Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual piece of legislation which gives authority and funding to the United States Military. While it is a detailed body of work that doesn’t make for light reading, it should be read. This legislation is filled with items that impact the military family directly.


It addresses military pay

The 2020 NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise to military service members. This pay raise was the biggest one to be received in the last decade and was reflected in the first paycheck received by service members of 2020. The bill also extended specific bonuses and special pay. One of the big take-aways of this bill is the focus on supporting not just the member, but the military family as a whole.

Military spouse education and employment

Within the bill there are increases in support of professional licensure for spouses. With the new 2020 bill, spouses are currently eligible for up to 00 in reimbursement for licensure costs accumulated when moving. This is twice the amount that was authorized in last year’s bill. It also addresses license portability by giving authorization to the Council on State Governments to research ways to create reciprocity across state lines.

The bill also extended opportunities for spouses for education. The My Career Advancement Account program is an example of this, as it is a valuable resource for military spouses. It offers up to 00 in assistance for licensure, certification, or an associate’s degree in a field that is portable. The eligibility for this is limited to E-1 through E5, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 spouses. The initial pilot program had it available to all spouses but rising costs and enrollment forces restrictions in who can utilize this benefit. In this bill language, Coast Guard spouses were also included even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security.

Military housing reforms

One of the key elements of this bill is that it addresses the issues within military privatized housing. The bill created new accountability for these companies by enforcing quality assurance measures. It also increased the number of required inspections. This bill provides an additional 1.8 million dollars to make sure that each housing office has the vital personnel it needs to ensure military families are taken care of.

One of the tools that will be utilized going forward is a way to assess and evaluate for risks within military housing. This includes things like mold and lead. It also allows for the BAH to be withheld from the private housing entity until issues or disputes are solved. Another key piece is that it forces transparency by requiring these entities to disclose repairs or issues prior to lease signing. There will also now be a required Tenant Bill of Rights and minimal livable standards established.

Military family needs

The NDAA also authorized million for the STARE BASE program, which is a DOD youth program. It is an American military educational program for grades K-12 that teaches science and math in hands on ways. It was created to tackle the low rates of readiness in these subjects by implementing a program that makes math and science fun and interactive. To learn more about this program and to see if it’s located in your area, click here.

One of the chief concerns outlined in the 2018 Blue Star Families survey was that 72% of military families cannot find reliable childcare. An amendment was included in the NDAA for 2020 that creates more coordinator positions on bases to assist with childcare and extends childcare hours for families.

Another key piece to this legislation is that it created the ability of military service members to sue under administrative claims for medical malpractice by a military provider. Although there was existing legislation for under the Federal Tor Claims Act, the United States itself was immune. After countless hearings within congress over a decade, this amendment passed within the NDAA. If a service member sustains injury or death they can file a claim and receive up to 0,000 as long as they file it within two years.

Surviving spouses receive relief

Finally, one of the biggest parts of the 2020 NDAA is the elimination of what is known as the “widows’ tax” in phases. For multiple decades surviving families have not received their full benefits as they deserve, even though they paid into the benefit programs. This is a piece of legislation that has been debated and fought over for almost twenty years. Finally, change is coming and it will be finalized by 2023.

If you’d like to look through the 2020 NDAA, you can find it here. Fair warning, it is 1119 pages long. However, a pro tip is to utilize the search ability within the document to enter terms that you want to specifically read about. This will bring you exactly where you need to go. Happy reading!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Huge, strange-looking’ snakes spotted around Marine base

A year after Marines were told to quit feeding an alligator that lived near their barracks, reports of “huge” snakes at a North Carolina base have prompted officials to reiterate their warnings against pets, scaly or otherwise.

A red-tailed boa, a nonvenomous snake commonly kept as a pet, was spotted in a parking lot at Camp Lejeune in June 2019. The sighting followed another report of a 2-foot-long ball python slithering in the lobby of the barracks in the Wallace Creek.

“Since we have had two fairly recent incidents, we felt it was important to educate base personnel and the public on the issues that can be caused when exotic species are either intentionally or unintentionally released into the natural environment,” Emily Gaydos, a wildlife biologist with Camp Lejeune’s land and wildlife resources section said.


