How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

One of the less-exciting participants in Saber Strike 2018 is actually one of the most important strategic elements of the United States: the Maritime Prepositioning Force. Recently, the ships in this force helped conduct multi-national training exercises in Eastern Europe.

The ships that make up this force might not look like much. They’re devoid of firepower and they’re slow (at least when compared to littoral combat ships or destroyers). They rarely deploy from their bases and they’re certainly not winning any beauty pageants any time soon. And yet, these are some of the most vital ships when it comes to giving America a strategic position in conflict.

That’s because these ships facilitate the rapid deployment of troops.


How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

USNS William B. Baugh (T-AK 3001) in 2008, the lead ship of the first class of maritime prepositioning ships purchased in the 1980s.

(Photo by Jack Workman)

The whole idea came about in the 1970s. The United States had just seen the Ayatollah Khomeni take over Iran — and needed to rapidly respond to the crisis. The British had a small territory in the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia. It wasn’t an ideal launching point, but it had to do. So, the United States set up a squadron of these ships, loaded up with gear for a rapidly-deployable force, in response.

In the 1980s, this concept was expanded to include three Maritime Prepositioning Squadrons. One was stationed at Diego Garcia, another in the Mediterranean Sea, and a third in the Marianas. Each could support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade for 30 days. That would buy time enough for heavier forces to arrive — or for the bad guys to reconsider their position.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

A HMMWV offloads from a maritime prepositioning ship during Saber Strike 2018. These ships carry gear and supplies to support Marine units.

(DOD photo by Cpl. Anthoney Moore)

The MPF was used in practice in 1990 after Saddam Hussein’s regime invaded Kuwait. The United States sent the Division Ready Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade — backed up by two carriers — to draw the famous “line in the sand.” The US was able to deploy so quickly by using the Maritime Prepositioning Squadron based at Diego Garcia. By quickly delivering a force to the theater, Saddam was deterred from going any further as the bulk of American forces arrived.

Today, two of those squadrons remain — one in the Marianas and the other at Diego Garcia — but both remain crucial strategic elements. In essence, they serve as a deterrent — international would-be thugs know that if they misbehave, they’ll have 15,000 very angry Marines paying them a visit very promptly.

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Here’s why it’s a good thing the US military is getting rid of the M14

The M14 is one of the worst DMRs in history, and should have never been adopted by the military.


That’s a powerful statement, but a mostly objective one.

While the M14’s design originated from what General Patton dubbed “The greatest battle implement ever devised” — the M1 Garand — by the 1950s it was already outdated. Military small arms development had seen unparalleled growth throughout World War II and this growth continued into the Cold War.

Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M14 and its replacement:

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While Russia was hurriedly developing its first true assault rifle, the AK-47, NATO was still hung up on the concept of a battle rifle. Though this makes perfect sense in retrospect.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
Private 1st Class Carlos Rivera, a squad designated marksman with Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, scans his sector while providing security in the district of Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, July 30, 2012. (Photo: US Army)

Experience in WWII and the frozen hell of Korea hammered home the importance of increased firepower without sacrificing range, reliability or power. Hundreds of soldiers reported the smaller M1 Carbine and its light .30-caliber cartridge were ineffective against winter-coat-wearing Chinese and Korean human wave attacks, but the .30-06 M1 never suffered this problem. Interestingly, post-war investigations suggested the M1 Carbine’s light weight and high cyclic rate of fire were more responsible for this lack of stopping power than the cartridge itself — meaning, most soldiers simply missed their targets because of the gun’s recoil.

This is a lesson the Army forgot when it pressed a select-fire .308 rifle into service only a few years later.

Enter, the M14.

The one thing the M14 has going for it, is its method of operation. It’s a long-stroke, piston-driven action that’s very similar to the most prolific, assault rifle in history: the AK-47. Like the AK, the M14’s action can tolerate debris and fouling better than the direct-impingement M16. While the rifle’s hard-hitting 7.62x51mm NATO round is vastly superior to the M16’s 5.56mm at defeating light cover and the dense foliage found in South East Asian jungles, it also makes the rifle very tough to control.

On a side note, carrying a combat load of 7.62 isn’t much fun, and doesn’t offer the average infantryman nearly as much firepower as the same weight in 5.56 rounds.

But that’s not what makes the M14 so awful. It’s the design itself – especially for the role it has been shoehorned into: the Designated Marskman Rifle. The vaunted DMR bridges the gap between the M4 and dedicated sniping weapon systems like the M24. Infantrymen from every branch fielding a DMR in combat have nothing but praise for the guns’ performance in the vast expanses of Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, if soldiers love the gun, it must be pretty decent, right? Sure, so long as the rifle is clamped into a very heavy, expensive chassis and the soldier carrying it never drops it, or touches the handguards. Seriously, disturbing the gun’s bedding – the way it’s glued into a stock — doesn’t just shift point of impact, it reduces overall accuracy. Therein lies the biggest problem with the M14: accurizing the rifle and holding on to that accuracy.

