The U.S. military personnel system is badly outdated and must be reformed dramatically to allow the armed services to recruit and retain men and women with the skills needed to deal with today’s vastly different threats and technology, a high-profile panel of defense experts said March 20.
A new report developed by 25 former military and civilian defense officials — including top enlisted leaders, former generals and lawmakers on defense committees — for the Bipartisan Policy Council emphasized giving the armed services much greater flexibility to manage their personnel than they’re allowed to do now.
The existing personnel system “is outdated. The last time it was changed was in 1947, coming out of World War II,” said former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, one of the four co-chairmen of the study.
“We’re at a time that if we don’t reform our personnel system, we will begin to undermine our defense,” Panetta warned.
To increase flexibility, the report recommended:
1. Letting people stay longer
The experts recommend replacing the traditional “up-or-out” structure and its rigid timelines for promotion with a “perform to stay” model for advancement.
2. Entering as a staff officer or NCO
Instead of coming in as a buck private or 2nd lieutenant, the report suggests allowing lateral entry at advanced rank for individuals with critical skills, such as those with cyber and information technology expertise.
3. Going back and forth
The experts suggest letting service members more easily move between active and reserve status and allowing temporary breaks in military service for education or family reasons.
4. Reform military compensation
The authors suggest replacing the current military pay table — which provides increases for longevity and increased rank — to “ensure compensation is commensurate with increased responsibility and performance.”
5. Kick malingerers out
The experts say the services need to institute annual involuntary separate boards to “remove low performers in over-manned specialties.”
6. Reform TRICARE
The authors suggest increasing TRICARE enrollment fees for military retirees to cover 20 percent of coverage cost, and waiting until 2038 to grandfather all current service members.
They also suggest offering a new TRICARE option for dependents that would leverage a private employer’s contributions and reduced TRICARE cost.
7. Healthcare reform
The military experts recommend establishing pilot programs to test use of commercial health insurance benefits for reservists and their family members, military retirees and family members.
The report also suggests increasing access to higher quality of Defense Department-provided child care.
8. Help the spouses
The study authors also want to improve ways to help military spouses get and keep jobs, including giving service members more say in duty station changes.
9. Boost the force
And to reduce the stress on families from the high operational tempo, the report recommends adding military personnel.
The report also calls for greater efforts to expand the military’s outreach to a broader segment of Americans, including:
10. More ROTC
Expand Reserve Officer Training Corps program to all levels of higher education, including post-graduate and community college.
11. Women in the draft
Require women, as well as men, to register with the Selective Service and make all registrants take the military entrance examination.
To enable the services to increase end strength and provide the training and tools service members need, the report’s authors emphasized the need to repeal the 2011 Budget Control Act, with its arbitrary limits on defense spending, and return to a regular budget process that would enable defense leaders to plan ahead for the forces and equipment they need.
The committee that conducted the study and drafted the report included five retired flag or general officers, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant, former high-ranking officials from the Defense Department and other federal agencies, former members of Congress who served on the Armed Services Committees and the chief executive of Blue Star Families, a support organization.
The report is titled “Building a FAST Force,” with the initials standing for Flexible, able to Adapt and to Sustain the force and to be Technology oriented.
If you’re a Dodgers fan, you know the name Tommy Lasorda. An icon of the team, Lasorda coached the Dodgers from 1973 to 1976 when he took over as manager. He managed the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996 and was still a regular sight at Dodger Stadium from then on. He served as their Vice-President, interim General Manager, Senior Vice-President, and Special Advisor to the Chairman. Lasorda was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997. On January 7, 2021, he died of a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest.
Hailing from Norristown, Pennsylvania, Lasorda graduated high school in 1944. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies the next year and began his professional career with the Concord Weavers in the Class D North Carolina State League. However, he put his baseball career on pause to serve in the military. He served on active duty in the Army from October 1945 to the spring of 1947. During his time in the service, Lasorda was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland. As a result, he missed out on the 1946 and 1947 seasons.
