Afghan officials said unknown aircraft hit Taliban forces in a province along the border with Tajikistan, killing eight militants, a day after a shooting that left at least two Tajiks killed.
The origin of the aircraft was unclear. Tajik officials denied its warplanes or helicopters were involved, as did Russia, which has a sizable military contingent in Tajikistan.
Khalil Asir, spokesman for police in Afghanistan’s Takhar province, said the aircraft struck early on Aug. 27, 2018, in the Darqad district near the border area. In addition to the dead, six other militants were wounded, he said.
Cross-border clashes are rare along Afghanistan’s 1,400-kilometer border with Tajikistan. However, security in some border provinces, including Takhar, has deteriorated over the past few months and regular clashes have broken out between Afghan security forces and militant groups, including the Taliban.
Spokesman Khalil Asir says eight Taliban militants were killed in the attack.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, confirmed the attack, saying it broke out between drug smugglers and Tajik border guards. Mujahid said the aircraft bombed a forested area used by smugglers.
Mohammad Jawid Hejri, the provincial governor’s spokesman, also said the clash had occurred between drug smugglers in Afghanistan and Tajik border guards. He said the area is under Taliban control.
Asked by RFE/RL’s Tajik Service about the reported airstrike, border guard spokesman Muhammadjon Ulughkhojaev said he could not confirm it.
“An operation to search for and detain armed individuals is ongoing” in a neighboring region, he said. “But the Border Guards Service didn’t use helicopters there.”
Other Tajik security agencies did not immediately respond to queries about other aircraft in the area.
The incident came one day after two Tajik foresters were killed in a shooting incident along the border. A Tajik security official, who asked not to be named, told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service that the shooting — either gunfire or mortars — came from the Afghan side of the border.
A third Tajik forester was also wounded in the Aug. 26, 2018 shooting, according to Sulton Valizoda, the head of the Farkhor district.
“Foresters, along with an employee of a livestock farm, were out gathering hay. They had official permission,” Valizoda told RFE/RL’s Tajik Service. “But they were attacked, and two were killed. The case is being investigated.”
The Tajik Border Guard Service said in a statement on Aug. 26, 2018 that the three were all forest rangers.
In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.
The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.
It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.
The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.
With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.
After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.
“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.
The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.
Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.
At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.
While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.
“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.
After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.
“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”
Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.
Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.
In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.
“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”
The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.
Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.
“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”
And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.
Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.
“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”
Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.
In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.
Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.
“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.
While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.
In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.
(US Army photo)
“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”
The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.
The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.
“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”
The Air Force F-22 has been refining it dog-fighting skills, assessing technical upgrades and testing air to air combat tactics during a recent Red Flag exercise in Nevada – designed to improve attack maneuvers and solidify emerging communications technologies and sensors, service officials said.
The aircraft, from the 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, have been performing air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air operations in mock combat scenarios.
“Red Flag incorporates all spectrums of warfare to include command and control, real-time intelligence, analysis and exploitation, and electronic warfare,” MSgt. Sanjay Allen, 57th Wing Public Affairs, Nellis Air Force Base, told Warrior Maven.
While Allen said the F-22s in particular are performing primarily air-to-air support, the aircraft is also shown to be effective as a close air support platform; it has performed close air support in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Confronting simulated “Red” force ground and air threats, F-22s attacked targets such as mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites, added.
Although modern weapons such as long-range air-to-air missiles, and the lack of near-peer warfare in recent years, means dogfighting itself is less likely these days. However, as the service prepares for future contingencies against technologically advanced adversaries – maintaining a need to dogfight is of great significance. For instance, the emerging Chinese J-10 and Russian 5th Gen PAK-50 clearly underscore the importance of this.
Advanced dogfighting ability can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.
If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.
Connectivity with air and ground combat assets, drawing upon emerging data-link technology, has been a key part of the exercise as the Air Force strengthens efforts to work with other services on cross-domain fires operations.
The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improve data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.
