The P-51 may have been the plane that won the skies over Europe, and the Me-262 and Gloster Meteor may have been the first operational jet fighters on the sides of the Axis and Allies.
But those planes weren’t the fastest. That honor goes to the Me 163 “Komet.”
The Me 163 was short (about 19.5 feet long), with a wingspan of about 30 feet and looks like a miniature version of the B-2 Spirit. It was armed with two Mk 108 30mm cannon intended to rip apart Allied planes and it had a top speed of almost 600 miles per hour.
So, why isn’t it more well-known? Well, for starters, the way the plane got its speed — by using a rocket engine — tended to burn up a lot of fuel. That gave it a little over seven minutes of powered flight. The short flight time meant the Me 163 really didn’t have much range — about 25 miles.
After the fuel ran out, the Me 163 was an armed, fast glider. When it landed, it had to be towed. That meant it was a sitting duck until help arrived, and Allied pilots would just wait for the plane to start gliding down before putting a burst into it.
According to MilitaryFactory.com, despite operating for about 10 months, the Me 163 just didn’t get a lot of kills – anywhere from nine to 16, depending on the estimate. That’s less than one pera month. Furthermore, only one fighter group ever operated the plane, which was also hobbled by a shortage of rocket fuel.
AcePilots.com notes that the Me 163 was also dangerous to fly. The rocket fuel ingredients were very nasty – and when they leaked through the suit, it did bad things to the pilot. It wasn’t unheard of for Me 163s to just explode on landing as residual amounts of fuel would mix.
For all intents and purposes, the Me 163 was a manned, reusable surface-to-air missile that could make two attacks. Eventually, the Nazis decided to just use an expendable rocket instead of a manned plane for these types of missions.
Fear is not in John Nixon’s dictionary. Nor should it be. An elderly man, Nixon, who fought in the Korean War, had no reservations about stepping in to stop five armed punks from mugging a young woman in the Kentish Town area of London — despite being 88 years old.
There’s no age limit on bravery, and the old Korean War vet has had plenty of reason to be brave over the years.
Nixon was interviewed by the London Evening Standard after intervening in the attack. He told the newspaper that he saw five young men attacking a young woman, trying to rob her of her purse and ripping at her clothing.
He shouted at the men to leave her alone, in an attempt to divert their attention away from the screaming woman. His plan worked. They quickly switched their sights onto the old man and the girl ran off, still screaming.
A mural welcomes visitors to Kentish Town. Photo by Danny Lines on Unsplash. “But they turned on me, saying ‘We’ll take your money instead,’ and I said ‘No you don’t,’” Nixon told the newspaper. “Kids this age are full of bravado, you see, they weren’t expecting a surprise.”
The surprise was that over the years Nixon had seen a lot worse than five hooligans harassing one young girl. He was trained as a special operator at Commando Training Depot Achnacarry in Scotland’s West Highlands. The setting was particularly brutal for trainees, given the severe weather in the area. Those conditions would serve him well.
He was later shipped off to fight communists during the 1950-53 Korean War as a commando. He also served in British Commando units in Egypt, occupied Germany, and the greater Middle East. After he left the British military, he joined Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) as a bodyguard in Nigeria.
He couldn’t have survived those kinds of environments and the dangers he faced there without the hardcore training he picked up as a young man in the 1940s.
That training “kicked in” Jan. 27, 2018, when one of five attackers came at Nixon, who took down the attacker with a single karate chop to the back of the man’s head. The blow knocked the punk down to the ground, half-dazed and half-conscious. Then one of the muggers pulled a knife on the old man.
“It was more of a pocketknife,” Nixon said. “He wasn’t trained.”
Nixon, a widower with an adult daughter, was only interested in helping the vulnerable young woman. He didn’t think of his own safety. He’d been shot in the leg long before this encounter on a London street, and even a bite from a venomous snake couldn’t kill the old man.
“The venom lay dormant in my spine for years,” he said. “I’ve been near death so many times that situation just doesn’t worry me.”
When the knife-wielding assailant came after him, Nixon attempted to defend himself and took a number of stab wounds to his arms. He was bleeding profusely but told reporters his wounds were shallow.
A local resident finally witnessed the altercation, shouted at the men, and called the police. By the time cops arrived on the scene, the attackers had fled. Nixon was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for his still-bleeding wounds. His only other injury came from where his hand met the back of that criminal’s skull. Five harsh lessons were learned that day.
