The AC-130U gunship has completed its final combat deployment.
The U.S. Air Force said its AC-130U, known as the “Spooky,” has returned stateside from its last scheduled deployment.
The last U-model arrived home to the 1st Special Operations Wing under Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on July 8, 2019, according to a service news release.
The 1st SOW said the Spooky will remain on alert in case troops need it for strike or overwatch downrange. But its return comes as the command gets ready to deploy the Spooky’s follow-on model, the AC-130J Ghostrider.
The 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st SOW at the base, received its first upgraded J-model in March 2019. While the command has had and operated the J-model since 2017, officials touted AFSOC’s first plane with the Block 30 software upgrade. The improved Ghostrider arrived this spring.
The Block 30 model marks “a major improvement in software and avionics technology” over the AC-130J, which has the original Block 20 software, officials said in a news release in March 2019.
“The Ghostrider is the newest and most modernized gunship in existence, fulfilling the same mission sets as the Spooky but with upgraded avionics, navigation systems and a precision strike package that includes trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons,” the release states.
The fourth-generation AC-130J is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J- model sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force. Crews expect the J to be deployed in late 2019 or early 2020. The service plans to buy 37 of the aircraft.
Along with the 105mm cannon the U-models sport, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise, it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st Special Operations Wing, told Military.com last May at Hurlburt.
The J-model also has improved turboprop engines, which reduce operational costs with better flight sustainability, the service has said. It has the ability to launch 250-pound, GPS — or laser-guided small-diameter bombs (SDB). The aircraft is expected to carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, interchangeable with the SDBs on its wing pylons, AFSOC has said.
The upgrades come as the service is looking to keep more aircraft “survivable” in multiple conditions.
For example, last year, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command publicly said electronic jamming over Syria had affected the AC-130U model, and became reason enough for getting more military data protections amid an ever-changing multi-domain battlespace.
Two AC-130U Spooky gunships with the 4th Special Operations Squadron fly over Hurlburt Field, Florida, after returning from their last scheduled combat deployment, June 8, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Blake Wiles)
“They’re testing us every day — knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, et cetera,” Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III said April 25, 2019, before an audience at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s GEOINT 2018 Symposium. Thomas, who commanded SOCOM since March 2016, retired this year.
As a result, crews began checking and cross-checking their data, including target information, before they locked on with their cannons, Palenske told Military.com.
“You make sure you’re as precise as possible, only targeting the guys we’ve validated as bad guys,” he said, referring to operations in the Middle East where the gunships routinely flew countless missions, often with danger-close strikes.
“When there’s some glitch being put out there by trons that threatens the accuracy of that, then the [AC-130 crews] have got to make sure they do no harm,” Palenske added.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.
The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.
“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’
“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.
Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.
A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.
Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.
“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.
Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”
In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”
“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.
The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.
The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.
The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.
The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”
Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.
Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.
The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.
In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.
“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.
More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.
“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.
The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.
The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.
In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”
Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities
In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.
The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.
Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.
“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.
In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:
“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”
The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.
Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.
The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.
“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.
At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.
He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Becker, a 33-year-old native of Novi, Michigan, was a pilot for the squadron. He is survived by his spouse, mother and father, the release said.
Dellecker, 26, was a co-pilot from Daytona Beach, Florida. He is survived by his mother and father.
Dalga, 29, was a combat systems officer from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is survived by his spouse, son and mother.
The crash occurred a quarter-mile east of Clovis Municipal Airport at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a release from the base. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Kyle Berkshire, director of the airport, told local NBC affiliate KOB4 News on Wednesday the plane was observed performing “touch and goes” on the runway during a training sortie.
“We are deeply saddened by this loss within our Air Commando family,” Col. Ben Maitre, the base commander, said in a release on Wednesday. “Our sympathies are with the loved ones and friends affected by this tragedy, and our team is focused on supporting them during this difficult time,” he said.
The 318th was activated in 2008 under Air Force Special Operations Command to provide “battlefield mobility for our special operations forces,” according to then-Col. Timothy Leahy, the former wing commander.
The unit is tasked with flying a variety of light and medium aircraft known as non-standard aviation, according to a service release. The squadron operates PC-12 aircraft — designated as the U-28A in the Air Force — for intra-theater airlift missions, the release said.
The U-28A is operated by the 319th, 34th and 318th Special Operations squadrons, according to the Air Force. Training is conducted by the 5th and 19th Special Operations squadron. The units are located at Cannon and Hurlburt Field, Florida.
A small child is going viral on social media for his awesome rendition of The Army Song, the song performed at Army ceremonies around the world to celebrate the service and its history. And the fact that the kid is wearing a comically oversized helmet with night-vision goggle mount and full camo paint is just gravy.