Accuracy is a measure of consistency when it comes to rifles. Given that a DMR must, by definition, extend the effective range of a squad, its DMR needs to reliably hit targets beyond the reach of the infantryman’s standard rifle or carbine. Yet, according to military standards, acceptable accuracy from the M14 is 5.5 inches at 100 yards – a full inch larger than the M16’s standards. While the M14’s 7.62mm round is great for this, the gun is not.

Camp Perry shooters have long since abandoned the M14 because of the difficulty in accurizing the rifle compared to the M16 – and they aren’t alone. The Army noticed the problems and prohibitive costs associated with maintaining M14s in country, which lead to the solicitation of a replacement rifle to meet new specifications for the Semi-Automatic Sniper System program.

Funny thing, the Army decided the M16 was more accurate, and more easily tuned into a sniper rifle – except for the caliber. Which is why the M14 EBR’s replacement, the Mk-11, is built off an AR-10: the 7.62 big brother of the M16.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
Cpl. Scott P. Ruggio, scout sniper, Scout Sniper platoon, Headquarters and Support Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires his MK-11 sniper rifle in the first stage of a three-day platoon competition in Djibouti March 25. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

In all fairness, the Global War on Terror presented a combat theater the U.S. military wasn’t prepared to fight in. Plus, the M14 wasn’t meant to be a sniper or DMR platform when it was developed in the 1950s. Even still, Armalite had been producing civilian and military AR-10 rifles since the late 1950s, and could have just as easily been pressed into service.

Better yet, since the AR-10 shares it’s method of operation with the M16, advancements on one could likely be applied to the other. And, the guns shares the same manual of arms, so no additional training is required for soldiers transitioning from one to the other.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch this new Humvee wheel transform into tracks

DARPA has engineered a set of wheels that can turn into tracks while in motion in under two seconds.

The Reconfigurable Wheel Track (RWT) allows vehicles to morph as the terrain changes, allowing drivers (or remote pilots) to quickly adapt to changing environments and better handle obstacles. This technology would enable greater terrain access and faster travel — both on- and off-road.


As shown in a demonstration at Aberdeen Test Center, Maryland, earlier this year, the morphing wheel system, developed by the Carnegie Mellon University National Robotics Engineering Center, would allow troops to respond to impending threats rapidly by reconfiguring the wheels — without stopping — and re-route off the road.

The system also comes with a Multi-mode Extreme Travel Suspension that provides shock absorbency, which anyone who has ever ridden in a Humvee will be thankful for.

“We’re looking at how to enhance survivability by buttoning up the cockpit and augmenting the crew through driver-assistance aids,” said Maj. Amber Walker, the program manager for GXV-T in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “For mobility, we’ve taken a radically different approach by avoiding armor and developing options to move quickly and be agile over all terrain.”

According to DARPA, the Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program “aims to improve mobility, survivability, safety, and effectiveness of future combat vehicles without piling on armor.”

Take a look at the video below to watch the wheels transform and to watch the vehicles tackle asymmetrical terrain:

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popular

How to start a fire with only one hand

Heading out into the wilderness for a camping trip is exhilarating and refreshing. Starting a campfire and roasting some marshmallows under the stars is a great way to get in touch with Mother Nature. Although the idea of spending a night in the great outdoors sounds incredible, campers should always remember to bring specific tools and learn important survival skills in the event they sustain an injury and help is far, far away.

It gets cold out there at night, so it’s important to know the basics of starting a fire to keep warm — even in the dire circumstance that you’ve been injured. Do you know how to start a fire with just one hand? You never know — this skill might just save your life.


How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
It’s difficult to start a fire if your arm is in a splint…

With your arm in a sling, place narrow log on the ground and then angle a knife up against it. Now, under the knife’s blade, place some dry kindling. Since you only have one-hand, squarely set your foot on the knife’s handle to secure it in place.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
Just like this.
(Black Scout Survival)

Once the knife is nice and snug, take a ferrocerium rod and strike it up against the knife’s blade. This will create a spark and, as long as your dry kindling is close enough, it will catch the spark and ignite.

Like always, provide oxygen and add kindling to feed the fire.

Note: Please remember to always create fires in a safe area regardless of your physical injuries. You don’t want to become a burn victim as well.

Check out Black Scout Survival‘s video below to get a complete breakdown on this single-handed fire starting technique.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This radio show is one trigger for a British nuclear attack

Deep underwater, on submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, British crews are constantly prepared to fire their weapons, and potentially play a part in bringing about the end of the world.

Sailors on the four Vanguard-class submarines which patrol the waters and hold the UK’s nuclear deterrent operate under strict protocol for working out when to act and what to do — part of which is said to include listening to BBC radio.

According to a prominent British historian, the broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme is one of the official measures the Royal Navy uses to prove that the United Kingdom still exists. “Today” has been broadcast at around breakfast time since 1958 and is the highest-profile news programme in British media.