The hoodlums were never arrested for the crime, and the female victim of the attack was never identified.
“I hope she is okay,” Nixon told the Evening Standard.
In what sounds like a page straight from the script of a Tim Burton film, the Pentagon has issued a solicitation to industry seeking biodegradable ammo that could also plant seeds.
No, this is not a Duffleblog post.
The solicitation, posted on the Small Business Innovation Research web site, states that the plan is to eventually replace “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds” with biodegradable versions with the intention of “eliminating environmental hazards.”
“Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade [and] civilians (e.g., farmers or construction crews) encountering these rounds and components do not know if they are training or tactical rounds,” the solicitation states. “Proving grounds and battle grounds have no clear way of finding and eliminating these training projectiles, cartridge cases and sabot petals, especially those that are buried several feet in the ground. Some of these rounds might have the potential corrode and pollute the soil and nearby water.”
The Pentagon is asking for biodegradable rounds that can also plant “bioengineered seeds that can be embedded into the biodegradable composites and that will not germinate until they have been in the ground for several months.”
The intent is to use the seeds to “grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project.” Furthermore, these plants supposedly will be stuff that animals can eat safely.
It is unclear how this RD effort improves combat readiness.
Past efforts to use “green” technology have proven very expensive. According to a July 2016 report from the Daily Caller, the Navy’s “Green Fleet” used biofuel that cost $13.46 per gallon on USS Mason – and the biofuel in question was only about 5.5 percent of the total fuel taken on board. Regular fuel cost $1.60 per gallon.
This is not to say some “green” programs have been duds. The Defense Media Network reported in 2013 that the Army’s M855A1 5.56mm NATO round for the M4 carbine, M16 rifle, and M249 squad automatic weapon had turned out to be comparable to a conventional 7.62mm NATO round, like those used in the M14 rifle or M240 machine gun.
Still, the best that can be said for the “green technology” push is that the results have been very spotty.
The downfall of JJ is an awesome win for the U.S. and U.K. militaries, but it’s just the latest in a list of “high-value targets” that have been brought down. Here are 13 of America and her allies’ greatest hits against terrorism.
1. Osama Bin Laden
You don’t need an intro to this a–hole. He was killed by SEAL Team 6 in a daring raid into Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
2. Saddam Hussein
Like Osama Bin Laden, you really shouldn’t need an intro for this guy. Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces on Dec. 13, 2003 in Tikrit, Iraq where he was hiding in a tiny hole. He was executed Dec. 20, 2006 by hanging after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Atiyah Abd al-Rahman became al-Qaeda’s top operational planner and number 2 leader overall after Bin Laden was killed. His tenure near the peak was short-lived and he was killed in a drone strike Aug. 22, 2011.
The number 3 in al Qaeda at the time of his death, Abu Layth al-Libi got his start in another terror network before becoming a field commander and spokesman for al Qaeda. He was killed in a drone strike Jan. 29, 2008.
11. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was captured Mar. 1, 2003 by the C.I.A after an informer known as “Asset X” texted his handler, “I M W KSM.” Mohammed is still in custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
12. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid
The head of finance for al Qaeda and possibly the director of operations when he was killed, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid was killed by a missile strike in May 2010.
The US Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a more than $14-million contract to integrate and test an advanced version of the Aegis Weapon System, the Department of Defense said in a press release.
“Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems Moorestown, New Jersey is being awarded a $14,083,369 contract for ship integration and test of the Aegis Weapon System for AWS baselines through advanced capability build 16,” the release stated on July 14.
Most of the work on the project will be performed in Moorestown in the US state of New Jersey over the next year and is expected to be completed by August 2018, the Defense Department said.
The AWS can simultaneously attack land targets, submarines, and surface vessels while automatically protecting the fleet against aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, according to Lockheed Martin.
If you sit down at your computer and search for, “Help with PCS,” you will find dozens of articles telling you what to do. Heck, the military even hands your spouse a list that says, “DO THIS.”
This is not one of those lists.
Instead, this is a list to help you de-crazy your brain in those weeks leading up to the Big Move. This is a list that reminds you that everything that needs to get done will, in fact, get done.
And, if it doesn’t? It probably wasn’t that important to begin with.