Gonna be honest, I watched this and then found “Army prior service recru” in my Google search bar before I could get myself back under control. Become one of the millions like me by just clicking the play button above.
(And you can go ahead and stop reading here. We have to put about 300+ words in articles to get search engines to see them properly, so I’m going to write some stuff about The Army Song below, but the big attraction is the adorable singing child, so you can scroll back up and watch that. Seriously, the rest of this is aimed at robot readers anyway. Go look at the adorable kid. Seriously, I haven’t hidden any cute kid stuff below. It’s all just history.)
The Army Song was adopted by the U.S. Army as its official song in 1956, but it’s based on a song written by a brigadier general in 1908. Brig. Gen. Edmund Louis ‘Snitz” Gruber wrote The Caissons Go Rolling Along as a way of expressing his experiences serving with an artillery unit in the Philippines.
Field artillery pieces and caissons on a parade ground in 1914 during border clashes between the U.S. and various forces involved in the Mexican Revolution.
(Library of Congress)
Caissons were horse-drawn supply wagons designed to carry ammunition for artillery units, and the song as a whole is about the inexorable power of a column of artillery marching to the battlefield. The first verse and the refrain are:
Over hill, over dale As we hit the dusty trail, And those caissons go rolling along. In and out, hear them shout, Counter march and right about, And those caissons go rolling along.
Then it’s hi! hi! hee! In the field artillery, Shout out your numbers loud and strong, For where e’er you go, You will always know That those caissons go rolling along.
When the Army adopted a broader version in 1953 as The Army Song, they simply changed out some phrases to reflect Army history and make the song less field artillery specific. The first chorus and refrain now go:
First to fight for the right, And to build the Nation’s might, And the Army goes rolling along. Proud of all we have done, Fighting till the battle’s won, And the Army goes rolling along.
Then it’s hi! hi! hey! The Army’s on its way. Count off the cadence loud and strong; For where’er we go, You will always know That the Army goes rolling along.
The T-38 Talon has seen a long career training fighter pilots, entering service in 1961. Since then, over 72,000 pilots have been trained in that plane. But there were a number of countries that needed an advanced jet trainer, but had no access to the T-38. Those would be the Soviet Union and their allies.
Thankfully, for them, the Czechoslovakian aircraft manufacturer Aero came along. In 1972, the L-39 Albatros entered service with the Czechoslovakian Air Force, and then was imported by the Soviet Union and its allies. In the 45 years since, it has proven to be an excellent trainer and light-attack plane. MilitaryFactory.com notes that almost 3,000 of these planes have been built – compared to only 1,146 T-38s!
Unlike the T-38, the L-39 wasn’t supersonic – its top speed is 391 miles per hour. It’s just under 40 feet six inches long, with a wingspan of roughly 31 feet, and about 15 feet six inches tall. It has a maximum range of just under 1,100 miles. The lane can carry up to 1,100 pounds of weapons, including a 23mm cannon in a centerline pod, AA-2 Atoll missiles, and rocket pods. There are also provisions for two wing tanks.
The L-39 was exported to the Soviet Union (and after 1991, to the various successor states), as well as to many other Warsaw Pact countries (Poland being a notable exception), and to planes like Libya, Algeria, Vietnam, and North Korea. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the L-39 airframe has been receiving Western technology, including engines and avionics.
There is nothing more heart-wrenching to veterans with families than having to explain why daddy hasn’t been the same ever since he returned from the war. A reasonable adult can grasp the idea that war is hell and that it can change a person forever, but an innocent kid — one who was sheltered from such grim concepts by that very veteran — cannot.
A. A. Milne, an English author and veteran of both World Wars, was struggling to explain this harsh reality to his own child when he penned the 1926 children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.
This might help give you a picture of just how awful the Battle of the Somme was. Fellow British Army officer and writer J.R.R. Tolkien fought in the Battle and used it as inspiration for the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
(New Line Cinema)
As a young man, Alan Alexander Milne stood up for King and Country when it was announced that the United Kingdom had entered World War I. He was commissioned as an officer into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals on February 1, 1915. Soon after, he was sent to France to fight in the Battle of the Somme.
The description, “Hell on Earth” is apt, but doesn’t come close to fully describing the carnage of what became the bloodiest battle in human history. More than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed — many of Milne’s closest friends were among the numerous casualties. Bodies were stacked in the flooded-out trenches where other men lived, fought, and died.
On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.
A.A. Milne, his son, Christopher Robin, and Winnie the Pooh.
