The U.S. military has truly gone bonkers for unmanned aerial systems, with a vast inventory of surveillance drones alongside a few that are big enough to carry missiles for precision strikes.
But imagine if a UAS could observe a target for units on the ground, providing intel on a key terrorist leader or bomb making factory and be the bomb that takes them out.
That’s the kind of capability special operations units like the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are looking for, and a few companies displaying their wares at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo and this year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference are offering the technology to fit that mission.
Developed by Israeli defense firm UVision, the Hero-30 is a beyond line of sight unmanned aerial vehicle that packs into an 11 pound launch canister that can be carried onto battle on a trooper’s back. The drone is about 4 feet long and is launched by a pneumatic shot of air. Once airborne, a soldier flies the vehicle using a handheld control unit which allows him to orbit his target for up to 30 minutes.
Once the bad guy is in sight, the operator just flies the drone straight into its target for the kill. The Hero-30 warhead can be configured for point detonation or air burst while still in flight.
“It is lightweight for a special ops team or an infantry squad to be able to provide them with a precision munition they can fly themselves,” said Clinton Anderson with Mistral Inc., which represents UVision in the U.S. “You can designate how you want it to attack and how you want the fuse to operate and you launch it in attack mode and it comes in right on the target and blows up.”
UVision also has a new version dubbed the Hero-40 that’s a bit longer with greater range and explosive payload and is intended for vehicle-borne operations and missions.
One of the oldest companies in the small UAV business Aerovironment has a more scaled-down answer to the kamikaze drone requirement with its Switchblade miniature lethal aerial system.
Coming in at just under 5 pounds with its diminutive launcher, the Switchblade has a 10 km range and can loiter over a target for about 10 minutes. It’s so small the Switchblade can fit inside a typical tactical pack and delivers a lethal blast on target using a small, handheld ground control system.
“This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition,” the company says. “The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize and track even at very close range.”
Company officials say the U.S. Army is buying the Switchblade for testing with its infantry troops and special operations soldiers.
U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won the gold medal and set a new world record in the women’s SB7 100-meter breaststroke Saturday night at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“I had no idea [I was winning],” exclaimed Marks. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in, I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands, I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”
Marks served as a combat medic in Iraq and suffered serious injuries to her hip while deployed in 2010. Determined to stay in the Army and be declared fit for duty, she turned to swimming during her rehab in San Antonio.
She showed so much promise that she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2012, which allowed her to be declared fit for duty.
Marks fell into a coma in September 2014 after flying to London to compete in the Invictus Games. Doctors at Papworth Hospital put her on an external lung machine, saving her life.
She shocked everyone by returning to the pool less than a month after coming out of the coma and won gold at the World Military Swimming and Para-Swimming Open in February 2015 by defeating a field composed almost entirely of men.
Earlier this year, Marks won gold at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. She asked Prince Harry, founder of the organization that puts on the games, to personally award her the medal. After he presented it to her, she returned it to him and asked that he give it to the staff at Papworth Hospital.
In July, Marks was given the Pat Tillman Award, which honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Tillman.
Marks will also compete in the S8 100m backstroke on Sept. 13 and the SM8 200m individual medley on Sept. 17.
Watch our interview with Elizabeth Marks at the 2016 Pat Tillman Award ceremony:
The United States Air Force needs aggressor aircraft. There is no geopolitical adversary for the United States quite like Russia and its Soviet-built airplanes. American combat crews need to train against someone, and the best we can get comes in the form of MiG-29 fighters and Sukhoi-27 aircraft.
It doesn’t matter that the aircraft are from the 1970s, so is the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 fleet. American airmen need targets, and these are the most likely real-world ones.
In 2017, onlookers spotted an F-16 engaged in a life or death dogfight over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. with a Russian-built Su-27 Flanker aircraft. It’s highly unlikely an errant Russian fighter penetrated NORAD and began an attack on a specific base. The only logical explanation was that Nellis has a supply of Russian-built fighters for U.S. airmen to train against. It turns out, that is exactly what happened in the skies over Nevada that day. Make another notch in the win column for Occam’s Razor.
The United States Air Force has acquired and maintains a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft for airmen to fly against. Where they get the aircraft is anyone’s guess, but The National Interest reported it likely gets the most advanced fighters from Ukraine. Other fighters are on loan from private companies who acquired the Russian planes on their own. That’s another W for capitalism.
Anything is possible with enough money.
So even if the United States Air Force couldn’t afford to own and maintain its own supply of Russian aggressor aircraft, there are apparently a number of civilian contractors who have acquired them and are willing to loan those fighters out to the USAF. Among those come MiG-29s from a company called Air USA, MiG-21s and trainer aircraft from Draken International, and the two aforementioned Sukhoi-27 fighters from Pride International via Ukraine.
Let’s see the semi-Communist oligarchs in Moscow pull off acquiring an F-22 Raptor using their shady business dealings. But even if the United States couldn’t fight real Russian fighters, American pilots could still get excellent training.
The emperor has new clothes.
