Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost) - We Are The Mighty
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Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

As announced last year on Veterans Day, the maker of most American troops’ rifles has launched a line of civilian-legal versions that are exact replicas of the ones issued to the post-9/11 generation military.


FN America’s “Military Collector Series” includes the carbine typically issued to Army infantry troops with detailed accessories familiar to any Joe, an M16 that’ll make Leathernecks harken back to deployments in Anbar and Helmand, and even a semi-auto version of the M249.

The FN 15 M4 Military Collector Carbine and FN 15 M16 Military Collector Rifle are not your typical clones. They are faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of actual current government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, these FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference being the lack of full-auto or burst fire. These two rifles take “replica” to a whole new level.

The M249S — the civilian model of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon — takes it not just to a new level. It’s a whole new playing field.

Though obviously a semi-automatic rather than a machine gun, there just isn’t another gun like this available without signing up for an enlistment. The Military Collector Series sets a new standard for those who want as close to the real thing as the law will allow.

“This new line of products allows us to showcase FN’s battle-proven legacy of producing firearms for militaries worldwide and passing this technology on to our commercial customers,” said Mark Cherpes, President and CEO for FN America. “We’re excited to bring these semi-automatic versions of the world’s most iconic products to America’s gun owners.”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The Limited Edition versions include many of the accessories troops are issued alongside their rifle. (Photo credit FN America)

Most AR-15 pattern guns are advertised as mil-spec, and the wide range of parts and accessories means that the platform’s modular nature makes hot-rodding a base gun into a specialized instrument relatively easy without requiring the services of a gunsmith. But the mil-spec found in these Military Collector Series guns is a lot more “mil-spec” than most mil-spec.

The M4 and M16 model receivers have markings for automatic, though these civilian guns don’t have auto capability. The flash suppressor on the M4 model is permanently affixed to comply with 16-inch minimum barrel length requirements, and the QR code on the Unique ID label simply contains a link to the FN website. Finally, the guns are not stamped “Property of U.S. Government.” Beyond those differences, the guns are the what is currently standard issue.

The M4 model has a 14.5-inch chrome-lined 1:7-inch twist barrel, an A2-style compensator (pinned and welded), six-position adjustable stock, and an ambidextrous selector switch. It also has a Knights Armament M4 Rail Adapter System with rail covers. The M16 model has a 20-inch barrel — also with a 1:7-inch twist — A2 compensator, and ambidextrous selector. It has a fixed A2-style full rifle stock and a Knights Armament M5 RAS with covers. Both guns utilize standard military-issue two-stage triggers designed for the rigors of the combat zone, not the shooting range or 3-gun course. Each model retails for $1,749.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The FN America M249S SAW is about as awesome as it can get. (Photo credit FN America)

The M249S is, predictably, the eye-catching member of the initial Military Collector Series trio. It has a 20.5-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with quick-change capability and a removable heat shield. The receiver has a formed steel frame with a carrying handle and a folding bipod, a flip-up feed tray cover, and top rail system. Unlike the service SAW, the M249S operates from closed-bolt. It has an ergonomic polymer stock, crossbolt safety, and has a non-reciprocating charging handle. Like the military-issued one, the M249S can operate using either belt-fed ammo or standard AR magazines. The M249S weighs in at 17 pounds and retails for about $8,000.

For the collector who truly must have it all, FN Military Collector Series Limited Editions are available as well. The M4 and M16 Limited Edition models include serialized ID tags and a certificate of authenticity, a GI cleaning kit, a GI sling, and a bayonet — an M9 for the M4 carbine and an OKC3S with the M16. Both rifle Limited Editions cost about $2,000.

The M249S Limited Edition includes a cleaning kit; gages and tools; a sling assembly; 500 M27 ammunition links to build a belt of 5.56; and a spare barrel with heat shield. It ships in a hard case with a molded insert and will set you back around $9,500.

While the prices are nothing to sneeze at, these Military Collector Series guns from FN America represent the closest that shooters and collectors can get to service-issue weapons without joining up. FN reported that the initial production run of the M4 and M16 sold out quicker than expected. With the firearms market remaining strong and possibly more members of the FN Military Collector Series coming in the future, these guns are sure to remain in high demand.

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The 7 best Futurama technologies for the war on terrorism

Good news everyone! The year 3000 saw a lot of technological breakthroughs. While some may be purely fictional, not everything about the science and technology of Futurama was entirely fantasy.


