The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie - We Are The Mighty
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The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie

The Air Force’s new F-35A multi-role, stealth Joint Strike Fighter brings an unprecedented ability to destroy targets in the air, attack moving enemies on the ground and beam battlefield images across the force in real time, an Air Force pilot told Scout Warrior in a special interview.


The stealth fighter makes it much easier for pilots to locate, track, and destroy enemy targets across a wide range of combat circumstances  including attacks from farther ranges than existing fighters can operate, the F-35A pilot said.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Speaking to Scout Warrior as part of a special “Inside the Cockpit” feature on the F-35A, Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury, a former F-35 pilot and instructor, said the new fighter brings a wide range of new technologies including advanced sensors, radar, weapons for attack and next-generation computers.

Although he serves now as Chief, Operations Division of the F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon, Canterbury previously trained F-35 pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Canterbury is uniquely positioned to know the F-35’s margins of difference because he has spent thousands of hours flying legacy aircraft such as the service’s F-15 and F-16 fighters.

“The F-35 is a dream to fly. It is the easiest airplane to fly. I can now focus on employment and winning the battle at hand as opposed to looking at disparate information and trying to handle the airplane,” Canterbury told Scout Warrior.

Canterbury was referring to an often-discussed technological advance with the F-35 called “sensor fusion,” a system which places radar, targeting, navigation and altitude information on a single integrated screen for pilots to view.

As a result, pilots can rely upon computer algorithms to see a “fused” picture of their battlespace and no longer need to look at different screens for targeting coordinates, air speed, mapping and terrain information, sensor feeds or incoming data from a radar warning receiver.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots — allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

“I can turn my head and look left or right. There is an aiming cross on my helmet, an aiming symbology that tells me how to get there. The system will swivel over to the point on the ground I have designated,” Canterbury described.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

“I can look through the airplane and see the ground below me. I can look directly below me without having to obscure my vision,” Canterbury said.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

Also read: This is why Trump’s announcement about 90 F-35s was a big deal

The F-35’s software packages are being developed in increments; the Marine Corps declared their Short-Take-off-and-Vertical-Landing F-35B with software increment or “drop” 2B.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.

The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i this year. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
F-35A smiling for the camera. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Canterbury also talked about how Air Force engineers and experts were making progress building a computer library in the aircraft called the Mission Data Files.

“Experts are working feverishly to catalogue all of the threats we might face,” he said.

Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, he explained.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a data base of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts the world. The files are being worked on at reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials have said.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

The mission data files are being engineered to accommodate new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system might one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.

The first operational F-35A fighters have already been delivered to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and Air Force leaders say the service has launched some small mini-deployments within the US to prepare the platform for deployment.

Apart from its individual technologies, weapons, sensors and systems, the F-35 is perhaps best appreciated for its multi-role capabilities, meaning it can perform a wide range of different missions from close-air support and air-to-ground attack to air-to-air engagements and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.

Related: Here’s how the F-35 slaughtered the competition in its latest test

The aircraft’s sensor technologies allow the platform to perform a much greater ISR function than previous aircraft can, giving it a “drone-like” ability to gather and disseminate surveillance information.  As part of this, the F-35 can also use a specially engineered data-link to communicate in real-time with other F-35s and other aircraft and fighter jets.

“With the data-link’s network interoperability, we can talk to each other and talk to fourth-generation aircraft as well,” Canterbury explained.

The F-35A can function as a reconnaissance aircraft, air-to-air fighter, air-to-ground fighter or stealth aircraft engineered to evade enemy air defenses, Canterbury explained.

“While stealth is important in the early phases of warfare to knock out integrated air defenses and allow fourth-generation fighters to fly in, we don’t need stealth all the time,” Canterbury said. “I can use my stealth and electronic attack to see an adversary well before he sees me.”

For instance, the F-35A is well-suited to loiter over an area and provide fire support to units on the ground in a close-in fight.  In order to execute these kinds of missions, the F-35 will have a 25mm Gatling Gun mounted on top of the aircraft operational by 2017.

The F-35 has 11 weapons stations, which includes seven external weapons stations for bombs or fuel.

“If we don’t need stealth, I can load this up with weapons and be a bomb truck,” Canterbury explained.

Eventually, the Air Force plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35As.

Articles

The condition of this former presidential yacht will surprise you

What once hosted notable figures like Winston Churchill and Leonid Brezhnev — and where historic decisions like the precursor to SALT were made — has now become a nest for raccoons.


The USS Sequoia, which once was used as a presidential yacht, is falling apart and is the subject of a fierce legal fight over ownership.

According to a report by CBSNews.com, the yacht is no longer the “floating White House” where Richard Nixon reached a high point of his presidency (discussing the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev) and a low point (deciding to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal).