If you’re not sure what’s happening in the photo above, that’s an F-16 Fighting Falcon all dressed up as a Sukhoi-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter. While the F-16 may not have stealth and definitely isn’t a fifth-gen fighter, it still gives U.S. airmen training on what to look for while engaging a Russian in the skies. The paint job is used by the Russians to make the Su-57 look like a different, smaller aircraft from a distance. Acquiring real enemy aircraft and training under the conditions closest to combat will give American pilots the edge they need.
That is, if they ever need that edge against the Russians.
But there were other heroic deeds during the attack.
According to the 9/11 Commission report, when word reached North American Aerospace Command, also known as NORAD, of the first hijacking, two F-15 Eagles from the Massachusetts Air National Guard were scrambled to try to intercept the planes. They took off just as Flight 11 hit the North Tower – WTC 1 – at 8:53 AM on that Tuesday morning.
NORAD had last dealt with a hijacking in 1993. One thing that worked against NORAD during that terrible day was the fact that that there were very few sites from which interceptors could launch.
During the Cold War, the 9/11 Commission Report noted, there had been 26 sites.
Other military jets — F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Virginia, and F-16s from the District of Colombia Air National Guard based at Andrews Air Force Base — had also scrambled. Pilots from the latter unit were armed only with dummy rounds for their M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon.
The F-15 pilots, according to the commission report, didn’t even know they were looking for hijacked airliners. The lead pilot would later be quoted in the report as saying, “I reverted to the Russian threat. …I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea.”
It as a credit to NORAD, that even though they were unable to keep the airliners from hitting targets, military personnel were able to face an unprecedented threat and challenge with an improvised air-defense system cobbled together in a matter of hours, despite having never trained to face that threat.
On the first day of what one unidentified officer called “a new type of war,” they reacted with skill and professionalism.
For the last several years, the world’s most powerful militaries have been hard at work developing the next generation of long-range missile technology.
The main objective is to reach farther, faster.
That’s prompted weapons designers to push the boundaries of physics and hit speeds in the “hypersonic” realm, which is typically considered atmospheric travel faster than Mach 5
Imagine a missile fired from the Chinese mainland that could strike anywhere in the South China Sea in 20 minutes. That could be a massive game changer for such a turbulent region, many strategists believe.
The most promising Chinese hypersonic vehicle was successfully tested as recently as April. Beijing’s “Dong Feng” DF-41 ICBM carried two nuclear-capable warheads from the mainland into the South China Sea. To underline the tension in the South China’s Sea, Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami noted that this was the first time China tested its weaponry in the area.
The DF-41 booster rocket has a reported maximum operational range of 9,300 kilometers – not only covering the South China Sea, but also the mainland United States. It also has the ability to launch the hypersonic DF-ZF glide vehicle, which can reach speeds of 7,000 miles per hour – the speed of sound is just 768 mph.
2. Tactical Boost Glide Aircraft – United States
DARPA is developing technology similar to the Chinese DF-ZF they say is, “an air-launched, tactical-range hypersonic boost-glide system.” An ICBM boosts the glider to hypersonic speeds, then it separates from the rocket and coasts unpowered to its target. The project became known as the Falcon project — a test bed for projects that will enable the U.S. to hit any target in the world within one hour using unmanned hypersonic bombers.
The Falcon HTV-2’s top speed of Mach 20 would allow the United States to strike a target in Syria from the American East Coast in around 27 minutes, analysts say.
3. BrahMos II Missile – Russia and India
The BrahMos II is a cruise missile in joint development between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. The BrahMos II is expected to have a range of about 180 miles and a top speed of Mach 7. During the cruise stage, the missile will be propelled by an air-breathing scramjet engine using a classified fuel formula to help sustain its top speed.
As of March the BrahMos II has been undergoing tests in Russia. Military planners say it is intended as a conventional missile without a nuclear payload and is expected to be aboard Russian ships as early as 2019.
4. X-51 Waverider – United States
Jointly developed by Boeing and the Air Force, the X-51 WaveRider project is another research vehicle designed to test technology for the so-called “High-Speed Strike Weapon,” which is intended to be in military service by 2020.
Unlike the Falcon HTV-2, the HSSW is intended to cruise at only Mach 5, have a maximum range of 600 nautical miles, and be launched by F-35 or B-2 aircraft.
Writing for the National Interest, Harry J. Kazianis wrote that the missiles are likely already deployed around China, and have been since at least 2010. As for their ability to knock out an aircraft carrier, Kazianis quoted defense expert Roger Cliff, who remarked that while the U.S. Navy has never had to defend itself against such a weapon, China has no experience using one, either.
Haig Prieste was born in 1896 in Fresno, California. His parents were Armenian immigrants who gave up their original surname of Keshishian. Prieste changed his birth name, a traditional Armenian name, to Harry and later Hal.
Upon America’s entry into WWI, Prieste joined the Navy. It was during his service that he discovered his natural ability for swimming and diving. A shipmate reportedly teased Prieste that he should try out for the Olympics. So… he did.