From fully interactive holograms to creating a new math theorem to explain a plot twist, the writers of Futurama are very prescient.

Some of their predictions even have military applications. The 7 best are listed below.

1. Dr. FlimFlam’s Miracle Cream

The amazing prescription for life’s aches and pains also tends to give its users superpowers like super strength, lickety-speed, and the ability to sometimes command sea creatures. Nothing says “precision strike” like flying to Syria just to punch the caliph in the face. All this for $60!

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Warning: “Keep out of reach of children under the age of 500. For best results, sacrifice a small mammal Xanroc then apply evenly to interior of eyeball. Would you like to sell Dr. Flimflam products? Contact a representative at a covered wagon near you!”

2. Tube Transport

“[being controlled by a Brain Slug] On to new business. Today’s mission is for all of you to go to the Brain Slug Planet.” – Hermes

“What do we do there?” – Zoidberg

“Just walk around not wearing a helmet” – Hermes

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

MomCorps’ Transport Tubes are all over New New York, sucking in passengers and flying them to their destinations… but this may soon be a reality.

Instead of long waits for an airplane to get you to and from deployments, imagine just hopping in a tube and magically arriving where you want to go. Sounds better than wasting precious leave days while traveling to R and R from the Brain Slug Planet.

3. Electronium Hat

Please, Fry. I don’t know how to teach. I’m a professor!―Professor Farnsworth

Designed by the Professor to harness the power of sunspots, the electronium hat makes cognitive radiation, a special energy that makes any animal intelligent. The Professor tested it on a monket named Guenther whom he sent to college.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

The intelligence potential of this technology is exciting (see what I did there?). The U.S. military could ally itself with hordes of hat-wearing animals.

4. Q.T. McWhiskers

“Now conquer Earth you bastards!” – Mom

“Conquer Earth us bastards!” – Killbots

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Originally intended to be a children’s toy, petting it would cause the toy to meow and shoot rainbows from its eyes. Mom changed the production model into a massive killbot that shoots lasers.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

5. F-Ray

“Hey, try it on me!” – Fry

Bender points it at Fry’s crotch.

“OW! My sperm!” -Fry

Professor Farnsworth’s F-Ray device emits a neutrino beam which allows the ray’s user to see through anything, including metal. The only problem was it emitted so much nuclear radiation that the Professor had to wear a full-body protective suit.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
It would make searching prisoners much easier, but would likely violate a few treaties.

6. Universal Translator

“This is my Universal Translator, although it only translates into an incomprehensible dead language” – Prof. Farnsworth

“Hello!” – Cubert 

“Bonjour!” – machine

“Crazy gibberish” – Prof. Farnsworth

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

In the episode A clone of my own, Professor Farnsworth reveals his Universal Translator invention, which only knows how to translate a funny, dead language (actually French). As is, the universal translator could help French forces in West Africa fighting al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Ansar Dine, and ISIS elements by allowing other intervening Western countries easier communication with locals.

Another version of this device works for alien languages as well as English.

7. What-If Machine

Alright, Professor! Let’s do it. Make that machine show me what would happen if I was a little more impulsive. Just a little… Not too much.Leela

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
What if SOCOM had a 500-foot Bender maybe?

The ultimate weapons against ISIS is the ability go back and prevent them for ever forming. By now the world knows ISIS formed in the power vacuum left by the Americans after the Iraq War, but we didn’t see that then. What if we had a machine that would let us watch the consequences of our foreign policy decision so we could always make the right one?

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon has plans for its own mini-space station. Here’s what it would do

Among defense experts the world over, there’s little doubt that warfare in the 21st century will be an orbital affair. From communications and reconnaissance to navigation and logistics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an element of any modern nation’s military that operates without the use of space-born satellites, and as such, many nations are developing weapons aimed specifically at causing trouble high above our heads.

While the U.S. government may be no exception, as the reigning space-race champ, America has the lead, and as such, much more to lose in orbit than its national competitors. At least one element of the Pentagon has a plan to help keep it that way: an orbiting space station purpose-built to support a fleet of defensive space drones.


Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Which beats out my proposal to just start dropping bombs from the ISS, I suppose.

(NASA Image)

You might be imagining a space station equipped with the latest defense gadgets, science experiments meant to usher in the next era of orbital weapons, and of course, enough utility to support a wide variety of Pentagon directives in the dark skies around our pale blue dot… and you’d be right on all counts… but where this new initiative breaks from fantasy is in its size. The Pentagon’s proposed space station wouldn’t be built to sustain any kind of manned presence whatsoever, at least for now.