1. Do Not expect to de-clutter, organize and label every aspect of your life before the movers come.
We have big plans to separate and label all of the junk we aren’t willing to part with this time around, and we may even purchase the storage bins as a proactive move. But, let’s face it. Moving day comes at lightning speed, and you end up lugging all those loose pictures you planned to consolidate into albums. Try again next PCS.
2. Do Not become too attached to those expected dates for your Household Goods to arrive.
Riiight, 5-10 business days? Try two weeks, or a month. Or, half of it within three days, and the other half in six months after they locate it. The point is, bring enough clothes, enough toys and at least one pot for making macaroni and cheese with you to the new duty station, and you’ll survive until the movers get here. … Whenever that is.
3. Do Not bother doing all your laundry before they pack up the house.
If you plan on driving to the next duty station, toss the laundry basket of dirty clothes in your car and finish it while you sit in temporary lodging. Trust me, you’ll need something to do while you’re waiting for your spouse to out-or in-process. Candy Crush gets boring after a while.
4. Do Not plan too many activities the week of moving day.
You will be stressed out, you will be overloaded, and you will already be racking your brain to think of the million and one things you’re probably already forgetting. Plan your last Girl’s Night Out, or your kiddos last play dates the week before, and reserve those final days for the last-minute-details that always seem to pop up.
5. Do Not assume the movers will know not to pack certain things.
Even obvious things like trash, car keys and cat litter boxes. And, if they don’t have a problem packing cat feces, they’re for sure going to assume your child’s favorite stuffed animal that they tossed on the floor — the one that they have to sleep with or the world falls apart — is fair game. So, if you don’t want them to pack it, my best suggestion would be to take open a safety deposit box at the bank and keep all of the stuff you want to take with you in it. I assume that will prevent them from finding it, but no guarantees.
6. Do Not get hung up on what the movers put in which boxes.
As long as it all generally goes in the same room—or floor—of the house, just call it good. You’ll run yourself ragged trying to micromanage an entire house move, and annoy the movers at the same time. Remember, happy movers mean the potential for less damaged items.
7. Do Not sweat the small stuff.
That first PCS will make you crazy as you balance trying to clean out base housing to the housing office’s satisfaction and feeling helpless watching as the packers touch every single item of your personal effects and pack it away for who-knows how long.
A PCS only comes around … well, to be honest, they come around pretty often, which is why a “don’t” list is something we all need. Do Not fret; you learn something from each move, and by the time you make your final one, you’ll be a pro.
The Navy has recently wanted to end ballistic missile defense (BMD) patrols. This mission, usually carried out by Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers equipped with RIM-161 Standard SM-3 surface-to-air missiles, has been to protect American allies from ballistic missiles from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, or from hostile peers or near-peers like Russia and China.
In June 2018 though, the Navy wanted to get away from this mission. The reason? They want to shift this to shore installations to free up the destroyers for other missions. Well, the ballistic missile defense mission is not going to go away any time soon. Here’s why:
A RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missile is launched from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70).
(U.S. Navy photo)
4. It will cost money to remove the capability
Even if there are shore installations handling the ballistic-missile defense mission, these Burke-class destroyers are not going to lose their capability to carry out the ballistic missile defense role. Maybe they won’t carry as many RIM-161s as they used to, but the capability will be preserved. The Navy has better things to do than to spend money to remove a capability from a ship.
The Kongo-class guided-missile destroyer Kirishima launches a RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missile during a joint exercise with the United States.
(U.S. Navy photo)
3. There is China’s anti-ship ballistic missile program to beat
China’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile could be more than a cause of virtual attrition if China were able to figure out how to locate American carriers. In that case, the best option to stop a DF-21 could very well be the SM-3s on the escorts of a carrier. After all, the land bases will be too far away to cover the carrier.
Sea-based ballistic-missile defense assets have advantages of mobility and security over land-based ballistic-missile defense assets. Just try and find a ship like USS Decatur (DDG 73).
(U.S. Navy photo)
2. Land bases are vulnerable
Land bases are easy to support. You also have plenty of space, compared to a ship. Getting sufficient power and resources is also easy. The accommodations of the crew operating it are far more comfortable. But they don’t move, and everyone and their kid sister knows where they are or can find them on Google Earth. This makes them vulnerable to attacks from planes, missiles, special operations units… you get the idea.