After he left the Navy, Prieste attended the Olympic tryouts in Alameda, California. There, he came first in diving, beating out national champion Clyde Swendsen. From there, Prieste went to New York to prepare for the Olympics.
At the 1920 Antwerp games, Prieste was part of the U.S. diving team. After three compulsory dives at 16 feet, Prieste was in last place. However, things changed with the 32-foot dive.
“They let you do whatever you wanted. You could get more points by doing harder dives,” Prieste recalled. “I did the hardest because I wanted to get the most points.” With this, Prieste came back from last place and took home a bronze medal for the USA.
Prieste became good friends with surf legend and fellow Olympic medal winner Duke Kahanamoku. The Hawaiian swimmer dared Prieste to steal the Olympic flag before they left the games. Not one to back down from a challenge, Prieste took the dare. Near the end of the games, he climbed the 15-foot flagpole and retrieved the Irish linen flag. Along with his medal, Prieste brought the flag home with him to Los Angeles.
It wasn’t until 1997 that the stolen flag resurfaced. That year, the U.S. Olympic Committee hosted a banquet which Prieste attended. A reporter brought up the missing flag and wondered where it had been for nearly 80 years. “I can help you with that,” Prieste told the reporter. “It’s in my suitcase.” Prieste did not realize the importance of the 1920 flag, the first to bear the now iconic five Olympic rings.
In fact, he would often show it to his guests as a souvenir of his Olympic experience and a great story with the Duke. “I had it a long time,” Prieste said. “A lot of my friends have seen it. You can’t be selfish about these things. It’s no good to me. I can’t hang it in my room. People will think more of me by giving it away than by keeping it.” And that’s exactly what he did.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Prieste returned the flag to the International Olympic Committee. In return, the IOC honored Prieste, the oldest living Olympic medalist at the time, with a commemorative Olympic medal. Today, Prieste’s flag is on display at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Prieste passed away the next year at the age of 104. He is the first known Olympian whose lifespan covered three centuries from 1896 to 2001.
On August 23, 1939, German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov signed a non-aggression pact between their two countries. Contained within the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, was a secret protocol for the division of Poland and the Baltic states between German and Soviet “spheres of influence.”
Just eight days later, German operatives disguised as Polish saboteurs carried out a false flag operation against at German radio station at Gleiwitz. On September 1, without a formal declaration of war, German forces invaded Poland in an operation that many historians agree was the opening battle of World War II in Europe.
Polish planning did not anticipate an attack from Germany before 1942, so the Poles were still building up and modernizing their military. Without much of a defense, Warsaw relied on its British and French allies for protection in the event of an attack.
The audacity of the Nazi invasion caught everyone by surprise, and the Poles were left to fight the Germans with anything they had at hand – including World War I-era horse cavalry.
Despite the dawn of the mechanized era of warfare, the Polish army included horse-mounted cavalry based largely on its experience during the Polish-Soviet war, where it decimated Soviet lines at the Battle of Komarów. But as technology advanced, the Poles learned that cavalry could be used as mounted infantry armed with the latest weapons and able to quickly move within the battlespace. To this end, Polish cavalry carried machine guns and anti-tank rifles but still retained their sabers on the chance that they might be useful in a typical cavalry fight.
On the first day of the Nazi invasion — 77 years ago today — the Polish cavalry met the Germans at the battle of Tuchola Forest. The Germans caught the Polish army off guard and were advancing quickly through what defenses Poland could muster. In an effort to save the main Polish force, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans – a cavalry unit – were deployed to cover the retreat.
At the Tuchola Forest, the Polish cavalry spotted German infantry in a clearing. Polish commander Col. Mastalerz ordered a charge in hopes of taking the Nazis by surprise and dispersing the German unit. He ordered the 1st squadron commander, Eugeniusz Świeściak, to lead two squadrons in the charge.
Wielding modern weaponry along with their sabers, the cavalrymen surprised the Nazis and were soon in close combat. The Germans were quickly overwhelmed.
The Polish victory was short-lived. As the German infantry retreated, armored cars mounted with machine guns appeared from the woods and opened fire on the Uhlans. Caught in the open with no time to deploy their heavy weapons, the cavalrymen rushed for cover. Świeściak was killed and Mastalerz later fell to the German guns trying to rescue his comrade.
Despite suffering numerous casualties, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans completed their mission and stalled the German advance in their sector. This allowed other Polish units to fall back to a secondary defensive line. The Uhlans’ cavalry charge on horseback would be one of the last cavalry charges in history.
When reporters surveyed the battlefield the next day, they saw numerous dead horses and cavalrymen — with their sabers — and German armor still nearby. This led one Italian journalist to the incorrect conclusion that the Poles had charged German tanks with nothing but swords and lances. German propaganda quickly took this version of the story and used it as a means to convey the superiority of the German army and its technology.
The myth was then perpetuated further by the Soviets after the war to show the ineptitude of Polish commanders. The myth continued long after the war, with some Poles even retelling it as a story of the gallantry of the Polish military.
