp Guernsey we have the training ranges, time and cadre to help evaluate and mold these guys and help them become successful and do the TRF mission.”
After gallons of water have been converted into sweat and uniforms abused by rocks and dirt, the students skilled in all areas of the TRF mission earn the right to graduate. Thus allowing them to be placed on any fire team and not miss a beat, ensuring America is continuously under protection from adversaries around the globe.
Janine Stange is looking for a lot of people to acknowledge what a few people have obtained over the past 156 years.
Stange, who, in 2014, became the first person to perform the national anthem in all 50 states, is in her third year of asking people to write letters of appreciation to those who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
“I didn’t realize how many people wanted to do this,” Stange said over the telephone from her Baltimore, Maryland, home.
Janine Stange performing the National Anthem for the 2016 National Medal of Honor Day gathering.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the military.
March 25th is National Medal of Honor Day. During the last week of March, recipients meet for an annual event in Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, Stange was invited to sing the national anthem at that gathering.
In the weeks leading up to the event, she had an idea. “I thought I would ask people if they wanted to write them,” she said.
Just some of the packages and letters Janine has received to pass onto MOH recipients.
The response was encouraging.
During the first two years, Stange and event organizers reminded them of their service years. “We handed the letters out in packages, ‘mail-call style,'” she said.
There are currently 72 living Medal of Honor recipients. The honor was first issued in 1863 and has been bestowed upon 3,505 recipients since. The oldest living recipient is Robert Maxwell, 98, who served in the Army in World War II. The youngest recipient is William Kyle Carpenter, 30, who served in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“If they didn’t have their medal on, you’d think you were talking to the nice guy in the neighborhood,” Stange said about her moments getting to know the ones who have been honored. “They are so in awe that people take the time to write them. Many take time to write people back.”
Stange said humility is a common trait among the recipients.
“This is an opportunity for people to learn about these selfless acts of valor. They were not thinking of their lives, but their buddies, and something bigger than themselves. They were not concerned about their own life, they were looking at future generations,” Stange said.
Medal of Honor recipient Roger Donolon with some of the mail he’s received via Ms. Stange.
Stange said she doesn’t use the word “win” for a recipient.
“They don’t ‘win’ this. It’s not a contest. I don’t say ‘winner.’ It’s because of their selfless sacrifice.”
In addition to the letters, Stange said people have included small gifts, ranging from pieces of art and carved crosses to postcards from the writers’ homes and pieces of quilts.
“Don’t limit it to letters. These small mementos make it feel very homegrown,” she said.
Stange said the letter writing is open to anyone, from individuals to group leaders (school teachers, community organization leaders, sports coaches, businesses, etc). Those interested in leading a group in this project can go online to www.janinestange.com/moh – recipient(s) will be assigned to ensure an even distribution of letters.