The proposed orbital outpost received a great deal of media attention recently thanks to an industry solicitation posted by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Put simply, the solicitation is seeking companies that want to compete for a chance to help launch a self-contained orbital facility that’s “capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

“Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets a new space station.”

(Courtesy of NASA)

The DIU envisions an orbital outpost that’s equipped with robotic arms to manage assembly and even potentially repair duties for other orbital assets. That means this unmanned installation could feasibly be used to build autonomous satellite drones in space meant to help protect America’s large and rather undefended constellation of satellites.

The tiny outpost would have a payload capacity of just 176 pounds (or 80 kilograms if you live in a nation that’s never sent people to the moon), and would offer only a small 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot enclosure. That may not be enough room to house any members of the space infantry, but it would be enough to work on things like cube-sats, which are small, inexpensive satellites built to serve specific purposes in orbit and beyond.

Because the reality of war in space could be as mundane as simply nudging a satellite out of its orbit, cube-sats and other small platforms could actually play a massive role in orbital combat operations. A fleet of inexpensive satellites could provide system redundancy by temporarily filling service gaps as other assets are destroyed or interfered with by enemy platforms. They could also engage with or deter enemy systems (be they satellites or weapons themselves).

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

The X-37B sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway after spending months in space without any grubby human mitts changing the radio station.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Michael Stonecypher)

Thanks to advances in 3-D printing and a rash of commercial interest in orbital manufacturing in recent years, it seems entirely possible that an orbital outpost like the one proposed by the DIU could eventually support a broader space defense initiative, but it also seems unlikely that this specific enterprise would ever expand far enough to add human support to the equation, but then, humans may need to be present anyway.

Russia and China are both already believed to operate orbital weapons platforms that behave like autonomous satellites and the Air Force’s secretive space plane known as the X-37B operates in orbit for months at a time without any use for human hands. Star Wars may indeed eventually come to fruition, but at least for now, it looks like the fighting will be up to R2-D2, with all of us Skywalkers just watching anxiously from the ground.

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This military working dog was just recognized for actions that cost her a leg

“Lucky” Lucca is a Marine Corps working dog who successfully led about 400 patrols through combat zones without once allowing a service member under her care to be injured by IEDs, even on the day she lost her leg to a secondary IED after finding the primary. She received the Dickin Medal, an award for animal valor, Apr. 5, 2016.


Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham was her first handler. He deployed to Iraq with Lucca two times.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

“She could see when I was getting kitted up for a mission, you could see her energy increase because she knew what time it was,” Willingham said. “I put the searching harness on Luca and she knew it was game on.”

Willingham later deployed with Lucca to Afghanistan and led 30 working dog and handler teams. When Willingham was sent to a new duty station, he asked one of his handlers, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, to take over as Lucca’s handler.

It was on Lucca and Rodriguez’s second deployment to Afghanistan that Lucca lost her leg. She had indicated the presence of one IED and Rodriguez showed the explosive ordnance team where it was. Lucca was looking for more IEDs when Rodriguez heard a loud boom and saw dust erupt under Lucca. Lucca immediately tried to return to Rodriguez.

“I see Lucca trying to get up and attempting to run towards me,” Rodriguez said. “At this point I took the same path she already had cleared and ran towards Lucca. I picked her up and started running towards the treeline.”

Rodriguez placed a tourniquet on Lucca and the pair were medevacced out. Lucca had lost her paw at the blast site. Doctors later had to amputate the rest of her leg. It didn’t keep her down for long.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Photo: YouTube/PDSA

“As soon as she woke up, she wanted to get up,” Rodriguez said.

“She was so quick to adapt to having three legs that in a few days she was walking on her own.”

Willingham adopted Lucca under Robbie’s Law which gives handlers the first chance to adopt retired working dogs. When it came time to decide who would escort Lucca to where Willingham lived in Helsinki, Finland, Willingham immediately asked for Rodriguez.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
GIF: YouTube/PDSA

In retirement, Lucca has experienced snow for the first time and gotten to play on the beach with the Willingham family. See Lucca in action and hear the full story from Willingham and Rodriguez in this video:

Lucca received the Dickin Medal, known as the animal version of the Victoria Cross. The  Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for valor, the equivalent of the U.S. Medal of Honor.