“The F-22 program is developing enhanced “5th-to-5th” generation and “5th-to-4th” generation aircraft communications via the TACLink 16 program,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force Spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
Grabowski added that this program includes hardware and software modifications to field LINK 16 transmit on the F-22. While not eliminating the need for voice communication, transmitting and receiving via LINK 16 datalinks can expedite data- and video-sharing, target coordination and more secure non-voice connectivity.
”If somebody broke our encryption they could listen to our conversation. LINK 16 transit allows us to share our screen without having any voice pass,” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22 Programs, Lockheed, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Merchant added that F-35-F-22 LINK 16 connectivity should be operational by 2020.
“This new philosophy will allow us to set an aggressive target for ourselves. Pilots will be better able to see an enemy or air-to-air asset coming their way,” Merchant said.
Once fielded, the F-22 TACLink 16 will enable the F-22 to receive and transmit with other platforms, such as the F-35, F-16, F-15
and others, Grabowski said.
Additional F-35-F-22 LINK 16 tests are planned for 2019 and 2020.
First operational in 2005, the F-22 is a multi-role fighter designed with stealth technology to evade enemy radar detection and speeds able to reach Mach 2 with what is called “super-cruise” capability. Supercruise is the ability to cruise at supersonic airspeeds such as 1.5 Mach without needing afterburner, a capability attributed to the engine thrust and aerodynamic configuration of the F-22.
The F-22 is built with two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners, Air Force statements said.
The aircraft has a 44-foot wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of more than 83,000 pounds.
The hullabaloo surrounding the future of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II has been endless.
Its effectiveness on the battlefield has been proven with servicemembers on the ground going as far as calling it their “guardian angel” in the heat of battle. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including its notorious 30mm Gatling gun, it’s not hard to see why the A-10 commands such respect.
However, even with its impressive resume, the Air Force continues to float plans to replace the A-10 after 40 years of service.
Even so, a Defense News interview with a US Air Force official indicated that a compromise may be on the negotiating table.
Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, explained that a new light attack aircraft could be introduced that would not outright replace the fleet of nearly 300 A-10s, but instead, supplement them starting as early as 2017.
In doing so, Defense News reports that this new light aircraft, called Observation, Attack, Experimental (OA-X), would give commanders a cheap alternative to fight insurgents, compared to the costs of operating the A-10 and other fighter aircraft.
“Do you believe that this war that we’re fighting to counter violent extremists is going to last another 15 years?” Holmes asked in the Defense News interview. “If you believe it does, and our chief believes it will, then you have to think about keeping a capability that’s affordable to operate against those threats so that you’re not paying high costs per flying hour to operate F-35s and F-22s to chase around guys in pickup trucks.”
However, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the A-10 being outright replaced. Defense Newsreported that the Air Force began floating an A-10 replacement possibility in July. Under the proposal, the Air Force would conduct close air support (CAS) missions with the A-10 with a supporting cheap OA-X in low-threat environments.
Under the proposal, the Air Force would at a later date also acquire a fleet of future A-X aircraft that would perform in medium-threat environments and eventually replace the A-10.
Also on the table was the possibility of pushing back the projected retirement date of the A-10 from 2022 due to the high operational costs of the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters.
It should be noted, however, that the annual cost of the A-10 program costs less than 2% of the Air Force’s budget. In 2014, it was also reported that the A-10 costed about $11,500 per hour to operate — about a third of the hourly cost of the military’s latest F-35 Lightning II.
Good news for U.S. Air Force retirees: The service has expanded plans to not only welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions, but also combat system officers and air battle managers.
To help alleviate its manning shortage, the service is encouraging retirees from the 11X, 12X and 13B Air Force Specialty Codes to apply for the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, it announced May 23, 2018.
It could take in as many as 1,000 former airmen.
“Officers who return to active duty under VRRAD will fill rated staff and active flying staff, test, training and operational positions where rated officer expertise is required,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding of the Air Force’s Personnel Center.
“We can match VRRAD participants to stateside or overseas requirements where they’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of rated officers,” Jarding said in a service release.
Airmen who are currently in rated positions in those specialties but have already put in their retirement orders will also be welcome to extend their service in the VRRAD program, the release said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The program expansion comes as the Air Force faces a growing deficit of 2,000 pilots, or roughly 10 percent of the total pilot force.
