The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.

The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.


The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.

The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.

The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.

For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.

Development and design

The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.

In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.

The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.

The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.

The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.

Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.

The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.

In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.

(Photo by Damon Kasberg)

Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.

The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.

There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.

The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.

(Photo by Stephany Richards)

Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.

In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.

The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.

The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.

(Photo by Jeremy Lock)

Operation and deployment

Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.

While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.

All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.

Did you know?

  • The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
  • The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
  • The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
  • The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
  • It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.

(Photo by Erin Babis)

KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:

General characteristics

  • Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
  • Builder: The Boeing Company
  • Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
  • Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
  • Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
  • Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
  • Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
  • Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
  • Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
  • Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
  • Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
  • Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
  • Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
  • Initial operating capability: 1956
  • Unit cost: .6 million

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army engineers maintain the US’s northernmost military base in the world

Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.

Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.

In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.


These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.

Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.

She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

Thule Air Base in Greenland.

(US Army Corps of Engineers)

Thule, Air Base Mission

Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.

The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.

For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.

Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.

Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.

In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.

During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.

The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.

Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Base Consolidation

The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.

Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.

The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.

Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.

Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.

She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.

A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.

Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.

This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.

In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.

“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.

“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.

Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.

“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.

Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”

Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.

These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.

Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.

With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.

These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.

All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.

(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)

Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic

Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.

Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.

This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.

Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.

Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.

Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.

The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.

Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.

When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What a Special Forces sniper and one of NASCAR’s best have in common

At face value, it seems like no two professions could be further apart. The sniper lives in the world of slow and steady (if they move at all). Conversely, the NASCAR driver’s world is fast-paced and requires quick-thinking to react to new situations within fractions of a second. But life behind the wheel, just as behind the trigger, requires nerves of steel.


“Anyone can shoot a rifle, that’s probably the easiest part of the job,” says Mike Glover, a former U.S. Army Special Forces sniper. “But the mindset, the physical capabilities, the craft… those are all important elements to being a Special Forces sniper.”

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight
Kurt Busch taking range lessons from Mike Glover, a former Army Special Forces sniper
(We Are The Mighty)

Kurt Busch is no slouch himself. He won the famous high-speed, high-stakes Daytona 500 in 2017.

“To be a NASCAR driver means you’re one of the elite drivers in the world,” Says Busch. “It’s a special privilege each week to go out there and race the best of the best.”

Now, Busch is working with one of the U.S. Army’s best: a former Green Beret.

Glover recently took NASCAR’s Kurt Busch to the shooting range to teach him how to shoot a sniper’s rifle using a spotter. Busch, who drives the #41 Monster Energy Ford, quickly took to Glover’s instructions.

Busch hit his target with his second shot — only one correction required.

He credited the preparation Glover provided him, as well as having the proper fundamentals explained to him. The teamwork, of course, was key. It turns out they have a lot more in common than they thought.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight
Busch and Glover training with pistols.
(We Are The Mighty)

“When you’re zoned in to your element, that’s when everything slows down,” Busch says. “That’s when you’re able to digest what’s around you.” Glover agrees.

“That internalization, that zen approach, is how we [Special Forces] release the monster within.”

Watch Kurt Busch take Mike Glover for a ride in his world, doing donuts in a parking lot, at the end of the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 flag facts ​you might not know

You know the 13 stripes represent the original colonies. You know the 50 stars represent the states. You were taught in elementary school that Betsy Ross was the original creator…But here’s a handful of facts about Old Glory that you might not know.


Betsy Ross might not have even designed it.

We’re not gonna pull any punches with this list, and this first one might hit you in the gut. In a twist of history hearsay that rivals that of the William Shakespeare conspiracy—it turns out Betsy Ross might not have designed the fledgling flag. That’s right, while Betsy Ross was a prolific seamstress, there is no empirical evidence that supports the notion that she was responsible for the original American flag. In fact, according to the records, her name isn’t mentioned alongside the flag until 1876 (100 years after the foundation of the U.S.). Oh, and these “records” were from her grandson, by the way. So Betsy Ross was most likely not the original creator. She has a pretty catchy name though.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

The 1st flag was commissioned for “three strings of wampum.”

“Three strings of wampum (cylindrical beads and shells strung together)” were promised to Congress to expedite the creation and design of the flag. Thomas Green pushed forth this commission so that he would have a flag while traversing dangerous territory.