The USS Sequoia was purchased in 1931, initially to serve as a floating sting operation against alcohol smugglers. However, it soon found itself used by President Herbert Hoover for fishing (the President once used it to sail to Florida – not something that would likely happen today).

Two years later, the Commerce Department handed the Sequoia to the Navy, and it became the presidential yacht, replacing the USS Mayflower, which was decommissioned in 1929. It remained in service until President Jimmy Carter auctioned the vessel off for $286,000 in 1977.

Afterwards, it served on a private charter, but was still used by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to host events.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
USS Sequoia (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Today, the condition of the boat is shocking. While it is drydocked in Deltaville, Virginia, the vessel has not received any maintenance. A family of raccoons have taken residence in the vessel, eating some of the ship’s keepsake candy bars and the ship might not even make it through this winter.

“The status of the vessel is we need to protect it immediately, get it through the winter. Currently, she is stressed,” Matthew Vilbas, the captain of the vessel, told CBS. “There [were] a few rooms where the animals defecated on carpets, including presidential carpets where presidents spent time with their families and foreign and national persons.”

It was Vilbas who discovered the family of raccoons using an American flag as a nest. Vilbas is desperate for the legal situation to get resolved.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey talks with wounded soldiers and their families on board the USS Sequoia on the way to Mount Vernon, Va., on Oct. 11, 2005. Gainey joined Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in presenting eight Purple Hearts to soldiers from Walter Reed Army Medical Center during a ceremony at Mount Vernon. (DOD photo)

“I spent hours, days, evenings with and without family on board in what I felt has been a great honor to serve and provide experiences for many different persons. And when you spend that time on her, it becomes an extension of yourself,” he told CBS.

Even after the legal ownership is resolved, it will take millions of dollars to fix the vessel. Whoever owns it will also have to locate enough shipwrights who are knowledgable about classical wood building techniques.

It reportedly could take as much as 10,000 hours to fix the ship.

Articles

Harvard needs disabled veterans for expert research — and soon

Researchers at Harvard Business School are conducting a study designed to help veterans with disabilities transition into the civilian workforce — and they need more veterans.


Leading practitioners in veteran support and world-class researchers are teaming up with the Ivy League school to better understand the post-separation progress of American veterans. To be eligible for the study, a veteran must meet a few simple criteria:

• Enlisted member within three months of their end of active service, either pre- or post-separation

• Honorably discharged (or anticipate an honorable discharge)

• Have an anticipated VA disability rating between 30-90 percent

• Under the age of 45

The project is being run by Ross Dickman, an Army veteran with 12 years of service as an AH-64D Apache Longbow Pilot who deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

Participating vets can earn up to $1,370 to be a part of the study. On top of that, participants can receive life planning education, career guidance, training opportunities, and even further funding toward reemployment.

Joining the five-year study will help some of our nation’s top academics take on the task of helping members of our community reintegrate into civilian life. Harvard emphasizes that being a part of the study will not affect disabled veterans’ employment, education, or other life choices and you can be part of the study no matter where you live.

Personal data collected during the study will be stored in a secure database at Harvard Business School. Identifiable information will not be made available to any external agencies, including the media and any government agencies or employers including the VA and/or the DoD.

To inquire about the study, contact Eugene Soltes at Harvard Business School at 617.495.6622 or by e-mail at indproject@hbs.edu.

Articles

Wounded warrior Travis Mills is creating a luxury retreat for veterans

The Travis Mills Foundation is renovating a massive and historical spa in Central Maine to serve as a retreat for veterans and their families.


The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
While the building is currently in a state of disrepair, it is undergoing renovations to turn it into a prime resort for wounded warriors, other veterans, and their families. Screenshot: YouTube/CentralMaineCATV

The Maine Chance Lodge Retreat was originally built by cosmetics mogul Elizabeth Arden and served distinguished guests like former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Judy Garland, and Ava Gardner, according to The Travis Mills Foundation. Soon, it will serve veterans.

The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit founded by Retired Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills who began inspiring other wounded veterans while he was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after an IED strike amputated all four of his limbs. He and his foundation have continued to help wounded veterans ever since.

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Staff Sgt. Travis Mills discusses his foundation’s resort on a Maine television program. Screenshot: YouTube/CentralMaineCATV

Christine Toriello, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation, told the newspaper Central Maine that when renovations are complete, the resort will have smart home features like voice controls and automated systems to make it simple for disabled veterans to use during their stay.

Mills told the Kennebec Journal that one of the goals of founding the retreat is to help wounded veterans get outdoors. He told Central Maine Cable TV that recreational sports are an important activity he does with his own family, and he hopes that the retreat can give that experience to other veterans. In addition to the main house, the property includes 17 acres of Maine wilderness and horse stables.