Previous American recipients of the Dickin Medal include G.I. Joe, a pigeon who flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and prevented the accidental bombing of American troops, and Salty and Roselle, two guide dogs for the blind who got their humans out of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

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This is why ‘peaceful nukes’ ended in utter disappointment

When Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956, there were talks of creating a secondary canal. As U.S. and British officials were considering how it could be built, someone in the room must have said something along the lines of, “Why not nukes?”


No matter how it went down, something sparked the testing of Peaceful Nuclear Explosions (PNEs) and Operation Plowshare.

The codename “Operation Plowshare” comes from Isaiah 2:4: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Proposed canal would have connected the Pacific to the Caribbean through Lake Nicaragua (Photo via Rotary Club)

The Suez Crisis ended after nine days and plans for a second canal were abandoned, but the idea of using nuclear warheads for non-military purposes stuck.

Between 1961 and 1973, twenty seven nuclear detonations were used for various purposes. Experiments were done to see if detonations could stimulate the flow of natural gas. They also helped with excavation for aquifers, highways, more canals, and an artificial harbor in Cape Thompson, Alaska, under Project Chariot.

Project Chariot was the most ambitious out of all of the tests. The idea was to detonate five hydrogen bombs to give the population of just over 320 a harbor. It was ultimately scraped — the severe risk and expense couldn’t be justified for how little potential it offered.

The United States didn’t followed through with any of the testing of PNEs, but they weren’t the only nation who played with nuclear experiments. The Soviet Union had their own version in the “Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy.”

The Soviets performed 239 tests between 1965 and 1988. One of the few tests that yielded positive results was the Chagan nuclear test (which created a 100,000 m3 lake that’s still radioactive to this day). Another was the sealing of the Urtabulak gas well that had been blowing for three years.

This was later cited as a possible alternative to sealing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Geiger reading at Lake Chagan. For comparison, the center of the Fukushima disaster was 7.47 microsieverts per hour in 2011 (Photo via Wikimedia)

Peaceful Nuclear Explosions were regulated in 1974 by President Gerald R. Ford and then banned entirely by the multilateral Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996 by the United Nations. This treaty prohibits all nuclear explosions, peaceful or not.

Nuclear energy is still being researched, however, most notably in nuclear pulse propulsion for spacecrafts.

Check out the video below to learn more about Plowshare in a (very campy by today standards) 1960’s atomic science educational film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0F6HQfzjvA

(YouTube, Tomorrow Always Comes)

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The 13 funniest military memes this week — MRE edition

This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to fine military cuisine. You know, the nutrient rich, cardboard textured, grownup Lunchables the military feeds you out in the field. Yes, that’s right, MREs.


Some troops like MREs, but most will probably identify with this meme:

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Recruiters are known for leaving out a thing or two.

MREs look so innocent, but there’s a world of hurt waiting for you.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
This little box packs a punch.

Getting the goodies always begins with a struggle.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

When you finally open the box, you realize that the goodies aren’t always so yummy, so you enhance them with flavor.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Tapatio and Texas Pete are also good choices.

Some MREs could serve as a weapon in the field.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The military got rid of flamethrowers because they were considered too cruel.

Just add “chemical X” to upgrade to the next level.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
The upgrade is similar to a grenade launcher.

Ejecting an MRE from the body could feel like an impossible task.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Some people describe it as giving birth to a knotted rope.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
And you thought the knotted rope was only a boot camp thing.

Nope, MRE’s aren’t innocent.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Yup, looks can be deceiving.

On the bright side, you could use MREs for other things, like getting yourself squared away.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

Or, getting the comforts of home out in the field.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Grunts can sleep anywhere.

You’ll grow to love them, at least until your next hot meal.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

They make a great gift.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Soon, she’ll be as deadly as you.

NOW: The Best Military Meals Ready -To-Eat, Ranked

OR: 9 Military Movie Scenes Where Hollywood Got It Totally Wrong

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An Army sergeant is about to get booted for trying to block info on bin Laden raid

The Army has rejected an appeal from a 13-year public affairs sergeant and is kicking him out in a case tied to the Osama bin Laden raid, President Obama’s speech about it, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.


Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch told The Washington Times that he must leave the Army by Aug. 1. His crime was mentioning in an internal military email the name of the aviation unit that flew Navy SEALs inside Pakistan airspace to kill the al Qaeda leader.

The irony: He was trying to keep that fact out of a proposed article in an industry newsletter.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Former President Barack Obama and members of the national security team receive updates on Operation Neptune’s Spear, a target and kill operation against Osama bin Laden in the White House Situation Room, May 1, 2011 (White House photo)

The Times featured Sgt. Branch’s plight in March, noting his excellent performance evaluations since the 2014 incident. His last chance resided with the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, which Sgt. Branch said rejected his plea.