Following his Army service, Lasorda returned to baseball. He played for teams like the Schenectady Blue Jays, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Montreal Royals, the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees. He closed out his playing career in 1960 as the winningest pitcher in the history of the Royals with a record of 107-57. For this, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 1960, Lasorda was hired as a scout for the Dodgers. He went on to manage in their rookie and minor leagues until 1973. It was then that he was called up to become the third-base coach on the staff of Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston. Though Lasorda was offered several major league managing jobs with other teams, he turned them all down to remain with the Dodgers. In 1976, following Alston’s retirement, Lasorda took up the torch and became the Dodgers manager. During his tenure, he compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as manager, won two World Series championships, four National League pennants, and eight division titles.
Despite officially retiring in 1996, Lasorda managed the U.S. national team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and led them to gold. He also coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third-base coach. Lasorda remained active with baseball and the Dodgers scouting, evaluating, and teaching minor league players, advising the Dodgers’ international affiliations, and representing the team in public appearances and speaking engagements. He also visited troops at over 40 military installations around the world and took part in the 2009 USO Goodwill tour for troops in Iraq. “I bleed Dodger blue,” Lasorda famously said, “and when I die, I’m going to the big Dodger in the sky.”
Women veterans make up 8% of Oregon’s veteran population. However, that growing population requires answers to the unique challenges facing women veterans.
The Women Veterans Program at the Roseburg VA Health Care System is designed to identify those challenges. It also works with women veterans to find those answers, according to Jessica Burnett, social worker and interim Women Veterans Program manager. Burnett is pictured above with her daughter Emily.
“How can we serve them best?”
For Burnett, the mission is personal
“I am a true Oregonian. After visiting many places, I knew Oregon is where my heart is,” said Burnett. “I spent nearly 15 years providing rural social services in Coos and Curry Counties. I decided it was time to move to a warmer climate and relocated to Roseburg, where my daughter attended college.
“My daughter came home one day and said, ‘Hey Mom. I’ve decided to take a different path in life and I signed up for the Navy.’ I didn’t see that coming. She said, ‘This is something I felt called to do and this is what I’m going to do.’ My role at that point was to be a support person. I felt if my daughter is feeling called to do this, I’m going to see what I can do to support veterans, and I came to VA.”
Burnett hopes to expand services available for all veterans – primary care, mental health, housing assistance. She also wants to localize it specifically for women veterans. She fosters a program that is open, accessible, welcoming and veteran-centric.
“From my perspective, we should be taking a patient-centered approach. Hearing their feedback, what is it that they need? Let them tell us what they need so we can best support them. It is their journey, their life. We don’t know unless we ask the question, ‘How can we can serve them best?'”
For Burnett, the best way to serve women veterans is to expand on the understanding of women veteran needs and the availability of health care specific to women: yearly exams, such as pap smears and mammograms.
And support for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.
“When she comes home, I want her to have top-notch health care.”
Women veterans, the fastest growing minority population
“Women veterans served alongside men. They are a minority within the VA, but they’re the fastest growing minority population,” said Burnett. Her daughter serves aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, which is stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.
“Women tell me all the time they get addressed as ‘Mister’ instead of ‘Miss.’ It’s just assumed that they are a spouse or if it’s just a last name, that they are male.
“I feel we really need to put a lot of effort and work into women’s health care in VA because it is an area that, previously and historically, hasn’t been part of VA.
“My daughter is active duty right now, but when she comes home, I want her to have a health care system that is top-notch.
“I want it to be better than what she can find in the community.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Navy’s new next-generation aircraft carrier will likely deploy to the Middle East or Pacific theater, bringing a new generation of carrier technologies to strategically vital parts of the world, service officials told Scout Warrior.
“If you look at where the priorities and activities are now – that is where it will likely go,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.
The Navy’s top acquisition official, Sean Stackley, recently told Congress that the new carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, will deliver to the Navy in September of this year; following deployment preparations called “post shakedown availability” in 2017 and “shock trials” in 2019, the carrier is slated to deploy in 2021, service officials said. “Shock trials” involve testing the large ship in a series of different maritime conditions such as rough seas and high winds.
The Navy official stressed that no formal decisions have, as of yet, been made regarding deployment and that the USS Ford’s deployment will naturally depend upon what the geopolitical and combat requirements wind up being in the early 2020s.
At the same time, given the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance, it is not difficult or surprising to forsee the new carrier venturing to the Pacific. The power-projection capabilities of the new carrier could likely be designed as a deterrent to stop China from more aggressive activities in places such as the highly-contested South China Sea. The Navy’s plan for the Pacific does call for the service to operate as much as 60-percent of its fleet in the Asia Pacific region.