Renovation plans call for a crafts room and areas for massage therapy, boating, and other water and adaptive sports, Toriello said. Once it is running at full capacity, the retreat is expected to host 30-45 people per week.

The foundation is raising funds through both a GoFundMe page and the foundation website. Businesses and volunteers have provided labor and materials to defray some of the costs, and an annual race in Maine, the SoPo MAINEiacs 5k, is donating proceeds from this year’s race.

Articles

8 steps to executing the perfect do-it-yourself move this PCS season

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(Photo courtesy of Penske)


At first glance, the Personally Procured Move (or PPM) Program (what used to be called DITY move) may seem to be more trouble than it’s worth. After all, you have to take care of your own moving arrangements and expenses, rather than letting the government do it for you. But if you do a little planning and put forth a bit of effort, doing a PPM offers several advantages over a normal military move, like these:

Money, Money, Money. In the PPM Program, you receive a government payment of 95 percent of what it would cost the government to move you. In addition, you receive the standard travel allowances for you and your family. If you end up spending less than the 95 percent payment the government provides, you get to keep the rest. This may sound difficult, but if you take advantage of moving company discounts and other special offers, you’ll find that you can make money for yourself. You should especially consider a PPM if you have a limited amount of items that need shipping or moving — you may be able to take care of all the packing and transport yourself.

Time, Time, Time. When you receive orders to move to another area, you’re authorized permissive TDY or travel time in order to take care of all your moving arrangements. If you make a PPM, you’ll receive additional time to handle your move — time that you can use to relax if you’re efficient about planning your move.

Total Control. While it’s nice to do without the headaches of planning a move, many military personnel had less-than-ideal experiences when the government took care of their moves. With the PPM program, you’re in control every step of the way, from deciding which moving services you want to how much of the actual move you want to handle yourself.

If you’re ready to take advantage of the PPM program make sure you follow each of the steps outlined below:

Step 1. Apply for the PPM move by scheduling an appointment with your base Personal Property Transportation Office (PTO).

A PTO representative will cover all factors of the program in detail, and provide you with all forms and instructions you need. Foremost among these is the DD Form 2278 (Application for Move and Counseling Checklist). Other forms you may need to fill out or provide include:

Standard Form 1038 — Advance of Funds Application and Account (for advanced operating allowance).

Certified empty weight ticket for each shipment with name, your Social Security number and signature of weight master.

Certified loaded weight ticket for each shipment with name, your Social Security number and signature of weight master.

Original DD Form 1351-2 — Travel Voucher or Subvoucher (ask your PTO representative if you have specific questions about this form)

Copy of registration for your boat(s) and/or trailer(s) if applicable.

Only after applying for and being authorized for a PPM move can you proceed with the move. If you make a partial PPM move (i.e., only shipping a certain amount of household goods), make sure you work out all the details with your PTO representative. Note that you will not receive full government payment for your PPM move until after your move.

Step 2. Decide on your type of move.

Will you be doing this all yourself? Will you have packers help? Will you have a moving company take care of the actual transport? Nail down these arrangements as soon as possible.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
(Photo: Military.com)

Step 3. Arrange for any rental equipment or moving services you need.

You can either do it all yourself, have a professional handle tasks, or some of both. Packing materials can be purchased from commercial suppliers.

Step 4. Confirm your insurance coverage.

Make sure you are up to date on your car and accident insurance. If you use a trailer, check your auto insurance policy to make sure you’re covered. State laws regarding liability for accidents during a PPM move vary, so if you’re involved in an accident while performing a PPM move, you should contact the legal office at the military installation nearest the accident site as soon as possible.

Step 5. Pick up your operating allowance from your local disbursing office.

Step 6. When your vehicle (whether you own it or are renting) is ready, calculate the total weight of what you are moving.

You should weigh your vehicle both fully loaded and unloaded. This is extremely important, as your PPM payment will be based on this weight ticket. To calculate the weight of your shipment, follow this formula:

Loaded Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + all of your property loaded + no drivers or passengers inside

Empty Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + no drivers or passengers inside

Loaded Weight – Empty Weight = Net Weight of Property

Each weight ticket should have the following information:

Name, grade, Social Security number

Name/location of scales

Vehicle/trailer identification

Date of weighing

Weigh Master’s signature

Legible of weights

Step 7. Get receipts for all moving expenses.

All costs associated with the move are not taxable, and will be deducted from the allowance you receive from the move to determine your actual financial profit. Only your profit will be taxed, so be sure to keep track of everything to maximize your profit. Authorized expenses include:

Payment for rental vehicles/trailers

Packing materials

Moving equipment (including hand trucks and dollies)

Gas and oil expenses

Highway tolls, weight tickets and any other transportation expense directly related to the PPM move

Step 8. Make your move, and submit your settlement.