The Marine Corps doesn’t track the number of exotic snakes or other animals found on base, Gaydos said. But the pair of reports prompted officials to remind Marines that snakes are not among the domestic animals they’re allowed to have in base housing.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

A red-tailed boa.

“Domestic animals do not include wild, exotic animals such as venomous, constrictor-type snakes or other reptiles, raccoons, skunks, ferrets, iguanas, or other ‘domesticated’ wild animals,” a release put out last week states. “No privately-owned animals are allowed in work areas, barracks, or bachelor officer or enlisted quarters.”

There were no reports of snake bites or other injuries after the reptiles were found in the barracks and parking lot, Gaydos said. Neither are poisonous. The snakes were both transferred to local rehabilitation facilities that are “permitted and have the expertise to properly care for the specific species,” she added.

Since neither snake is native to the Camp Lejeune region, officials there warned Marines of the unintended consequences of introducing them into the environment.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

A ball python.

“An exotic species may prey on native species, have no predators, outcompete native species for food or other resources, introduce diseases, or interrupt a native species’ life cycle in some way,” the release warns.

In Florida, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there is trying to fight the spread of iguanas, which are thriving in the warmer temperatures there. The Washington Post reported that homeowners there are being told to “kill the green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” as the lizard population booms without any natural predators.

This isn’t the first time North Carolina Marines have been warned about messing up the local ecosystem.

Last year, a nearly 6-foot-long alligator had to be moved after wildlife experts discovered the reptile living near the barracks at Marine Corps Air Station New River was being fed by humans.

Marines tempted to feed the local creatures were given clear guidance: Don’t even think about it.

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

Articles

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

ISIS fighters are using heavily-armored ‘Mad Max’-style vehicles to deliver suicide bombs to targeted Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in Mosul.


Col. John Dorrian, spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, showed off a photo of one of the vehicles the terrorist group has been using in Mosul for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs.

Also read: Iraqi troops reveal more gruesome ISIS handiwork in Mosul

“It’s reminiscent of a Mad Max vehicle, with armored plating in the front to protect the driver until he can detonate the explosives he’s carrying on board,” Dorrian said in a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, according to The Washington Examiner.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you
DoD

As the photo shows, a driver and the vehicle’s engine block are very well-protected from small arms fire due to thick armor plating and what appears to be bulletproof glass. Since they are much tougher to take out by ground forces, Dorrian said that more than 60 of the vehicles have been taken out by US airstrikes.

US forces took out at least three VBIEDs on Wednesday alone. Despite what Dorrian describedas “extremely tough fighting,” ISIS has lost a number of surrounding towns in the fight since the offensive began in October.

Iraqi and Peshmerga forces have made steady gains in and around Mosul since then, and they are now roughly six miles from the city’s Government Center, according to the latest report from the Institute for the Study of War.

“We are advancing steadily,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a commander in Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces, told USA Today. “We are taking in civilians fleeing [ISIS-controlled] areas while prioritizing protecting residents inside the city.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia throws new fit over peace process with Japan

Russia has summoned the Japanese ambassador and accused Tokyo of deliberately ramping up tensions ahead of a planned visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for talks with President Vladimir Putin on formally ending World War II hostilities.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Jan. 9, 2019, said it “invited” Japanese Ambassador Toyohisa Kozuki to the ministry over comments made from Tokyo about the possible return to Japan of a disputed Pacific island chain.


The dispute over the chain — which Russia refers to as the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories — has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from a signing of a formal peace treaty to end World War II.

Soviet forces seized the islands at the end of the war, and Russia continues to occupy and administer the territory, although it has allowed visits by former Japanese residents and family members in recent years.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said recent Japanese government statements represented an apparent attempt to “artificially incite the atmosphere regarding the peace-treaty problem and try to enforce its own scenario of settling the issue.”

The ministry cited Tokyo’s remarks about the need to prepare island residents for a return of the chain to Japan and about dropping demands for Moscow to pay compensation to former Japanese residents of the islands. It also took issue with Abe’s comments that 2019 would see a breakthrough in the negotiations.