The current flag was designed by a high school student.

When Alaska and Hawaii joined the USA to make 50 states, President Dwight D. Eisenhower received thousands of (probably unsolicited) ideas for an updated flag design. One from the bunch was selected as the perfect subtle move forward to a 50-star flag. The chosen design was made by Robert G. Heft, a 17-year-old who made the flag for a design project.

America Colt’s Game Crowd Flag Stadium People

…And that kid got a -B for his project.

In a move that solidifies the nationwide notion that teachers simply throw a dart at a board to come up with grades—Heft got a -B for his project. Why the minus? Why a B? Why not just give the kid an A? What did the teacher want from him— an American flag remix? At any rate, Heft showed his teacher that his design was chosen as the new American flag design, and (in a move that solidifies the neo-nationwide notion that you can simply whine to a teacher and get a grade raise) Heft was given an A upon further review.

“Old Glory” was actually the nickname of one particular flag.

“Old Glory” was actually the name of one American flag owned by sea captain William Driver. Nobody knows exactly why he gave his flag the name “Old Glory,” but I would wager it was because he liked the name. He hung it on his ship’s mast, then in front of his house, and then (just like people calling the Dallas Cowboys “America’s Team”) it caught on arbitrarily.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

The flag that inspired the “Star Spangled Banner” still exists.

The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key, in 1812 at Ft. McHenry. Scott Key wrote the song in honor of one resilient 15-star, 15-striped, flag he saw “banner yet wave.” That flag is still on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

If we add a 51st state, the flag can’t be updated until Independence Day.

The United States Flag Code reads as follows: “On the admission of a new State into the Union one star shall be added to the union of the flag; and such addition shall take effect on the fourth day of July then next succeeding such admission.” So, on the off-chance that we pick up another state officially, it will have to wait until the next time we break out the fireworks and hot dogs for a proper welcome.

The Pledge of Allegiance was basically invented as a way to sell more flags.

Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist minister, wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance (without the “under God” that was tossed in in 1954 during the Red Scare) for an 1892 issue of The Youth’s Companion. The publication offered flags to subscribers, and Bellamy and the Youth Companion lobbied American schools to use his newly penned Pledge of Allegiance as a show of “patriotism.” Don’t get any more “traditionally American” than that.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

The colors of the flag have (retroactively decided) meanings.

The red symbolizes hardiness and valor. The white symbolizes purity and innocence. The blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. These colors were not attributed to their respective vague platitudes until 1782, when Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson pulled the reasoning out of his crack like a day-late book report for “The Great Gatsby” talking about how the green light represents “jealousy.”

 Neil Armstrong’s flag fell over.

Of the six flags on the moon: all are American, 5 are standing, and one fell over. The singular fallen flag was the first flag ever placed on the moon. Or, as mouth breathing moon-landing deniers would say, Stanley Kubrick directed it to fall.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Czech training jet was the Warsaw Pact’s answer to the T-38

The T-38 Talon has seen a long career training fighter pilots, entering service in 1961. Since then, over 72,000 pilots have been trained in that plane. But there were a number of countries that needed an advanced jet trainer, but had no access to the T-38. Those would be the Soviet Union and their allies.


Thankfully, for them, the Czechoslovakian aircraft manufacturer Aero came along. In 1972, the L-39 Albatros entered service with the Czechoslovakian Air Force, and then was imported by the Soviet Union and its allies. In the 45 years since, it has proven to be an excellent trainer and light-attack plane. MilitaryFactory.com notes that almost 3,000 of these planes have been built – compared to only 1,146 T-38s!

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight
An Aero L-39 Albatros on takeoff. (Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike the T-38, the L-39 wasn’t supersonic – its top speed is 391 miles per hour. It’s just under 40 feet six inches long, with a wingspan of roughly 31 feet, and about 15 feet six inches tall. It has a maximum range of just under 1,100 miles. The lane can carry up to 1,100 pounds of weapons, including a 23mm cannon in a centerline pod, AA-2 Atoll missiles, and rocket pods. There are also provisions for two wing tanks.