Ultimately, the 18th Pomeranian Uhlans would only hold out for three more days before ceasing to exist as a fighting unit. Poland would continue to resist, though once the USSR joined the Nazi operation on September 17 to claim their portion of the country, it was all but over. Most Polish resistance was finished by the end of the month, but a brave few held out until October 6 before finally surrendering.
Many other units, as well as the Polish government, managed to escape the Nazis and take up the fight from abroad in other Allied nations. Polish troops would later return to help liberate Europe, taking part in such famous battles as Operation Market-Garden. Unfortunately, Poland would never regain most of the territory seized by the Soviet Union during 1939, greatly reducing the land area of Poland to this day.
The Bradley Fighting Vehicle has been around for a long time. It’s become a mainstay of the United States Army, although it hasn’t had quite as much export success as the M1 Abrams. Still, the Bradley is much beloved by the military community.
In the early 80s, however, when the Bradley was a spry, new armored fighting vehicle, it had more than its fair share of critics.
By now, many of us are very familiar with this vehicle. There’s the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and the M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CFV). Both systems come with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun, an M240 7.62mm machine gun, and the ability to launch the BGM-71 TOW missile.
These two M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting vehicles combined for 3,000 rounds of 25mm ammo, 24 TOW missiles, and four cavalry scouts.
(US Army photo by SGT Randall M. Yackiel)
The big difference between the IFV and the CFV is how much ammo they carry. The M2 Bradley IFV carries 900 rounds for the Bushmaster and a total of seven TOW missiles. The M3, however, carries 1,500 rounds for the chain gun and 12 TOWs. The trade-off here is in the number of grunts each vehicle can carry in addition to its three-man crew. The IFV carries up to eight additional troops while the CFV has room for two cavalry scouts.
Despite its impressive firepower, in the 1980s, the Bradley got trashed in the media. US News and World Report listed it among the “worst weapons” in the American arsenal. Others pronounced the Bradley as a coffin, “ready to burn.” Many wanted the Army to stick with the simple M113. Now, the M113 wasn’t a bad vehicle, but it lacked firepower.
The latest Bradley IFVs feature many improvements, but still pack a 25mm Bushmaster and the TOW missile.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Johancharles Van Boers)
As we all know, Desert Storm proved the Bradley had the stuff for the troops. It performed well, which quieted critics and, since then, it’s seen a number of improvements. Despite these upgrades, however, the Army has plans for a replacement.
But before the Army introduces a new vehicle, check out how the Bradley was introduced to the United States and our troops in the video below!
Enlisted airmen could be piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the Air Force’s biggest drone aircraft, before the year is out, according to a senior Air Force official.
Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Lt. Gen. John Raymond told lawmakers on Tuesday that “starting in the end of FY ’16 or FY ’17 we’re going to begin the transition to enlisted RPA pilots for Global Hawk aircraft.”
That means the first enlisted airmen to pilot the high-altitude surveillance drone made by Northrop Grumman Corp. could be in place before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
Raymond offered his remarks during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, which is headed by Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the move toward enlisted Global Hawk pilots just three months ago. They will fly the remotely piloted aircraft under the supervision of rated officers, she said.
Under questioning Tuesday by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Raymond confirmed that only the RQ-4 would be piloted by enlisted personnel — at least for now.
“I grew up in Space Operations,” Raymond said. “Years ago we started out with engineer officers who flew the satellites, then went to operator officers — you didn’t have to have an engineering degree — and then we transitioned to enlisted operators.
“We’re taking a very deliberate approach to this,” he added. “We’re going to start with the Global Hawk. We’re very comfortable our enlisted airmen are going to be able to do that [mission].”
The Air Force then will look at the possibility of having enlisted airmen fly the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, which carry out strike in addition to surveillance missions, Raymond said.
McCain, noting the Air Force has a shortage of rated officers, asked whether it would not have been better to start off using enlisted personnel.
“I wasn’t in this position or this job at the time, but it’s where we are,” Raymond said. “I think it was important that we have a capability. It was a technology demonstrator with significant growth and I think using the pilots we had to do that was a smart move at that time.”
Combat aviators are conducting operational tests of Army modernization efforts using three UH-60V Black Hawk helicopters.
The UH-60V Black Hawk will retrofit the Army’s remaining UH-60L helicopter fleet’s analog cockpits with a digital cockpit, similar to the UH-60M helicopter.
Retrofitting aircraft that are already owned by the Army is a major cost saving measure over purchasing new builds, according to Mr. Derek Muller, UH-60V IOT Test Officer, with the West Fort Hood, Texas-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate.
Muller and his test team worked with aircrews from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade by applying realistic operational missions, post-mission surveys and after action reviews along with onboard video and audio instrumentation to collect data directly from crewmembers.
Instrumentation installed by Redstone Test Center (RTC), Alabama provided audio, video and position data for test team to review after each mission.
“The OTC/RTC partnership has been paramount to the successful testing and evaluation of the UH-60V,” said Muller.
“The data collected during the test will support an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center,” he added.
Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
The evaluation will inform a full-rate production decision from the Utility Helicopter Program Office at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
Aircrews flew over 120 hours under realistic battlefield conditions.