Once you complete your actual move, you have 45 days to submit a claim for full payment of your PPM allowance. This should include the following:

Empty and loaded weight tickets (two copies of each)

DD Form 2278

PPM Move certification (attach all receipts for moving expenses)

PPM Move expense sheet

Change of Station Orders

Advance operating allowance paperwork (if you are renting a truck or trailer)

Vehicle/trailer rental contract (if you are renting a truck or trailer)

More specific details can be obtained from the Personal Property Transportation office at your installation. To get more PCS tips or information, visit Military.com’s PCS Moving Guide.

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The PAWS Act allows the VA to pay for service dogs for veterans with PTSD

Dogs are a man’s best friend. Even more so, dogs are a troop’s best friend. From Roman legionnaires, to WWII Marines, and modern EOD and Special Forces, dogs have served in the military for centuries. Our canine companions even serve troops after they leave service by providing therapy to veterans suffering from PTSD. The historic PAWS Act allows the VA to direct funding to provide these dogs to eligible veterans.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Conan, the special forces dog that helped capture and kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (DoD)

The aptly named Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members for Veterans Therapy Act was passed in the House in March, the Senate in early August, and signed into law on August 25, 2021. It authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create a service dog training pilot program. The program will train service dogs to aid veterans with PTSD.

“This has been a five-year battle to try and convince the federal government that what we do every day is valuable and helps veterans,” said Rory Diamond, CEO of the service dog charity, K9s for Warriors. “They’re finally agreeing and we’re getting a big breakthrough here.”

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Veterans can benefit greatly by having a trained service dog (American Kennel Club)

The five-year pilot program is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2022, with $10 million of funding. It is the first time in US history the VA will pay to provide service dogs to veterans. Previously, veterans seeking a service dog had to acquire one on their own or rely on private charities like K9s for Warriors. The program also allows eligible veterans to receive dog training from accredited 501(c)(3) organizations.

“We commend the White House for supporting this bill as a critical step in combating veteran suicide, and we’re confident in the path ahead for Service Dogs ultimately becoming a covered VA benefit to veterans with PTSD,” Diamond said in a K9s for Warriors release. “In communicating with veterans and their healthcare providers, it’s more imperative than ever to embrace the lifesaving impact of a Service Dog and to raise awareness for this treatment option as a proven method for mitigating debilitating symptoms of PTSD and suicidal ideations.”

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
(K9s for Warriors)

K9s for Warriors estimates that over 100,000 veterans could benefit from having a service dog to treat their PTSD. However, they are only able to provide a couple hundred a year. The pilot program created by the PAWS Act will provide even more veterans all across the country with service dogs and work to prevent veteran suicides.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
A golden retriever training to be a service dog (American Humane)

Feature Image: American Humane

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The top 15 military memes of 2015

2015 was a great year with a lot of hilarious military meme wars. Here are 15 of WATM’s favorite from the past year. Share your favorites on our Facebook page.


1. Because 2015 was the year of “F-ck ISIS.”

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
And nothing gets that point across as well as a giant flying pig that fires grenades and rockets while dropping bombs.

2. While American ground troops have seen little combat against Daesh, they have been getting ready.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Just wait till ISIS feels the full effects of Anti-Terrorism Level 1.

3. ISIS was making headlines, but most troops were still just trying to pass inspection:

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Those pants may be ready in time, but that sling is UNSAT.

4. 24-hour operations took their toll:

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie

5. Because someone needs to make the ground parade ready.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
They probably get a Combat Action Badge for hitting a mouse with a mower.

6. The Air Force is the chess club of the military.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
It may be the smartest, but no one is jealous.

7. Seriously LT, it’s for your own protection.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
And also our protection. You are definitely not ready for an AT-4.

8. How about, “All the shots, all the kills?”

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
We just need a little more ammo.

9. The worst way to find out your old unit wasn’t exactly “up-to-regs”:

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
You know the old unit is hastily burning all the evidence before the MPs show up to ask questions.

10. The 5.56mm flash bulb.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Lighting the way to victory, one trigger pull at a time.

11. Motorpool says it’s user-level maintenance.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
It’s not deadlined if the commander says to risk it.

12. Cross the mafia at your own risk.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Even the commanding general knows he can’t win without them.

13. The Army is a 9-5 job that starts at 0300.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
The armorer had to be there at 0115.

14. ‘Twas beauty that killed the beast.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
No really, she killed him. With a knife hand. Like, she literally chopped him up using the side of her hand. Marines are dangerous.

15. When chief has more years in service than most of the ships:

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie

See you in 2016!