The L-39 was exported to the Soviet Union (and after 1991, to the various successor states), as well as to many other Warsaw Pact countries (Poland being a notable exception), and to planes like Libya, Algeria, Vietnam, and North Korea. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the L-39 airframe has been receiving Western technology, including engines and avionics.

The L-39’s 45 years of service have seen huge changes. Over 200 L-39s are in private hands across the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. You can see a video about this long-lasting trainer below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hi9c3vhK6vc
Articles

This colorized German war footage shows why Stalingrad was hell on Earth

It was the pivotal battle that most historians believe turned the tide against the Nazis for good in World War II, resulting in a cascade of defeats as the Wehrmacht beat its retreat to Germany from the Soviet Eastern Front.


But it wasn’t always that way, and in the opening months of Operation Barbarossa the German army seemed poised for a stunning victory against the Red Army.

As part of its push to secure the southern Caucasian oil fields, the German 6th Army was ordered to take the city of Stalingrad in September 1942, a move some historians believe was strategically irrelevant as the Nazis were already well on their way to Baku.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight
The German army quickly made it to the center of the city in Stalingrad, but was eventually cut off from resupply and forced to surrender in early 1943. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

But many believe Adolf Hitler wanted to capture the city as a thumb in the eye to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, for whom the city was renamed.

Initially, the German army was able to push well into the city, taking the Univermag department store at its center. But the Red Army dug into the city’s industrial areas along the banks of the Volga river and the battle ground down into a brutal street-by-street slugfest.

One of the Red Army’s most accomplished generals, Marshall Georgi Zhukov, hatched a plan to surround the 6th Army and cut off its supply lines. And by mid-November, the Soviets began to squeeze the Nazis inside the city.

As winter descended, the Germans were running out of food, ammunition and other supplies, and when a rescue mission launched by Field Marshall Erich Von Manstein failed to break through, the Nazi’s fate was sealed. The German forces under the command of Gen. Friedrich Paulus eventually surrendered in early February 1943.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight
While the Soviets lost nearly 500,000 men in the battle, the Wehrmacht surrendered 91,000 soldiers and lost nearly 150,000. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

It was a horrific battle waged on a titanic scale in a battlefield unlike any seen in modern times. In all, the Germans lost about 147,000 men in the battle while surrendering 91,000. The Soviets took even more catastrophic losses, with 480,000 dead and 650,000 wounded. An estimated 40,000 civilians were killed in the fighting.

Watch some of the extraordinary footage sent back by German photographers of the battle for Stalingrad culled from historical archives and colorized for a more vivid portrayal from FootageArchive.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch the first of these never-before-seen D-Day videos in stunning 4K

While 4K video was far from the technology of the day, the people over at AARP pulled out all the stops to get the legendary footage of history’s largest amphibious landing into the viewing technology of today. Narrated by acclaimed actor Bryan Cranston, the video series presents the personal letters and feelings of the men who landed on the beaches of Occupied France that day.


The first in the series, “Landing on Omaha Beach,” is the story of the landing through the eyes of Pfc. Dominick Bart, a 32-year-old infantryman who landed on the beach during the first wave. Cranston brings Bart’s experiences alive as he reads about the Private First Class’ experience on the beaches in Bart’s letter to his wife, Mildred.

Omaha was just one of five Allied sectors invaded that day, and one of two that would fall to the American invasion forces. Omaha’s principal challenge was the 150-foot cliffs overlooking the beach, from which Nazi guards rained death on the invaders.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

Some 43,000 men assaulted Omaha Beach alone that day, and by 7:30 in the morning had managed to get through the beach to the cliffs. A half hour later, 900 American GIs were at the tops of the bluffs and assaulting the entrenched enemy positions. By 9:00 a.m., U.S. troops had cleared the beach and began moving inland. An estimated 2,000 – 5,000 men were killed and wounded in the assault on Omaha Beach alone, not to mention the four other sectors engaged by British and Canadian troops.

For the Americans, it was their finest hour.

Articles

The Lightning will take concealed carry to a whole new level of lethal

Stealth is becoming more and more common — but just because you designed an invisible (to radar) plane doesn’t mean the job is done. Far from it, to be very blunt. In fact, the job’s only half done.