Lord Peter Hennessy, a history professor who joined the UK’s House of Lords in 2010, said that if it can’t be heard for three days in a row, then it could signify Britain’s demise, and trigger their doomsday protocol.

According to Politico, Hennessy says: “The failure to pick up the BBC Today program for a few days is regarded as the ultimate test.”

If no sign comes through, the commander and deputy will open letters that contain instructions from the prime minister and execute their final wishes.

These letters, each known as a “Letter of Last Resort’ are secret instructions, written when a prime minister enters the office and sealed until an apocalypse. They tell the UK’s submarine commanders what to do with the country’s nuclear weapons if the country has been destroyed.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

HMS Victorious photographed in the Clyde estuary

(LA(phot) Mez Merrill/MOD photo)

Writing these letters is one of the first tasks undertaken by any new prime minister. They are locked inside a safe inside another safe, and placed in the control rooms of the nation’s four nuclear submarines, Politico reports. The safes will only be accessible to the sub’s commander and deputy.

Matthew Seligman, Professor of Naval History at Brunel University,told BBC Newsbeat that there are “only so many options available.”

“Do nothing, launch a retaliatory strike, offer yourself to an ally like the USA, or use your own judgment.

“Essentially, are you going to use the missiles or not?”

The UK has four submarines that are capable of carrying the country’s Trident nuclear missiles. At least one of these has been on patrol at all times since 1969, the government says.

There are 40 nuclear warheads and a maximum of eight missiles on each submarine.

Only the prime minister can authorize the launch of the country’s nuclear weapons.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Guardsmen hope this new bathroom rule will motivate soldiers

Guardsmen from the Utah Army National Guard implemented a policy of doing physical exercise prior to using the bathroom at the organization’s headquarters in Draper, Utah.

“Soldiers will perform one [Army Combat Fitness Test] leg tuck (LTK) to enter and/or exit,” a sign read in front of both female and male bathrooms.

The new rule, which the Utah Guard says will not be strictly enforced, was given by its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Eric Anderson. A public affairs officer for the Utah Guard said the directive is not intended to be a serious mandate and is purely for motivational purposes.


“One of the weaknesses we noticed in our soldiers is the leg tuck,” Maj. DJ Gibb said to Insider. “We just had a couple of these pull-up bars in our work-out areas.”

The sign is intended to be a friendly prompt that “when [soldiers] get a chance, [they] should,” Gibb said, referring to the leg tuck.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)

The purpose of the loose rule was to motivate its soldiers to pass the ACFT, the Army’s newest physical assessment test. Soldiers are expected to take two ACFT assessments by this month, and the Army will officially begin administering on-the-record tests starting October 2020.

The ACFT is comprised of six separate, timed events ranging from deadlifts to a two-mile run. The leg tuck, one of the events, requires soldiers to “complete as many … as possible in two minutes” on a pull-up bar as they “maintain a relative vertical posture while moving the hips and knees up and down without excessive swinging or kipping.”

“The LTK assesses the strength of the Soldiers grip, arm, shoulder and trunk muscles,” the Army says on its website. “These muscles assist Soldiers in load carriage and in avoiding injuries to the back.”

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test.

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

The ACFT is slated to replace the Army’s antiquated Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The APFT consisted of a timed two-mile run, push-ups, and sit-ups and has been in use by the Army since 1980. Critics assailed the APFT for not adequately measuring the combat readiness of a soldier, and calls for a revamped test prompted the Army to research newer methods of assessing physical fitness.

Despite some concerns in the military community about the new ACFT, namely potential injuries and costs of the program, Gibb said the Utah Guard was “confident” that the new standards will continue to be met.

“I think we do put an emphasis on the readiness of our soldiers, and it’s attributed to little things like this,” Gibb said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

As he approaches retirement, Wright examines his tenure as CMSAF

The 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force carries a smile with confidence, which reflects his easy nature of engaging everyone wherever he goes. Who would have expected young dental technician Kaleth O. Wright in 1989 to one day become that man?


CMSAF18 Kaleth O. Wright – The Exit Interview

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When he started his career in 1993, as a medical professional, Wright wasn’t sure of himself at first. But, with the help of mentors, he worked his way up the ranks. In 2016, he was serving as the command chief of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. After only a few months in the position, he was surprised to learn of his selection for the highest enlisted position in the United States Air Force.

“To be honest, my initial reaction was I was going to be the token black guy on the slate,” Wright explained.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright swear in delayed entry members during the Washington Redskins versus Philadelphia Eagles game at the FedExField in Hyattsville, Md., Sept. 10, 2017. The game was dedicated to the men and women of the U.S. Air Force in celebration of the service’s 70th birthday. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN RUSTY FRANK)

However, he quickly realized that wasn’t the case and instead chose to embrace the opportunity presented to him.