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The ‘most hated units’ in the Army are some of the best

They’re the units that everyone wants to beat, that every commander wants to squash under their heel, and that most average Joes accuse of cheating at least once — the “Opposing Forces” units at military training centers.


The OPFOR units are comprised of active duty soldiers stationed at major training centers and are tasked with playing enemy combatants in training exercises for the units that rotate into their center. They spend years acting as the adversary in every modern training exercise their base can come up with.

 

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
American Army Pfc. Sean P. Stieren, a rifleman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), fires a mock Stinger missile launcher at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 19, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A), act as insurgent and conventional opposing forces during decisive action training environment exercises at JRTC. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

So while most units do a rotation at a major training center every couple of years, soldiers assigned to OPFOR units often conduct major training rotations every month. This results in their practicing the deployed lifestyle for weeks at a time about a dozen times per year.

Through all this training, they get good. Really good.

And since they typically conduct their missions at a single installation or, in rare cases, at a few training areas in a single region, they’re experts in their assigned battlespace.

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
A U.S. Army soldier with 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) fires blank rounds at soldiers from a rotational training unit during an exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 22, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A) role-play as multiple enemy forces including a near-peer military, insurgent cells and a crime family. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

 

All this adds up to units with lots of experience against the best units the military has to deploy — units that are at the cutting edge of new tactics, techniques, and procedures; units that have the home field advantage.

“The first time you fight against the OpFor is a daunting experience,” Maj. Jared Nichols, a battalion executive officer that rotated through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said during a 2016 training iteration. “You’re fighting an enemy that knows the terrain and knows how American forces fight, so they know how to fight against us and they do it very well.”

So yeah, despite typically fighting at a 2-to-1 or even a 3-to-1 disadvantage, OPFOR units often decimate their opponents.

 

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
An OPFOR Surrogate Vehicle from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, travels through the city of Dezashah en route to the objective, during NTC rotation 17-01, at the National Training Center, Oct. 7, 2016. The purpose of this phase of the rotation was to challenge the Greywolf Brigade’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense of an area while being engaged by conventional and hybrid threats. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

 

For the military, this arrangement is a win-win. First, rotational units cut their teeth against realistic, experienced, and determined opponents before they deploy. This tests and stresses deploying units — usually brigades — and allows them to see where their weak points are. Do their soldiers need a tool they don’t have? Are there leaders being over or under utilized? Does all the equipment work together as expected?

But the training units aren’t expected to get everything right.

“One of the largest challenges I face as the OPFOR battalion commander is conveying the message to the other nations that it’s OK to make a mistake,” Lt. Col. Mathew Archambault said during a 2016 training rotation. “When they come here it’s a training exercise, and I want them to take risks and try new things. I want them to maximize their training experience; it helps them learn and grow.”

 

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
A UH-72 Lakota helicopter from the OPFOR Platoon, NTC Aviation Company provides air support to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment ground forces during an engagement during rotation 16-08 at the National Training Center, Aug. 3, 2016. The Lakota aircraft participated in an exercise that challenged the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

But the military also gets a group of soldiers that, over a two or three-year tour of duty at a training center as opposing forces, have seen dozens of ways to conduct different missions. They’ve seen different tactics for resupplying maneuver forces in the field, different ways of hiding communications, different ways of feinting attacks. And, they know which tactics are successful and which don’t work in the field.

When it’s time for these soldiers to rotate to another unit, they take these lessons with them and share them with their new units.

Articles

11 things a military buddy would do that a civilian BFF probably won’t

Here’s a short list of things military buddies would do for each other that civilian friends probably won’t:


1. Check out a rash

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Blades of Glory, Dreamworks

2. Skip the pleasantries and get right to calling ‘bulls-t’

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Terminal Boots, YouTube

3. Tee up a minor issue just to get a rise

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Goodfellas, Warner Bros.

4. Have a buddy’s back, no questions asked

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Casino, Universal Pictures

5. Give a hand loading stuff that explodes

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley

6. Cuddle under a woobie to stay warm

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Photo by Paul Avallone

7. Not complain about a buddy’s weight

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Forrest Gump, Paramount Pictures

8. Go above and beyond, like this guy who volunteered to be a POW for his buddies

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Cpl. Tibor Rubin, Holocaust survivor and Prisoner of war hero. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rubin was credited with saving the lives of 40 prison mates by sneaking out of the camp every night and back in every morning, stealing food and medical supplies from his captors and local farms.

9. Jump on a grenade . . . a real one

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Cpl Kyle Carpenter receiving the Medal of Honor. Photo: The White House

… and do it again if required

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Photos: Wikipedia/Department of Defense

Jack H. Lucas jumped on a grenade twice to save his buddies and lived. He was also the youngest man to be awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.