You see, the plane isn’t the only thing that the radar waves bounce off of. They also will reflect very well off of the missiles your F-35 carries. All the stealth tech does no good if the stuff you intend to drop on the bad guys is seen on radar while you’re still minutes — or even an hour — away.

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight
An F-35 Lightning II Carrier Variant (CV) flies over the stealth guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship transits the Chesapeake Bay on Oct. 17, 2016. Note that the F-35 is carrying missiles externally, rendering it more visible to radar. (U.S. Navy photo by Andy Wolfe/Released)

At SeaAirSpace 2017, mock-ups of a number of new missiles in development were displayed, so more can be carried internally on the F-35 and other stealthy jets (like the B-21 and B-2, for instance). In essence, this is taking concealed carry to a whole new level.

For instance, one such weapon being displayed was the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile – Extended Range. The AARGM-ER is a development of the AGM-88E AARGM, in essence: a vastly upgraded HARM. AARGM is already in service with the Navy, with more being produced, and it is used on the F/A-18C/D/E/F Hornet and Super Hornet airframes on their pylons, easily the most capable anti-radar missile they have ever carried.

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The AGM-88E AARGM on display at a 2007 air show. Note the huge fins, which limit it to external carriage on the F-35. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

But with the F-35, there is a problem — those big-ass fins on the AARGM. That means AARGM has to be carried externally, which means the F-35 will be seen. If the F-35 is seen, an enemy will shoot at it. And when the enemy shoots at a F-35, they could hit it — and if the plane is hit, it could be shot down. That’ll ruin everyone’s day.

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A mock-up of the AARGM-ER at SeaAirSpace 2017. Note the absence of the huge fins at the middle of the missile, and the clipped fins at the rear. (Photo by Harold Hutchison)

Where AARGM-ER, though, seeing the F-35 becomes much, much harder. Why? The answer is what you don’t see. The big fins in the middle of the AARGM aren’t there. The tail fins have also been pared back. This means the missile can now fit in the internal weapons bay.

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In this photo from a handout at ATK’s booth at SeaAirSpace2017, the AARGM-ER mock-up fits into the F-35’s weapons bay. (Scanned from ATK handout)

In other words, the F-35 now can get closer — and the AARGM-ER will not only fit in the weapons bay, it can also be fired from twice as far as the current AARGM. It’s as if this missile has been designed to put down the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system, also known as the SA-21 Gargoyle.

AARGM-ER isn’t the only missile at SeaAirSpace 2017 designed for internal carriage. Kongsberg’s Joint Strike Missile is also being designed for internal carry on the F-35. In short, the F-35 will be practicing a very potent form of concealed carry.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a marksmanship secret more troops now need to know

The Army’s decision to change its marksmanship training and make the test more realistic has a lot going for it. If signed into policy, it will hopefully make soldiers more lethal. But there’s a basic piece of physics that a lot of soldiers, especially support soldiers who often fire at paper, don’t think about when firing, that will become more important if the Army really does get rid of “paper” qualifications: gravity and bullet rise/drop.


And this isn’t a purely academic problem. Not understanding the role of gravity on rifle marksmanship will make it more likely that shooters fire over the tops of targets in the middle of the range while qualifying. We’re going to start below with the quick guidance troops can use at the range. After that, we’ll go into the theory behind it:

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Rifle ranges are fun! If you know what you’re doing.

(U.S. Army Spc. Garrett Bradley)

The general guidance

Hello shooters! If you’re a perfect shooter, who has no issue hitting targets, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t read this. In fact, a shooter perfectly applying the four fundamentals of marksmanship, meaning their point of aim is always center mass at the time they fire, will never miss a basic rifle marksmanship target regardless of whether or not they understand bullet drop. So, feel free to go watch cat videos. Congrats!

If you are missing, especially missing when firing at the mid-range targets, then start aiming at the targets’ “belly buttons” when they’re between 100 and 250 meters away. Only do this at ranges from 100 to 250 meters. Do not, repeat, do not aim low at 300-meter targets.

I originally got this advice from an artillery observer turned military journalist at Fort Bragg who qualified expert all the time, and it really does help a lot of shooters. If you want to know why it works, keep on reading.

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An Army table from FM 3-22.9 illustrating the rise and then drop of M885 ball ammunition fired from M4s and M16s.