“I decided…I’m going to take the opportunity to get the job, and then do the best that I can,” he said. “I guess, as they say, the rest is history.”

During his tenure, Wright worked with three Secretaries of the Air Force. He first worked with Acting Secretary Lisa Disbrow, then Secretary Heather Wilson, concluding his career with Secretary Barbara Barrett. Wright appreciated their guidance and leadership in tackling the position’s responsibilities and handling top issues that affected Airmen.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, right, checks out a piece of 3D printed material with Staff Sgt. March Tiche, 60th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals apprentice, during his tour Sept. 23, 2019, at Travis Air Force Base, California. Wright arrived at Travis AFB for a three-day visit to meet with Airmen and get a firsthand look at how Team Travis contributes to rapid global mobility. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // LOUIS BRISCESE)

“I’ve had a fantastic relationship with all of them, they were all really great personalities and they all gave me the space to get after enlisted issues,” he said. “So I’ve really appreciated the guidance, feedback, and the listening ear from all three of the secretaries.”

One of the most important relationships during his time as CMSAF was the one with Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen David L. Goldfein. They developed a great relationship, Wright saw him as a big brother as they collaborated on many different projects and decisions.

“We’re able to provide each other feedback…,” said Wright. “We have a lot of fun together. It’s really been great… I got a mini-Ph.D. in leadership just being able to sit beside him.”

Mentorship and guidance to help improve the force didn’t just come from top leadership Wright met with Airmen from around the world to provide feedback on issues that affected them directly. As he traveled and met with other chiefs to discuss policies, Airmen were included in the conversations to advocate for the changes they wanted to see.

The 18th CMSAF led many improvements for the force. He enhanced leadership development by rolling back additional duties, evolving Enlisted Professional Military Education, removing weighted Airman Promotion System tests, and improving talent management and leadership development processes.

He also pushed for joint-custody assignments, changed bereavement to the service’s sick leave policy, and helped make job-specific fitness tests, as well as the diagnostic fitness assessments, which are currently in beta testing.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright greets one of his former Airmen, Tech. Sgt. Amanda Taylor, 726th Operations Group command support staff superintendent, during a base tour Oct. 19, 2018 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. Wright and Taylor were stationed together at Osan Air Base, South Korea, between 2007 and 2008 where they used to play basketball together. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS ANDREW D. SARVER)

Initiatives he headed up also included increased dwell time for Airmen after giving birth and the Noncommissioned Officer Career Status Program, which includes indefinite enlistment based on high-year tenure and increased HYT for grades E-5 through E-9.

While addressing these issues, Wright built many relationships. The more he learned about Airmen accomplishing extraordinary things, the more he was determined to make the Air Force a better place for them.

“I think Airmen today are phenomenal,” Wright said. “I think they’re super talented in what we ask them to do. They’re creative, they’re innovative, they’re thoughtful, and they’re committed. I’ve just been amazed at what our Airmen have been able to accomplish, and what they do on a daily basis. And, to some extent, what they put up with on a daily basis.”

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright (right) coins Senior Airman Isaac Buck, 512th Rescue Squadron special mission aviator, at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Sept. 27, 2019. Wright recognized Airmen belonging to Team Kirtland that performed above and beyond their own call of duty with his challenge coin. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS AUSTIN J. PRISBREY)

Wright explained that he wants Airmen to keep improving themselves and each other.

“I’m a dental tech who became Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and I think all too often, we provide Airmen with formulas for success…without the benefit of allowing them to dream, and for them to decide, ‘hey, this is what I want to be,'” he said. “It might be the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, or it might it be the President of the United States, but be dreamers – dream big.”

While trying to help those dreams come true, he acknowledges there are still challenges to be met.

“I do believe we have some areas we need to work on, and that’s racial inequality, as witnessed by what’s happening in our Air Force today, and I think we need to embrace technology and really invest in our IT infrastructure–some of the systems that we use are too old and too slow, and they slow our Airmen down,” he said.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright shakes hands with a 100th Security Forces Squadron Airman during a visit at RAF Mildenhall, England, Dec. 26, 2018. Both Wright and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein visited Team Mildenhall prior to heading back to the U.S. after a visit to U.S. Central Command during the holidays. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. CHRISTINE GROENING)

Wright put a spotlight on resilience as suicides across the service remain a concern. He prioritized ensuring programs and policies were in place and accessible, such as Task Force True North, which puts resources into squadrons to nurture mental health.

The CMSAF explained the service also needs “to do better with gender equality,” by improving diversity in recruitment, pilot accessions and leadership.

“I do think that in order for us to maintain our status as the greatest Air Force, we have to be tougher on ourselves than anybody else,” he said. “If we work on those areas, we’ll just become a better, more diverse, more capable Air Force.”