Also, the continued volatility in the Middle East, and the Navy’s ongoing involvement in Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS could very well create conditions wherein the USS Ford would be needed in the Arabian Gulf.
The service specifically engineered Ford-class carriers with a host of next-generation technologies designed to address future threat environments. These include a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship, among other things.
The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The ship’s larger deck space is, by design, intended to accommodate a potential increase in use of carrier-launched technologies such as unmanned aircraft systems in the future.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
The USS Ford also needs sufficient electrical power to support its new electro-magnetic catapult, dual-band radar and Advanced Arresting Gear, among other electrical systems.
As technology evolves, laser weapons may eventually replace some of the missile systems on board aircraft carriers, Navy leaders have said. Laser weapons need about 300 kilowatts in order to generate power and fire from a ship.
Should they be employed, laser weapons could offer carriers a high-tech, lower cost offensive and defensive weapon aboard the ship able to potential incinerate incoming enemy missiles in the sky.
The Ford-class ships are engineered with a redesigned island, slightly larger deck space and new weapons elevators in order to achieve an increase in sortie-generation rate. The new platforms are built to launch more aircraft and more seamlessly support a high-op tempo.
The new weapons elevators allow for a much more efficient path to move and re-arm weapons systems for aircraft. The elevators can take weapons directly from their magazines to just below the flight deck, therefore greatly improving the sortie-generation rate by making it easier and faster to re-arm planes, service officials explained.
The next-generation technologies and increased automation on board the Ford-Class carriers are also designed to decrease the man-power needs or crew-size of the ship and, ultimately, save more than $4 billion over the life of the ships.
The Navy plans to build Ford-class carriers for at least 50-years as a way to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-for-one basis. This schedule will bring the Ford carriers service-life well into the next century and serve all the way until at least 2110, Navy leaders have said.
Regarding the potential evaluation of alternatives to carriers, some analysts have raised the question of whether emerging technologies and weapons systems able to attack carriers at increasingly longer distances make the platforms more vulnerable and therefore less significant in a potential future combat environment.
Some have even raised the question about whether carrier might become obsolete in the future, a view not shared by most analysts and Navy leaders. The power-projection ability of a carrier and its air-wing provides a decisive advantage for U.S. forces around the world.
For example, a recently release think tank study from the Center for New American Security says the future threat environment will most likely substantially challenge the primacy or superiority of U.S. Navy carriers.
“While the U.S. Navy has long enjoyed freedom of action throughout the world’s oceans, the days of its unchallenged primacy may be coming to a close. In recent years, a number of countries, including China, Russia, and Iran, have accelerated investments in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities such as advanced air defense systems, anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These capabilities are likely to proliferate in the coming years, placing greater constraints on U.S. carrier operations than ever before,” the study writes.
In addition, the study maintains that the “United States will be faced with a choice: operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges – likely beyond the unrefueled combat radii of their tactical aircraft – or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure,” the CNAS study explains.
Navy officials told Scout Warrior that many of the issues and concerns highlighted in this report are things already being carefully considered by the Navy.
With this in mind, some of the weapons and emerging threats cited in the report are also things already receiving significant attention from Navy and Pentagon analysts.
The Chinese military is developing a precision-guided long-range anti-ship cruise missile, the DF-21D, a weapon said by analysts to have ranges up to 900 nautical miles. While there is some speculation as to whether it could succeed in striking moving targets such as aircraft carriers, analysts have said the weapon is in part designed to keep carriers from operating closer to the coastline.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Congressional panel of experts, published a detailed report in 2014 on the state of Chinese military modernization. The report cites the DF-21D along with numerous other Chinese technologies and weapons. The DF-21D is a weapon referred to as a “carrier killer.”
The commission points out various Chinese tests of hypersonic missiles as well. Hypersonic missiles, if developed and fielded, would have the ability to travel at five times the speed of sound – and change the threat equation regarding how to defend carriers from shore-based, air or sea attacks.
While China presents a particular threat in the Asia Pacific theater, they are by no means the only potential threat in today’s fast-changing global environment. A wide array of potential future adversaries are increasingly likey to acquire next-generation weapons, sensors and technologies.