(U.S. Army)

The theory behind it

Right now, soldiers can take one of two tests when qualifying on their rifles. They can fire at pop-up targets on a large range or at a paper target with small silhouettes just 25 meters away. The paper target ranges are much easier for commanders and staff to organize, but are nowhere near as realistic.

For shooters firing at paper targets 25 meters away, their point of aim and point of impact should be exactly the same. Point of aim is the exact spot that the shooter has lined up their sights. Point of impact is where the round actually impacts.

An M4 perfectly zeroed for 300 meters, as is standard, should have a perfect match between point of aim and point of impact at both 300 meters and 25 meters. So, when a shooter is firing at a paper target 25 meters away, the rounds should hit where the shooter is aiming. But bullets don’t fly flat, and shooters used to paper who get sent to a pop-up range under the new marksmanship program will have to learn to deal with bullet drop.

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Properly zeroing your rifle is super important.

(U.S. Army Pfc. Arcadia Jackson)

First, a quick primer on the ballistics of an M4 and M16. The rounds are small but are fired at extremely high speeds, over 3,000 fps. But they aren’t actually fired exactly level with the weapon sights, because the barrel isn’t exactly level with the sights. Instead, the barrel is tilted ever so slightly upward, meaning the bullet is fired slightly up into the sky when a shooter is aiming at something directly in front of them.

This is by design, because gravity begins affecting a bullet the moment it leaves the barrel (up until that point, it is supported by the barrel or magazine.) Basically, the designers wanted to help riflemen shoot quickly and accurately in combat, so they tilted the barrel to compensate for gravity. The barrel points up because gravity pulls down.

And the designers set the weapon up so these effects would largely cancel each other out at the ranges that soldiers operate at most often. This worked out to about 300 meters, the same ranges the Army currently tests soldiers on their ability to shoot.

Basically, the barrel’s tilt causes the round to “rise” for the first 175 to 200 meters of flight when it runs out of upward momentum. Then, gravity overcomes the momentum, and it starts to fall.

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An E-type silhouette is 40 inches tall. If a shooter aimed at the exact center of the target, that would be the red dot. An M4’s rate of bullet climb with M885 ball ammunition would create a point of impact at the blue dot, 6 inches above point of aim. M16s have an even more pronounced bullet rise.

(Francis Filch original, CC BY-SA 4.0, Red dots by Logan Nye)

So, when an M4 is properly zeroed to 300 meters, then the point of aim and point of impact should be exactly level at 300 meters. But remember, it’s an arc. And the opposite side of the arc, and the bullet is falling to level with the sights at 300 meters. The opposite side of the arc, the spot where the bullet has climbed to the point of aim, is at 25 meters.

So, when firing on an Alt C target at 25 meters, a shooter would never notice the problem because the point of aim and point of impact would match.

But when firing on a pop-up range with targets between 50 and 300 meters, some people will accidentally shoot over the target’s shoulders or even the target’s head. That’s because an M4 round has climbed as much as 6 inches at 200 meters and is only just beginning to fall. (An M16 round climbs even higher, about 9 inches, but those weapons are less common now.) That can put the round’s point of impact at the neck of the target, a much thinner bit of flesh to hit.

So if a shooter has a tendency to aim just a little high when under the time pressure of the range, that high point of aim combines with the climb of the point of impact to result in a shot over the head. If the shooter aims just a little left or right, they’ll miss the neck and hit air.

The easy way to compensate for this is to imagine a belly button on the targets between 100 and 250 meters. That way, the 4-6 inches that the point of impact is above the point of aim will result in rounds hitting center of the chest. If the shooter aims a little high, they are still hitting chest or neck. Left and right is just more abdominal or chest area.

Obviously, if the shooter is aiming in the dirt, they could still hit abdominal but might even bury the round if they’re really low.

But, remember, this only applies to targets between 100 and 250 meters where the rise of the round from the tilted barrel has significantly changed the point of impact. Shooters should just aim center mass at the 50 and 300-meter targets.