The sergeant said he was “floored” by the decision.

“With honor and with integrity I fought this battle and even took it into the realm of public court/discussion in my Times story and it was for one reason only to let everyone know, like my commander said when giving me my notice May 10, 2016, that the Army is getting this one wrong,” he said July 19 in an email to the board.

“Moving forward, I would love to give this one last go round; however, I know now that without the military-level support I received for my third appeal I’m in a realm of hurt in that it will take forever to get another answer.”

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Robert O’Neill, US Navy SEAL, claims to have shot Osama bin Laden in 2011. (Photo via Facebook)

His attorney, Jeffrey Addicott, who runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, said the married sergeant, with one child, did all he could to maintain his career.

He said Mr. Obama singled out the unit, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and that Mrs. Clinton did far worse in handling secrets and received no punishment.

Mr. Addicott told The Times on July 19: “The good news is that your story pushed the Army to move off its criminal investigation that he was facing when I took his case. We then also got the Army to consider his request to stay on active duty, and he was retained for many months while his appeal was considered. They have now denied his appeal to stay, but he will leave with an honorable discharge. Not a complete satisfaction for Branch but far better than it could have been. There is no inherent right for the Army to retain him. I know he is disappointed, but we accomplished all that could reasonably be expected. This is a win.”

Sgt. Branch’s problems began in February 2014 while he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, doing public relations work for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He was fact-checking a proposed article by the Boeing Co. for its internal news site that told of regiment personnel visiting a contractor facility. It mentioned that the regiment conducted the bin Laden raid.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Photo courtesy of DoD.

Sgt. Branch sent an email to his boss recommending that the bin Laden reference be stricken because the Pentagon never officially acknowledged its role.

That was his crime: repeating the Boeing sentence in an official, internal email.

A higher-up saw the email thread and reported Sgt. Branch to Army intelligence. Instead of facing a court-marital, he opted for nonjudicial punishment and received an oral reprimand.

Mr. Addicott, who did not represent the sergeant at that time, said no court-martial jury would have convicted the sergeant because his motives were pure.

Part of Sgt. Branch’s defense was that Mr. Obama all but said that the aviation regiment conducted the raid by visiting the soldiers at Fort Campbell right after the successful operation.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, addresses Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division during a visit to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011. Photo from Fort Campbell Courier.

The Army officially disclosed the regiment’s role in news stories.

“The leaders’ first stop after landing was to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment compound where the distinguished guests spoke privately with the 160th SOAR leadership and Soldiers,” said the Army’s official story on the visit, found on its web address, Army.mil.

On Army.mil, a May 9, 2011, Army News Service story on the Obama visit said, “It was the Night Stalkers who are credited with flying the mission in Pakistan that transported the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 on an operation that resulted in the capture and kill of terrorist Osama bin Laden.”

“I love the Army,” Sgt. Branch told The Times in March. “I like my job. The reason I’m so in love with the Army is I’m a career soldier. I’ve done three tours in Iraq. I’ve survived cancer twice. The Army is my career. It’s what I know. It is my life. My dad was a soldier. My brother’s a soldier. My grandfather was a soldier. I like telling the Army story because I’m a writer. That’s what I do.”

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Airman seeks to rejoin pararescue team despite loss of leg

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Staff Sgt. August O’Neil, Air Force Wounded Warrior, and fellow pararescueman and Wounded Warrior, Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard, prepare to deliver the Care Beyond Duty flag during the opening ceremony of the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry


In July 2011, Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, a pararescueman, was sent to rescue a group of Marines pinned down in Afghanistan when enemy insurgents opened fire on his team’s helicopter.

A round bounced off the helicopter’s door, tearing through both of O’Neill’s lower legs and critically wounding his left, resulting in 20 surgeries over the next three-and-a-half years as doctors tried to save the limb.

O’Neill finally told doctors to remove his left leg last year, but he remains determined to continue his career as a pararescueman.

Determined to Resume Career

“I haven’t looked back since,” said O’Neill, who’s training with the 342nd Training Squadron here, as he prepares to requalify for assignment to a pararescue team.

“I knew I wasn’t done doing this job,” he added.

Pararescue isn’t an easy job for any airman, let alone one who’s had their leg amputated just above the knee, but O’Neill believes he’s still up to the task.