(Photo by Howard Coster)
Milne returned to his wife, Daphne de Selincourt, and spent many years recovering physically. His light finally came to him on August 21, 1920, when his son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born. He put his writings on hold — it was his therapeutic outlet for handling his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress) — so he could be the best possible father to his baby boy.
One fateful day, he took his son to the London Zoo where they bonded over enjoying a new visitor to the park, a little Canadian Black Bear named Winnipeg (or Winnie for short). Alan was drawn to the bear because it had been a mascot used by the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Despite being one of the most terrifying creatures in the zoo, Winnie was reclusive, often shying away from people.
Alan saw himself in that bear. At the same time, Christopher loved the bear for being cuddly and cute. Understandably, Alan bought his son a teddy — the real-life Winnie the Pooh bear.
It all kind of makes you think about that line Winnie’s says to Christopher, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
(New York Public Library)
The demons of war followed Milne throughout his life. It was noted that when Christopher was little, Alan terrified him when he confused a swarm of buzzing bees with whizzing bullets. The popping of balloons sent him ducking for cover. Milne knew of only one way to explain to his son what was happening — through his writing. A.A. Milne started writing a collection of short stories entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.
It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.
It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.
The books were published on October 14, 1926. As a child, Christopher Robin embraced the connection to his father, but as the books grew in popularity, he would resent being mocked for his namesake character.
Christopher Robin Milne eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and they both served in the Second World War. His father was a Captain in the British Home Guard and he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.
It was only after his service that he grew to accept his father’s stories and embraced his legacy, which endures to this day.
In fact, Christopher Robin, a film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Marc Forster (known for Finding Neverland), is opening this weekend. Be sure to check it out.
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
“When our freedom was under attack one battle would turn the tide.”
The first official trailer for ‘Midway’ has been released, depicting the World War II fight in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Starring Luke Evans (Dracula, Fast & Furious 6), Patrick Wilson (Aquaman, Watchmen), Woody Harrelson (True Detective, everything else you’ve ever seen), and Mandy Moore (she’s missing you like candy), the film is advertised as “The story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.”
The trailer opens with the attack at Pearl Harbor, showing the devastation up close. “Pearl Harbor is the greatest intelligence failure in American history,” a voice insists. Hindsight proves how true this statement was. In fact, an American admiral planned the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932, nine years before the Japanese carried it out, but the military failed to heed the admiral’s cautions, and the men and women there that day paid the price.
The trailer follows the war in the Pacific to Midway, a battle that would change the conflict.
Six months after the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks, the Japanese fleet commander, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, devised a strategy to destroy the American aircraft carriers that had escaped Pearl Harbor. Instead, United States code-breakers allowed Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Chester W. Nimitz to launch a counterattack, ambushing the Japanese fleet at Midway.
Midway dealt a decisive blow to the Japanese and allowed American forces to deploy throughout the Pacific, edging close and closer to Japan. World War II battles really depict the raw, close-range danger that service members were in. Pilots were dog-fighting in vulnerable aircraft and facing off against the heavy firepower of naval ships, who, meanwhile, were turning cannons on each other that threatened to pull sailors with them to a watery grave.
It’s almost incomprehensible now, but films like Midway won’t let us forget:
“You’re gonna remember this moment for the rest of your life.”
The Army used to have a powder chock full of electrolytes to add to water for rehydration. But there was a problem.
“It was terrible — tasted so bad that nobody would use it,” said Gregory Sumerlin, senior director of Government Military Accounts for DripDrop ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions).
Enter DripDrop, with packets of lemon-, cherry- and watermelon-flavored powders that were on display Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention in Washington.
Sumerlin said the packets, which cost about $1.82 a piece, have been used by the Army for about four years. The other services also have shown interest, he said.
Medics in Afghanistan and Iraq have carried a supply of the packets, and troops also can keep a few stuffed in their packs, he said.
According to DripDrop’s website, the powders have “proven to hydrate better and faster than water or sports drinks, and are comparable to IV therapy.”
“By solving the taste problem, DripDrop ORS has made the most highly effective oral hydration solution known to medical science, practical for use by anyone who finds themselves with a hydration need where water and sports drinks just aren’t enough,” the site says.
The packets contain a balanced amount of electrolytes, including sodium citrate, potassium citrate, chloride, magnesium citrate, zinc aspartate and sugars to provide what DripDrop called “a fast-acting, performance-enhancing hydration solution.”