Previously, the VRRAD program — one of many efforts the service is making to ease the shortage — accepted only the 11X career field and remained limited in scope, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson.
“The program was limited by law to a maximum of 25 participants and for a maximum 12-month tour, which limited officers to serving in non-flying staff positions,” Dickerson told Military.com on May 23, 2018.
Active-duty tour lengths have now increased to a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 48 months, he said. VRRAD participants will deploy only if they volunteer, unless they are assigned to a combat-coded unit, the release said.
“Many who inquired expressed interest in the stability afforded by a longer tour. In addition, longer tours also afforded the potential to utilize these officers in flying as well as non-flying positions, providing more time to requalify and be effectively utilized in various airframes,” Dickerson said in an email.
To date, the 2017 VRRAD program has approved 10 officers, and five have returned to active duty, he said.
“We anticipate that will continue with the expanded authorities,” Dickerson said, adding the officers currently in the program could expand their tour lengths.
Some of the criteria for the expanded VRRAD program have changed: Eligibility applies to rated officers who received an active-duty retirement within the last five years or those in the window to retire within 12 months of their VRRAD date of application, the personnel center said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)
Airmen must have previously served in the ranks of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, and must be under age 50. Those who are 50 and older may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the criteria applied to those age 60 and younger in those ranks.
“Applicants must be medically qualified for active duty and have served in a rated staff position within 15 years or been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within 10 years of application for flying positions,” the release said.
Officers who retired for physical disability reasons are not eligible to apply.
The personnel center will accept applications for VRRAD until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, the release said. Those who return to active duty will not be eligible for the service’s aviation bonus nor promotion consideration.
In 2017, the Air Force asked for expanded authorities for its retention shortfalls. As a result, in October 2018, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13223, which allowed the service to recall up to 1,000 former pilots.
It’s amazing how often the media gets worked up about amazing combat actions caught on camera only to find that the incredible “footage” is actually from a video game.
Video games are pretty advanced these days and they, admittedly, look very realistic, but they aren’t that realistic. And the things soldiers do “caught on camera” in the “combat footage” is definitely not realistic.
It’s really astoundingly dumb how often this happens.
1. Russia’s Veterans Day.
Probably the worst time to f*ck this up. When Russian President Vladimir Putin was describing the heroism of Senior Lieutenant Alexander Prokhorenko, Russia’s state media made the worst edit possible. Prokhorenko was calling in airstrikes on ISIS positions near Palmyra, Syria in 2016. When surrounded with no way out, he called the fire onto himself, killing the oncoming ISIS fighters.
Russian state-owned news Channel 1 edited in a clip from a video game combat simulator, called ArmA. The bit is at 2:35 in the video below.
What happened here? There isn’t enough combat footage in Syria so we have to make it up now?
2. Russia “catches” extremist fighters with chemical weapons.
They caught us red-handed giving “extremist” troops truckloads of chemical ammunition — or so they thought. When Russia’s UK embassy tweeted this “damning evidence,” they were quickly outed. They stood by the tweet, though. It’s still up.
I’ll stop harping on Russian media using video game footage when they stop using video game footage.
4. Russia Today’s report on child soldiers in Sudan.
Dammit Russia, you are making this easy. As one former child soldier gives his story about fighting in the country’s civil war, the camera does an entirely unnecessary pan across an image from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
(It’s not as if there isn’t enough footage of African child soldiers. On RT’s YouTube page, they completely acknowledge it, so why keep it up? Or even use it in the first place?
5. UK news magazine tries to link the IRA to Muammar Gaddafi.
The United Kingdom’s ITV ran a documentary in September 2011, called Gaddafi and the IRA, which the British TV regulator Ofcom later found to be “materially misleading” and “a significant breach of audience trust.” What sparked the Ofcom investigation was footage of a helicopter being shot down by weapons supplied to the Libyan dictator.
What the film labels “IRA film 1988” is actually ArmA 2, a sequel to the game Russia tried to pass off as real in the first item on this list. Nice work, Bohemia Interactive.