10. Ignore the most agonizing pain

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Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe Photo: US Army

Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe pulled six other soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle while drenched in fuel and covered in flames.

11. Follow each other through the gates of hell.

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Benavidez was a close friend of Leroy Wright and felt that he owed his life to him from an earlier incident in which Wright saved him. His attempt to repay the deed by rescuing Wright led to the insane heroics that almost cost him his life, even Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe.

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Surreal photos of Marine night ops that look straight out of a video game

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie
Pfc. Sebastian Rodriguez, machine gunner, Weapons Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, fires an M240 machine gun during a night squad-attack exercise, here, May 22. MRF-D Marines used machine gunners, snipers and rifleman to suppress a simulated squad-sized enemy attack. | Photo by Sgt. Sarah Fiocco/U.S. Marine Corps


It’s no surprise that America’s Marines have some of the coolest gear in the world.

And that gear makes for some of the most amazing night photography imaginable. Below, we have selected some of our favorite photos of the Corps at night that look like they could have been plucked straight from a video game.

LAV-25 Light Armored Vehicles from Charlie Company fire on fixed targets as part of a combined arms engagement range during sustainment training in D’Arta Plage, Djibouti.

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Photo by Cpl. Jonathan R. Waldman/U.S. Marine Corps

An AV-8B Harrier with Marine Attack Squadron 311 lands on the USS Essex.

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Photo by Cpl. Garry J. Welch/U.S. Marine Corps

A Marine from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, provides cover fire during a platoon assault exercise at Arta Range, Djibouti.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas/U.S. Air Force

Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare to collect simulated enemy casualties and weapons during a mechanized raid at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia.

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Photo by Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera/U.S. Air Force

An MV-22 Osprey prepares for take off for night low-altitude training at Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Republic of the Philippines.

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Photo by 1st Lt. Jeanscott Dodd/U.S. Marine Corps

US Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One break down a rapid ground refueling during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) near 29 Palms, California.

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Photo by Sgt. Daniel D. Kujanpaa/U.S. Marine Corps

A Marine Special Operations Team member fires an AK-47 during night fire sustainment training in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

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Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/U.S. Marine Corps

An MV-22B Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron prepares to takeoff during flight operations aboard the USS Kearsarge.

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Photo by Cpl. Christopher Q. Stone/U.S. Marine Corps

Cpl. Rashawn Poitevien engages targets downrange with an M40A5 during the Talon Exercise at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona.

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Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher A. Mendoza/U.S. Marine Corps

A Marine Special Operations Team member fires a M240B machine gun during night fire sustainment training in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

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Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/U.S. Marine Corps

US Marines perform maintenance checks on an AH-1Z Viper aboard the USS Anchorage.

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Photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry/U.S. Marine Corps

 

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The insane military legacy of the Roosevelts

Everyone knows that the Roosevelt family held a political dynasty for decades; fielding two presidents of the United States and a first lady in 50 years is a pretty impressive record, and that’s without mentioning all the other jobs like assistant secretary of the Navy (Theodore and Franklin) and Governor of the State of New York (Franklin).


But the Roosevelts actually have a strong claim to a military dynasty as well with three Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, 11 Silver Stars, and a slew of other awards from the U.S., France, and Britain, all in 100 years.

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American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Three of the Roosevelt family’s Silver Stars were a result of actions in North Africa. (Dept. of Defense photo)

So, you know, awkward Christmases for the cousin who went into finance.

The Roosevelt military legacy dates back to the Revolutionary War when Henry Rutgers (a descendant of Elsie Roosevelt) and Nicholas Roosevelt served on the American side. But it really got steaming in the Civil War when two of Theodore Roosevelt’s uncles served the Confederate Navy.

While the Roosevelt family was based in New York, Theodore’s father had married Martha Bulloch, a Souther belle whose family had deep ties to what would become the Confederacy. When the war broke out, two of her brothers volunteered for service.

James and Irvine Bulloch became naval officers, and both brothers were involved in launching the CSS Alabama, one of the most feared Confederate commerce raiders in the war. James, by that point assigned to secretly buying ships for the Southern Navy from English shipyards, commissioned the ship and supervised its construction.

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Confederate officers aboard the CSS Alabama, 1863. (Photo: Public Domain)

But the Union State Department was working feverishly to get the future Confederate ships in England seized, so Irvine led a “sea trial” of the Alabama before stealing away with it to the Azores to receive its crew and weapons. Irvine would serve on the vessel for most of the war as a midshipman and is credited with firing the Alabama’s last shot before it was sunk at Cherbourg, France, in battle against the USS Kearsarge.

All of this had an effect on the brother’s nephew, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who, from the age of 5, was noted as having idolized the Bulloch side of the family and their sense of adventure. He loved his father, but is thought to have been deeply embarrassed about his father’s having purchased a substitute for his place in the Civil War.