“Some countries, China particularly, but also Russia and others, are clearly developing sophisticated weapons designed to defeat our power-projection forces,” said Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief said in a written statement to Congress in January of last year. “Even if war with the U.S. is unlikely or unintended, it is quite obvious to me that the foreign investments I see in military modernization have the objective of enabling the countries concerned to deter and defeat a regional intervention by the U.S. military.”
Enemy sensors, aircraft, drones and submarines are all advancing their respective technologies at an alarming rate – creating a scenario wherein carriers as they are currently configured could have more trouble operating closer to enemy coastlines.
At the same time – despite these concerns about current and future threat environments, carriers and power projects – few are questioning the value, utility and importance of Navy aircraft carriers.
Future Carrier Air Wing
The Navy is working on number of next-generation ship defenses such as Naval Integrated Fire Control –Counter Air, a system which uses Aegis radar along with an SM-6 interceptor missile and airborne relay sensor to detect and destroy approaching enemy missiles from distances beyond the horizon. The integrated technology deployed last year.
Stealth fighter jets, carrier-launched drones, V-22 Ospreys, submarine-detecting helicopters, laser weapons and electronic jamming are all deemed indispensable to the Navy’s now unfolding future vision of carrier-based air power, senior service leaders said. Last year, the Navy announced that the Osprey will be taking on the Carrier On-Baord Delivery mission wherein it will carry forces and equipment on and off carriers while at sea.
Citing the strategic deterrence value and forward power-projection capabilities of the Navy’s aircraft carrier platforms, the Commander of Naval Air Forces spelled out the services’ future plans for the carrier air wing at a recent event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C think tank.
Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces, argued last year in favor of the continued need for Navy aircraft carriers to project power around the globe. His comments come at a time when some are raising questions about the future of carriers in an increasingly high-tech threat environment.
“Even in contested waters our carrier group can operate, given the maneuverability of the carrier strike group and the composition of the carrier air wing,” Shoemaker told the audience at an event in August of last year.
Shoemaker explained how the shape and technological characteristics of the carrier air wing mentioned will be changing substantially in coming years. The Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C stealth fighter will begin to arrive in the next decade and the service will both upgrade existing platforms and introduce new ones.
The Navy plans to have its F-35C operational by 2018 and have larger numbers of them serving on carriers by the mid-2020s.
The service plans to replace its legacy or “classic” F/A-18s with the F-35C and have the new aircraft fly alongside upgraded F/A-18 Super Hornet’s from the carrier deck.
While the F-35C will bring stealth fighter technology and an ability to carry more ordnance to the carrier air wing, its sensor technologies will greatly distinguish it from other platforms, Shoemaker said.
“The most important thing that the F-35C brings is the ability to fuse information, collect the signals and things that are out in the environment and fuse it all together and deliver that picture to the rest of the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker explained.
At the same time, more than three-quarters of the future air wing will be comprised of F/A-18 Super Hornets, he added.
The submarine hunting technologies of the upgraded MH-60R is a critical component of the future air wing, Navy officials have said.
“The R (MH-60R) comes with a very capable anti-submarine warfare package. It has an airborne low frequency sensor, an advanced periscope detection system combined with a data link, and forward looking infrared radar. With its very capable electronic warfare suite, it is the inner defense zone against the submarine for the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Electronic warfare also figures prominently in the Navy’s plans for air warfare; the service is now finalizing the retirement of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft in favor of the EA-18G aircraft, Shoemaker said.
“We’re totally transitioning now to the EA-18G Growler for electromagnetic spectrum dominance. This will give us the ability to protect our strike group and support our joint forces on the ground,” he said.
Also, the Growler will be receiving an electromagnetic weapon called the Next-Generation Jammer. This will greatly expand the electronic attack capability of the aircraft and, among other things, allow it to jam multiple frequencies at the same time.
The Navy is also moving from its E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to an upgraded E-2D variant with improved radar technology, Shoemaker explained.
“We’ve got two squadrons transitioned — one just about to complete in Norfolk and the first is deployed right now on the Teddy Roosevelt (aircraft carrier). This (the E2-D) brings a new electronically scanned radar which can search and track targets and then command and control missions across the carrier strike group,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker also pointed to the Navy’s decision to have the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft take over the carrier onboard delivery mission and transport equipment, personnel and logistical items to and from the carrier deck. The V-22 will be replacing the C-2 Greyhound aircraft, a twin-engine cargo aircraft which has been doing the mission for years.