6. UN Security Council or UN Space Command?
Admittedly, this isn’t from combat, but it’s really hilarious (and just downright lazy). As the BBC was airing a report on Amnesty International’s real-life criticism of the UN Security Council, the logo of the UN Space Command from the super popular Halo series was used instead of the real UNSC’s logo.
You should know the real UNSC’s logo looks nothing like this… but if you do a Google image search for “UNSC Logo,” you see how some intern got fired in 2012.
Think of a military helicopter. Think of it in combat. Is it a Black Hawk dropping off operators in urban combat? A Chinook picking troops up from a remote ridge or rooftop? Maybe you’re old school and you see a Piasecki H-25 or H-19 Chickasaw from the Korean War. But few people will think all the way back to World War II when German and American helicopters all served on the front lines.
The Sikorsky R-4 helicopter was one of America’s only helicopters to see active service in World War II, acting predominantly as a rescue and transportation asset in the China-Burma-India Theater.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
America’s military helicopter program was largely carried by two companies, both prominent helicopter manufacturers today who, oddly enough, are now competing to create the Army’s next generation of vertical lift aircraft. Sikorsky’s founder, Igor Sikorsky, was a Russian-American immigrant who wanted to help his adopted country fight in World War II.
He received financial backing from friends to start manufacturing aircraft, predominantly fixed-wing planes, for the U.S. military. But, off to the side, he was developing new helicopter designs including the VS-500, an aircraft that used one large rotor blade to generate lift and another, smaller rotor blade mounted on a long boom to generate anti-torque. This is the same blade configuration now used on everything from the UH-60 to the AH-64 Apache.
The VS-300 prototype quickly gave way the R-4, a two-seater helicopter that would serve most predominantly with the U.S. Army but also the Navy, Coast Guard, and the Royal Air Force. It first began rolling off the production line in 1942 and was primarily used for observation and to ferry supplies.
The German-made Flettner 282 helicopter was employed against Allied naval assets near the end of World War II, but was then captured by Allied troops. In this photo, it’s undergoing testing with the U.S. military.
But, the helicopter was also employed in two daring rescue missions in the challenging terrain of the China-Burma-India Theater. The helicopters could just barely make it through the high mountain passes that planes could easily fly over, but the rotary aircraft could land in small clearings that were impossible for planes to stop in or take off from.
Other helicopters were in development during the war. The Bell Aircraft Corporation, later known as Bell Helicopters and now Bell Flight, created the Bell Model 30 that would see limited use on the home front, but it would not be deployed overseas.
Meanwhile, Germany’s helicopter program was much more advanced than America’s or the Allies’. They debuted experimental helicopter designs before the war and even flew prototypes in front of adoring crowds for weeks in 1938.
The Focke-Angelis Fa-223 helicopter was a German machine popular during the war. It had a heavy lift capability for the day that allowed it to re-position artillery in forward positions.
(U.S. Air Force)
This pre-war research led to the Fa-223, the “Dragon.” Five types were planned with missions from anti-submarine, to search and rescue, to cargo carrying. But it really predicted future developments when it was used to recover crashed aircraft and to move artillery batteries to inaccessible mountaintops where they would have greater range and better defenses.
Meanwhile, the Flettner-282 Hummingbird was designed to seek out enemy submarines at sea and other threats. It was completed late in the war with early models going through testing in 1943. But the first 24 were completed in time for limited deployments to the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Sea.
Nearly 900 sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp were “cleansed of their slime” Nov. 25 after participating in the age-old ceremony of crossing the equator.
The “crossing-the-line” ceremony is an exclusive maritime experience from the days of hardened sailors aboard wooden ships courageously venturing out into the unforgiving environment of the open ocean.
The tradition holds that when King Neptune, a mythical god of the sea, detects an infestation of “pollywogs” — those who have not crossed the equator before — he deems it necessary to take control of the ship to rid it of this plagued condition. A “shellback” is a sailor who has previously crossed the line, and the most senior shellback aboard the ship plays the role of King Neptune in the ceremony.
Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Thomas Kreindheder, who earned the title of shellback in 1993, was King Neptune for the Nov. 25 ceremony.