They conducted air movement, air assault, external load and casualty evacuation missions under day, night, night-vision goggle, and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight.
“Anti-aircraft weapon simulation emitters are a valuable training enabler and reinforce much of the Air Mission Survivability training assault aircrews have received with respect to operations in a threat environment,” said Capt. Scott Amarucci, A Co. 2-158 Company Commander.
“This approach permitted evaluators from the U.S. Army Evaluation Center to see and hear how a unit equipped with the UH-60V performed operational missions against a validated threat in a representative combat environment,” said Muller.
“The operational environment designed by USAOTC and 16th CAB helped evaluators accurately assess the company’s ability to complete doctrinal missions, when equipped with the UH-60V,” said Mr. Brian Apgar, Plans Deputy Division Chief of USAOTC AVTD.
Aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade staged at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepare the cockpit and conduct final pre-mission checks for a nighttime air assault mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
The U.S. Army Center for Countermeasures employed three types of threat simulations to stimulate the aircraft’s survivability equipment and trigger pilot actions using the updated cockpit capabilities.
“The three independent threat simulation systems enhanced the quality of the test and enriched the combat-like environment,” said Muller.
“2-158th aircrews reacted to threat systems they rarely have the opportunity to encounter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, Test Operations Officer in Charge, USAOTC AVTD.
“Using Blue Force Tracking, the test operations cell and Battalion Operations Center tracked and communicated with crews during missions,” he said.
“Each day I hear feedback from the crews about the testing,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Clyde, 2-158 BN Commander. “Each Soldier I talk to is glad to place a fingerprint on a future Army Aviation program.”
Aircrews executed their Mission Essential Task Lists using the UH-60V conducting realistic missions against accredited threat systems.
“The UH-60V training has allowed excellent opportunities to train important tasks which enable our proficiency as assault aviation professionals,” added Amarucci.
In this photo clip of a 360-degree-view, aircrews from 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and support personnel from 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct sling load operations at Gray Army Airfield, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during a logistics resupply mission during operational tests of Army modernization efforts with a new digital cockpit in the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter.
(US Army photo by Mr. Tad Browning)
Testing at A Co.’s home station allowed the application of key expertise and resources, provided by the test team, while flying in its routine training environment.
New equipment collective training and operational testing caused A Co. to focus on several critical areas, including mission planning, secure communications, aircraft survivability equipment, and internal/external load operations, improving its overall mission readiness while meeting operational test requirements, according to Muller.
“Moreover,” Muller said, “the test’s rigorous operational tempo provided an ideal opportunity for 2-158th Aviation Regiment to exercise key army battle command systems including, but not limited to, Blue Force Tracker (BFT), secure tactical communications, and mission planning.”
Ground crews from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) prepared and hooked up sling loads during 18 missions, allowing pilots to see how the UH-60V cockpit displays provided situational awareness while carrying an external load.
“Static load and external load training not only improved unit readiness, but fostered safe operations during day and night missions throughout the test,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Keefer, AVTD’s Test Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge.
Future operational testing will ensure soldiers continue to have a voice in the acquisition process, guaranteeing a quality product prior to fielding.
Through the use of insults, strict discipline, sleep deprivation, and controlled explosions, Army drill sergeants turn recent high school grads and civilians looking for a new job into trained soldiers ready to serve in America’s wars. This transition is, of course, painful — by design.
Here are 11 things trainees will complain about before learning to suck it up as an Army soldier:
“I’m tired. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”
New U.S. Army soldiers are expected to operate on little sleep. While in the barracks, recruits’ sleep is regularly interrupted by drill sergeants conducting inspections, punishing infractions, getting head counts, or waking soldiers for the heck of it. The party continues in the field where soldiers sleep in bags instead of beds.
“This food is terrible.”
Military food is rarely praised, and basic training food is even worse. Eating periods are very short and are supervised by drill sergeants who pounce onto soldiers who reach for fattening or sugary foods.
“You mean I have to pay for this terrible haircut?”
Soldiers get their heads buzzed, run in tennis shoes, and shave every day — but what most people don’t know is the trainees foot these bills. The shoes, haircuts, toothpaste, and other gear and services are all paid for by the trainees through Eagle Cash cards, a sort of military prepaid debit card. Most of these costs are defrayed by a uniform allowance that soldiers receive once a year, but the surprise bills still create complaints.
“There’s ugly, then there’s Army Ugly. We are all Army Ugly.”
No matter how handsome you are, it’s hard to rock the haircuts, glasses, and tan lines the Army gives you. Males have to have their heads buzzed. All soldiers requiring corrective lenses are issued basic training glasses, generally referred to as “birth control glasses.” And, after months in the sun in physical training uniforms, combat uniforms, and berets, graduating soldiers have deep tan lines around their wrists and across their foreheads.
“They yell at us all day, and one keeps calling us crack pipes.”