And, if all of this is too complicated, don’t worry too much about it. Perfectly shot rounds, with all four fundamentals of marksmanship perfectly applied, will always hit the target anyway. That’s because the Army uses E-type silhouettes at all the distances where this matters, and E-type silhouettes are 40 inches tall. If the point of aim is center mass, then the round’s climb of 6 inches will still put the point of impact in the black.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines want its own cheap light attack aircraft

The Senate Armed Services Committee has set aside millions for light attack aircraft, but this time not solely for the U.S. Air Force.

In its version of the fiscal 2019 budget markup, the committee announced in May 2018, it wants to give $100 million to the Marine Corps to procure light attack aircraft such as the AT-6 Wolverine to boost lower-cost aviation support. The version passed the committee with a vote of 25-2. It heads for a full Senate vote in coming weeks.

Is the Marine Corps ready for it? It’s unclear.

“The Marine Corps continues to monitor the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments, with the intent to employ such an asset as a joint force capability,” said Capt Christopher Harrison of the Office of Marine Corps Communication at the Pentagon.

“The SASC’s decision to authorize $100 million for a light attack platform is only reflected in a policy bill,” Harrison said in an email on June 1, 2018.

“Nothing has been appropriated to this program yet,” he said.

But some experts say investing in light attack, though not the stealthiest or best equipped aircraft category, is not an entirely improbable idea.

“I’m not sure the Marines themselves saw the need for this, but light attack is very popular in Congress right now,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group.

“I think there’s a strong case for the Marines, or the Air Force, or both, having a few dozen light attack planes, if only for joint training and even combat missions with allied militaries in much poorer nations,” Aboulafia told Military.com on May 30, 2018.

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F-22 Raptor

Lawmakers and a few Pentagon officials have made the case for light attack — especially in the context of the Air Force’s ongoing experiment with light attack platforms — saying the smaller planes could come in handy to offset the cost to taxpayers to put a few fifth-generation fighters in the air, sometimes in support of missions for which the advanced jets are far overqualified.

For example, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson reiterated it is silly to use a stealth fighter like the F-22 Raptor to take on Taliban drug labs. In November, the Raptor made its combat debut in Afghanistan, targeting suspected narcotics facilities in the country with small-diameter bombs.”We should not be using an F-22 to destroy a narcotics factory,” Wilson said, echoing previous statements she has made on the topic.


Light attack aircraft in that role would be more sensible, she said.

For the correct mission set, light attack makes sense for any service, Aboulafia argued. But purchasing an entire fleet, he said, would be unjustifiable, since the aircraft’s warfighting capabilities are significantly limited, and best suited to low-risk missions and training with allies and partners.

“The idea of buying hundreds of these planes is completely dysfunctional,” he said.

“What kind of scenario would call for that? It postulates a giant failed state, or series of failed states, where the U.S. is compelled to intervene, and yet there’s absolutely no air-to-air and only a minimal ground-to-air threat,” Aboulafia said.

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An A-29 Super Tucano
(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)


He added, “If there’s either of those, this type of plane is a great way to kill pilots. And if this giant, under-armed failed-state intervention doesn’t materialize, the military is stuck with hundreds of planes that have zero relevance to any other kind of strategic contingency.”

While it seems the Marine Corps has time before it makes a decision on how it can or will proceed, the Air Force is currently in the middle of choosing a future light attack platform.

The Air Force selected two aircraft — Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano — to undergo more demonstration fly-offs, among other exercises, at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The demonstrations began May 7, 2018, and will run through July 2018, with the secretary herself expected to fly either or both aircraft at Holloman.The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal 2019 proposal, added $350 million to procure a future light attack aircraft.

The A-29 — used by the Afghan air force in its offensive against the Taliban — is being pitted against the Wolverine, which is already used to train both Air Force and Navy student pilots.

During a phone call with reporters in recent weeks, an industry source said on background that an Air Force request for proposal is anticipated as early as October 2018.

A contract award for a few hundred planes could be granted as quickly as six months after the RFP publication, he said.

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

Articles

Bang BOLO I: Some New Bullet News

Bang BOLO: Some New Bullet News


A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo at Breach-Bang-Clear

PAY ATTENTION. This is a gear porn bulletin, a public service for those of you epistemophiliacs out there who want to Know Things. It’s neither review, endorsement nor denunciation. We’re just telling you these things exist if’n you wanna check ’em out.