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to U.S. Air Force Airmen during an enlisted all-call at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, July 26, 2018. Wright visited numerous units to speak with Airmen about enlisted issues. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS D. BLAKE BROWNING)

Wright understands there’s still a lot more work that needs to be accomplished. But as he reflects on his time in uniform and as CMSAF, he credits his mentors, family and the Team 18 staff on the growth and success of his venture.

Chief Master Sgt. Manny Piñeiro, Air Force First Sergeant special duty manager, taught him how to be passionate about helping people and Wright credits Chief Master Sgt. Kristina Rogers, senior execute to the office of CMSAF, with, “keeping us all in check.” However, he acknowledges his character development grew from Master Sgt retired Joe Winbush, Wright’s first supervisor, who he considers “my mentor, my pops” from early in his career.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright answers a question during an all-call with the Airmen from the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, Aug. 16, 2017 at Fort George G. Meade, Md. During the CMSAF’s visit he conversed with the Airmen about topics concerning airmanship, professionalism and future enlisted Air Force initiatives. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. ALEXANDRE MONTES)

As his Air Force career concludes, Wright will forever be part of a legacy of leaders.

While the service prepares for Wright’s transition, he noted the new top enlisted leader, Chief JoAnne S. Bass, holds the same passion and focus on the Airmen as well as awareness of how decisions can affect their lives and careers.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright and Chief Master Sgt. Manny Piñeiro, Air Force first sergeant special duty manager, meet with 92nd and 141st Maintenance Group Airmen to discuss the streamlining of the periodic inspection process at Fairchild Air Force Base, March 22, 2019. The periodic inspection is the most in-depth inspection Fairchild maintainers conduct on the KC-135 Stratotanker. The two-week inspection is conducted every 24 months, 1,800 flight hours or 1,000 landings. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. MACKENZIE MENDEZ)

“This type of work is never finished and I’m excited about our next Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force,” he said. “She actually helped build some of these programs and processes. I think she’ll have her own priorities and things she’ll want to work on and I’m confident that she’ll continue to work on some of the things that we literally started together.”

He leaves one last bit of advice to his replacement, “do you.”

“I told her don’t ever be concerned or worry about changing something, eliminating something, offending me, or what have you,” he smiled, wanting her to stay true to her conviction and values. “I had three and a half, almost four years to impact the Air Force. Now it’s your turn.”

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, views a loadmaster training video with Chief Master Sgt. Manny Piñeiro, Air Force special duty manager for first sergeants, and Capt. Joseph Hunt, 314th Airlift Wing chief of group tactics, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Oct. 3, 2019. Wright visited multiple units across the installation including the 19th AW, 314th AW, and 189th AW to learn about Herk Nation’s singular focus on Combat Airlift. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS AARON IRVIN)

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Navy plane is designed to Take Charge and Move Out on Doomsday

The E-6 Mercury is arguably the deadliest aircraft in the arsenal of the United States Navy. Its lethality is extreme, even though it doesn’t carry any weapons. Sounds odd? Well, when you look at what the E-6 does, then seeing it as the Navy’s deadliest plane isn’t a stretch.


According to a Navy fact sheet, the E-6 is a “communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft” that is tasked with providing “survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne command, control, and communications between the National Command Authority (NCA) and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces.” The nickname they have is TACAMO – or TAke Charge And Move Out.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
U.S. Navy E-6B Mercury at the Mojave Airport. (Wikimedia Commons)

When the plane first entered service in 1989 as the E-6A, it was designed solely for the communications replay role. This meant it passed on messages from the President and Secretary of Defense to the force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The 14 Ohio-class submarines can each carry 24 UGM-133 Trident II missiles – and each of those have the ability to carry up to 14 warheads, either a 100-kiloton W76 or a 475-kiloton W88.

That said, in the 1990s, the DOD was dealing with a cold, hard fact: Their force of EC-135C Looking Glass airborne command posts were getting old. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the “peace dividend,” new airframes were out of the question.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
An E-6B Mercury is being moved into a Hanger at the Boeing Aerospace Support Center, Cecil Field Fla., to be retrofitted with a new cockpit and an advanced communications package in April 2003. (US Navy photo)

The E-6As soon were upgraded to add the “Looking Glass” mission to their TACAMO role, and were re-designated as E-6Bs. This now made them capable of running America’s strategic nuclear deterrence in the event of Doomsday. The Navy has two squadrons with this plane VQ-3 and VQ-4, both of which are based at Tinker Air Force Base.

So that is why the E-6B Mercury, a plane with no weapons of its own, and which may never leave American airspace, is the deadliest plane in the Navy’s arsenal.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch R. Lee Ermey laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery

The United States Marine Corps gave its final goodbye to one of its most famous and most revered alums, actor and Vietnam veteran R. Lee Ermey, on Jan. 18, 2018 as his remains were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The revered Gunny died on Apr. 15, 2018 at age 74 from complications during pneumonia treatment.

His body was cremated after death, and his ashes were buried with full military honors.