It doesn’t matter who the recruit is, even if they’re famous or the child of a general, they’re getting yelled at in basic training. (Stephen Colbert didn’t even enlist and he caught the sharp edge of the drill sergeants.) Many recruits find themselves shocked at the sheer amount of verbal abuse as well as the language used. The language might be toned down, but the volume never will be.
“Why do we have to take the mask off? Isn’t the point to learn how to use the mask?”
Though they will brag about these experiences later, all recruits have a training event they’re dreading during basic. Maybe it’s the CS gas chamber where they’re forced to remove their gas masks and breath deeply. Some complain about the night infiltration course where they must crawl across the ground while machine guns are fired over their heads and artillery simulators are thrown nearby. Most complain about the “smokings,” physical training sessions spread throughout the day to help new soldiers quickly build strength and endurance.
“Even on overnight guard, I can’t be alone.”
They march as a group, eat as a group, sleep as a group, shower as a group. They go to the bathroom in, at a minimum, two-man teams. Recruits have no privacy for the nine weeks or more of training. Soldiers who go through one station unit training, a combined basic training and job school mostly used for combat soldiers, will endure this for even longer. This can be a source of a lot of complaints, especially if a soldier is paired with another recruit they don’t like.
“Oh, that guy’s a blue falcon. We couldn’t stand him.”
The other recruits, especially the “blue falcons,” soldiers who screw over their peers by tattling or just being a moron, can be a major source of stress for new soldiers. When one basic trainee screws up, that means the whole platoon or whole company is screwed up, and everyone suffers equally. Bad hospital corners on one bed? Grab some real estate, soldier; you’re doing pushups until sweat fogs the windows. Adding to the atmosphere is that, after the punishments, all the trainees are still stuck in the same bay together, still sleeping four feet away from each other, still crapping in battle buddy pairs. And they remember which ones ratted them out.
“We can’t walk on that grass. That grass is only for the drill sergeant.”
Recruits are issued a handbook with pages and pages of arbitrary rules during reception week, before they even make it to basic training — rules like, “All towels must be folded in thirds, not halves, and the open sides must face towards the south side of the building.”
“We had to run everywhere, even when we were early.”
Soldiers are ordered to sprint between training stations, even if they can see the long line from a hundred feet away. Trainees run to the back of the line, then wait until the line moves. The experience and frustration defines “Hurry up and wait” — a military maxim.
“I wore pants with buttons for so long, zipping my jeans felt weird.”
For nine or more weeks, they’ve worn only what they were told to wear, only sat in chairs if given express permission, ate what they were given when they were given it. After graduation, they find take out menus and weigh the merits of thai versus pizza for dinner. They debate whether to watch a DVD or play a football game after the training day ends. They get their cell phones back and wonder whether they should call their mother or their girlfriend first. (They generally call their significant other first. Sorry, mom.)
The Industrial Revolution, which spanned over the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, was a pivotal period in history. It brought Europe and the United States into modern times. It is defined by its technological advancements, which revolutionized the means of industrial production and had a deep and long-lasting impact on the demography of the countries it touched.
The faster and more economical production processes led to lower prices, which meant more widespread access to commodities that were previously considered a luxury. The technological discoveries also encouraged the thirst for new knowledge, leading to groundbreaking innovations such as the lightbulb, the telephone, and the X-ray. The wave of discovery also spread to medicine and hygiene, which in turn led to improved health and quality of life, leading to a sharp rise in the population during that period.
The Industrial Revolution also introduced a major shift in energy consumption. Steam power quickly became the main source of power used by machinery or even for the production of electricity. Although it was first produced by burning wood, that resource was eventually replaced by coal.
America controlled energy
The American coal industry became a major player in the Industrial Revolution. It went on to shape the face of the USA in the most profound ways. Until the 18th century, the production of coal in Europe and the USA was marginal. It was a source of power only the wealthy could afford. But with the development of technology and industry, coal quickly became the primary material used to power up industries throughout the two continents. Thanks to the expansion of the iron, steel, and textile industries, the demand for coal rose sharply to fuel steam engines. Coal was also used to power up steamships and steam trains, leading to the development of the transportation system. Coal powered up the machines and allowed them to transport even greater quantities of coal through regions that were previously difficult to service.
The development of the various industries and the transport system caused a sharp increase in the need for manpower, leading to the creation of many factory, mining, and construction jobs, and a burgeoning blue-collar class. It led to a massive demographic exodus that saw a mostly rural population migrate towards the cities, where jobs were widely available, as well as the rise of wage labor.
The working conditions for miners were extremely difficult. The lowering of production costs and the increase in distribution should have led to an improvement in these conditions, but mine owners refused to follow the general trend. The numerous strikes led by coal miners led to discontent in the population. The country had grown completely dependent on coal. In turn, those worries led to reforms in the working laws that still have an impact to this day. President Roosevelt‘s interventionist attitude in the American economy was partially inspired by the coal miners’ plight. Thus, the coal industry helped to shape both the bureaucratic corporation that came for profit-bent owners and the progressive reforms that stemmed from the wish for humane treatment of the American workforce.