The product also has an endorsement from Bob Weir, co-founder of the Grateful Dead:
“There is no better test of a hydration drink’s effectiveness than a summer tour. If I didn’t have DripDrop, I’d have to rethink about how I would go about performing a 3.5-hour show.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare, revealing admission when discussing the state of his country with South Korean President Moon Jae-in: He’s “embarrassed” by his country’s infrastructure.
As Kim and Moon held a historic summit on April 27, 2018, the South Korean president told North Korea’s supreme leader he’d like to visit his country in order to climb Mount Paektu, a mountain that plays a significant role in Korean folklore. Kim then said, “I feel embarrassed about the poor transit infrastructure,” BBC reports.
This was an out-of-character moment for Kim, as North Korean leaders have long been well-known for boasting about their country (and themselves) in an exaggerated fashion.
Relatedly, in December 2017, North Korean state media reported Kim had climbed Mount Paektu and seemed to suggest he has the power to control “nature” given the good weather at the time. Images of the alleged climb also showed Kim in dress shoes and slacks, with no mountaineering equipment.
North Korea is notoriously impoverished. When a North Korean soldier defected to South Korea in 2017, doctors removed an 11 inch parasitic worm from his stomach and also discovered he’d consumed corn kernels, offering a glimpse into how difficult life can be in North Korea. Correspondingly, Chinese tourists have been known to visit the reclusive country almost solely to see how poor North Koreans truly are.
At April 27, 2018’s summit, Kim and Moon made a joint announcement the Korean Peninsula would be completely rid of nuclear weapons and also pledged to work toward formally ending the Korean War, which has technically been ongoing since fighting ceased via an armistice in 1953.
Later in the day, as President Donald Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington DC, Trump sounded cautiously optimistic about his impending meeting with Kim. But he said the US would continue its campaign of “maximum pressure” until the Korean Peninsula is completely denuclearized.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
These three words are the motto of the 109th Airlift Wing – at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York – and though short, it is an accurate synopsis of the unit’s mission.
“We fly missions to Greenland, which is near the North Pole, and Antarctica, which is the South Pole,” said Maj. Emery Jankford, the wing’s chief of training. “So, we literally fly pole to pole.”
During the spring and summer months, the 109th AW operates out of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and flies scientific researchers with the National Science Foundation and their materiel to remote field camps across the Arctic Ice Cap. In the fall and winter months, the unit conducts similar missions out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze.
Antarctica and Greenland are among the coldest, windiest, and most inhospitable places on the globe and they provide a challenging opportunity to demonstrate the reach and flexibility of airpower, the capabilities of the joint force, and the integrated support of active-duty, Guard, and Reserve military personnel.
“Basically, we go from cold to really cold,” Jankford said. “The Greenland operating season helps us train and prepare for when we operate in Antarctica.”
Each year, the 109th AW flies more than 800 hours during the Greenland support season and transports 2.1 million pounds of cargo, 49,000 pounds of fuel, and nearly 2,000 passengers.
“If it got there, we brought it,” said Maj. Justin Garren, the wing’s chief of Greenland Operations.
To accomplish this, the unit flies the world’s only ski-equipped LC-130s, called “skibirds,” which allows the planes to land on and take off from ice and compacted snow runways.
“We do have some traditional “wheelbirds” in our unit, but the LC-130s give us the unique capability of being able to land in snowy arctic areas,” Garren said.
While the LC-130s are able to operate without a traditional runway, the arctic environment does present challenges the crews must overcome long before the planes’ skis touch down on the ice.
“Our biggest challenges are weather and navigation,” said Capt. Zach McCreary, a C-130 pilot with the 109th AW.
Because most of Greenland is within the Arctic Circle near the North Pole and Antarctica surrounds the South Pole, there is a lot of magnetic interference when flying in these areas. This interference makes GPS navigation difficult, so the aircrews have to resort to old-school tactics.
“Our navigators are some of the only ones in the military who still use celestial navigation,” Jankford said. “We still break out the charts and formulas to determine our positions and headings.”
Weather is another challenge. It can change quickly and it can get nasty, so aircrews try to stay as up to date as possible when flying missions.
“We receive regular weather briefings, before we leave and while we’re in the air,” McCreary said. “But there are times the weather changes quickly and you have to react and adapt to it on the fly.”
In some cases, usually with cloud cover, this means landing with limited to no visibility. At times the land and sky blend together with no visible horizon line.
“It’s like flying inside of a ping pong ball,” McCreary said. “Everything is white and it all looks the same.”Capt. Zach McCreary, C-130 pilot, 109th AW
In these situations, the aircrew uses a spotting technique where the copilot and loadmasters will look for flags lining the runway and help the pilot line up the aircraft during its approach.