Since war is unpredictable, one will always need the means to get ballistic-missile defense assets to a location — and the best method is a ship like USS Lake Erie (CG 70), pictured here.
(U.S. Navy photo)
1. You never know where you will fight
We think we know where the next war will start. But can we ever be sure? In his memoirs, Norman Schwarzkopf admitted he never thought he’d be fighting in Vietnam, Grenada, or Kuwait. If American troops needed to fight somewhere unexpected (say, a war breaks out in Mozambique), the initial BMD will have to come from ships, not land based units.
The fact is, the Navy may want to dump BMD patrols, but they will be sailing around to carry out this mission for a long time.
Lose the decades’ long lie of promising naive 18-year-old’s that their selected occupation specialty will be the “tip of the spear” when the next war kicks off. What’s the difference between Military Police and Delta Force anyway?
Resolve to stop using the poster of HALO school pictures of grunts in OIF I when explaining what being a cook in the Army is like. The naive kid will likely be none the wiser if you use polished, Army-approved images of Culinary Specialist AIT, and your quota gets filled either way.
The Drill Sergeant
The kinder and gentler Army is here and Drill Sergeants aren’t supposed to yell anymore. Resolve this year to strike fear in the hearts of your trainees in other ways. Never underestimate the power of a knife-hand, dark sunglasses and blank expression in any given situation.
Maybe don’t use every negative instance in your life to exert your rage onto your platoon of trainees. Maybe you’ve only slept two hours in the past two days and you got a ticket for going one mile over the speed limit on post. Take out that anger in the gym instead and turn it into gains.
Every POG Veteran on TV shows
When told, “Thank you for your service” this time, resolve not to bust into the highly suspect monologue about cooking under fire.
Try to use the phrase,“I was pretty much Infantry” a little less when explaining your military service to a civilian, especially when you detail your traumatic “deployments” to Kuwait and Bahrain. Oh, the horror…
The brand-new Second Lieutenant
It’s been exactly six minutes since you’ve arrived at your first unit and no one has saluted you or asked you about your vast experience at Ranger School? Maybe let it slide this year and also give up on demanding that the Command Sergeant Major stands at attention when talking to you.
Speaking of Ranger School, stop talking about it. You are not the first barrel-chested freedom fighter to graduate from the course and unless you want to be punched in the throat by your Platoon Sergeant or duct taped to a tree by your entire platoon, maybe try to be humble about your first Army experience.
The Infantryman back from his first deployment
Resolve to not bring up Afghanistan in every single conversation you have with civilians. Your six-month stay on tranquil Bagram Airfield where you went to the gym four times a day and left the wire exactly zero times does little to bolster your image of a stone-cold killer and the lack of a CIB on your chest isn’t fooling anyone.
10. Perhaps listen to your NCO for once and don’t marry the stripper you just met in Nashville who you suddenly feel is your soulmate regardless of how much cash you have given her in the past two hours. Remember when you bought that 2020 Ford Mustang at 26 percent interest rate? Yeah, maybe your Squad Leader was right about something.
When the Department of Defense first started buying AR-15s, they were clean, fast-firing, and accurate weapons popular with the airmen and Special Forces soldiers who carried them. But as the Army prepared to purchase them en masse, a hatred of the weapon by bureaucrats and red tape resulted in weapon changes that made the M16s less effective for thousands of troops in Vietnam.
During a lull in the fighting in the Citadel, a Marine takes time out to clean his M16 rifle.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
(A note on measurements in this article: Most of the historical data in this article came from when the Army still used inches when discussing weapon calibers. The most common measurements are .22-caliber, roughly equal to 5.56mm ammo used in M4s today and .30-caliber, which is basically 7.62mm, like that used by some U.S. sniper rifles. There is also a reference to a proposed .27-caliber, which would have been 6.86mm).
The AR-15 was a derivative of the AR-10, an infantry rifle designed by Eugene Stoner for an Army competition. The AR-10 lost to what would become the M14. But a top Army officer was interested in smaller caliber weapons, like the AR-10, and he met with Stoner.
Gen. Willard G. Wyman was commanding the Continental Army Command when he brought an old Army report to Stoner. The report from the 1928 Caliber Board had recommended that the Army switch from heavy rifle rounds, like the popular .30-cal, to something like .27-caliber. The pre-World War II Army even experimented with .276-caliber rifles, but troops carried Browning Automatic Rifles and M1 Garands into battle in 1941, both chambered for .30-caliber.