“Such statements flagrantly distort the essence of the agreements between Japanese and Russian leaders to accelerate the talks’ progress” and “disorientate” members of the public in both countries, the Russian ministry said.

It said Japan was attempting to “force its own scenario” on Russia over the talks.

Following Kozuki’s meetings at the Russian ministry, Japan’s Foreign Ministry was quoted by Russian state-run TASS news agency as saying Tokyo would continue negotiations with Russia on a peace treaty “in [a] calm atmosphere.”

The Japanese ministry said Kozuki explained Tokyo’s position on the matter to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, but it did not provide details.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.

“The Japanese government will continue the negotiations process in the framework of its main position — to resolve the territorial dispute and then signing a peace treaty,” the ministry added.

Russia’s position on the Kuriles remains unchanged, that Japan must accept the outcome of World War II, including Russia’s sovereignty over the disputed islands, the Russian ministry stressed.

Russia has military bases on the archipelago and has deployed missile systems on the islands.

Abe is tentatively scheduled to visit Russia on Jan. 21, 2019, for talks with Putin on the peace treaty, Russian news agencies have reported.

The two leaders met in November 2018 and agreed to accelerate talks to formally end World War II.

In an interview published on Dec. 17, 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda that Moscow could hand Japan the two smaller islands, Shikotan and a group of islets called Habomai, if Tokyo “recognizes the results” of World War II — something he said Tokyo was “not ready for yet.”

Recognition of the results, in Russia’s eyes, means that Japan would have to accept Russian possession of the disputed islands as legal, potentially ruling out any further dispute or claims by Tokyo on the two larger, more populated islands, Iturup and Kunashir.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 more surprising things that go against the laws of war

Lines get blurred on the battlefield. The only thing that clearly gives one side the moral high ground is their ability to follow the rules of law. Sure, it may make troops fight with one hand tied behind their back, but it is a line that should never be crossed.


The laws of war are clearly defined by the International Committee of the Red Cross, United Nations, and the International Criminal Court. Many laws are self-explanatory. In general, they state that wars are only to be fought among the fighters and all collateral damage should be limited — that wars be fought to end the enemy, not cause suffering.

Related video:

While the overarching themes may be self-evident, there are many laws in place to prevent a sort of domino effect from happening — one that would eventually cause unnecessary harm or death. We’ve discussed a few of the more obscure laws in a previous article, but there are still plenty to discuss.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

Even if the phrase is spoken in jest by someone with authority over another, it’s a war crime.

(Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

Saying the phrase, “no quarter given” (Fourth Hague Convention. Article 23 (d))

Because anything said by a commander or a leader is to be taken as a direct order, even just uttering the phrase, “no quarter given” is against the laws of war — regardless of the circumstance.

Quarter, or the act of taking prisoners of war, should always be a top priority if any combatant has surrendered or has lost the ability to fight. This is such a big deal that it is clearly given its own rule.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

It’s one or the other. Not both.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden)

Using CS gas on combatants (Chemical Weapons Convention Art I (5))

The use of riot control gas is a gray area. It is deployed in moments of civil unrest, but it cannot be used in addition to deadly force.

Meaning, against a large crowd of aggressive (but not violent) protesters, non-lethal CS gas may be used to accomplish dispersion. The reason such gas is banned from war, however, is because it removes combatants from a fight and causes unnecessary suffering. If the goal is to detain the combatant, it’s fine. The moment someone opens fire on an incapacitated individual, however, it’s a war crime.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

Besides, light blue isn’t really a choice camouflage pattern in most environments.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Rosas)

Using light blue headgear in combat (Geneva Convention Prot. I Art. 85)

There aren’t too many wrong answers in designing a combat uniform. As long as it follows the general color palette of a given area, it’s usually fair game and used by nearly everyone. The only color that is strictly off-limits is the shade of blue used by UN peacekeepers.

The use of light blue on headgear may misrepresent a combatant’s intentions. The light blue headgear is officially recognized because it can be seen from a distance. UN Peacekeepers have their own guidelines, which include never initiating combat unless absolutely necessary. And attacking a UN peacekeeper opens up an entirely different can of worms.