Ceremony Has Evolved
“The ceremony has changed a lot since I went through,” he said. “Our ceremony lasted 48 hours, and it was more of an initiation than a camaraderie event. Our goal with this ceremony was to make sure the sailors were challenged both mentally and physically, but were also smiling and laughing the whole way through. The photos of the event prove that we accomplished that goal.”
Wasp pollywogs were guided through a series of physically and mentally challenging obstacles, led by the 137 shellbacks aboard. Upon completion, pollywogs were summoned by King Neptune and his royal court and relieved of their slime, successfully completing their journey to shellback.
‘A Cool Experience’
“It was a cool experience,” said Navy Airman Apprentice Skyler Senteno. “I was skeptical at first. But there were a lot more events than I thought, and I really enjoyed it. It was an honor to be part of the tradition and become a shellback.”
The crossing-the-line ceremony traces its origin to a time when such a feat was a grave undertaking. Today’s technology allows sailors to be more at ease with their sea travels. Even then, the time away from family, especially around the holidays, can take its toll.
“Ceremonies like crossing the line are invaluable for the crew. They instill pride and a sense of accomplishment that links Sailor to those that have gone before us,” said USS Wasp Command Master Chief Petty Officer Greg Carlson. “The ceremony has evolved to over the years to one of teamwork and unity, which allows sailors to craft memories that they will cherish forever.”
Wasp is transiting to Sasebo, Japan, to conduct a turnover with the USS Bonhomme Richard as the forward-deployed flagship of the amphibious forces in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
Every military branch makes it plain where exactly you stand. It is worn on your uniform, printed on your CAC, you are greeted by it every day. “It” is rank and it plays a significant role as it entails your duties and expectations, job notwithstanding. It seems one rank reigns supreme in every service, though.
Below are 6 of the top reasons why being top of the lower enlisted ranks is the best rank.
25 is the age that many of us have the time of our lives. We are far enough removed from teenage angst and the crap that often associates with it but still a lot more than a few wake-ups away from the big three-oh.
Old enough to get good insurance rates, but young enough to fit in most everywhere.
That is the Air Force’s Senior Airman. That is the Marine’s Lance Corporal. That is the Army’s Specialist. This is the Navy’s Seaman (heh). It’s far enough removed from boot but quite a ways from retirement.
5. Watch and learn
This is the perfect rank to watch and learn.
You may have been mentored and exposed to some supervisory duties earlier (if you weren’t assigned to a POS) but it’s at this level where you are allowed to flex some of what you’ve learned.
Sometimes that power comes in an official supervisory capacity, sometimes as a makeshift assistant to your actual supervisor. It’s like being a Non-Commissioned Officer, but with training wheels.
The opinion of the Senior Airman/Specialist/Lance Corporal is respected. Those beneath the look up to them, or they should anyway, and those who outrank them will look to them as the bridge between the NCO and junior enlisted tiers.
It is literally the best of both worlds.
3. Introductory supervisory roles
As stated above, you may have some actual, official supervisor duties depending on how long you’ve been there and what type of performance you’ve turned in to that point.
Even if you haven’t been granted such access, you are still going to be entrusted with certain responsibilities just based on the necessity for you to grow up and fill the role.
2. You know all the tricks
At this point, you know what you’re supposed to be doing and how to do it, most of the time. You also know exactly what you’re not supposed to do…and what rules will really get you in trouble.
You know how to maximize your sleep and how to quickly get your uniform together. You can commit large passages of regulation to memory, verbatim. You know what you’re doing and what you want to do.
Good news is you’ve mastered this rank just in time to promote. Now the game changes.
You’ve been in for a some time now and have likely earned a good amount of respect and responsibility and that feels great. Conversely, you’re still junior enlisted yourself and won’t be thrown into the deep end just yet.
How is this better than being an NCO? From my experience in the Air Force, Staff Sergeants are typically viewed in a more infantile manner than the Senior Airman.
I know, it doesn’t make any sense. Still, it is a fact of life.