The US Navy has its first Black female tactical fighter pilot in its history, according to a Thursday tweet from the Chief of Naval Air Training announcing Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle will receive her “wings of gold” later in July.
“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” read the tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”
Swegle is a native of Burke, Virginia, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017, Stars and Stripes first reported. She is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville, Texas, according to the report.
Swegle will earn her wings at a ceremony on July 31, The Navy Times reported. The US Navy shared the news, tweeting “MAKING HISTORY!”
After giving over 21 years of his life to this nation, Navy SEAL Senior Chief Chad Wilkinson died by suicide on October 29, 2018. His wife Sara and GORUCK are on a mission to stop other veterans from doing the same.
In 2008, GORUCK was founded by veteran Green Beret Jason McCarthy and his wife, Emily. The two founded the company together out of her house in West Africa, where she was stationed as a CIA agent. Their company motto highlights service being a way of life: Building Better Americans, stronger communities, empowered people.
“I joined after 9/11 because of 9/11, (Jason) McCarthy explained. “I felt I needed to serve something bigger than myself and also wanted revenge, quite frankly. I was in Special Forces from 2003 until 2008 and got out to start GORUCK which is patterned after the Special Forces. Since the beginning it’s always been important to us to give back. Veteran suicide has been an enormous challenge in our community and our country.”
Although the CDC lists warning signs and concerning behaviors to look for in someone who may be suicidal, Sara Wilkinson said none of the typical red flags were present in Chad — he had never talked about struggling with anything. But she also admitted spouses tend to chalk things up to “that’s just how they are” due to the nature of their job. For Chad, it was more than a job.
Being a SEAL was the dream he told her about when she was just 13 years old. “We were military kids who met on base at a DoD high school. He always wanted to be a SEAL and that’s where the path took us,” Sara explained.
Chad even left college early to enlist in the Navy, following in the footsteps of an uncle and his own father who’d both been SEALs. “It was always in his heart to serve this country. Chad graduated from BUD/s Class 204 in 1996 and went to SEAL Team 8 after completing his medic training at Fort Bragg,” she said.
After 10 years with the team, Chad got out. “We absolutely hated it,” Sara laughed. In less than three years, Chad was back in. This time, he was initially sent to the west coast but was fast-tracked to SEAL Team 6. Also known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, widely known to be comprised of the most elite special operators in the world.
“There were multiple deployments — way too many,” Sara said. “As time went on they all changed. I am probably one of the few spouses who will say it outloud. They are just made to be larger than life humans. That affects them too.”
Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI, is a very real diagnosis making the rounds for veterans. But there are some brain traumas within the scope of TBI being missed in scans. After Chad’s death, Sara donated his brain for medical research. The results showed significant “interface astragal scarring” — caused by blast waves.
In 2016, a study of eight brains of veterans who’d died by suicide or drug overdose revealed the same damage undetected by typical scans.
“When you’re talking about people who’ve done multiple deployments, shooting RPGs — I mean they are blasting doors constantly not just overseas but in training,” Sara explained. “Basically, it not only deteriorates your brain but affects your entire body at the physiological level. It’s really hard when you’ve loved someone your whole life to think like, ‘That broke him?’ He was unbreakable.”
Though McCarthy personally didn’t know Chad, he said his story resonated deeply with him. The GORUCK Team wanted to do something to honor him and bring awareness to the issue. It was here the idea for the Veterans Day Chad 1000X Workout was born. In 2020, the initiative raised over $100,000 for the Navy Seal Foundation and other veteran mental health programs.
“It was incredibly humbling how many people took to the workout and how widespread it got in such a short amount of time. When you lose someone who is so close to you, all you want is for someone to know the person you loved,” Sara said through tears.
Though the often quoted 22-a-day statistic may fluctuate, the number is an alarming trend which no amount of funding seems to be able to adequately address. “We are looking for things to blame and I believe the solution is far more foundational. The solution is bringing people together and not letting people isolate to the point of loneliness, depression or anxiety,” McCarthy explained.