These heavier rounds are great for marksmen and long-distance engagements because they stay stable in flight for long distances, but they have a lethality problem. Rounds that are .30-caliber and larger remain stable through flight, but they often also remain stable when hitting water, which was often used as a stand-in during testing for human flesh.
If a round stays stable through human flesh, it has a decent chance of passing through the target. This gives the target a wound similar to being stabbed with a rapier. But if the round tumbles when it hits human flesh, it will impart its energy into the surrounding flesh, making a stab-like wound in addition to bursting cells and tissue for many inches (or even feet) in all directions.
That’s where the extreme internal bleeding and tissue damage from some gunshot wounds comes from. Wyman wanted Stoner to make a new version of the AR-10 that would use .22-caliber ammunition and maximize these effects. Ammunition of this size would also weigh less, allowing troops to carry more.
Stoner and his team got to work and developed the AR-15, redesigning the weapon around a commercially available .22-caliber round filled with a propellant known as IMR 4475 produced by Du Pont and used by Remington. The resulting early AR-15s were tested by the Army and reviewed by Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. The weapons did great in testing, and both services purchased limited quantities for troops headed to Vietnam.
Pvt. 1st Class Michael J. Mendoza (Piedmont, CA.) fires is M16 rifle into a suspected Viet Cong occupied area.
(U.S. Army Spec. 5 Robert C. Lafoon)
Approximately 104,000 rifles were shipped to Vietnam for use with the Air Force, airborne, and Special Forces units starting in 1963. They were so popular that infantrymen arriving in 1965 with other weapons began sending money home to get AR-15s for themselves. The Secretary of the Army forced the Army to take another look at it for worldwide deployment.
As the Army reviewed the weapon for general use once again, they demanded that the rifle be “militarized,” creating the M16. And the resulting rifle was held to performance metrics deliberately designed to benefit the M14 over the M16/AR-15.
These performance metrics demanded, among other things, that the rifle maintain the same level of high performance in all environments it may be used in, from Vietnam to the Arctic to the Sahara Desert; that it stay below certain chamber pressures; and that it maintain a consistent muzzle velocity of 3,250 fps.
A soldier with an M-14 watches as supplies are airdropped into Vietnam.
(Department of Defense)
It was these last two requirements that made Stoner’s original design suddenly problematic. The weapon, as designed, achieved 3,150 fps. To hit 3,250 fps required an increase in the amount of propellant, but increasing the propellant made the weapon exceed its allowed chamber pressures. Exceeding the pressure created serious, including mechanical failure.
But Remington had told civilian customers that the IMR 4475-equipped ammo did fire at 3,250 fps as is. The Army tests proved that was a lie.
There was a way around the problem: Changing the propellant. IMR 4475 burned extremely quickly. While all rifles require an explosion to propel the round out of the chamber, not all powders create that explosion at the same rate. Other propellants burned less quickly, allowing them to release enough energy for 3,250 fps over a longer time, staying below the required pressure limits and preventing mechanical failure.
The other change, seemingly never considered by the M14 lovers, was simply lowering the required muzzle velocity. After all, troops in Vietnam loved their 3,150-fps-capable AR-15s.
A first lieutenant stands with his M-16 in Vietnam.
The new powders increased the cyclic rate of the weapon from 750 rounds per minute to about 1,000 while also increasing the span of time during each cycle where powder was burning. So, unlike with IMR 4475, the weapon’s gas port would open while the powder was still burning, allowing dirty, still-burning powder to enter the weapon’s gas tube.
This change, combined with an increase in the number of barrel twists from 12 to 14 and the addition of mechanical bolt closure devices, angered the Air Force. But the Army was in charge of the program by that point, and all new M16s would be manufactured to Army specifications and would use ball powder ammunition.
Pvt. 1st Class John Henson cleans his XM16E1 rifle while on an operation 30 miles west of Kontum, Vietnam.
Rifle jams and failures skyrocketed, tripling in some tests. And rumors that M16s didn’t need to be cleaned, based on AR-15s firing cleaner propellants, created a catastrophe for infantrymen whose rifles jammed under fire, sometimes resulting in their deaths.