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First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt, Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo: Public Domain)

One of Theodore’s cousins did distinguish himself in the war, though. First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor for recapturing his unit’s colors and capturing a Confederate color bearer at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

While young Theodore grew up with the New York side of the family and entered politics, those stories from his uncles were still rattling around his head when the U.S. entered the Spanish-American War.

Theodore resigned his position as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, “Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.” They participated in two major battles. The first was the Battle of Las Quasimas and the Battle of San Juan Heights where, on July 1, 1898, Theodore Jr. led multiple charges for which he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor in 2001.

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When the Lusitania was sunk and America finally entered World War I, Theodore Jr., a former president by that point, was turned down for service. But three of his sons were accepted into the U.S. Army and a fourth, Kermit, volunteered for service in the British army where he was accepted and rose to captain.

Capt. Quentin Roosevelt was the youngest of the four brothers and the only one who died in the conflict. He trained hard as a pilot, rose to squadron commander, and had one confirmed kill before being engaged by three enemy planes and killed during the Second Battle of the Marne. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

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Then-Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in the Nieuport trainer in France. (Photo: Public Domain courtesy of the Roosevelt family)

Theodore III, and Archibald Roosevelt were commissioned as a, Army major and lieutenant, respectively, and joined the 1st Infantry Division. Kermit accepted a commission as a captain in the British army.

Kermit was sent to the Middle East where he earned a British Military Cross for bravery after capturing Turkish soldiers in the Battle for Baghdad. Archibald received two Silver Stars and a Croix de Guerre, and Theodore received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Croix de Guerre, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, all awards for high valor. Theodore was gassed once and Archibald was crippled by shrapnel.

After America entered World War II, Theodore III returned to service as a colonel. He rejoined the 1st Infantry Division where he was joined by his youngest son, Capt. Quentin Roosevelt II. They were sent first to North Africa.

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A U.S. ship is destroyed during the Invasion of North Africa. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. Longini)

It was there that the men earned three Silver Stars. Quentin earned the first at the Battle of Kasserine Pass when he manned an artillery observation post under fire and used it to help hold back German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s attack until a Messerschmitt shot him through the back.

Theodore, a brigadier general by that point, then earned two more. His first World War II Silver Star came when he manned an observation post under attack from German dive bombers, fighter planes, and artillery. He earned his next Silver Star, his fourth overall, the next day when he led a reinforced combat team against enemy machine gun positions.

Quentin was sent to recover from his wounds but the men were reunited at D-Day when Quentin hit Omaha Beach and Theodore personally directed the 4th Infantry Divisions landings at Utah Beach, redrawing the division’s attack plans while under fire. He would later receive a Medal of Honor and recommendation for promotion to major general, but he died before he received either.

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U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt III talk in North Africa during the invasion in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Quentin II would receive the Croix de Guerre before the war ended.

Archibald, meanwhile, had received full disability after World War I but returned to the Army for World War II and once again received two Silver Stars and was wounded. According to Military Times’ Hall of Valor, that made him the only U.S. service member to receive full disability for two different wars.

Meanwhile, two sons of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and distant cousins to Theodore’s family also distinguished themselves in World War II. James R. Roosevelt received a “SPOT AWARD” of the Navy Cross for his leadership under fire with the Marines on Makin Island during a 1942 raid. A year later, he received a Silver Star as a lieutenant colonel for leading assaults to capture the same island.

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U.S. Marine Corps Raiders hit the island of Makin in World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

Navy Lt. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., received the Silver Star in 1943 for rendering aid and rescuing two men wounded by shrapnel during an air raid in Palerno, Sicily.

Finally, in 1955, Air Force Capt. Theodore S. Roosevelt, named for the president but descended from a separate line of the family, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1955 for successfully conducting an emergency landing in California after his C-124 loaded with 79 combat-equipped personnel lost two engines while flying over the Pacific, 300 miles from land.

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We did 20 pushups for the troops. Here’s the hilarious video to prove it.

The non-profit American Corporate Partners called out We Are The Mighty recently for the Give Them 20 campaign, and we happily obliged.


Give Them 20, a campaign launched on Memorial Day, is similar to last year’s “Ice Bucket Challenge,” only this time people are encouraged to shoot creative videos that feature them “giving 20” of an exercise, such as pushups, sit-ups, or pull-ups. It has already had considerable star power behind it, from celebrities like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and is meant as a way of raising awareness for veterans.

“More than 1 million veterans are in the process of returning home and 2 million veterans are already back,” ACP Chairman and Founder, Sid Goodfriend, said in a statement. “Let’s salute all of our service members this summer by giving them 20.”

Beyond just raising awareness, the campaign also encourages people to become mentors for veterans, hire them, or donate to the cause.