For both Sara and McCarthy, they see the way the symptoms are hidden due to fear or shame. “My hope for this would be to normalize it because it doesn’t discriminate across the board. We’re about to reach a point where when someone retires at 20 years, they’ve spent their entire career at war,” Sara said. “I do think there should be a conversation about being okay that it will affect you and it doesn’t make you less.”
McCarthy echoed the sentiment. “Someone like Chad who everyone thought was unbreakable, broke. It’s not because he was born to break, either. It’s a cautionary tale to everyone out there. He hid this really well,” McCarthy said. “There is no easy button or easy fix. We want to raise awareness and funding and stress the idea of people coming together.”
Though Sara is grateful his memory will live on with the Chad 1000X through GORUCK, the workout is about the current veterans and their spouses, she said. “They are hurting, very badly. For me, that is where my heart is. I would do just about anything for this to not happen to someone else.”
To register for the GORUCK Veterans Day CHAD 1000x Workout, click here.
Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.
When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.
Mattis rolled his eyes.
The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.
“I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.
On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.
(White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”
“We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”
The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”
So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.
“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”
Secrets are hard to keep, and secrets that require a lot of real estate are even harder to keep. Here are six examples of large-scale efforts that managed to maintain the utmost secrecy and wound up changing the course of history as a result:
Army engineers tasked with building the infrastructure for the Manhattan Project chose the site of modern Oak Ridge and secretly created a top-secret facility with a peak population of 75,000 people. Oak Ridge was where the bulk of the nuclear material for the bombs was created.
In 1949, the site was opened to the general public and it was incorporated as a city in 1959.
2. The Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific
Most people know Bikini Atoll, the site of many U.S. nuclear tests and the inspiration for the bikini. But Bikini Atoll was supported and largely ran by U.S. military forces at Kwajalein Atoll.
If you don’t know what the cultural significance of Area 51 is, then stop lying because you definitely know what Area 51 is. The rumors around the test site spurned its own sub genre of entertainment with big movies like “Independence Day” and video games like “Area 51.”
Navy leads the all-time sprint series with Army West Point in sprint football, 42-35-1 (.545), including a 19-14 (.576) mark in Annapolis. Two of the most dominant teams in sprint football history, Army West Point and Navy have won or shared the sprint football title 71 times, including 29 outright by the Mids and 27 by the Black Knights. The league was split into divisions last season with Army West Point winning the North before defeating Penn in the first CSFL Championship game.
Today, starting at 7:00PM EST, the two archrivals clash once again in Annapolis. Navy’s out to continue their dominant streak while Army West Point is bringing their best to try and even the score. Both Army and Navy are coming into the game with a lot of momentum, fresh off of 45-7 victories over Chestnut Hill and Franklin Pierce, respectively.
Last weekend, we got to spend time with a hero named Walter Jorgensen. Mr. Jorgensen is one of the oldest living U.S. Marines to survive the bloody battles in the Pacific Theater during World War 2.
Alongside a group of fellow veterans, Mr. Jorgensen attended the graduation of our youngest Marines at the USMC Recruit Base.
This is the same place Mr. Jorgensen went through boot camp and graduated at in 1939. Seventy-seven years ago. From here, he would prepare for America’s entry into WW2.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his path into war would send him and his buddies to the islands of the Pacific to battle the Japanese Empire.
There he would fight in 3 of the deadliest conflicts: Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. During these battles, Mr. Jorgensen served as a Company Commander with the 2nd Division, 2nd Battalion from the 6th Marines.
The following photos are just a glimpse of the horrors Mr. Jorgensen experienced as a leader of the legendary “Easy Company”.
The battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands began on August 7th of 1942.
The Marines were tasked with securing airfields for our aircraft to take-off from for both aerial defense of our Navy’s ships and ultimately to send bombers to the main land of Japan. This was the objective of America’s “Island hopping” campaign.
Unlike the battle at Normandy (D-Day), this beach landing was uneventful…however, holding the airfield at Lunga Point would cost thousands of lives.
In total, 1,600 were killed with 4,200 wounded along with 24,000 Japanese soldiers killed during the first island destination of the Pacific Campaign.
Bullets weren’t the only killers during these campaigns. Malaria ran rampant in parts of the Pacific.
The next island would be one of the costliest battles for the Marines of “Easy Company”. This was War; this was the battle for Tarawa.