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow is an installation focused on refurbishing gear, not training troops for war. Nonetheless, it’s now the site of a pitched and bloody ongoing battle between species, officials say.
The environmental division at the California base is bringing the Marine Corps brand of ingenuity to bear in its fight to protect the desert tortoise, a federally listed endangered species native to the Mojave Desert, from the raven, a natural predator protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
While ravens historically haven’t found much appeal in the region, that changed with the construction of Interstates 15 and 40, which were both built around the 1950s and intersect in Barstow.
“Here in the Mojave Desert, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noticed that as the desert tortoises were declining — less and less juvenile tortoises were being observed during surveys — there is a direct correlation to an increase in raven population,” Cody Leslie, the logistics base’s natural resource specialist, said in a released statement. “When I say ‘direct correlation,’ I mean that, as the tortoises are decreasing in population, the ravens have increased by as much as 1,500 percent. That’s a huge increase.”
The desert tortoise, which is listed as vulnerable, can live to be 100. When it was added to the federal register of endangered species in 1990, there were an estimated 100,000 tortoises. But, according to a study published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, an assessment of populations at six recovery units in 2014 estimated a population of under 86,000.
It’s been years since Leslie has encountered a juvenile or hatchling tortoise, according to a base news release.
While ravens are known to go after juvenile tortoises, whose shells stay soft for up to the first decade of the animal’s life, conservationists were troubled to discover that the birds will even attack adult reptiles, flipping them and pecking at vulnerable shell access points. A recent experiment by the Superior-Cronese Critical Habitat Unit using dummy tortoises found 43 percent of the dummies were attacked by ravens, according to the release.
“It’s pretty gruesome,” Leslie said in a statement.
Since officials can’t kill the protected ravens, they’ve had to get creative. And like the larger Marine Corps, they’ve found drones to be a force multiplier. The Barstow environmental division has undertaken an effort it calls “Egg Oiling,” according to the release. They send drones out to coat eggs found in raven nests with a silica-based oil, which essentially smothers the young inside the shell, keeping out oxygen needed for development.
Hatching baby desert tortoise.
(Photo by K. Kristina Drake)
“The ravens continue to sit on the eggs for the entire breeding season and do not continue to rebreed,” the release states.
In addition to the drone-aided egg oiling, conservationists are asking base employees and other residents to make sure their trash is disposed of in closed containers and that no food, including pet food, is left accessible to the birds.
Leslie also asked locals to report raven nests and bird activity to the Environmental Division and not to leave any water sources out in the open.
The desert tortoise, which also faces non-raven threats such as viral herpes and Upper Respiratory Tract Disease, has long presented a training challenge for Marines, who also occupy tortoise territory at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in the Mojave. Marine officials have relocated gear and altered training plans in order to avoid disturbing the creatures.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
So, you’ve found yourself in a disagreement and, to prove your honor and chivalry, you’ve challenged someone to a duel, just like in the days of old. Of course, mutual combat, such as fist fighting, fencing, and even non-lethal, “stun gun” duels have their own rules, but let’s assume we’re talking about a pure, Hamilton-versus-Burr, to-the-death style duel.
Sadly, most countries and jurisdictions consider it murder these days, regardless of the circumstances. To define dueling, we’re going by the 1777 Code Duello, which states that if two individuals can’t reconcile their differences, they can meet in the field of honor, but only if they both consent, each has witnesses and doctors, and both agree to use one bullet at ten paces. By modern standards, these concessions simply complicate things. Now, by agreeing to terms beforehand, the possible death is “premeditated,” which isn’t smiled upon in the eyes of the law, and duels aren’t covered by variations of “stand your ground” laws.
Thankfully, you two can still put your honor on the line, but you’re both going to have to travel.
1. Afghan tribal areas
In the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the laws aren’t governed by the respective nations, but by local tribal laws.
Honor plays a huge role in tribal life and nothing is more honorable than a duel. If you’re willing to travel to the war-torn region, have at it. They probably won’t stop you.
2. Pitcairn Island
In the south Pacific lies the world’s smallest nation. So small that it only has two police officers and not a single lawyer.