Grunts: Epistemophilia

1. SST NAS3 cases

Shell Shock Technologies has announced the successful completion of a 1,000 round torture test of its NAS3 case without failure.

NAS3 cases are two-piece cases described as both stronger and more reliable than traditional brass. They’re just half the weight, are intended to deliver greater lubricity, and apparently can be reloaded numerous times.

According to SST they won’t abrade, foul, clog, wear out or otherwise damage breach and ejector mechanisms (which, if true, is significant). They are likewise described as more resistant to corrosion than brass, with greater elasticity.

As for reloading, Shell Shock says, “NAS3 cases will not split, chip, crack or grow (stretch) and are fully-reloadable with S3 Reload dies. Customers have reported being able to reload NAS3 cases many more times than brass cases. A video can be found on Shell Shock’s website showing 9mm Luger NAS3 cases being reloaded 32 times using S3 Reload dies.”

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The cases have been tested to pressures up over 70,000 psi and — according to independent tests conducted by H.P. White Laboratory — achieved a velocity standard deviation of 0.93 fps with a 124 grain bullet using 4.2 grain Titegroup powder over a string of 10 rounds.

The extreme variation was 3 fps.

They ran the test with an Angstadt Arms (@angstadtarms) UDP-9, which is an interesting choice, and one that piques our interest. The UDP-9 is one of the weapons we’ve been wanting to shoot and review.

It’s a closed bolt blowback PDW that uses Glock magazines, in an AR pistol configuration. Should be interesting to shoot.

Shell Shock doesn’t sell loaded ammunition, mind you—they supply 2-piece cases (which allegedly eject cool to the touch). You’ll need to load your own or buy some that someone else has loaded.

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You can find Shell Shock Technologies online here.

Read what the NRA had to say about ’em right here.

 

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2. Sig Sauer 223 Match Grade ammunition

Sig Ammunitions’s new 223 Match Grade ammunition is a 77 grain Sierra Matchking bullet in an Open Top Match round, designed to function in both bolt guns and precision AR platforms. Sig says the new addition to its Match Grade Elite Performance Series delivers 2,750fps, with a muzzle energy of 1,923 ft-lbs.

The propellant they use is manufactured to deliver consistent muzzle velocity in all weather conditions. As Sig tells it:

“Premium-quality primers ensure minimum velocity variations, and the shell case metallurgy is optimized in the SIG Match Grade OTM cartridge to yield consistent bullet retention round to round. All SIG SAUER rifle ammunition is precision loaded on state-of-the-art equipment that is 100% electromechanically monitored to ensure geometric conformity and charge weight consistency.”

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Sig Sauer’s Ben Johnson is one of the reasons for the company’s continued success. A superlative horseman, former stuntman, and accomplished rodeo rider, Johnson has starred in numerous westerns over the years. He played such iconic characters as Cap Rountree, Mr. Pepper, Sgt. Tyree, and Tector Gorch before taking on his current role as the Sig Sauer Schalldämpfer Product Manager.

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Dan Powers, the President of Sig’s Ammo Division, says this about the new bullet:

“The 223 Rem is one of the most popular calibers on the market today, and our customers have been asking for it since we entered the ammunition business. The accuracy and reliability of our new 223 Rem Match Grade rifle ammunition make it an ideal choice for precision shooters – whether shooting in competitions or hunting varmints.”

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3. G2 Telos

G2 Research, progenitors of the Radically Invasive Projectile and other dramatically named bullets, has release a new round called the Telos in both .38 special and 9mm +P.

To the idea that .38 Special and 9mm Parabellum rounds have been “underrated” during the last decade, Chris Nix, G2 VP of Sales Marketing, says the following:

“That will change with these new G2 Research +P Telos rounds. These new rounds are specifically designed and loaded to stop fights — quickly!”

Thank heavens! Most bullets can’t make that claim.

Especially the ones meant for tickle fights.

The Telos bullet is CNC-built using a copper slug, constructed with a “huge internally segmented hollow-point.”

G2 advises, “Once the hollow point fills fluid it literally flies apart in controlled-fragmentation releasing six-copper petals. … The base of the bullet continues to travel forward for additional penetration (10+inches). [sic]”

Well, who the hell wouldn’t  want at least an additional penetration of *snicker* *snort* ten or more additional inches?