Yankee coal won the war
Another major impact of the coal industry was felt during the Civil War. At that time, most of the coal production was located in the north of the country. In fact, the North was producing 38 times more coal than the South. It gave the Union’s war industries such as iron, steel, and weapons. It was a massive advantage over the Confederacy, eventually leading to the Union’s victory.
Despite the environmental and humane controversy stirred by the coal industry, its lasting impact on Europe and the USA is undeniable. The smoke of the coal-powered factories has been the mark of a century that brought about a worldwide transformation so deep that it clearly defined a “before” and an “after.” The coal industry played an important role in shaping the western world as we know it.
Last year, the world began waging a war against a new enemy: COVID-19. As the threat emerged and casualties mounted, the year 2020 brought changes in the way people conduct business, accomplish personal tasks, pursue education, and celebrate milestones. The pandemic also highlighted the mandate for a different type of leader: one who shares information transparently while taking appropriate measures to mitigate risk and – crucially – recognizing the importance of a more personal and human approach to communication.
Captain David Baird, USN, Commanding Officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, has been that leader. Baird and his leadership team developed and executed a plan to keep members of the NAVSTA Rota community safe, healthy and mission-ready. A central tenet of that plan was, in Baird’s words, “calm, compassionate, clear and factual communication.”
His strategy has been successful.
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases within the NAVSTA Rota community has remained low and relatively isolated. Meanwhile, the atmosphere on the base has been calm, and compliance with recommended public health measures has been high. Baird’s success navigating a public health crisis while fighting this new enemy, Covid-19, is a case study in effective leadership.
Preparing to Battle a New Kind of Threat
As COVID-19 ravaged Spain in Spring 2020, the NAVSTA Rota community remained focused on its mission. With cases rising sharply throughout the country, Baird and his leadership team were closely monitoring the spread of the virus and had taken measures to prepare for what might come.
By the end of March 2020, Spain was under a state of emergency, with all non-essential businesses closed and non-essential workers under a stay-at-home order. NAVSTA Rota had switched to a “minimum manning posture,” many base facilities were closed, and base schools had transitioned to remote learning. By early April, face coverings were required in all buildings.
Implementing these drastic operational changes was a massive undertaking, but an equally difficult challenge was less straightforward: successfully leading the NAVSTA Rota community through the pandemic. It was a tall order at a time when uncertainty about the virus warranted panic and fear, and face-to-face interaction had suddenly become extremely limited. Fortunately, Baird was able to draw on his combat and risk management experience to devise a strategy that all would embrace and that would keep everyone safe and informed, while also allowing his command to accomplish its mission.
Developing a Communication Strategy
Early in the pandemic, one of Baird’s first orders of business was figuring out how to communicate with the entire NAVSTA Rota community to keep everyone informed and avoid panic. With limited information, people were understandably anxious and feared for the safety of loved ones, both locally and back in the US.
Baird harkened back to advice a mentor once gave him: Rather than treating others the way you want to be treated, “treat them the way you want your children or your parents to be treated.” Baird added, “The parent part was so important, because many of us were worried about elderly parents, [who are] at a higher risk.” Baird summarized the advice another way: “View others in the way you view the people you care about the most.”
With that axiom as a backdrop to his communication philosophy, Baird was keenly aware of the importance of transparently sharing credible, accurate information. However, he recognized that “there is no such thing as perfect communication.” Rather, it’s an ongoing process of constant improvement and an effort to “connect with [people] in a meaningful way.”
All of this was the foundation for the communication plan that he and his leadership team devised. With in-person gatherings not an option, they had to find alternate ways to reach members of the NAVSTA Rota community. Baird and his public affairs officer (PAO) decided they would “use every other means available,” including social media and AFN Rota radio to share information, answer questions, and keep the community informed in real time.
Communication without face-to-face interaction
In developing the communication strategy, Baird recalled his conversation, many years earlier, with the PAO at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan regarding the 2011 Fukushima disaster and how the command had communicated about the evacuation of dependents. Answering questions and sharing information ‘round the clock via Facebook proved to be the most effective communication tactic.
Baird explains, “people crave every piece of information they can get. If information is not provided by an official source, they’re going to find an unofficial source that probably isn’t as credible.” He and his team determined that communication via Facebook would work well in the face of this new crisis, and he began publishing frequent updates on the Naval Station Rota Facebook page.
Initially, the updates consisted primarily of data on the spread of COVID in the Andalusia region of Spain, but in late March 2020, Baird began taking a new approach. As members of the Rota community were suddenly confined to their homes and severely restricted from daily activities, sharing numbers wasn’t enough. He wanted to put the information into perspective and help them truly understand what it all meant.
He explained, “I started telling stories using some of my life experiences to help figure out: How can we frame our current situation, and what does the future look like?”
Baird talked about everything from personal courage, to fear, to his experiences training for an Ironman triathlon and as a member of the rowing team at the United States Naval Academy. Each update was focused on helping the NAVSTA Rota community understand the current situation and where it was all headed, while keeping everyone motivated. The updates were honest, personal, and empathetic, and they quickly resonated with the community. Readers commented on the posts, thanking Baird for his candor, positivity, and leadership.