Those who are not with the UN are forbidden from using this color.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

Their focus is healing the injured and wounded. Anything that prevents them from saving any life should be avoided.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Smith)

Even slightly interfering with Red Cross workers (First Geneva Convention Art. 9)

Medical professionals with the International Red Cross are heavily protected by the laws of war. It’s fairly well known that harming them is a war crime and forcibly stopping them from giving aid is also a war crime. What you might not know is that “interfering with an aid worker” is loosely defined — and for good reason.

In the past, combatants would stop aid workers from leaving their area so that they only give aid to their troops. But Red Cross workers aren’t supposed to take sides. They need to be able to give equal and unbiased treatment to all wounded on the battlefield.

Anything more than a routine security check is off-limits.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

Military necessity may require troops to engage the enemy on a farm and accidents, unfortunately, happen. But willfully attacking a civilian’s livestock is not necessary.

(Photo by Pfc. David Devich)

Anything involving fresh waterways or farms (Geneva Convention Prot. I Art. 51-54)

Intentionally damaging a drinking well is punishable by The Hague. Unintentionally doing so is treated just as harshly.

There is the caveat of “military necessity,” which would protect a combatant that is forced to fight on a farm or a river that is used as drinking water. Ideally, all fighting would take place where, without a shadow of a doubt, no food or water will be poisoned or damaged by conflict. Sometimes, however, you’re not given a choice.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s capture of Ukrainian sailors threatens meeting with US

U.S. President Donald Trump says he is considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Argentina this week over Russia’s detention of Ukrainian sailors.

His comments in an interview with The Washington Post published late on November 27 came as the Ukrainian president warned of a “threat of full-scale war” with Russia while European leaders said they were considering a new round of sanctions against Russia because of its capture of three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews following a confrontation at sea off Crimea on November 25.


Will President Trump hold Russia accountable over Ukraine?

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Trump told the Post he was awaiting a “full report” from his national security team about the incident before going through with a Putin meeting that had been expected to address a range of issues from arms control to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

“That will be very determinative,” Trump told the Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting … I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all,” he said.

Trump was due to meet Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30 and December 1.

His comments came after a Russian court on November 27 ordered 12 of the 24 Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian forces to be held in custody for two months.

Russia has claimed that Ukraine provoked the naval clash in what it has called its “territorial waters” near Crimea, which Moscow forcibly annexed from Ukraine in March 2014 in a move not recognized by most nations.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned late on November 27 that the conflict threatens to turn into a “full-scale war,” citing Russia’s “dramatic” build-up of forces in the area.

“I don’t want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia,” the president said in an interview with Ukrainian national television.

“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” he said, while the number of Russian tanks has tripled.

Poroshenko a day earlier won the Ukrainian parliament’s approval to put parts of Ukraine they deemed vulnerable to attack from Russia under martial law for 30 days.

The clash between Russian and Ukrainian forces in waters near Crimea was the first in that arena after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,300 people.

Ukraine President Wants Trump’s Help In Getting Russia Out Of His Country | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

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Months Of Heightened Tension

It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea. That strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.

European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian sailors.

Karin Kneissl, the foreign minister of Austria, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said that the bloc will next month consider further sanctions against Moscow.

“Everything depends on the accounts of events and the actions of both sides. But it will need to be reviewed,” Kneissl told reporters.

Norbert Roettgen, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the EU may need to toughen its sanctions against Russia, while Poland and Estonia called for more sanctions.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said Russia’s actions constituted “war in Europe,” adding that this “will not, shall not, and cannot ever again be accepted as business as usual.” She urged the international community “to condemn the Russian aggression clearly, collectively and immediately and demand a stop to the aggression.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said EU countries should do more to support Ukraine, suggesting they reconsider their support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which she said “helps the Russian government.”

“The United States government has taken a very strong position in…support of Ukraine. We would like other countries to do more as well,” Nauert said.

“Many governments have imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Crimea, in Ukraine. Not all of those sanctions…have been fully enforced,” she said.