Since there aren’t many laws governing all of 50 inhabitants, there’s only one law that covers assaulting another person. If they do take offense to your duel, just pay the $100 fine and carry on.
3. Western Sahara
The laws of the Western Sahara technically fall under Moroccan jurisdiction, but no one really gives a damn because, well, there’s nothing there but desert. The region’s laws are more concerned with maintaining religious customs, which has lead to a rise in terrorism.
When you’re out in the desert, it’s practically lawless — but legality of dueling is probably the last thing you should be concerned about.
4. International waters
It’s actually a misconception that anyone can do anything on the high seas. When you’re 12 miles offshore, the laws of the ship are of whichever country the ship is registered to. This is why cruise ships don’t become lawless hellscapes when traveling.
But, if you were to travel to an unclaimed island that doesn’t have bird or bat poop on it, both participants renounce their citizenship. Travel from that island on an unregistered ship and hope that your duel isn’t noticed by the international community. If you’re willing to go that far, however, you might as well talk your differences out.
While everywhere else on this list leaves dueling in a sort-of gray area, Uruguay made it a national law in 1920. Surprisingly enough, the last duel took place in 1971 between two politicians after one was called a coward. Another came close in 1990 between a police inspector and newspaper editor, but the inspector backed down.
It has since been made forbidden in 1992. However, since dueling played a huge role in their politics and culture, if you could get the consent of their congress and president, you can still take your ten paces.
After it was wrongly added to a book of “facts,” there was a common misconception that you could legally duel in Paraguay if both participants were blood donors. This falsity was quickly shot down by their government.
Also, the last official duel following the rules of Code Duello was in 1967, in France.
[China’s] commitment to new-tech military hardware [is] proof that it’s latest laser weapons have a “bright future” on the international arms market, state media has claimed in multiple write-ups aimed at international arms dealers and nation-state buyers.
China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, has developed a road-mobile laser defense system called the LW-30, which uses a high-energy laser beam to destroy targets.
CASIC, China’s largest maker of missiles, has also brought the CM-401 supersonic anti-ship ballistic missile to market, describing it to the China Daily as capable of making rapid, precision strikes against medium-sized or large vessels, or against land targets.
Meanwhile, China South Industries Group Corporation (CSIGC) a major manufacturer of military ground weapons, wants to secure buyers for its mine-clearing laser gun.
Carried by a light-duty armored vehicle and together with the laser weapon system, CSICG unveiled the laser weapon during the recent Zhuhai China 2018 air show, creatively called the “light-vehicle laser demining and detonation system.”
The system can destroy explosive devices such as mines through high-power laser irradiation at a long distance, avoiding casualties caused by manual bomb disposal, designers told state-owned media.
Flying off the shelves
According to Global Security, CSIGC is an especially large and internationally operating state-owned corporate established under the State Council, which falls under the purview of Premier Li Keqiang.
With splashes across all the major state-owned foreign language media, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC) has begun a strange sales strategy for its newly developed road-mobile laser defense system.
China has pumped money and perhaps a little hyperbole into its laser weaponry research, but according to state media, the LW-30 is going to fly off the shelves.
The LW-30 uses a high-energy laser beam to destroy targets ranging from drones and guided bombs to mortar shells. It features high efficiency, rapid response, a good hit rate and flexibility, according to CASIC.
An LW-30 combat unit includes one radar-equipped vehicle for battlefield communications and control and at least one laser gun-carrying vehicle and one logistical support vehicle.
The laser gun can be deployed with close-in weapons systems and air-defense missiles to form a defensive network free of blind spots, CASIC claims.
According to The People’s Daily, in a typical scenario, the LW-30’s radar will scan, detect and track an incoming target before transmitting the information to the laser gun.
The gun will reportedly then analyze the most vulnerable part of the target and lay a laser beam onto it.
“Destruction takes place in a matter of seconds,” according to People’s.
As part of the sales pitch, People’s cited a Beijing-based “observer of advanced weaponry,” who seemed to suggest that the new laser weapons were a more effective and less expensive way to intercept guided weaponry.
Wu Peixin, the said “observer of advanced weaponry” told China Daily the new weapons would sell well on arms markets.