In response to one of Baird’s early “story-telling” updates, a member of the Rota community commented, “NAVSTA Rota is exemplifying true leadership right now. Capt. Baird, you are setting the standard for military leadership through this experience and I hope other commanders follow your example.”
A hallmark of Baird’s updates is transparency. He has been careful to share what his leadership team knew – and what they didn’t know – at all times: “Acknowledging there are a lot of things that we don’t know is important to establish credibility and maintain credibility about the things that [we] are stating as fact.”
He also explained the “why” for each new constraint on daily activities: “Every restriction we put into place was grounded in some sort of data.” His explanations, along with his acknowledgement of how difficult and frustrating the restrictions could be, made the news more palatable to the NAVSTA Rota community.
As one Facebook follower commented, “We know this is a super challenging situation and one that none of us planned on or wanted to be in, especially while living abroad. But we truly do appreciate your transparency and communication, and we commend you for how leadership has handled this difficult time here.”
The constant COVID-related communications through Facebook, town hall meetings and on AFN Rota – more than 300 since the start of the pandemic – prompted more than 10,000 comments and questions from the NAVSTA Rota community; a clear indication that members have been engaged and paying attention.
The global military community takes notice
Current members of the NAVSTA Rota community weren’t the only audience for Baird’s Facebook updates. Among the thousands of people following along were family and friends of service members stationed in Rota, retired service members, and those who served at NAVSTA Rota in the past. Baird’s leadership has meant a lot to them.
One parent wrote, “My daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter are currently stationed on your base during this crazy event. I’m extremely pleased with the way NSR is keeping everyone posted on the current issues in and around the base and country.”
Another parent simply said, “Our son and family are with you. Glad you are in Command.”
In response to one of Baird’s very candid updates about the need for all members of the NAVSTA Rota community to keep their guard up, a Navy retiree had this to say:
“As a sailor who once served in Rota, ultimately retiring from the US Navy, I have seen and read many memos of consequence. Your writing and eloquence in communicating the current issues on healthcare and the pandemic are simply outstanding. I have not, as a healthcare professional, seen better than what you transmit. If more leaders did what you do, we would all be in a better place pandemic-wise.”
The path forward and lessons learned
Baird and his leadership team continue to remain vigilant and share continual communication amidst the gradual lifting of COVID-related restrictions in Spain and rollout of the vaccine. As of April 2021, Naval Hospital Rota had already administered both doses of the Moderna vaccine to thousands of members of the NAVSTA Rota community, including active duty service members and US civilian workers, along with their adult family members. TRICARE-eligible retirees and family members were also offered the vaccine.
More than a year into the pandemic, Baird continues to refine his leadership strategy. He explains, “I’ve realized that maintaining a sense of calm is important.” He also recognizes that it is important to “meet people where they are in terms of their current level of knowledge of the COVID situation.” When imposing new COVID-related restrictions or making changes to the base routine, Baird must provide context and justification to explain why those measures are necessary.
Baird says that one of the most important lessons learned through this pandemic is “the value of having a team that works well together and supports one another.” Indeed, Baird has been surrounded by a strong team who helped navigate all aspects of the pandemic. Long before the vaccine became available, the Naval Hospital Rota team established a very effective testing and contact tracing system. DoDEA leadership quickly transitioned base schools to remote learning. The Public Health Emergency Officer (PHEO) examined every line of operations on the base to confirm that sufficient COVID restrictions were in place. The Spanish Liaison Office translated more than 1,700 pages of legal documents to ensure Baird and his leadership team understood the current Spanish laws and policies. Baird’s PAO worked around the clock ensuring that all communication reflected the latest restrictions and guidance, some of which changed several times per week. And MWR leadership made numerous overhauls to their supply chain and other processes at base eateries to accommodate changing restrictions.
Members of the base community also came together to help and support each other. They made and distributed homemade face-coverings before masks were widely available. They purchased food and other items for those who had PCS’d to Rota and were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. They looked out for each other’s children and pets. And they complied with base and local COVID safety measures.
Successfully navigating through the pandemic has been a group effort, but it all starts at the top. Through his leadership, Baird set the tone for an environment where members of the NAVSTA Rota community could trust and support one another.
As COVID restrictions are gradually lifted and the future remains unknown, the wisdom Baird offered to the community last year, in the throes of the pandemic, still rings true and illustrates why he has been an effective leader for NAVSTA Rota during this crisis: “The transition process will take time. We will need to proceed slowly and methodically. It will be frustrating at times, and we may need to reverse course at times. But each transition will bring us one step closer to our new normal, and each step forward will be a sign of improvement. It will be a long road to travel, but I look forward to traveling it with all of you.”
Featured image: Capt. David Baird, commanding officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Hospitalman Viviana Lao, assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Rota, Spain, at NAVSTA Rota’s movie theater on 16 January, 2021. USNH Rota has begun administering the vaccine to frontline healthcare and first responders as part of the vaccination campaign. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eduardo Otero)