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They go on to say,

“The Telos bullet is designed to stay inside the target releasing all of its energy, not into an innocent bystander on the other side of the target.”

This sort of ballistic performance, by the way, is exactly why it’s the chosen bullet of both Kung Fury and Hardcore Henry. It will literally disintegrate a Tyrannosaurus Rex if you hit it with a controlled pair fast enough.

Here’s the specs G2 presents:

Full Specs:

Caliber: .38 Special +P

Bullet weight: 105 grains

Velocity: 1,170 fps

MSRP: $28.99-twenty rounds

Caliber: 9mm +P

Bullet weight: 92 grains

Velocity: 1,120 fps

MSRP: $27.99-twenty rounds

About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Why some people have a problem with Lincoln’s quote as the VA motto

An annual membership survey from the organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) showed that less than half of surveyed members support a more gender-neutral version of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ iconic motto: “To care for him care who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.”

The survey of about 4,600 IAVA members showed that 46 percent either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported changing the motto taken from Abraham Lincoln’s majestic Second Inaugural Address.


About 30 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” opposed changing the motto, while 24 percent were neutral on the issue.

In October 2018, the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School, backed by IAVA, the Service Women’s Action Network, and the NYC Veterans Alliance, petitioned the VA to change the motto.

“The current VA motto is gendered and exclusionary, relegating women veterans to the fringes of veteran communities,” the petition stated.

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“The time to act is now,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of IAVA, said in a statement when the petition was filed.

Changing the motto would make “a powerful commitment to creating a culture that acknowledges and respects the service and sacrifices of women veterans,” Rieckhoff said.

November 2018, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, and Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-New York, introduced a bill that would change the motto to read: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise ‘To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan’ by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.”

Another replacement motto suggested by advocacy groups would read: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”

A VA spokesman has repeatedly said that the petition will be reviewed, but there are no current plans to change the motto.

Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural on the steps of the Capitol on March 4, 1865, in the waning days of the Civil War and about a month before he was assassinated. John Wilkes Booth, his assassin, was in the audience.

Lincoln’s closing words were: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat isn’t killing the majority of our troops

As the United States approaches the 20-year mark of the war on terror, the country continues to lose her service members. But we aren’t losing the vast majority of them to combat with the enemy. Instead, accidents and suicide are inflicting most of the devastation.


In 2019, a Congressional report compiled the data from 2006 through 2019. The results determined that 12,116 of the 16,652 killed in service during that period didn’t die from combat related causes. That’s 73% who weren’t lost due to fighting an enemy during war but instead – most died accidentally or by suicide.

Since 2015, the non-combat related deaths have been outpacing those lost while fighting. According to the Defense Reauthorization Act of 2019, in 2017, almost four times the amount of combat related deaths were attributed to training accidents. The number has continued to grow, causing alarm within the military and government.

These accidental deaths are often attributed to training and safety insufficiencies.

The increasing numbers led many members of the Armed Services Committee to state that America is “at a crisis point.” The committee’s 2019 proposal for funding addressed rebuilding the military so that its members can safely meet the needs of present and future threats to the country. That same proposal called for more training, equipment repair and increased readiness on land, at sea and in the air.
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But some of the battles they will face are within their own minds.

Since 2004, the suicide rates for the military have increased substantially. Tragically, 23.2% of all service member deaths from 2006 to 2019 were labeled by the Department of Defense as “self-inflicted.” In 2019, the Air Force’s numbers were trending so high that their Chief of Staff called for a resiliency and suicide prevention stand down, which was unprecedented.

A 2019 historical study within the Army painted a picture for the increased numbers. The data within the study demonstrated that there was a decrease in suicides for the Army during the active combat of the U.S. Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. But beginning with the Vietnam War, the numbers changed and continued to climb. By 2012, the rates of suicide within the military surpassed the rates of suicide within the civilian world.

Accidental deaths and increasing suicide rates highlight the increased danger that America’s troops encounter a long way from the battlefield. Ensuring that those who raise their right hand to defend this country have effective and safe training environments with working equipment is vital. Their mental health support should also be continual and ongoing, with the stigma of seeking help eradicated from the top down. We owe them all of this – and so much more.