“It’s a very unique airlift wing,” Garren said. “We’re landing on snow and ice, we’re using the sun and stars to navigate, and we’re using our eyeballs to land – I’m not sure there’s another unit that flies like this.”
Because the 109th AW operates in such unique environments, utilizing dated techniques, effective training is only possible within the areas of operation.
“We can only train for these missions when we’re in Greenland and Antarctica,” Garren said. “We can’t train at home, so new crewmembers are learning and being signed off on tasks while they’re landing and taking off from the ice.”
The uniqueness of the polar mission is one reason it was given to the 109th AW. Being a guard unit, its members stay in place longer and are able to train, develop, and enhance their skills and experience without having to move or relocate every few years like their active duty counterparts.
“We have guys here who have been flying this mission for 30 years,” Garren said. “That amount of experience is invaluable and the knowledge they pass on to the junior guys is irreplaceable.”
Also irreplaceable are the capabilities of the wing’s unique “skibirds.”
“We can fly into an austere area and land with our skis with no runway somewhere no one has ever been,” Garren said. “That’s why we’re here and that’s what we train to do.”
While the Coast Guard is not slowing down in its most important national security operations as the U.S. enters its fifth week of a government shutdown, some activities have been halted or curtailed, and many newly minted Coasties find themselves stuck at recruit training, without funding to head to their first duty stations.
Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Military.com that recruits whose new units are not well suited to support them during the shutdown or lack the means to return home in the interim “will remain attached to the Training Center [in Cape May, New Jersey] for the duration of the lapse.”
“There have been no immediate operational impacts related to recruit training; however, it is difficult to project the impact that the lapse in appropriations will have on mission readiness months or years from now,” he said Jan. 23, 2019.
There are currently 395 recruits in training. Seventy-six new Coasties graduated Jan. 18, 2019, he said.
Those who have the option to return home may receive a stipend from the government even as the shutdown continues.
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)
“While the partial government shutdown prevents our ability to provide advance payment of reimbursable transfer expenses, it does not prevent us from issuing plane tickets for recruits to travel directly to units with the capacity to support them during the shutdown,” McBride said.
Often, recruits have the opportunity to return home for leave before reporting to their first assigned unit.
“In these cases, we have been able to coordinate temporary hometown recruiting assignments that allow graduates to make their desired trip home for leave, assist the workforce recruiting effort and temporarily defer execution of their permanent transfer and associated costs,” McBride said. “For those who choose this option, there may be out-of-pocket costs, if the cost of a ticket home exceeds the cost allowance of government transportation to their new unit.”
The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation but said that it does not plan on letting recruits leave Cape May without an approved transfer plan with appropriately allocated resources.
Elsewhere in the Coast Guard, the shutdown is also taking a toll on operations.
Boardings for safety checks, the issuance or renewals of merchant documentation and licensing, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine maintenance of aids to navigation have been delayed or downsized, McBride said.
Other modified operations include administrative functions, training, and maintenance for surface and aviation fleets, he said in an email.
“The Coast Guard will continue operations required by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property,” he said, including monitoring coast lines, ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as maritime intercept and environmental defense operations.
Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
“They still have to go out and do their job and focus on the mission when sometimes it’s a very unforgiving environment,” he said in an interview with Military.com on Jan. 23, 2019. He retired from the position in 2018.
“I wouldn’t presume to think that anybody wouldn’t give it 100 percent,” Cantrell said, adding that the current situation does “weigh on people.”
Members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, missed their first paychecks Jan. 15, 2019. If the shutdown continues, they will miss their second at the end of the month.
While shutdowns have occurred before, support services for members and families “will have to expand if it goes any longer,” Cantrell said.
Coasties have been relying on donations, loans and even food pantries to sustain their families as they take on necessary duties such as search-and-rescue operations.
“It’s one thing to sit back and go, ‘Wow, why would I want to do that?’ Because they don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go home.’ They’ve been deemed essential,” Cantrell said, adding that morale is “probably low” in places around the country.
(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons)
Cantrell said he is hopeful the next generation of service members’ desire to serve will outweigh the current problems.
“People know it’s not the Coast Guard that’s doing this. And I’m 100 percent sure [leaders] have prepped the battlespace for those recruits to know what’s going on in the service. And they do a really good job… at the Training Center … [to get them] excited about the Coast Guard,” he said.
While frustrations remain, Cantrell said he thinks it’s unlikely there will be a significant or long-term national security impact, given the service has seen fluctuating or dwindling budgets before and was still able to press on.
But “it’s a bitter pill to swallow even as a retiree, and I just can’t imagine the young folks out there worrying about things that they shouldn’t have to worry about,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
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