The LW-30 laser defense weapon system.
“Therefore, a laser gun is the most suitable weapon to defend against these threats,” he said. “Every military power in the world has been striving to develop laser weapons. They have bright prospects in the international arms market.”
In addition to CASIC, other state-owned defense conglomerates are ready to take their laser weapon systems to market, although science has it’s doubters.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation is the world’s largest shipbuilder, and its technology is undoubtedly dual-use. That is to say, one of the reasons China’s navy has been built up so quickly is because of the initial investments made way back by Deng Xiao Ping to revive China’s shipbuilding capacity — all but ignored under Mao Zedong — have resulted in CSIC and other shipbuilders producing both leisure and military naval technology.
CSIC meanwhile, claims has made another vehicle-mounted laser weapon that integrates detection and control devices and the laser gun in one six-wheeled vehicle.
“Observers said the system should be fielded to deal with low-flying targets such as small unmanned aircraft,” state media said.
Showcasing a defense industrial base amid rising global tensions
Before market reforms reinvigorated the People’s liberation Army and the defense industry in China, five corporations and one ministry represented China’s defense industrial base, now each of the five corporations have been divided into two competing corporations in the shipbuilding, aviation, nuclear, ordnance and missile/aerospace arenas.
The current organization of China’s defense industrial base is pretty simple — two competing corporations face one a other in the five key divisions through shipbuilding, aviation, nuclear, ordnance and missile/aerospace.
These include China North Industries Group Corporation (CNIGC) and China South Industries Group Corporation (CSIGC). Each with friendlier subordinate import/export set ups — China North Industries Corporation and China Great Wall Industries Corporation — which facilitate import and sales of commercial and military goods for profit.
Strategic competition with the US is pushing China to speed up the development of new weaponry, from rail gun technology, laser weaponry and hypersonic vehicles and is probably fast tracking and promoting its military inroads amid rising geopolitical tensions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army has announced new body armor, helmets, combat shirts, and pelvic protectors that weigh less, allow soldiers to move more easily, and provide better protection from blasts and bullets than the current kit.
The Army’s current body armor, the Improved Outer Tactical Vest, was originally fielded in 2007 and many vests are reaching the end of their service life. Rather than replace them with identical units, the soldiers who oversee procurement for the Army at the Program Executive Office Soldier wanted new vest designs that would provide better protection.
What they came up with is the Torso and Extremities Protection system, which is expected to reach soldiers in 2019. The TEP armor features greater protection for soldiers’ torsos while reducing weight from an average of 31 pounds to only 23. The armor can be further lightened by removing certain elements when greater mobility is essential, like for troops scouting enemy positions or sneaking through dangerous areas.
An effort to develop new ballistic plates could reduce the weight even further. The new materials being tested perform at the same level or higher than IOTV plates and weigh 7 percent less.
Soldiers will also be getting new protection for the pelvic areas. IEDs greatly increased the threat to soldiers from wounds to the genitals and femoral arteries, and the Army developed ballistic undergarments and overgarments, often jokingly referred to as “combat diapers,” to protect troops.
“Combat diapers” reduce injuries to soldiers but are uncomfortable on long patrols and chafe the skin in sensitive areas. The new Blast Pelvic Protector is a sleeker outer garment that connects directly to the body armor does not rub as badly against troops.
One of the biggest changes for soldiers is the Army’s new Ballistic Combat Shirt. The current combat shirt is basically a relatively comfortable T-shirt for wear under the IOTV. The new BCS provides ballistic protection to troops’ arms, necks, and upper torsos without sacrificing mobility. It also eliminates the need for the bulky and uncomfortable DAPS and ballistic collars that made it hard to shoot and move.
The Army’s helmet is also undergoing redesign, though the program is still in the research and development stage. The new helmet aims to increase protection and reduce weight, and may include add-ons like jaw protection, incorporated eye protection, and improved night vision setups.
Col. Dean Hoffman IV at PEO Soldier told Military.com that the new helmet may even include armor add-ons like special protection for turret gunners exposed to sniper fire or a facemask to stop sharpnel.