The Kremlin said Putin repeated Russia’s position that Ukraine provoked the incident In a conversation with Merkel on November 27, and expressed “serious concern” over Ukraine’s decision to impose martial law in regions that border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester area, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

Putin said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” the Kremlin said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

Tips for budgeting for the holidays

As the holidays get closer, many military families find themselves looking for ways to save money and budget appropriately for the upcoming gift-giving season. Random COVID-19 impulse buys, a downward spiraling economy, job loss, and purchases related to new homeschooling or virtual schooling curriculum are leaving many of us financially stressed in 2020. Check out these holiday budgeting tips that will help you start the new year off on the right financial footing.

Tips on budgeting for the holidays

So how do you try to save and budget for this holiday season when your finances may have taken unexpected hits because of the coronavirus pandemic? Financial expert and military spouse Lacey Langford from The Military Money Expert says there are three things you should evaluate when you start budgeting for the holidays: your current holiday savings, the total amount you want to spend for the holidays, and who is on your list. 

“Knowing how much you have to spend is the jumping-off point for your budget,” Langford said. “Then you can look at [ways to save] between now and Christmas.”

You will also want to examine how much you want to spend for the holidays. You can do this by looking at your current savings account balance. Subtract the amount you want to keep in savings as your emergency and investment amounts to find your total holiday shopping budget. Once you have that number, you can write down the people on your holiday shopping gift list, and assign each person an amount of money you would like to spend on them. “[When you] know who you’re buying for it makes it easy to firm up your spending budget,” says Langford. 

“Save money every month, starting in January. … Set up an automatic $100 transfer from your checking to your savings at the beginning of the month. By the time November rolls around, you’ll have $1,100 to holiday shop with,” Langford suggests. 

But don’t fret — if you aren’t that organized with your holiday budgeting this year, you can still do some things to help you save some cash for the next several weeks: 

  • Don’t procrastinate: Shop sales when you see them. You can even do this throughout the year.
  • Use apps like Qube Money that utilizes the popular envelope system or Tiller that helps you budget throughout the year.
  • Cancel your cable or streaming services.
  • Honey and Rakuten are two websites that offer cash back for purchases made on other sites — even Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target participate

“Don’t forget to use your military benefits when shopping for the holidays,” Langford said. 

Shop My Exchange, ID.Me Shop, and GovX are all military-specific and provide discounts or lists of companies that give military discounts online. 

The military exchanges also offer a new layaway program as well. Layaway not only helps you pay for what you can manage in a certain timeframe but also allows you to stick to your monthly budget. There are several different options for layaway, from 30 days for clothing and handbags up to 120 days on fine jewelry. A deposit purchase of $25 and 15% of the item’s purchase price, plus service fees are required to put your items on layaway at any military exchange. You can find out more information by visiting the Exchange website

Even if your family is in a good place financially, you should start considering your holiday budget about 6-8 weeks using the funds you have saved away throughout the year. Budgeting is a great way to keep your family on track, make sure your nest eggs continue to thrive, and help your family prepare for the unexpected — like a worldwide pandemic. 

Want more money tips? Download our free 2020 Military Money Guide

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you
Residents of San Onofre II housing aboard Camp Pendleton allege that Lincoln Military housing is threatening them with eviction notices if they don’t pay extremely high electric bills that they are contesting. (Photo courtesy of Kristine Schellhaas.)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.

Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.

The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.

The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.

According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.

“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”

Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.

Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.

According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.

Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.

Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.

The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.

Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.

Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.

The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.

Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.

One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.

One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”

Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.

That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you
Yes Energy Management boasts on their website an ability to recover lost payments due to vacant homes.

Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you
Residents of the housing community fear retaliation from the housing office if they talk too much, but they say that not addressing the problem doesn’t fix it, either.

Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.

These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.

Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”

The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.

So where does that leave the residents?

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you
Residents who lived both off base and aboard other military installations know that this isn’t how the program is supposed to work, nor does it work this way elsewhere. But they love their community, so they’re at an impasse.

Right where they were, for now.

The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.

In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.

The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.

“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.

When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”

Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”

And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you
Residents are legitimately afraid of retaliation from the housing office for speaking to We Are the Mighty.

Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.

In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.

Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:

“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A seeming clone of the X-47B shows up at Chinese airshow

A new drone model with stealth features has been unveiled at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) booth at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China, in Zhuhai.

Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.


Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

While it’s extremely likely that China had the opportunity to inspect the drone and copy the circuitry, lenses, sensors that probably survived the mysterious crash landing, the shape of the article exhibited at Zhuhai seems to be more similar to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program than the Lockheed Martin RQ-170.

In their article on the Chinese drones at the Zhuhai Airshow, The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway, describing the large flying wing-shaped aircraft hidden under tarps said:

“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”

Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).

The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.

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A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Anyway, until more images and details about this new drone emerge we can just add that considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects as well as other US aerospace industries in the last years, we can’t rule out the possibility that Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of some American UAVs, useful to “clone” U.S. shapes, planforms and components. And possibly improve them or at least try to.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is developing exoskeletons that will save your knees

David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.

“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.


“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”

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Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.

(RDECOM Soldier Center)

Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.

As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.

Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.

Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.

“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.

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(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”

“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.

“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China just mounted a futuristic railgun onto one of its ships

Photos have been circulating on social media that show a Chinese ship with what could be a prototype railgun on its bow.


The photos, taken at the Wuchang Shipyard in China’s Hubei Province, show a Type 072III-class landing ship identified as the Haiyang Shan with a much larger gun on its mount than its usual twin 37mm cannon.

The size and shape of the weapon are roughly the same as the U.S. Navy’s own prototype railgun, and the shipping containers on the deck could be used as control rooms or to house the power supply. Moreover, the location of the photographs may hint as to the gun’s true nature — the Wuchang Shipyard has been the sight of previous tests for the Chinese Navy.

 

 

It also comes at a time when the U.S. has been scaling back their efforts on developing railguns and other electromagnetic technologies. The Navy has spent more than $500 million on the project, which will likely never see combat.

Officials at the Department of Defense “don’t want to fund the railgun because they’re simply not buying it,” a senior legislative official with direct knowledge of the U.S.’ railgun project recently told Task Purpose.

“Promising technologies fall into the ‘valley of death’ all the time,” another legislative source told Task Purpose. “Testing is great, but unless you want to put money into transitioning that tech into an actual weapons system then what the hell are you doing? We’re afraid to take a risk and try to get things moving.”

Also Read: China might have radar tech that can see the F-35

Railguns are cannons that can shoot inert projectiles without gunpowder. They achieve this by using magnetic energy sent through rails on the projectiles as they make their way down the barrel, allowing the projectile to reach hypersonic speeds.

The technology would allow for faster target acquisition, increased range, and could free up space for more projectiles because propelling charges would not be needed — something that may also make the railgun cheaper than its current counterparts.

The photos suggest that the set up is still in a testing phase. A Type 072III-class landing ship would be a good candidate; the ship can hold 500 tons of cargo, and has enough open space to fit large components.

China’s military has a well known history of being interested in electromagnetic technologies. The country has been researching how to build and deploy a Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for its aircraft carriers.

 

EMALS would require less maintenance that current systems, which rely on compressed steam to launch aircraft, and could allow Chinese aircraft carriers to carry and launch larger aircraft, increasing the range and strike power of a Chinese carrier force.

Railguns are something that China has been pursuing for decades. While the research has been going on since the 1980’s, China has recently claimed to have made massive progress on the program, with Rear Admiral Ma Weiming boasting of China’s breakthroughs in October 2017.

Though there has been no official confirmation that the pictures show a railgun, China would be the first nation to successfully install a railgun prototype onto a sea-worthy vessel if the reports are true.

Articles

What a Veteran Service Officer wants you to know about your benefits

Did the VA read anything I submitted to them? Are these outside medical exams a scam? Who is willing to fight for me?


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Veteran Service Officer Joe Sapien.

These are all common questions that Joseph Sapien, a Southern California-based Veteran Service Officer and Army vet, encounters on a daily basis. Veteran Service Officers, or “VSOs,” serve as a free resource to help vets properly submit disability claims and steer them to all the benefits of their service.

WATM recently spoke with Sapien on what it’s like serving as a VSO and got some advice from him on how to handle issues veterans face during the process of filing claims with the VA.