“There are going to be issues that come up here and there,” O’Neill said. “But I’m sure I’ll make it back on a team. Just like anybody who hasn’t been in their job for a long time … I basically need to make sure everybody else knows that I’m capable of doing the job, and … I need to make sure I haven’t lost anything that I need.”

Pararescumen serve in one of the most physically demanding fields in the armed forces, with the journey from basic training to joining an operational unit spanning almost two years, according to the technical training course guide.

Seeking a ‘New Normal’

O’Neill said he isn’t expecting any special treatment as he trains over the next few months to demonstrate his mission readiness.

Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)
Wounded warriors and Air Force pararescuemen Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, right, and Staff Sgt. Nick Robillard pose for a portrait with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program flag at the 2016 U.S. Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 26, 2016. | Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry

“I wouldn’t want to do this job if I couldn’t meet the same qualifications as everybody else, because that would put the people on my team at risk,” he explained. “You’re only as strong as your weakest member, so if I can’t keep up with them, that means they’re carrying me and that’s not something that I want.”

Living with a prosthetic is a minor annoyance in terms of his daily routine, O’Neill said. He doesn’t sleep with the leg on, for example, so he has to hop to the bathroom or the refrigerator when he wakes in the middle of the night.

“It’s just finding a ‘new normal’ for all the things I was able to do with two legs before,” he explained. “I’ve just been finding ways to get everything done.”

That minor annoyance turns into a bigger challenge during pararescue training, where O’Neill will have to depend on his ingenuity and adaptability to meet the other demands to the job.

“Anything from picking up a patient — where I can’t just roll down on a knee and lift them up — I have to find a different way to brace myself to get people up and move out,” he noted. “Everything is challenging, but it’s just a matter of finding out how to do it.”

As if navigating this “new normal” wasn’t enough, O’Neill said his training has been grueling.

“It’s tough mentally and physically,” he said. “You aren’t pushed to your limit — you’re pushed beyond that — to the limits that the instructors know you can reach. There are so many qualifications that you need to keep up with that you … can’t do so without being mentally prepared.”

One thing, at least, hasn’t changed for O’Neill since returning from his injury.

“I don’t like running,” he chuckled. “I’ve never been a distance runner and after four years of not running … that’s still difficult, but I can still run. It’s not as pretty as it was before, but I’m able to at least get the job done.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Aging bomber may have to switch up the way it flies

The B-1B Lancer bomber, a plane designed with the ability to fly fast and low to the Earth in order to avoid enemy radars, might find itself operating at higher altitudes for the rest of its days in service, as officials weigh options to extend its lifespan.

The move is one of several being considered to keep the aircraft flying for years to come because low-altitude missions increase the wear and tear on the aircraft’s structure, Military.com has learned.

“We’re closely working with aircrews, maintenance, industry engineers and combatant commands to identify and determine what, if any, changes may be made as we balance operational necessity today with the longevity of the B-1 airframe for the future,” said Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Faggard.


Specifically, officials are weighing whether to tell pilots to stop using the B-1’s low-altitude terrain-following capability, known as TERFLW mode, during training. The mode is operated by a basic switch on the plane’s avionics.

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A B-1B Lancer bomber.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

“The B-1 and our airmen have consistently and professionally provided close-air support in the counterterror fight for decades, a mission the aircraft was never designed to fly,” Faggard said. The B-1 was designed for a range of activities, most notably its TERFLW capability, but instead has been used for years in Middle East conflicts — a role for which it was not designed.

“We’re building a viable transition plan to get us from the bomber force we have now to the bomber force of the future. We can change tactics — altering, bringing back or avoiding any tactics or procedures as necessary on any bomber at any time in the future,” Faggard said Friday.

TERFLW, which allows the plane to operate at low altitudes like a jet ski skimming water, was created to allow the B-1 “to sneak in low below enemy radars into Russia during the Cold War, employ nuclear weapons, and get out,” said Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, then-chief of training for the 9th Bomb Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in a 2017 interview.

Kilchrist, also a pilot, showed off the maneuver when Military.com visited the base that year.

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Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger)

Fatigue testing on the bomber has shown that low-altitude training may put additional stress on the airframe, according to two Air Force sources familiar with the discussions. Thus, the argument to limit TERFLW flights in future.

It’s not uncommon for bombers to switch up how they fly.

For example, B-52 Stratofortress pilots already tend to avoid low-altitude flights because of the additional stress on the venerable bomber’s airframe, according to Alan Williams, the B-52 deputy program element monitor at Global Strike Command. Williams has been involved in the B-52 community since 1975.