How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”

There was more to R. Lee Ermey’s life than just the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film that made his career while defining the image of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor. He was the living embodiment of a Marine who never gives up, being forced into the military, working a bar and brothel after leaving the service, and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him.

Read On: 5 little-known facts about R. Lee Ermey, the military’s favorite Gunny

The man we know as “Gunny” was medically discharged in 1972, and didn’t even make the rank of Gunnery Sgt. until after his military career. That’s how important his image is to the Corps. Even though his Hollywood career began to flag as he aged, he was always a vocal supporter of the military and the troops who comprise it.

His internment at Arlington was delayed due to the backlog of funeral services there. The backlog for eligible veterans to be buried there is so great that even a veteran of Ermey’s stature – a Vietnam War-era Marine who served in aviation and training – must wait several months before the services can be performed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy designed this lethal one-man turret in World War II

When you think about turrets, you likely think about the big ones. Like those on Iowa-class battleships that hold three 16-inch guns, or even the twin five-inch mounts found on cruisers, destroyers, and carriers. Well, in this case, you’d be thinking too big.


Toward the end of World War II, the Navy was deploying a unique turret meant for the legendary PT boats. The purpose was to make them even more lethal than they proved to be in the Philippines and the Solomons.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
This version of the Elco Thunderbolt had four 20mm Oerlikon cannon and two M2 heavy machine guns. (U.S. Navy photo)

PT boats had become more than just a means of torpedoing enemy ships. By the end of the Solomons campaign, they were being used to attack barges — not with torpedoes, but with a lot of gunfire. Field modifications soon gave PT boats more powerful weapons, but there was a problem: PT boats didn’t have a ton of space.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
This early Thunderbolt had six M2 heavy machine guns and two 20mm Oerlikon cannon. (Photo from National Archives)

The solution to that problem was an electric turret called the Elco Thunderbolt. Elco was one of two companies that made the fast and lethal PT boats (the other was Higgins — yes, the makers of a crucial landing craft made PT boats as well). In addition to making PT boats even more lethal, this new turret would help a number of ships add firepower and reduce manpower.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
A PT boat off New Guinea. Operations in the Solomons lead to a push for more firepower. (U.S. Navy photo)

One early version of this turret featured two Oerlikon 20mm cannon and six M2 heavy machine guns. Other mixes were tested, including four Oerlikon cannon and two M2s or just the four Oerlikons. No matter the loadout, though, these turrets only required one person to send a huge wall of lead at an incoming enemy.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
Operations Specialist 2nd Class Brian Norman defends the ship with a Mark 38 .25mm machine gun supported by the phone talker, Torpedoeman’s Mate 2nd Class Edwin Holland during a small boat training exercise aboard the guided missile frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61). (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Jeremie Kerns.)

By the time the war ended, the turret found its onto PT boats and some of the older battleships. Afterwards, it faded into history. Today, the Navy uses somewhat similar mounts for the Mk 38 Bushmaster, a 25mm chain gun. Still, the Thunderbolt showed some very interesting possibilities during its brief, but potent lifespan.

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If you need a spouse, this is what the Marines would issue

There’s an old USMC saying, “If the Corps wanted me to have a wife, they would have issued me one.”


While the phrase is meant as a joke, when analyzed further, it becomes clear that “the most difficult job in the Corps,” or being a military spouse, requires a variety of attributes if you want to cultivate a successful partnership.

Related: 5 things infantrymen love about the woobie

If the Marine Corps was responsible for issuing spouses, these are the five attributes they’d have.

1. Spouses would come from military families

The Marine Corps is well-known for issuing Gulf War-era Army gear and your new life partner is no exception. Get ready to sign for and receive your 45-year-old Army brat that supply is going to issue you.

They may not look all shiny and brand new, but what they lack in aesthetics they more than make-up for in years of proven, valuable experience.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies
Certificate of authenticity.

 

2. Maximum capacity of three offspring

Marines are trained to plan for the worst — to have a backup plan for their backup plan. That mentality is just exactly what issued spouses would be accustomed to, which is why having a primary, secondary, and tertiary legacy is appropriate.

Any more and the situation would seem redundant, any less and you’re playing with fire.

3. Financial accountability

In all honesty, junior enlisted Marines are not well-known for their financial foresight. Given the high tempo training cycles, their chances of overlooking a few things are close to inevitable.

That’s why every Marine-issued spouse will have a degree in accounting from the Armed Forces University. You can rest easy, Marine, while your money is managed by the one you’ve been told to trust the most.

Carry the two and — he spends way too much on Copenhagen long cut Rip-its.

4. Diplomatic superiority

Marines have a storied history of high morale, foul mouths, and dirty minds. This translates to acting a fool at parties which, unfortunately, can land those same devil dogs in some hot water. Betrothing a Marine-suppressor in the form of a life companion that is classy AF is essential.