1. Where do I find a Veteran Service Officer to help with my claim?

Finding a Veteran Service Officer is as easy as picking up the phone and dialing 888-777-4443 to locate the office nearest you or by visiting the Veterans of Foreign WarsAmerican Veterans, or the Disabled American Veterans. Visiting a VSO is free of charge. Veterans should refrain from paying out of pocket to any agency claiming to offer them help with their claim. There are veterans services available in all 50 states.

2. Who is willingly to fight for me?

One benefit that a lot of veterans don’t take advantage of is calling up their congressman. Sapien says it’s a good idea for all vets to know who their elected officials are and meet them in person.

“This guy listens and tries to help vets, I have seen him give his time and thoughts on veteran matters, and that impressed me,” Sapien says of his local congressman, Rep. Tony Cárdenas.

3. What are some benefits Veterans don’t know about?

Caregiver program: This program provides monthly stipends to pay for support caregivers along with home and vehicle modifications for those who qualify. Caregivers of eligible veterans are urged to apply through the Caregiver Program website or by calling 855-260-3274.

College fee waiver: This program is set up to waive tuition fees for dependents and possibly for spouses. This is a state-based program. Visit your local VSO for more information.

4. What paperwork should I have before visiting a VSO?

Having the most current medical record on hand is key. If it’s not up-to-date, consider tracking the paperworkdown by getting in touch with your previous commands. Have a good solid copy of your service record on hand as well as your DD-214. The better your records are kept, the fewer bumps in the road. Just remember, filing is a process.

If you’re missing some of the documents, you can request them from archives.gov. It typically takes four to six weeks.

5. What Joe would like you to know

“We need to take care of each other. The only reason our era of veterans are getting better treatment and benefits is due to the Vietnam veterans who fought for our government,” Sapien says. “They fought and kept fighting for what was right, not for what was popular, not for the status quo. It’s our turn to stand. It is our turn to fight for future generations, so when they come home, they will be taken care of better than we are today.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A-10s join NATO forces all along the Russian border

US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts are back in the Baltics, practicing for rough landings on improvised runways as a part of Saber Strike 18, the annual exercise where NATO and partner forces work to improve their ability to operate across Europe and with NATO’s forward-deployed battle groups.

In early June 2018, A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, practiced landing and taking off from a rural highway in Latvia and an abandoned runway in Estonia.


During the Cold War, highways were considered an option for fixed-wing aircraft, as standard airstrips were likely to be targeted first in the event of conflict. But the A-10s only recently resumed the exercise.

During the 2016 iteration of Saber Strike, Warthogs from the Michigan National Guard landed on a strip of highway in Estonia— the first such exercise since 1984. In August 2017, A-10s from the Maryland National Guard practiced landing and taking off from a stretch of highway in northern Estonia.

“The requirement that we’ve been tasked with to be able to force project into battle spaces where the assumption is that the enemy is going to immediately try to destroy or limit capabilities on known airfields,” said Air Force Maj. David Dennis, the detachment director of operations for the 107th Fighter Squadron.

“So the A-10 has been tasked with being able to forward deploy into areas a little bit more austere,” he added, “whether they’re old airfields, riverbeds, old highways, whatever the case may be, so we continue to provide close air support to the guys on the ground.”

The 107th Fighter Squadron is currently deployed to Latvia. Working with members of the 321st Special Tactics Squadron’s combat controllers, the 107th’s A-10s carried out landings and takeoffs from an abandoned runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, on June 7, 2018.

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A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge, Michigan, practiced landing on an austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18, June 7, 2018.

The exercise is part of Saber Strike 18, the latest version of a US Army Europe-led training exercise involving NATO countries and partner forces. This year’s iteration focuses on improving land- and air-operational capabilities, with the additional goal of training with NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups.

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On a rural highway in northern Estonia, a pilot flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II attached to the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to practice landings and takeoffs, during the Exercise Saber Strike 18 on June 7, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups have been deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland over the past two years and are made up of units from various NATO member countries. They are still on station in those four countries and now number over 4,500 personnel in total.

“We’re landing on Estonian soil, so we have Estonian defense forces here, providing security. We have local fire departments on standby, in case there is some sort of incident,” Dennis said. “So it involves a host of people.”