At We Are The Mighty in Los Angeles, our office is filled with military veterans from every branch. But we got called out and we figured we could do our part. As you’ll see, we had some fun in the process.

Now it’s Article 15 Clothing, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s turn.

Watch:

 

Check out the Give Them 20 website for many more videos (including cool celebrity ones)

NOW: 15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

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Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants are quickly moving to drum up outrage over a sharp spike in civilian casualties said to have been caused by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, posting photos online of a destroyed medical center and homes reduced to rubble. “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants,” the caption reads.


The propaganda points to the risk that rising death tolls and destruction could undermine the American-led campaign against the militants.

During the past two years of fighting to push back the Islamic State group, the U.S.-led coalition has faced little backlash over casualties, in part because civilian deaths have been seen as relatively low and there have been few cases of single strikes killing large numbers of people.

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A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In Iraq — even though sensitivities run deep over past American abuses of civilians — the country’s prime minister and many Iraqis support the U.S. role in fighting the militants.

But for the first time, anger over lives lost is becoming a significant issue as Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes wade into more densely populated districts of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters battle closer to the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

That has the potential to undercut victories against the militants and stoke resentments that play into their hands.

At least 300 civilians have been killed in the offensive against IS in the western half of Mosul since mid-February, according to the U.N. human rights office — including 140 killed in a single March 17 airstrike on a building. Dozens more are claimed to have been killed in another strike late March, according to Amnesty International, and by similar airstrikes in neighboring Syria since Trump took office.

In Syria, as fighting around Raqqa intensified, civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes rose to 198 in March — including 32 children and 31 women — compared to 56 in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents Syria’s war. Over the course of the air campaign, from September 2014 through February, an average of 30 civilians were killed a month, according to the Observatory.

The U.S. military is investigating what role the U.S. played in the March 17 airstrike in Mosul, and American and Iraqi officials have said militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted explosives in the building. The blast left an entire residential block flattened, reducing buildings to mangled concrete.

Among those who lost loved ones, resentment appears to be building toward the U.S.-led coalition and the ground forces it supports.

“How could they have used this much artillery on civilian locations?” asked Bashar Abdullah, a resident of the neighborhood known as New Mosul, who lost more than a dozen family members in the March 17 attack. “Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that’s why people didn’t leave their houses. They felt safe.”

U.S. officials have said they are investigating other claims of casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State group fighters have overtly used civilians as human shields, including firing from homes where people are sheltering or forcing people to move alongside them as they withdraw. The group has imposed a reign of terror across territories it holds in Syria and Iraq, taking women as sex slaves, decapitating or shooting suspected opponents, and destroying archaeological sites.

Mass graves are unearthed nearly every day in former IS territory.

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Photos recently posted online on militant websites showed the destruction at the Mosul Medical College with a caption describing the Americans as the “Mongols of the modern era” who kill and destroy under the pretext of liberation. A series of pictures showing destroyed homes carried the comment: “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants under the rubble of houses bombed by American warplanes to claim victory. Who would dare say this is a war crime?”

In Syria, IS and other extremist factions have pushed the line that the U.S. and Russia, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime, are equal in their disregard for civilian lives.

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Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)

U.S. “crimes are clear evidence of the ‘murderous friendship’ that America claims to have with the Syrian people, along with its claimed concern for their future and interests,” said the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida-led insurgent alliance.

Some Syrian opposition factions allied with the U.S. have also criticized the strikes, describing them as potential war crimes.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities “will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a purpose for the next phase of the Islamic State’s existence.”

Criticism has also come from Russian officials, whose military has been accused of killing civilians on a large scale in its air campaign in Syria, particularly during the offensive that recaptured eastern Aleppo from rebels late last year.

“I’m greatly surprised with such action of the U.S. military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren’t striking the designated targets,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, acknowledged the spike in civilian casualty reports could change the way the coalition is conducting the war. He said it was a “very valid” concern that loss of life and destruction could play into the hands of IS or cause some coalition members to waver.

“But the coalition is not going to back down when (the fight) gets hard or there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “That’s what ISIS wants.”

In Syria, the deadliest recent strike occurred earlier this month in a rebel-held area in the north. Opposition activists said a mosque was hit during evening prayers, killing around 40 people, mostly civilians, and wounding dozens of others. The U.S. said it struck an al-Qaida gathering across the street from the mosque, killing dozens of militants, adding they found no basis for reports that civilians were killed.

In Mosul, the scale of destruction wrought by increased artillery and airstrikes is immense in some areas.

Abdullah, the resident of New Mosul, buried 13 members of his family in a single day.

Standing in a field now being used as a graveyard, he said: “This was not a liberation. It was destruction.”

Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

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