When the Los Angeles Police Department responded to this particular domestic dispute during the 1992 LA riots, they likely didn’t need the backing of the United States Marine Corps – but they had it anyway. Upon approaching the house, one officer was hit by a shotgun blast of birdshot. He called back to the Marines to cover him. Unfortunately, what “cover” meant to the Marines and to the LAPD were two different things.
The officer just wanted the threat of M-16s pointed at the house to keep the shooter from shooting again. The Marines thought the 200 rounds they fired into the house would be enough. They were probably both right. But that’s not how the U.S. Army National Guard would have done it.
Before the Marines were called in, thousands of Guardsmen took to the streets of LA during the 1992 riots.
In the early 1990s, the streets of LA were a dangerous place. Even the LAPD officers who regularly walked their beats admitted to losing the streets to the tens of thousands of gang members who controlled much of the city’s south side. Los Angeles was soon a powder keg of racially and socially fueled frustration that exploded on April 29, 1992. Four LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force against Rodney King, a black motorist who was beaten by the officers after evading them on a California freeway.
Their acquittal sparked the 1992 LA Riots, a huge civil disturbance that covered 32-square-miles, from the Hollywood Hills to Long Beach. Eventually, the governor of California would call in more than 10,000 California National Guard troops and 2,000 active troops to quell the riots. That wasn’t enough. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Marine Corps veteran, knew what he needed and asked President Bush to send in the Marines.
I bet they made record time driving from San Diego to LA on the I-5 Freeway. And they didn’t even have carpool lanes back then.
Within 36 hours, state and local agencies, along with thousands of California National Guardsmen had largely restored order. That’s when they were suddenly federalized and augmented with more active duty troops and the United States Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton. According to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James Delk, this caused the morale among the soldiers of the California Guard to plummet, after all their work in restoring Los Angeles. Suddenly being told the Marines were coming in to finish the job didn’t look so good.
Local civilians, on the other hand, knew exactly who to thank. According to Gen. Delk, locals cheered at the appearance of the California National Guard in their neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and restaurants refused to take money from the Guardsmen often even delivering food and drinks to the staging areas.
So in the immediate aftermath of the rioting and violence, the media latched on to the idea that calling in the Marines was the solution to restoring law and order, despite the fact that the job was mostly done by the time the Marines arrived. The Guardsmen, for their part, continued to do their jobs despite the lack of national appreciation. By the time the Guard withdrew, the streets were much safer than they were before the riots began. The crime rate dropped by 70 percent and local citizens did not want the troops to leave. In fact, it was more than a month before the last National Guard soldier left Los Angeles.
The good news is that the federalization of the joint task force worked exactly as it was supposed to and no one wearing a uniform of the U.S. military was killed or seriously injured. Most importantly, no U.S. troops killed or wounded any innocent civilians.
It took Marine Corps veteran Tim Conner more than a year of training and waiting, but it paid off. He was finally able to take home his new (exoskeleton) legs.
Conner has used a wheelchair since 2010. An accident left him with a spinal cord injury, and he is the first veteran at Tampa Bay VA Medical Center to be issued an exoskeleton for home use. The robotic exoskeleton, made by ReWalk, provides powered hip and knee motion that lets Conner stand upright and walk.
Before being issued his own exoskeleton, Conner underwent four months of training, then took a test model home for four months as a trial run. He then had to wait several more months for delivery. He was so excited about getting it that he mistakenly arrived a week early to pick it up.
“They said, “You’re here early, it’s the thirtieth,'” Conner said with a laugh. “I was like, that’s not today. I looked at my phone and said, ‘Oh my God, I’m excited, what can I say.'”
For Conner, the most significant advantage of the exoskeleton is being able to stand and walk again. Which, in turn, motivates him to stay healthy.
Tim Conner and the team that helped him walk again. From left, Chief of Staff Dr. Colleen Jakey, Cassandra Hogan, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Brittany Durant, and Spinal Cord Injury Service Chief Dr. Kevin White.
“I’m not 3-and-a-half, 4 feet tall anymore. I’m back to 5-8,” Conner said. “Not only can I stand up and look eye-to-eye to everybody. I’m not always kinking my neck looking up at life. It’s been able to allow me to stay motivated, to stay healthy, because you have to be healthy to even do the study for this program. That is going to keep me motivated to stay healthy and live longer than what could be expected for the average person in my situation.”