“There were 180 of us from Easy Company that hit the beach that morning. No more than 40 of us walked off the island.” — Marine Schultz Miller
“Early on the morning of Nov. 20, 1943, the order came: ‘Hit the beach with everything you’ve got’. It was the first day of the assault on Betio Island – the struggle would come to be known as the Battle of Tarawa.”
“Easy Company was a bonded group. I was part of a replacement unit, which was reinforcing Easy after the battle for Guadalcanal,” the 79-year old veteran recounted. “If there was one thing that was easy about Easy Company, it was that they really took all the younger fellows in. They didn’t treat us bad like some other units did with their new guys.”
“We were taking machine gun fire from both sides of us as we came up to the beach,” he said. “Easy was one of the first companies to assault the island. Soon after that, all of our officers were dead.”
With the absence of commissioned leadership, Schultz described how the non-commissioned officers took over the company and carried on with the mission.
“At one point the highest ranking person was a sergeant. However, we were trained well and every man knew the job of the guy above him. If a machine-gunner went down, the guy behind him picked up the weapon and kept moving forward,” Schultz said.
It was all close combat as we took the island, Schultz said. Japanese were deeply entrenched in concrete and metal pillboxes with machine guns, cutting down Marines with raking fire right and left.
“I saw a few Marines make suicide runs, sprinting into the pillboxes with grenades or satchel charges,” he said. “After losing so many Marines, it was a last (recourse).”
The next destination was Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
In Saipan a total of 3,426 Americans died with 10,364 others wounded.
Like the horrors on our side, 29 thousand Japanese soldiers died with an additional 22,000 civilians lost (many from suicide).
Walter Jorgensen said little about what he experienced during the first 3 battles. He simply told me the following: “We began those campaigns with 29 Commanding Officers, all of them died on the battlefield.”
The loss of leaders would result in the following for Mr. Jorgensen, he would become a leader of his men at the battle for Okinawa. His new title was Executive Officer of the 6th Div., 3rd Battalion with the Marine’s 29th Regiment.
Like the first 3 battles, the numbers lost were unimaginable. The totals are so high that it becomes an estimate.
That estimate ranges from 77-110,000 Japanese killed. Along with the men from multiple Divisions of the U.S. Army’s 10th Corps., the Marines battled for this final runway.
America’s total lost at Okinawa was 55,162 wounded and Thirty-Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifteen men killed in battle.
Back to the Marine’s graduation.
That morning we got to watch the band play as they raised the flag on base.
While driving into the base, Mr. Jorgensen pointed to a small building which he said, “that use to be the main entrance to the base”. The building in front of us, during the raising of the flag, was “new”.
After the band played, we introduced Mr. Jorgensen to Brigadier General Jurney, the Commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego. Their conversation would later be called out during the up-coming graduation.
After the soon-to-be United States Marines marched onto the grounds, Brigadier General Jurney asked any Vietnam Vets to stand in the crowd followed by calling out any Veterans from the Korean War.
Finally he said, “We have a guest in the crowd. This man fought as a Marine in Guadacanal, Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. Please stand Walter Jorgensen”.
The pride and power of his memories were both unmistakable.
This is what a 95 year old United States Marine looks like…this is “Easy Company” Commander Walter Jorgensen.
The US Navy awarded Boeing an $805 million contract to develop refueling drones in what the service’s top officer called a “historic” step toward making the fleet’s carriers more effective and more deadly.
The contract provides for the design, development, testing, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned aerial refueling vehicles. It includes integration into the carrier air wing with initial operational capability by 2024.
It is a fixed-price contract, meaning the Navy is not on the hook for costs beyond the 5.3 million award. Boeing will reportedly get million of the total award to start.
The Navy expects the program to yield 72 aircraft with a total cost of about billion, James Geurts, the service’s assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told Defense News.
Geurts also called the MQ-25A “a hallmark acquisition program.”
“This is an historic day,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a release.
Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck-handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis, Missouri, January 29, 2018.
(US Navy / Boeing)
The Navy has been working on a drone that can operate on carriers for some time. The unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program was scrapped in 2016 and reoriented toward developing an unmanned tanker.
According to the Navy, the MQ-25A will bolster the carrier air wing’s performance and efficiency while extending their operating range and tanking capability.