Also Read: 5 things boot Marines buy with their first paycheck

5. Tier one mobilization expertise.

Changing duty stations regularly is a part of life for any Marine and moving with a family can be stressful, to say the least. That is why all issued spouses will come equipped with the same capabilities of USMC Logistics/Embarkation Warrant Officer and, if you’re lucky, the same sweet disposition.

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7 products you didn’t know were invented by the military

Every year, the U.S. military spends tens of millions of dollars on researching and developing new products — AKA R&D. From the behind-the-scenes work that tracks what’s necessary, to the science that makes it possible, to prototypes and testing it all out in action, new inventions are brought to life through the military every day. 

But what we don’t realize is how many common products actually got their start this way. Just because these products were invented by the military doesn’t mean they stayed there. In fact, many items made it to mainstream use, and it’s been long-since forgotten how they got their start.

Take a look at these common goods that were actually brought to life by tax dollars and military research. 

  1. Modern Undershirts, 1904

We’re talking your basic, wear everyday undershirts. Cotton t-shirts that smooth out your wardrobe and provide an extra layer of comfort. Undershirts were first invented, technically a decade prior to WW1, in 1905 when their current pullover version was made part of the Navy’s daily uniform.

undershirts like this were invented by the military
Civilian undershirts have evolved, but they all stemmed from the original white t shirts invented by the military. (Wikipedia)

Prior to this release, undershirts were made to button-up, which proved cumbersome for bachelors or men who lacked sewing skills. The “crewneck” was released and almost immediately embraced by the military. 

2. Sanitary Napkins, 1914

The biggest salutes to pioneer women; pre 1920s, most of what was available were homemade products. Cotton pads were first released during WW1, then a cotton shortage caused the Kimberly-Clark Co. to invent an absorbing material made from wood pulp, cellucotton. Originally invented for bandages, nurses in the Red Cross saw the versatility and began using them during their visits from Aunt Flo. Once the war ended, Kimberly-Clark began manufacturing and marketing sanitary napkins with cellucotton. Many stores would not carry the product due to the nature of its use, but within several years sanitary napkins were widely available to the public.

3. Ray Ban’s Aviator Sunglasses, 1930s

As military pilots began reaching new heights, the military recognized a need for glasses that blocked harsh sunlight during their flights. Bausch & Lomb was contracted by the U.S. Army Air Corps to create aviator goggles that effectively blocked out light with their signature shape and lens material. However, there was no exclusion on the product; in 1937 they re-branded a version of sunglasses as “Ray Bans” (banning the rays) and marketed to civilians. 

By the end of the 1930s, a pair was standard issue to all soldiers, as well as available for purchase by the civilian population. 

4. The Jeep, 1940

At the onset of WWII, the Army asked vehicle companies to create prototypes with specific requests. They were in need of a model that was lightweight, could drive quickly, had 4-wheel drive, and could be readily used for reconnaissance. Their choice was General Purpose, or G.P., made by American Bantam Car Company, which topped out at 65 miles per hour. “Jeep” came from a nickname of G.P, and it stuck. The vehicle was heavily used throughout the war, in fact, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, his position at the time, said “American could not have won World War II without it.”

After the war, surplus vehicles were sold to the public, with manufacturing continuing due to their increasing popularity.

5. Aerosol Bug Spray, 1941

With the threat of malaria at large, soldiers stationed in the South Pacific needed a way to defer and kill mosquitos. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture partnered with the Department of Defense in order to create an insecticide, and to find a way to disperse it effectively. Nicknamed as the “bug bomb,” the scientists invented and patented the aerosol can in 1941, then filling them with mosquito repellant. 

6. Duct Tape and Super Glue, 1942

Another WWII invention came with Duct Tape. It was invented by Johnson & Johnson Co., with the request of the military to create an adhesive that could withstand difficult conditions. Their initial invention was called “duck tape,” as it proved waterproof. After the war, it became widely used by civilians, most often to seal ductwork. So much so, that it was renamed as Duct Tape and rebranded in silver to match modern heating and air systems.

Super Glue also made its debut during the second world war. The Eastman Kodak company created the substance while looking for a product to use on plastic rifle sights. It was actually made by accident, and determined to be too sticky for use. Nearly a decade later, it was re-discovered and realized to have great commercial potential. It hit shelves for public use in 1958 and was also used by surgeons during Vietnam as a spray that could quickly seal open wounds. 

1942 was a big year for military inventions, as synthetic rubber was also created. 

7. The Microwave, 1946

The microwave has had a dramatic lifespan in the military — it got its start as radar technology that was used to identify enemy locations. In fact, its ability to quickly heat foods was a happy accident. An engineer working on the project realized his candybar, placed in his pocket, had melted. That same year, the first patent for a microwave oven was filed, with manufacturing starting in the mid-1950s. Original models were as large as modern refrigerators.