The exoskeleton is an expensive piece of equipment, with some versions costing as much as 0,000. According to Dr. Kevin White, chief of the Tampa Bay VA spinal cord injury service, that is why the hospital has been conducting research on the units.
“We wanted to know that the patient when they get it, they’re actually going to utilize it in the community,” said White. “If they’re showing that benefit, the VA has made a commitment to make sure that any veteran who needs it and qualifies, whether it’s a spinal cord injury and even stroke. That they have that opportunity, and we provide it free of charge.”
Walking in the exoskeleton is like “a mixture between Robocop, Ironman, and Forrest Gump,” said Conner. “It is pretty cool, especially when you’re walking and people are like, ‘Oh my God, look at this guy. He’s a robot.’ But I can’t imagine walking without it, so it’s just a normal way of walking. It feels the same way it did if I didn’t have a spinal cord injury.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
History remembers Capt. Jay Zeamer as a tremendous pilot, but he had a rough time getting into the cockpit.
Originally commissioned in the Infantry Reserve, he later transferred to the Army Air Corps to fulfill his dream of flying. There was just one problem: he couldn’t pass the check ride to get into the pilot’s seat.
Despite many attempts, when war came to America in 1941 Zeamer was still stuck co-piloting B-26 Marauders.
Bored with life as a co-pilot, Zeamer asked for a transfer to another unit hoping to start over. Zeamer was eventually transferred to the 403rd Bomb Squadron, 43rd Bomb Group to fly B-17s.
Arriving at the 403rd, Zeamer met up with an old friend, Sgt. Joe Sarnoski, the squadron’s bombardier.
During a combat mission, Zeamer was forced to take over for another pilot, which effectively earned him the right to fly as first pilot. His cool under fire on the mission — and his expert flying skills — also earned him his first Silver Star.
Zeamer’s de facto confirmation made him a pilot, but he had no plane or crew. Through a series of events, Zeamer was able to acquire Sarnoski as both bombardier and navigator. The two began to assemble the rest of the team, testing out compatibility during various missions.
Many of the men, after just one mission with Zeamer, refused to ever fly with him again, but the crazy oddballs and renegades who could hack it ultimately rounded out the crew.
Zeamer and his crew were eventually nicknamed “The Eager Beavers” because they constantly volunteered for missions — especially the most dangerous ones. However, they were still without a plane of their own.
It just so happened that the perfect plane awaited the crew at their next assignment. As new arrivals to the 65th Bomb Squadron, they found a heavily damaged plane being used for parts.
The B-17E had a reputation for taking heavy damage on missions and many believed it to be because of its unfortunate tail number: #41-2666.
Beamer and his crew quickly claimed the plane as their own, and though they never got around to giving it a proper name, often referred to it as “Old 666” after the tail number. The crew repaired and upgraded the plane to their specifications. The .30-caliber machine guns were upgraded to .50-caliber mounts. The waist gunners’ single guns were replaced by twin .50 calibers as well. Zeamer even had a forward-firing gun mounted in the nose so he himself could shoot from the cockpit. All told the B-17 bristled with nineteen guns.
The Eager Beavers soon earned a reputation for their daring deeds. As Zeamer’s friend Walt Krell put it, “Whenever the 43rd got a real lousy mission – the worst possible mission of all that nobody else wanted to fly – they went down to see Zeamer and his gang.”
The Eager Beavers carried out the unwanted missions and earned themselves glory along the way. Every member of the crew received Silver Stars and two more earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. Zeamer himself received a second Silver Star for strafing Japanese searchlights with his forward-firing gun. Sarnoski was rewarded with a battlefield promotion to 2nd lieutenant.
The Eager Beavers and Old 666 took everything that was thrown at them and always returned home.
Then in June 1943, they faced the toughest mission yet – a reconnaissance flight by a lone B-17 over Japanese-infested territory. The mission was to map Bougainville for the upcoming Allied landings. At the last minute word came down that the crew would also need to photograph Buka Island to the north. Zeamer was livid; an already dangerous mission just became practically suicidal.
When Old 666 arrived over Buka, the lone Flying Fortress was spotted by the Japanese who scrambled 17 planes to intercept. The lead flight of Japanese Zeroes caught up to the Eager Beavers near the end of their mapping run.