“When I first started flying in the B-52, we went down to 300 to 500 feet above the ground,” he said in an interview in August. “Two o’clock in the morning, we’d fly over western Wyoming and we’d pop out four hours later over eastern Wyoming. That was hard on the aircraft.”

He continued, “Low-level is hard on aircraft. There’s a lot of forces — atmosphere, turbulence, all those things. [But] over the last 30 years, the B-52 has returned to what it was designed to be: a high-altitude bomber.”

Officials haven’t totally forbidden B-52 crews to fly low, especially if they’re testing new weapons, according to a bomber weapons system officer, who asked not to be identified due to not being authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

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A B-52H Stratofortress.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Greg Steele)

While the B-52 is sticking around into the 2050s, keeping the B-1 viable until its 2036 sunset date has been a priority for Air Force Global Strike Command.

Gen. Tim Ray, head of the command, announced in September that the Air Force had proved it can modify the Lancer to hold more ordnance — a step that may pave the way to future hypersonic weapons payloads as the bomber seeks new missions.

In tests with the 419th Flight Test Squadron, teams at Edwards Air Force Base, California, demonstrated how crews could fasten new racks onto the external hardpoints of the B-1, and reconfigure its internal bomb bays to hold heavier weapons.

“The conversation we’re having now is how we take that bomb bay [and] put four, potentially eight, large hypersonic weapons on there,” Ray said during the annual Air Force Association Air Space and Cyber conference.

“Certainly, the ability to put more JASSM-ER [Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range] or LRASM [Long Range Anti-Ship Missile] externally on the hardpoints as we open those up,” he said, as reported by Defense News. “There’s a lot more we can do.”

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

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6 pictures of how military working dogs train

Soldiers and military working dogs demonstrate their skills at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 7, 2017.


1. Jerry and his human.

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Army Pfc. Heaven Southard releases her military working dog, Jerry, during a demonstration at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 7, 2017. Southard is a military working dog handler assigned to the Directorate of Emergency Services in Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

2. Jerry shows how he would take down a terrorist.

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Army Pfc. Heaven Southard, rear, watches as her military working dog, Jerry, bites and takes down Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Sullivan during a demonstration at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 7, 2017. Southard is a military working dog handler assigned to the Directorate of Emergency Services in Kuwait. Sullivan is a public affairs noncommissioned officer assigned to U.S. Army Central. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

3. Diana teaches her human obedience.

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Army Spc. Michael Coffey practices obedience with Diana, his military working dog, during a demonstration at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 7, 2017. Coffey is a military working dog handler assigned to the Directorate of Emergency Services in Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

4. Hide yo’ kids. Hide yo’ wives. Diana gonna find you.

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Diana, a military working dog, searches for a training aid during a demonstration at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 7, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

5. Freddy is on the hunt.

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Freddy, a military working dog, searches for a training aid during a demonstration at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 7, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

6. Freddy walks his human.

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Army Pfc. Elizabeth Adrian walks with her military working dog, Freddy, during a demonstration at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, March 7, 2017. Adrian is a military working dog handler assigned to the Directorate of Emergency Services in Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

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Some guy is using Twitter to show where Russia has SAM sites in Syria

Want to see where in Syria that Russia is parking its surface-to-air missile batteries? If you do, you may think that you are out of luck by not being in the military or part of the intelligence community. Guess again – you just have to go to Twitter.


A person going by the username “Rambo54” – Twitter handle @reutersanders – has been posting some images from Google Earth showing where the Russians are parking their air-defense systems.

Among the sites that Rambo54 is pinpointing for any interested parties are two with the S-300 surface-to-air missile system (also known as the SA-10 Grumble), five of the SA-8 Gecko (a short-range radar-guided system), one of the Buk-M2 (also known as the SA-11 “Gadfly”), one of the SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile system (best known as the missile that shot down Scott O’Grady over Bosnia in 1995), one site for the S-200 (the SA-5 “Gammon”), and one for the Pechora (the SA-3 “Goa,” known as the missile that shot down a F-117 Nighthawk over Serbia). Pretty impressive work.

This Twitter feed also has satellite-eye views of various aircraft and air bases in the region, including photos of an Il-28 “Beagle” (a Soviet-era bomber) in Aleppo, and photos of MiG-21s and MiG-23s, among other planes. This Twitter feed even features photos of an air base overrun by ISIS.