Richardson told Defense News that the new drone will free up the Super Hornet aircraft currently dedicated to providing tanker support to other aircraft.
“We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed,” Richardson said in the release. “But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”
An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)
Boeing has a long history of involvement in naval aviation, including manufacture of the Hornet and Super Hornet carrier aircraft, and in tanker operations.
This award is seen as a much-needed victory, however, as the company has been on the outside looking in for major aviation programs in recent years, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Boeing was involved in the UCLASS program, and the design it offered for the refueling drone was influenced by that previous project. The company has already built a prototype of the MQ-25A and has said a first flight may take place not long after the contract was awarded.
“The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world,” Leanne Caret, head of Boeing’s defense, space and security division, said in a company release.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to launch from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan R. McDonald)
Boeing said the Navy believes the MQ-25A will extend the range of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler, both of which are Boeing aircraft, as well as the F-35C, which is the Navy’s variant of the Lockheed Martin-made joint strike fighter.
The crews of the Navy’s Super Hornets are currently tasked with both refueling and fighter operations, rising concerns about wear and tear and stoking interest in unmanned replacements.
The Super Hornets and the F-35Cs that make up carrier air wings also have shorter ranges than the aircraft they replaced — a particular hindrance in light of the “carrier-killer” missiles that both Russia and China have developed.
Earlier this week a Russian Su-27 Flanker made what DOD officials described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” pass on U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon. The Russian fighter came within ten feet of the American maritime patrol jet, which was operating over international waters in the Black Sea.
The incident is the latest involving American surveillance or maritime patrol aircraft. Earlier this year, an RC-135U Combat Sent surveillance aircraft also had a close encounter with a Russian Flanker. Russian Su-24 Fencers have buzzed American and Canadian ships in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea since 2014, the year that Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
“These actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries, and could result in a miscalculation or accident which results in serious injury or death,” the Pentagon said in a statement released Wednesday.
The Russians aren’t alone with these types of acts. In 2014 and 2015, the Pentagon reported on incidents involving Chinese fighters also acting in an unsafe manner while intercepting P-8 and RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea.
And in 2001, a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback piloted by Wang Wei collided with a U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries II surveillance aircraft. The J-8 crashed, killing Wei, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the crew was held for over a week.
The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp was recently seen sailing in the South China Sea on its way to the Philippines with an unusually heavy configuration of F-35s.
The Wasp was carrying at least 10 F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters, more than the usual load of six of these hard-hitting fifth-generation jet fighters, The National Interest first reported, adding that the warship may be testing the “light carrier” warfighting concept known as the “Lightning carrier.”
Sailors on the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The amphibious assault ship is participating in the Balikatan exercises, during which “US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response,” the US Navy said in a statement over the weekend announcing the Wasp’s arrival.
The annual exercises prepare troops for crises in the Indo-Pacific region. 2019’s exercises are focused on maritime security, a growing concern as China strives to achieve dominance over strategic waterways.
It’s the first time the Wasp and its Marine Corps F-35B fighters have participated in the Balikatan exercises.
The ship and its fighters “represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said, using rhetoric consistent with US military freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber flights in the South China Sea, intended to check China.
The F-35B is the Marine Corps’ variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force and Navy are also fielding versions of the fighter, the F-35A and the F-35C, the latter of which is designed to operate on full-size carriers.
The F-35B, which was declared combat-ready in 2015, can perform short takeoffs and vertical landings and is suited for operating on amphibious assault ships.
In addition to at least 10 F-35s, the configuration on the Wasp reportedly included four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. Typically, there would be fewer fighters and more rotor aircraft, The War Zone reported.
Deploying with more F-35s than usual could be a first step toward fielding of light carriers, an approach that could theoretically boost not only the size of the carrier force but its firepower.
Marine Corps F-35Bs and MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The concept is not without precedent. During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, amphibious assault ships sailed with up to 20 AV-8B Harriers, becoming “Harrier carriers.”
The concept has been rebranded as the “Lightning carrier,” a reference to the fifth-generation fighters the warships would carry into battle.
The War Zone said an America-class amphibious assault ship — successors to the Wasp class — could carry 16 to 20 F-35s in a light-carrier configuration.
F-35Bs chocked and chained on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III)