Unable to stray from its course, Old 666 lumbered along, bracing as the Zeroes attacked. Five planes fanned out in front and flew headlong at the bomber. As the distance closed, the guns on both sides roared to life.
Zeamer scored a hit with his nose-mounted gun while Sarnoski downed one of the incoming Zeroes. Simultaneously, 20mm shells tore through the cockpit and nose, wounding Zeamer and blowing Sarnoski off his gun. Sarnoski dragged himself back to his gun and scored a hit on another fighter before slumping over, mortally wounded.
The battle raged for almost an hour. Zeamer was severely wounded, both legs shot and his rudder pedals blown away. Four other crew members were also wounded. Still, The Eager Beavers continued to rain fire onto the Japanese fighters while Zeamer struggled to maneuver the bomber. The Japanese fighters had brutally damaged the B-17E, forcing it below 10,000 feet with destroyed instrument panels, limited controls, and no oxygen system.
Eventually, the battered Zeroes retreated home, leaving the Eager Beavers to do the same.
Determined to return with the valuable photos, Zeamer refused to relinquish control of the bomber. The rest of the crew treated each others’ wounds and did what they could to keep the stricken bomber in the air.
Just over eight hours after the mission began, Old 666 landed in New Guinea. The fuselage was riddled with holes. Zeamer was nearly left for dead by the medics. He spent many months in hospitals recovering from the mission. Both Zeamer and Sarnoski would be awarded the Medal of Honor, one of only two crews to be so bestowed in World War II.
The mission to Bougainville is the most highly decorated mission ever. With their cumulative awards, the Eager Beavers are the most decorated crew in American history. General George Kenney would write in his memoirs that the mission “still stands in my mind as an epic of courage unequaled in the annals of air warfare.”
Boeing Co. will make the wings on the remaining A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft that are slated to receive an upgrade, the Defense Department announced August 2019.
The company on Aug. 21, 2019, received an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract worth a maximum of $999 million for A-10 wing replacements.
“This contract provides for up to 112 new A-10 wing assemblies and up to 15 wing kits,” the award stipulates.
Boeing, which is teaming up with Korean Aerospace Industries for the effort, said the service has ordered an initial 27 wing sets and will manage the production of up to 112 sets and spare kits.
Only 109 A-10s still need to be re-winged, and the contract will include up to three spares, according to service spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
Three A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons fly in formation during a flight training session.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman)
“Our established supply base, experience with the A-10 structures, and our in-depth knowledge of the U.S. Air Force’s requirements will help us deliver high-quality wings to meet the customer’s critical need,” Pam Valdez, vice president of Air Force services for Boeing Global Services, said in a statement.
The wing replacement work will be performed at multiple U.S. subcontractor locations as well as one subcontractor location in South Korea; the work is scheduled to be completed in August 2030, according to the contract announcement.
The Air Force will allocate 9.6 million in procurement funds from past fiscal budgets for the effort, known as the “A-10-Thunderbolt II Advanced-Wing Continuation Kit,” or “ATTACK” program, the DoD said.
The Air Force had initially set aside 7 million for the effort, but the DoD has re-evaluated that estimate, Stefanek told Military.com on Aug. 21, 2019.
The news comes after the recent completion of Boeing’s first re-winging contract, awarded to the aerospace company in 2007.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 74th Fighter Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, GA, returns to mission after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, over the skies of Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, May 8, 2011.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)
As part of the id=”listicle-2639994851″.1 billion “Enhanced Wing Assembly” contract, the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, earlier this month completed work on the last A-10 slated to receive the upgrade. The project began in 2011.
The Air Force in 2018 said it had begun searching for a new company to rebuild wings for the A-10, affectionately known as the Warthog, after the service ended its arrangement with Boeing. Nevertheless, the company has received the second contract.
Officials have not committed to re-winging the entire fleet.
“We re-evaluate every year depending on how many aircraft we will need; the length of the contract goes through 2030 so it gives us options as we go forward,” Stefanek said.
The planes, which entered service in 1976 and have deployed to the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific, have played an outsized role in the air campaign that began in 2014 against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, helping provide close-air support for Iraqi and U.S. partner forces on the ground.
The A-10 has also been instrumental in air operations in Afghanistan.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.