Rambo54 has posted other images as well, including moon landing sites (to refute those who claim the moon landings were faked), as well as submarines (he had photos of an Indian Kilo-class sub and a Type 212), and air bases. And that’s just in the last 48 hours.

So if you want some very interesting military photos, go to https://twitter.com/reutersanders and start scrolling.

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The F-35 isn’t the first time the Pentagon has tried to make one airplane for 3 branches

In 1961, the United States military was ordered to try to make a single airframe serve the needs of the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army. That project was called the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) project. It later became the General Dynamics F-111, known affectionately as the Aardvark.


As just about any military aviation buff can tell you, the results were not what the then-Secretary of Defense had been hoping for. The F-111 made an excellent all-weather attack plane, capable of delivering 31,500 pounds of ordnance onto a target. If anything, had there been another round of modernization in the early-to-mid 1990s, allowing the Vark to use GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions or Joint Stand-Off Weapons or the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, it might still be carrying out that mission today.

The efforts to fill the needs of the other services didn’t go so well. The close-air support versions for the Marines and Army never happened. The Navy’s F-111B, intended as a fleet air-defense plane, just didn’t work, prompting Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly to tell a Senator, “There isn’t enough power in all Christendom to make that airplane what we want!” The results of Connolly’s career-ending honesty included the Navy developing the F-14 Tomcat, which proved to be very effective as an interceptor and air superiority fighter.

But the Air Force, Navy, and Marines all ended up using a common airframe from the 1960s to the 1980s. It just wasn’t the airframe many would have picked to be a joint strike fighter before there was ever a thought of having a Joint Strike Fighter.

The iconic McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom started out as an all-weather interceptor for the Navy. Equipped with four AIM-7 Sparrows and four AIM-9 Sidewinders, this Mach 2 plane had a combat radius of almost 370 miles, and was also capable of carrying almost 19,000 pounds of bombs. The Marines also bought the plane as well.

The Air Force, looking for a new fighter-bomber, tried out the F-4. Very quickly, the Air Force realized that the Phantom was working out very well, and soon they, too were buying hundreds of F-4s. The Air Force was even able to add an internal M61 cannon to the plane – something the Navy never really got around to.

The Phantom saw service in the Vietnam War – and it was the plane flown by America’s aces in that conflict: Randy Cunningham, Willie Driscoll, Steve Richie, Charles DeBellevue, and Jeffrey Feinstein. The Phantom shot down 147 enemy planes in the Vietnam War. It also saw service with numerous American allies: including Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, Iran, Egypt, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and Greece. It still remains in service, now as a fighter-bomber.

The F-35 seems to have taken a few pages out of the F-111’s playbook; notably, the three versions have similar missions – even though one is intended for use from normal air bases, the other is V/STOL, and the third is carrier-capable. But the F-35 program is now pushing 15 years since Lockheed won the Joint Strike Fighter competition) — twice as long as the F-111’s.

The F-35 also shares something in common with the F-4: The Air Force version is the only one with an internal cannon. The Navy and Marine Corps versions (as well as the one used by the RAF) don’t. And whether the F-35 can become a classic like the Phantom is something that only time will tell.

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The Veteran Community Gives ‘American Sniper’ A Huge Thumbs Up


At a recent screening in Hollywood, “American Sniper” received overwhelming praise from the veteran community for “getting it right.”

Also Read: ‘Canadian Sniper’ Is A Hilarious Parody Version Of ‘American Sniper’ 

On Monday, students of the Los Angeles Film School and members of the Veterans in film Television organization were treated to a special screening of American Sniper followed by QA session. Panelists included cast members Luke Grimes, Ricky Ryba, Tony Nevada, and screenwriter Jason Hall.

The special event included behind the scenes footage that showed the magic behind moviemaking and the experience of working on such a riveting story.

“This was my first big roll on a big major film, so for me it was an amazing experience,” said Navy veteran-turned actor Ricky Ryba. “You’d actually be really surprised with the similarities in the military and how things are run on set. To me, that relates to the chain of command. I was used to that, and just the professionalism that you get in the military. You bring it over to the set and they love it.”

Most of the veterans who attended the screening loved the movie, and the QA that offered a behind-the-scenes view into the moviemaking process.

“The QA was amazing, for me as a veteran and how it relates to my experience, I got a lot out of it,” one veteran said.

NOW: Why ‘American Sniper’ Is For Military Wives

AND: Can You Name The Weapons Used In ‘American Sniper’? Take the quiz

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