The microwave was invented by the military
Do you remember when microwaves looked like this? (Flickr)

These products are used daily by millions of Americans, yet most people have no idea they were invented by the military. We have countless hours of research and dedication to thank for these modern conveniences that the military brought to life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force has more pilots but struggles to train them

The Air Force is grappling with a protracted pilot shortage, with the total force lacking about 2,000 fliers, the majority of them fighter pilots.

Air Force officials say they’re rolling out a number of initiatives to address the problem, but the training squadrons in charge of preparing pilots are still using some stop-gap measures to train the pilots they have.


Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, outgoing head of the Air Force’s Air Crew Crisis Task Force, told Air Force Magazine in July 2018 that his team, set up in 2017, now has a five-year plan and has made progress in revamping the pilot-training process.

The plan provides structure for implementation of the 69 initiatives proposed to address the shortage. The plan also intends to grow manning levels to 95% by fiscal year 2023.

“When I first started there was no timeline, just initiatives,” Koscheski said.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Capts. Wes Sloat, left, and Jared Barkemeger, 7th Airlift Squadron pilots, take off in a C-17 Globemaster III at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)

Koscheski, who is leaving his position to be director of plans, programs, and analysis for US Air Forces Europe and Africa, said the plan focuses on pilot retention, production, and requirements.

The retention element was “critically important” and the one in which the service has seen the most advancement, he said. It includes increased pay and bonuses, more flexibility in assignments, and the reduction of the administrative duties that many find onerous or distracting.

“Sometimes instead of trying to create more aircrew, if we create more support personnel or keep the aircrew we have healthy, we can get more production out of” fewer people, Koscheski told Air Force Magazine.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times in June that the service was getting ready to announce a plan to reinvigorate squadrons, ensuring they have strong leaders and high morale.

“That, to me, is the secret sauce. That’s what’s going to keep people in. It’s what’s kept me in,” Goldfein said, without describing the plan.

Goldfein has also said he wants to push production to 1,400 to 1,500 pilots a year. (Others say 1,600 a year are needed to fix the shortfall.) But the force already faces challenges growing production from 1,200 pilots a year to 1,400.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

President Donald Trump and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, second right, with two US Air Force pilots at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 15, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

Finding airmen who want to be pilots generally hasn’t been the issue, however. What the Air Force has struggled with is getting student pilots through the training pipeline — a process complicated by a bottleneck created by a lack of pilots available to serve as instructors.

In 2018, the training process was further delayed by a month-long safety stand down for the Air Force’s T-6 Texan training aircraft, due to unexplained physiological events that endangered pilots.

Koscheski said the stand down led the force to train about 200 fewer pilots than expected, though he and other Air Force officers have said that pause gave the service time to reevaluate the training.

A syllabus redesign was done “first and foremost … to create better pilots,” Koscheski said. “The side benefit is it now takes five to nine weeks less to get pilots through pilot training, so … we’re able to get more [students] through [the pipeline], but now it just increases production.”

Researchers from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies have also called on the Air Force to increase its use of contractors, arguing in a report in early 2018 that “innovative uses of contractors in the training pipeline” were needed to ramp up pilot production without depriving front-line squadrons of fliers.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

A 64th Aggressor pilot on the flight line after a Red Flag 17-4 exercise sortie on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 25, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

The Air Force has already brought in contractors to fill the role of “red air,” in which US pilots pose as rival aircraft.

Koscheski told Air Force Magazine that the service was considering bringing in contractors to be instructors.

‘A leap into the unknown’

The lack of instructors has led some training squadrons to implement stop-gap measures and compensate in other ways in order to use their limited resources in the most efficient way.

The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona found out in 2017 it would only get 13 of the 26 F-16 instructor pilots it requested. Rather than spread the pain, the wing commander sent 12 of the new instructors to the 54th Fighter Group at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, which will take over F-16 training as the 56th shifts to F-35 training operations.

Back at Luke, Air Force officers decided to shift their remaining resources to the squadron training on newer-model F-16s. That shift was a better use of resources and better for pilots, they told Aviation Week in early 2018, but it still was “a leap into the unknown.”

Other bases are making changes to the training itself to handle more pilots with the same number of instructors.

How a bunch of slow, ugly ships helped stop global bullies

Pilots prepare a T-6 Texan II for a training flight at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, June 13, 2018. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft Air Force Pilots learn to fly before moving on to more advanced aircraft.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Pettis)

At Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Air Force officials are preparing for an increase of more than 100 student pilots in the next few years. By 2021, the base expects to have about 450 student pilots.

“We have an increased student load coming, and from 2017 to 2021 the forecast is a 34 percent increase in students,” Col. Darrell Judy, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, told The Oklahoman in July 2018.

But officials at Vance don’t expect to get more instructors for several years. Judy said the base would instead increase its use of simulators and change other parts of training in order to adjust to the increase.

“We believe we have found a way to trim off about six weeks from the current 54 weeks of training that students go through,” Judy said. “That will allow us a greater throughput [of students] with the amount of instructors we currently have now.”

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

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