Austere-landing exercises contribute to the goal of providing close air support. “So day five, day six, day ten of the war, the assumption is that the airfields that the Air Force has been operating out of are probably compromised in some manner,” Dennis said.

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A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge, Michigan, practice landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18, June 7, 2018.

“So in order to continue to force project, and to continue to drop bombs and protect the troops on the ground, we’re going to have to find other suitable means with which we can continue our combat operations,” Dennis added. “So they would literally truck in the bombs, the bullets, all the things they need to, to austere environments, like an old airfield, a highway, whatever have you, so that we can continue to operate and ultimately save lives on the ground.”

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US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

The A-10, introduced in the 1970s, was a key component of the NATO’s frontline defense during the Cold War. It served as the main antitank platform and was equipped with heavy armaments, like the AGM-65 Maverick missile and a 30 mm Gatling gun, and was heavily armored itself in order withstand ground fire.

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US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

A-10 pilots were given a coloring book to help train them to recognize Soviet tanks. The book, filled with deadpan humor and titled “What you always wanted to know about the T-62 but were afraid to ask,” color-coded sections on Soviet vehicles to instruct pilots on which parts to target and which to avoid.

“The point of the article is to highlight for newly assigned pilots the improved vulnerabilities of the tank from a side or rear attack,” Andy Bush, a retired A-10 pilot, told War is Boring in 2014. Bush said he had “no idea who wrote it or where.”

Cold War planners were not optimistic about the A-10’s chances in a war. In the 1980s, the Air Force planned to put 68 A-10s at each of six forward operating bases in West Germany. Their estimates assumed a 7% loss rate for each 100 flights, meaning each forward operating base would lose at least 10 A-10s every 24 hours. At that rate, the roughly 700-plane A-10 fleet would be shot down in less than two weeks.

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US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alex Goulette, crew chief assigned to 127th Wing maintenance squadron in Selfridge, Michigan, and Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, communicate with A-10 pilots about landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

Source: War is Boring

Current tensions with Russia are far from the level seen between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War. But the austere-landing exercise and other drills are meant to keep pilots and aircrews sharp and reassure allies.

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A US Air Force A-10 practices landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

“Why did we choose Haapsalu over other areas? Inside the country of Estonia, essentially inside the Baltic region … it’s part of reassuring our NATO alliances,” Dennis said. “We continue to force-project airplanes, not just the A-10 but other NATO assets, all throughout the Baltic region. So what we have done is we’ve analyzed different areas, not just inside of Estonia, but also in Latvia and Lithuania as well, that are suitable landing sites.”

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US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

There are three important training objectives, Dennis said.

“The first is, trust the pilots right? So the larger Air Force in a whole needs to trust that the A-10 pilot group is capable of executing this in a very important mission set.”

“The next thing is the pilot trusting the airplane. As you operate this these sort of austere environments, the pilot has to have confidence that he or she can actually land in these environments, and execute the operation safely.”

“And the third, and I think equally as important, is we exercise the Special Tactics Squadrons, and other people that are involved in controlling us, and keep them proficient and current.”

Even in a training situation, landing on rough surfaces poses risks. “The airplanes can blow tires. The concrete isn’t as well grooved. In this case, the concrete is not even nearly the same as it would in a normal airfield,” Dennis said. “So there’s a lot of challenges that, physically, the airplane will face when … the rubber actually meets the concrete.”

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US Air Force Master Sgt. Wolfram Stumpf, public affairs assigned to the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, records an A-10 Thunderbolt practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

“There’s a lot of detailed planning that goes into ensuring that all of these areas have been properly looked at,” Dennis added. “The Special Tactics Squadrons have a very methodical way with which they come and analyze and basically evaluate these landing surfaces.”

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US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks the runway for foreign-object debris after A-10 landed in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

The A-10, however, is the best plane for this kind of job. “The reason the A-10 does this is because it was designed to do this,” Dennis said. “In the design phase of the actual airplane, [there] was the consideration for this type of environment. So landing gear all the way up to the high-bypass engines, that sit above the airplane, all of that is specifically designed so the airplane is not just survivable, but can operate in these austere environments.”

US Air National Guard photos by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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